Here are your best bets for eating well.
These 10 health foods are some of the healthiest because they meet at least three of the following criteria:
Are a good or excellent source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients
Are high in phytonutrients and antioxidant compounds, such as vitamins A and E and beta carotene
May help reduce the risk of heart disease and other health conditions
Are low in calorie density, meaning you get a larger portion size with a fewer number of calories
Are readily available
Although high in calories, nuts often
enable people to maintain or lose weight. A small handful eaten between meals or
added to salads, grains or vegetables gives a sense of satiety and results in
less total food intake. Nuts have great nutritional benefits, as well.
Almonds, pecans and pistachios are rich in protein. These tear-shaped nuts are packed with nutrients — fiber, riboflavin, magnesium, iron and calcium. In fact, almonds have more calcium than any other nut — 75 milligrams (mg) in one serving (about 23 almonds). Also, one serving of almonds provides half of your body's Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin E. Like all nuts, almonds provide one of the best plant sources of protein. And they're good for your heart. Most of the fat in almonds is monounsaturated fat — a healthier type of fat that may help lower blood cholesterol levels.
Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids.
Toss sesame seeds in a meal for extra calcium and vitamin E.
Sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds are particularly good sources of phytosterols, also known as plant sterols, which promote heart health.
Since nuts are high in fats, they can easily become rancid. Store them in the freezer to extend their life. Nuts are also delicious, so it’s also a good idea to practice portion control. Measure out small portions and take care to not eat them mindlessly from a large container.
We all know citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C; one orange has a whole day’s requirement. But that's not all citrus fruits have to offer.
Citrus juice contains flavonoids, a phytonutrient that lowers the body's production of cholesterol, inhibits blood clot formation and boosts the bang of vitamin C.
They’re also loaded with soluble fiber which lowers cholesterol, maintains healthy blood sugar levels, and helps you to manage your weight.
That explosion of scent that erupts when you grate a citrus peel is produced by limonene, an oil found in the peel that might inhibit a variety of cancers.
Oranges and grapefruits are in peak season during the winter. Their bright flavors are a perfect antidote to a cold, dreary day. Lemons and limes, available year-round, are especially welcome during summer’s heat.
Apples are an excellent source of pectin, a soluble fiber that can lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Fresh apples are also good sources of vitamin C — an antioxidant that protects your body's cells from damage. Vitamin C also helps form the connective tissue collagen, keeps your capillaries and blood vessels healthy, and aids in the absorption of iron.
All fruits are stellar sources of
nutrients, but strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries stand out
from the pack.
They're high in vitamin and fiber content.
They're an excellent source of antioxidants, compounds that protect our bodies from the stress of day to day living. The antioxidant anthocyanin has triple the stress-fighting power of vitamin C and is known to block cancer-causing damage as well as the effects of many age-related diseases.
They give your memory a boost. The antioxidants in berries are believed to enhance brain function.
Fresh berries are kind to the waistline; they are naturally high in water and low in calories. Dried berries also provide excellent nutrition, but since most of the water is missing, their calories are more concentrated and you’ll usually wind up eating more of them.
Blueberries are a rich source of plant compounds (phytonutrients). As with cranberries, phytonutrients in blueberries may help prevent urinary tract infections. Blueberries may also improve short-term memory and promote healthy aging. Blueberries are also a low-calorie source of fiber and vitamin C — 1 cup of fresh blueberries has 84 calories, 3.6 grams of fiber and 14 mg of vitamin C.
Stock up on fresh berries in the summer, when they’re plentiful and inexpensive. Freeze them in small plastic bags to get an antioxidant blast year round. Stir berries into yogurt, sprinkle them on cereal or blend them in smoothies.
Stock your fridge with a rainbow of vegetables and you'll have a natural pharmacy in your kitchen.
Spinach is high in vitamins A and C and folate. It's also a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B-6, calcium, iron and magnesium. The plant compounds in spinach may boost your immune system and may help keep your hair and skin healthy.
Broccoli besides being a good source of calcium, potassium, folate and fiber, broccoli contains phytonutrients — a group of compounds
that may help prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Broccoli is also a good source of vitamins A and C —
antioxidants that protect your body's cells from damage.
Green vegetables like broccoli and spinach are sky-high in potent anti-cancer compounds like sulforaphane and quercitin.
Orange and yellow-hued veggies like winter squash, carrots and sweet potatoes and leafy greens contain carotenoids, a pigment our body converts to vitamin A. Eating lots of these vegetables will help maintain healthy skin and hair, protect against prostate cancer, promote healthy vision and even provide protection from sunburn.
The deep orange-yellow color of sweet potatoes tells you that they're high in the antioxidant beta carotene. Food sources of beta carotene, which are converted to vitamin A in your body, may help slow the aging process and reduce the risk of some cancers. Sweet potatoes are also good sources of fiber, vitamins B-6, C and E, folate and potassium. And like all vegetables, they're fat-free and relatively low in calories — one small sweet potato has just 54 calories.
Lycopene, the plant chemical responsible for the ruby red of tomatoes and watermelon, is believed to fight cancer and promote heart health.
Although garlic and onions may lack the vibrant colors of other vegetables, they contain diallyl sulfide and saponins, compounds that add distinctive flavors to our recipes and fight cancer and heart disease.
There’s no such thing as a bad vegetable. In addition to their phytonutrients, they are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, and are a crucial component of any healthy eating plan.
The inexpensive legume family, which includes beans, peas, peanuts and lentils, has priceless benefits.
Legumes are rich in folic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc and antioxidants.
Their high protein and complex carbohydrates provide steady energy that lasts for hours.
They are especially high in soluble fiber, and a daily serving of cooked beans may lower blood cholesterol by as much as 18 percent, decreasing the risk of heart disease.
Most legumes also contain protease inhibitors, compounds thought to suppress cancer cells and slow tumor growth.
And then there are the prebiotics in beans, substances that aid in beneficial bacteria growth in the intestine.
All legumes, and especially soy, are important in vegetarian diets for their high protein content.
Red beans — including small red beans and dark red kidney beans — are good sources of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and thiamin. They're also an excellent low-fat, low-calorie source of protein and dietary fiber. Red beans also contain phytonutrients that may help prevent chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
But best of all, beans taste great. Dried beans have a superior taste and texture but they take longer to cook. Canned beans offer a quick alternative and most of the same health benefits. Rinse canned beans with water before cooking and you’ll remove as much as 40 percent of the sodium used in processing.
Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids — a type of fat that makes your blood less likely to form clots that may cause heart attacks. Omega-3s may also protect against irregular heartbeats that may cause sudden cardiac death, decrease triglyceride levels, decrease the growth of artery-clogging plaques, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. In addition to being an excellent source of omega-3s, salmon is low in
saturated fat and cholesterol and is a good source of protein.
All fish are great sources of protein and low in saturated fat. But cold-water fish, like salmon, mackerel and herring, are premiere sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids. These are fats our bodies can’t produce, so it’s essential we include them in our diet. Omega-3s offer many benefits.
They reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
They minimize the symptoms of arthritis and inflammatory diseases.
They contribute to healthy skin and hair.
They may help with depression.
Salmon is an easy fish to obtain. Most grocery stores and many restaurants carry it. It's also easy to cook. The high fat level makes salmon perfect for grilling, roasting or sautéing without sticking or drying out. Although wild salmon can be pricey, it has an amazing flavor and higher levels of omega-3s than farm-raised fish. Look for fresh wild salmon in spring and summer, and farm-raised salmon year-round.
Don’t eat fish? You can get your omega-3s from flaxseed, walnuts, almonds and grass-fed beef, although the oils are of a lesser nutritional quality than the those found in seafood.
Why eat wheat germ? At the center of a grain of wheat is the wheat germ — the part of the seed that's responsible for the development and growth of
the new plant sprout. Though only a small part of the wheat seed, the germ is a highly concentrated source of nutrients, including niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin E, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and zinc. The germ also contains protein, fiber and some fat.
Olive oil is a staple in any kitchen. It's the base of many salad dressings and is also used as an ingredient in sauces and marinades; as a dip for bread; and for sautéing, roasting, frying and baking. Extra-virgin olive oil can be used as a condiment when drizzled over a bowl of pasta or platter of roasted vegetables.
Olive oil is an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that may lower the bad cholesterol and raise the good cholesterol.
It contains Vitamin E and antioxidants.
It's an excellent replacement for unhealthy saturated fats like butter.
Extra-virgin olive oil has the highest concentration of Vitamin E and antioxidants. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil on uncooked dishes, where its assertive flavor will complement your finished dishes. Lighter olive oils like those labeled pure, refined or light contain lower concentrations of nutrients but withstand higher temperatures required for cooking. Although olive oil has great health benefits, it also has a lot of calories. It’s 100 percent fat, and like all liquid oils, contains about 120 calories per tablespoon.
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