SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: We are what we eat, so eat well

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It is true that humans are what we eat.

As we venture into this New Year, it should be a priority to incorporate "high-power" foods into our diet. According to the book, "Eating for Beauty" by David Wolfe, "Ninety-five percent of the body's activities are run by minerals, not vitamins."

A main priority for humans should include consuming nutrients and minerals from food in place of supplements.

Today, "power foods" are labeled as such due to the fact that these foods provide the highest nutrients for the least amount of calories. Just like chicken, these foods are "delicious and nutritious" and decrease the chances for heart disease.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture developed the Food Guide Pyramid for people to incorporate a variety of foods to create balanced meals. This pyramid incorporates balanced proportions of categories such as: grains, fruits, vegetables, meat and beans, milk and discretionary calories. In essence, the majority of these categories contain "power foods" that nourish the mind and the body.

In my opinion, vegetables are a godsend for proper health. Vegetables contain water, minerals, vitamins, carotenoids and other phytochemicals. According to the Cleveland Clinic, carotenoids have strong anti-oxidant effects. A diet rich in carotenoids helps to protect against cancer and heart disease and contribute to healthy eyes. Currently, there are 600 known carotenoids, the best known being beta-carotene. A phytochemical is a "plant chemical that helps to keep plants healthy."

Knowing this information, we can choose vegetables that help vitamin deficiencies along with supporting our water consumption. Beets, kale, swiss chard, water cress, spinach, romaine and mustard greens supply the body with vitamins A, B2, B6, C, E and minerals including folate, calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium, zinc and fiber. Acorn and butternut squash provide vitamins A, B1, B6 and C along with the nutrients of folate, calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium and fiber.

Fruits are glorious foods that supply flavonoids, a type of phytochemical thought to protect against cancer and heart disease. Citrus fruits and cantaloupes provide vitamins A, B6, C, and folate, potassium and fiber. Apricots and peaches are two fruits that provide the essential Vitamin K. Papaya is another beneficial fruits that supplies vitamins A, C and E, as well as folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium.

Proteins supply omega-3 fatty acids and legumes (beans) fuel the body with protein and nutrients. Black beans, kidney beans, lentils and black-eyed peas provide B1, niacin, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are helpful in boosting the immune system, limiting blood clots and protecting against heart attacks. Tuna, salmon and natural peanut butter without sugar provide Vitamin D, something most people lack. In addition, selenium, potassium and phosphorus are three key minerals that these protein foods provide.

Grains are essential for daily living. Many people believe that grains "make you fat." This is a fallacy that many diet books want you to believe. When eaten in moderation along with choosing the healthy grains, carbohydrates fuel the brains' clarity along with the supplying physical energy.

White bread and sugary cereals creates that "crashing and lethargic" effect. Appropriate "power grains" include barley, bulgur, brown rice, flax seed, oatmeal and wheat germ. Barley provides the most nutrients including vitamins A, B2 and protein, fiber, niacin, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and zinc. These grains are easily digestible and generally do not cause a "bloating" effect. These grains are found in the bulk sections at Super 1 and Andy's Market, among other places.

Choosing whole, fresh foods will provide the most benefit. The Cleveland Clinic's website features a list of "35 power foods" and "power foods for women." After returning "home" from Cleveland this week, I truly value the knowledge that the Cleveland Clinic provides to the nation. The Cleveland Clinic has now eliminated all sodas, sugary and unhealthy food from their vending machines and cafeteria. In my opinion, that is an inspiring, influential and powerful movement to change the health of their employees and community.

Elizabeth Kovar has been working in the fitness industry since 2006 with international experience from India and Australia. She has a master's degree in recreation and tourism and is the associate director of healthy living at the YMCA. She can be reached at ekovar@wwymca.org.

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