Food is perhaps the most important cornerstone of health recovery and longevity, with an amazing power to nourish, protect, and heal your body. Improper nutrition, however, will promote the acceleration of disease and aging in many ways, including calcification, acidosis, oxidation, insulin resistance, immunodeficiency, and excitotoxicity. Unfortunately, the typical North American diet promotes all of these processes, leading to serious and widespread health problems in the United States and elsewhere.

Let me share with you four simple and accessible solutions to the above problems that have positively impacted my own health. I found that by eating organic whole foods and taking quality nutritional supplements, it is possible to counteract these processes and experience remarkable improvements in one’s health. During my search for ways to promote longevity through nutrition, I became particularly interested in the human body’s requirements for certain underrated minerals, such as selenium and magnesium, as well as the multiple benefits of certain so-called superfoods, such as cruciferous vegetables and ancient grains.

The Minerals Selenium and Magnesium

Let us begin with selenium and magnesium, two essential minerals that have not received the attention they deserve. Selenium is one of the most important trace minerals for humans, yet most of us do not consume enough of it. A potent anticancer agent and antioxidant, it also counteracts premature aging, inflammation, coronary disease, and insulin resistance. It is important for protein synthesis, fat metabolism, cellular respiration, and proper thyroid functioning. Selenium boosts your immune system by stimulating white blood cells and removing heavy metals—especially mercury—from your body. It works in synergy with vitamin E to protect your body from free radical damage and is essential for producing glutathione peroxidase, another powerful antioxidant.

Selenium appears to prevent the spread of precancerous and cancerous cells. One landmark study found that consuming 200 mcg of selenium daily cut cancer mortality in half and greatly reduced rates of cancer development: 63 percent for prostate cancer, 58 percent for colorectal cancer, and 46 percent for lung cancer. Selenium may also be quite effective at preventing leukemia, breast, and ovarian cancer.

Adequate selenium intake is simple to achieve and ensures that you will experience its healthful benefits. Longevity researcher Ray Kurzweil describes selenium as one of the antioxidant “ACES,” along with vitamins A, C, and E, and recommends a chemopreventive dose of 400–600 mcg daily. Adequate intake is especially crucial as you grow older, as selenium levels appear to decline with age. Selenium is found in many healthy and readily available foods, including cruciferous vegetables, Brazil nuts, garlic, onions, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and various fruits, seeds, and grains. Yet, owing to the depleted mineral content of most soil, even organic foods may not provide you with the amount of selenium you need for optimal health. Therefore you should also take an organic (i.e., organically bound) selenium supplement, which is absorbed more readily than inorganic forms of the mineral.

Like selenium, magnesium is another important trace mineral and antioxidant that is often lacking in our bodies. It is vital to the health of your bones, muscles, heart, arteries, and neurons and is required for more than three hundred metabolic processes, including the conversion of carbohydrates and fats into energy; the production of hormones, DNA, proteins, and cells; and the activation of antioxidants and vitamins. Magnesium regulates your body’s pH balance, temperature, circulation, and blood pressure; helps relax your muscles; and maintains proper lung, adrenal, and pancreatic functioning.

Higher levels of cellular magnesium appear to slow the processes of aging and the development of disease. One study associates magnesium deficiency with a 50 percent increase in the risk of sudden death by heart attack, while two other studies found that magnesium-rich foods significantly reduce colon cancer development in women. Proper magnesium intake may also help prevent diabetes, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, chronic inflammation, and anxiety.

Magnesium is central to cell signaling and metabolism, and it normally maintains a delicate balance with calcium ions. It counteracts calcification of your cells, blood vessels, tissues, and organs—especially your brain—and thus may help prevent neurodegenerative diseases. Indeed, Alzheimer’s patients often have calcium toxicity coupled with magnesium deficiency. Magnesium further promotes brain health by helping to synthesize the myelin layer surrounding your neurons, which is required for transmitting nerve impulses. It also prevents neural excitotoxicity caused by food additives like aspartame and MSG.

An astounding 80 to 90 percent of the U.S. population may be magnesium deficient, with the typical diet—high in fats and dairy—providing up to four times as much calcium as magnesium. This imbalance leads to the calcification seen in neurodegenerative and other diseases. Furthermore, coffee and alcohol drain your body of magnesium, while soft drinks decrease its absorption. Magnesium intake and absorption also tend to decrease with age.

Fortunately, it is very easy to obtain the magnesium you need to improve your health. Green leafy vegetables are a great source of this mineral, which exists in the center of the chlorophyll molecule. It is also found in a wide variety of fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and other vegetables. Your daily intake should exceed 400 mg, with some specialists recommending more than one gram. As with selenium, you will most likely need to take supplements to obtain this much magnesium. Various forms of magnesium supplementation are available, including regular oral magnesium, liquid ionic magnesium, and topical magnesium oil (which absorbs well through your skin while keeping it nourished).

By simply getting enough of these two minerals through organic foods and supplements, you will reap their marvelous benefits and be well on your way toward a longer and healthier life.

The Superfoods: Cruciferous Vegetables and Ancient Grains

Let us now turn to my two favorite superfoods: cruciferous vegetables and ancient grains. We all know that vegetables are essential for proper nutrition, yet certain vegetables pack a more powerful nutritional punch than others. Cruciferous vegetables are particularly beneficial and should comprise a significant proportion of your total servings of vegetables. These sulfur-containing plants include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, and bok choy. They are packed with phytochemicals, chlorophyll, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

When you chew cruciferous vegetables, special plant enzymes are released that help form bioactive compounds which may be strong anticancer agents, protecting against cancers of the lung, colon, breast, and prostate. Cruciferous vegetables also help prevent acidosis by restoring your blood to a slightly alkaline state, which counteracts the development of cancer and yeast. Slowly work your way up to several servings of cruciferous vegetables per day, with continual rotation so you don’t get bored. Eat them raw as much as possible, and steam or juice the ones that seem less palatable. Buy organic for maximum nutrition and minimal chemical exposure, and seek out local varieties for maximum freshness.

The so-called ancient grains are also referred to as superfoods due to their impressive nutritional profiles. Quinoa, amaranth, and millet are particularly ideal because, unlike other grains, they are alkaline forming. The cultivation of quinoa, technically a fruit, stretches back at least five thousand years in South America and was called the “Mother Grain” by the Incas. Also not a true grain, amaranth is over eight thousand years old and was revered by the Aztecs. Millet is at least seven thousand years old, with at least six thousand varieties. It is easily digestible and is the only true grain that retains its alkalinity after cooking.

Ancient grains can replace the refined, glutenous grains in your diet, helping prevent the development of insulin resistance and diabetes. Your body quickly converts wheat-based foods such as pasta, breads, and cereals into simple sugars, causing spikes in blood sugar and insulin. Furthermore, the wheat gluten protein itself may bind to insulin receptors, which has caused weight gain and insulin resistance in animal studies.

A combination of quinoa, amaranth, and millet will provide you with phytosterols, dietary fiber, balanced protein, vitamins A, C, and E, most B-complex vitamins, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, and folate, all of which play important roles in improving and maintaining your health. Whole, organic ancient grains are now widely available in many forms at health food stores and some supermarkets.

Integration

Together, these four simple solutions will detoxify your body, provide essential nutrients, boost your immunity, prevent diseases from developing, and slow your biological aging.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health”, visit http://selfgrowth.com/healthbook3.html

Author's Bio: 

Chris Smith is the cofounder and president of Extend Your Lifespan Corp, a new company developing an online health recovery and longevity program that is centered on nutrition. Chris graduated with honors from Stanford University with a BA in psychology. While an undergrad, he investigated the neurobiology of anticipatory states and taught a course on quantum theology, the convergence of science and spirituality. His experience includes performing sleep research at Stanford School of Medicine and managing a neuroanatomical mapping project at Artificial Development Inc. Visit his Web site at http://www.extendyourlifespan.com.