Some people are born with 20/20 vision, never teased in elementary school for having four eyes. Others are born with a metabolism speed that is unparalleled, never needing to count calories or eliminate scoops of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream from their diet. Some people are born heart healthy, never having to worry about contracting diabetes or maintaining their blood sugar.

Genetics plays a key role in our biological composition. It is the reason our bodies are efficient in some aspects and deficient in others. Luckily, we don’t have to be hindered by our genetic faults. They do not bind us. Simple lifestyle changes can enhance our subpar body parts — like taking medications, becoming more active and even eating certain foods.

“Foods contain nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber that research has proven to have various benefits to our health,” said Jen Hillan, MSH, RD, LD/N. “Make smart body choices from all food groups — dark and bright colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats and proteins and healthy oils.”

Fruits and vegetables

Apples aren’t the only fruits that keep the doctor away.

In general, diets rich in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke, and may even protect against certain types of cancer. Potassium-rich fruits and vegetables like squash, leafy greens, bananas, mushrooms and avocados may curb high blood pressure and lessen the risk of developing kidney stones.

Specifically, carrots and yellow corn contain lutein — a bright colored compound — that is said to protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and bok choy contain glucosinolate, which helps keep carcinogens from plaguing our DNA and causing us to develop cancer. Beans and peas are rich in fiber, so they work to cleanse the colon and prevent obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Meat , poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds

Carnivores can rejoice because chicken, pork, beef and other meats contain the all-important protein. Protein provides the strength necessary to keep the cells that comprise our bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood growing and intact. Fish like salmon, tuna and sardines contain omega-3 fatty acid, which is said to aid in the prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

But, vegetarians have no fear. Protein and omega-3 can be found in more than just meat. Peanuts and tree nuts, cheese, yogurt, tofu and beans all contain protein, and soy, pasteurized dairy products and eggs all have omega-3.

And it doesn’t end there. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds nourish our bodies with B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium and vitamin E. B vitamins promote a healthy immune system and help our bodies process energy. Iron transports oxygen to our blood. Magnesium fortifies our bones while aiding in nerve and muscle function, and zinc partakes in cell division, growth and wound repair.

It’s no secret that this all-encompassing food group is crucial to our health.

Grains

Who can resist the freshness of a loaf of bread, the twirling of long linguine strands around our fork and the sticky rice that engulfs our sushi rolls? Fortunately, these grains are not consumed in vain. Whole grains combat constipation and may help lessen the chance of heart disease.

Other important foods

Ginger is the stomach’s best friend. The tangy root is a palate cleanser that aids in digestion and fights nausea and motion sickness.

Green tea is full of antioxidants that help protect against prostate cancer.  Green tea can also promote fat loss and heightened brain function.

Surprisingly, fatty foods like ice cream can actually improve ovarian function, thus lowering the risk of infertility.

So, even though we may not be born with perfect eyesight or moderate blood pressure, prolific fertility or unwavering memory, maintaining a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, proteins and grains can help us live longer, healthier and happier lives.

By Taryn Tacher