The natural beauty that exudes from a person who is healthy in mind, body, and spirit cannot be duplicated with cosmetics, pills, or surgery.

Food plays a major role in our mood, memory, and cognitive function. While some foods are believed to contribute to brain health, others are more likely to increase brain decline. For example, saturated and hydrogenated/trans fats (in processed foods), especially in combination with simple, refined carbohydrates (i.e., sugar) increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. In addition, they cause inflammation in the body and the brain.

So, what can we eat for optimum health?

The first thing we can do is decrease the amount of food that we intake. Calorie restriction has been shown to be the most effective means to retard aging, including brain aging. It wards off obesity, and it lowers the risk of Alzheimer's Disease.

Secondly, what are the foods that will keep us healthy in mind, body, and spirit?

Colorful Fruits and Vegetables and the Juices Made From Them

Sweet potatoes, corn, yams, carrots, lima/butter beans, peas and lentils have a low glycemic index (GI). This means that they are slow in raising blood glucose levels.

Broccoli. One medium stalk of broccoli contains more than 100% of your daily vitamin K requirement and almost 200% of your recommended daily dose of vitamin C: two essential bone-building nutrients. The same serving also helps stave off numerous cancers.

Avocados are rich in healthy, satisfying fats proven in one study to lower cholesterol by about 22%. One has more than half the fiber and 40% of the folic acid you need daily, which may reduce your risk of heart disease.

Blueberries have one of the highest anti-inflammatory/antioxidant capacities of all fruits and vegetables.

Other good fruits are strawberries and other berries, apples, mangos, citrus fruit.

Whole Grain and Fiber-Rich Foods

Whole wheat breads and pasta, oats, barley, bulgar have a low glycemic index.

Low-Fat and Fat-Free Dairy Products

Yogurt, low fat cheese and milk are good options.

Lean Meats, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Beans, Nuts and Seeds

Cold water fish like salmon, halibut, tuna, herring, trout are high in omega-3 fatty acids which have been linked to a reduced risk of depression, heart disease, and cancer. They have antioxidant properties and stimulate the immune system. They also "protect" the brain.

Walnuts and almonds are good antioxidants and may help reduce cholesterol.

Curcumin is found in the yellow curry spice.

Turmeric is high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.

Olives, canola oil, avocado and grapeseed oils are high in omega-9 fatty acids.

Flaxseeds, sesame seeds, and soybeans are phytochemicals that protect the brain and immune system.

People in the Mediterranean and Japan eat the healthiest. In the Mediterranean "Diet", it is recommended that red meats and simple sweets should only be eaten occasionally.

In 1993 the "DASH Diet" was introduced by the National Institutes of Health to control and prevent hypertension. But now, it has now been shown to reduce the rate of cognitive decline in the elderly, improve the immune system, and provide for overall health and wellbeing. It is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods; includes meat, fish, poultry, nuts and beans; and is limited in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, red meat, and added fats. In addition to its effect on blood pressure, it is designed to be a well-balanced approach to eating for all Americans.

It is important to eat foods that are organically grown and from cage and range-free animals. These foods have been proven to have the highest nutrient content and are high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

As we all know, diets do not work. It is an overall healthy eating plan that will support a long and healthy life filled with energy and spiritual growth.

According to Pedram Asadi, Ayurvedic Practitioner at the Westwood Wellness Center, "You don't have to completely eliminate something from your diet that you enjoy or crave. Just eat or drink it in small amounts, and supplement other healthy foods that will keep you in balance."

Research documents the fact that all of the millions of cells in our body "think". They are intelligent and pass information to our brain. So, that "gut feeling" that you have really is coming from your stomach! We need to listen to our body. It will tell you what you need for optimum health and wellness.

JoAnna LaForce, RPh, CGP is a Clinical Consultant Pharmacist and is Board Certified in Geriatric Pharmacy. She is currently Clinical Director of The Farmacy. JoAnna can be reached by phone at 323.540.0404, and by e-mail at