45 BEST FOODS FOR LOSING WEIGHT, FIGHTING DISEASE, LOOKING YOUNGER, SAVING MONEY AND LIVING LONGER
Choosing a bag of Cheetos over a fresh orange for a snack tonight isn’t a life-altering decision. Unless, say, you make that same decision tomorrow night and the next and five nights thereafter.
Or if you have lunch every day with your friends Ronald, Wendy and The Colonel. Or if dinner every night means takeout Chinese or pizza or fried chicken from the corner bodega.
The foods you choose to eat regularly can have a dramatic impact on your health. They can help you lose weight by firing up your metabolism, or fight diabetes by keeping your blood sugar from spiking, or fend off illness by boosting your immune system. It’s your choice to make and you can start making better ones today. Here are some of the best foods to build your diet around.
Just a handful provides half the amount of vitamin E you need in a day and 8 percent of the calcium. Almonds also contain 19 percent of your daily requirement of magnesium—
a key muscle-building component.
One a day may keep the doctor away, but three a day may help you drop pounds, according to research from the University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. More important, apples are exceptionally high in antioxidants. There are 5,900 cancer-fighting nutrients in just one. Don’t drink apple juice; eat the whole apple.
Thanks to bananas’ high potassium content, they help control blood pressure. Bananas are also packed with energizing carbohydrates.
One medium-size fruit has 400 milligrams of potassium and as many carbs (29 grams) as two slices of whole-wheat bread.
Blueberries are loaded with the soluble fiber that, like oatmeal, keeps you feeling fuller longer. They beat out 39 other fruits and vegetables in antioxidant power ratings.
If you have a cold, eat a papaya. It delivers 250 percent of the RDA of vitamin C. The beta-carotene and vitamins C and E in papayas reduce inflammation throughout the body, lessening the effects of asthma.
A solid source of vitamin C for healthy skin and infection fighting, peaches have a good amount of dietary fiber to help promote digestive health.
A top source of fiber, which can lower cholesterol, pears also have vitamin C and folate, nutrients that help build immunity to infection and may play a role in preventing some cancers.
The antioxidants in red grape skins can help keep your skin flexible and elastic. The resveratrol in red grapes may help prevent colon cancer, say researchers at the University of California.
They contain a form of fiber called pectin (as do grapefruits, peaches and oranges), which has been found to help lower cholesterol and make people feel fuller.
One large wedge provides 9 ounces of water. It’s also an excellent source of cancer-fighting lycopene.
This is a good tool for weight loss because it’s high in monounsaturated fats, which speed up your metabolic rate while also delivering a quick feeling of fullness, to help you avoid overeating. Avocados are high in a compound that has been shown to lower cholesterol. In one study, 45 people saw their cholesterol drop 17 percent after eating avocados for just 1 week. Avocados’ folate and vitamin E are protective against stroke.
Bagels (Whole Grain)
“You want complex carbohydrates in their natural package, a.k.a. whole grains,” says Jackie Berning, Ph.D., R.D., a nutrition professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. A whole-grain bagel is an ideal pre-sweat-session pick: You’ll digest it slowly because of all the fiber, which will deliver a steady flow of energy over time rather than one big burst.
Beans and Legumes
One of the healthiest sources of slow-burning carbohydrates, dietary fiber and protein, these should be a part of your daily diet. Variety makes that possible.
Rich in the antioxidant anthocyanin, which fights heart disease and cancer.
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
In one study, a chickpea-fortified diet slashed LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels by almost 5 percent.
Rich in thiamin (vitamin B1), which protects memory and brain function; a deficiency has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Use in chili or add to spaghetti sauce.
Potassium regulates blood pressure and normal heart contractions.
Red, green, yellow, orange, all are good sources of vitamin B6, vitamin C and folic acid. They also contain phytochemicals that can protect you from heart disease, cancer, stroke and cataracts.
It’s high in fiber and more densely packed with vitamins and minerals than almost any other food. For instance, it contains nearly 90 percent of the vitamin C of fresh orange juice and almost half as much calcium as milk. It is also a powerful defender against diseases such as cancer because it increases the enzymes that help detoxify carcinogens.
Here’s why you should choose brown rice over white rice: The milling and polishing process that converts brown rice into white rice destroys 80 percent of the vitamin B1, 90 percent of the B6, half of the manganese, 60 percent of the iron and all of the dietary fiber. For brown rice, only the outermost layer of the hull of the kernel is removed, which is the least damaging to the grain’s nutritional value, and Harvard University researchers discovered that men who added one serving per day of whole-grain foods to their
diets generally weighed 2.5 pounds less than men who ate only refined-grain foods.
Just one cup of this fiber-filled cruciferous vegetable contains nearly two-thirds of a day’s vitamin C.
Close your eyes and they almost taste like crunchy candy. Carrots pack complex carbs that provide energy to muscles and potassium to control blood pressure and muscle contractions, says registered dietitian Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition
at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. And a half cup has 35 calories.
Cereal (Whole-Grain With fat-free milk)
Looking for something to nosh on before you hit the gym? Raid your cereal stash. Sixty minutes before a workout, fuel up with a 200-calorie snack: ¾ cup of whole-grain cereal with 4 ounces of fat-free milk. “When you eat something before exercising, you have more energy, so you can work out harder and longer,” says Bonci.
An excellent source of casein protein— one of the best muscle-building nutrients you can eat. What’s more, Danish researchers found that even when men ate 10 ounces of full-fat cheese daily for 3 weeks, their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol didn’t budge.
Skimp on iron and zinc and your energy will flag. Cooking up some juicy chicken thighs or turkey drumsticks is the best way to get more of both nutrients. “Dark-meat poultry is significantly lower in fat than red meat, yet it has all the iron, zinc and B vitamins that people need in their diets,”
Ddownsays Seattle sports nutritionist Susan Kleiner,
Ph.D., author of Power Eating.
Chocolate Milk (Low Fat)
There’s way more to milk than just calcium. In fact, it’s a near-perfect food, giving you a lot of valuable energy while keeping your calorie count low, says Kleiner. The chocolate kind is loaded with calcium, vitamins and minerals just like the plain stuff, but new studies confirm that milk with a touch of cocoa is as powerful as commercial recovery drinks at replenishing and repairing muscles.
This packable fruit delivers a generous pre- or postworkout blast of carbohydrates (25 grams per ¼ cup). Plus, cranberries have proanthocyanins, compounds that help prevent and fight urinary tract infections.
In addition to folate and fiber, corn contains a carotenoid called beta-cryptoxanthin, which may reduce the risk of lung cancer.
Calorie for calorie, eggs deliver more biologically usable protein than any other food, including beef. One egg a day supplies about 215 milligrams of cholesterol—not enough to push you over the 300-milligram daily cholesterol limit recommended by the American Heart Association. The yolk is a good source of iron, and it’s loaded with lecithin, which is critical for brain health, says Kleiner.
Hot Peppers (Poblanos, serranos, habaneros and Jalapeños)
Chili peppers contain compounds called capsaicins, which give them their spicy heat. They are high in carotene and flavonoids and contain twice the amount of vitamin C found in citrus fruits.
Made mostly from mashed chickpeas, hummus is loaded with complex carbohydrates, protein and unsaturated fats—all the right elements to fuel activity. Plus, hummus is often made with olive oil, which contains oleic acid—a fat that helps cripple the gene responsible for 20 to 30 percent of breast cancers, according to Northwestern University researchers.
Conventional wisdom suggests this salad staple is nutritionally bankrupt. But as it turns out, half a head of iceberg lettuce has significantly more alpha-carotene, a powerful disease-fighting antioxidant, than either romaine lettuce or spinach.
This fungi’s metabolites— by-products created when mushrooms are broken down during digestion—have been shown to boost immunity and prevent cancer growth, report researchers in the Netherlands.
This cereal grain contains soluble fiber, which attracts fluid and stays in your stomach longer than insoluble fiber (found in vegetables). Soluble fiber is thought to reduce blood cholesterol by binding with digestive acids and sending them out of your body. When this happens, your liver has to pull cholesterol from your blood to make more digestive acids, and your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels drop. Instant oatmeal is great simply for its convenience. Buy the unsweetened, unflavored variety and use milk and berries to enhance the taste. Preflavored oatmeal often comes loaded with sugar calories.
“They’re portable, they’re a fruit you can get year-round and they’re a rich source of vitamin C,” says Bonci, “which helps repair muscle tissue.” One orange has all the C you need each day—close to 75 milligrams. Vitamin C is also key for making collagen, a tissue that helps keep bones strong.
A recent study from the University of Illinois showed that diners who had monounsaturated fats, like those found in peanut butter, before a meal ate 25 percent fewer calories than those who didn’t. Spread it on an apple or celery or on whole-grain crackers.
Per gram of protein, pork chops contain almost five times the selenium (an essential mineral that’s linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer) of beef, and twice that of chicken. And Purdue University researchers found that a daily 6-ounce serving helped people
preserve muscle mass while losing weight.
Great for heart health, but here’s an added twist: New studies suggest that monounsaturated
fats and omega-3 fats might help lessen abdominal fat.
This delicious cold-water fish delivers some of the highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Not only is fish oil an anti-inflammatory agent, it also helps protect the heart against heart arrhythmias. And one can has more calcium than a cup of whole milk (because you eat the bones).
One serving of spinach supplies nearly a full day’s worth of vitamin A and half of your vitamin C. It’s also loaded with folate—a vitamin that protects against heart disease, stroke and colon cancer. Use it as lettuce on a sandwich, or stir-fry it with fresh garlic and olive oil.
They are higher in fiber and lower in carbohydrates than white potatoes, and they are rich in cancer-fighting vitamin A.
Researchers say that two to four servings of tomatoes
a week can slash your prostate-cancer risk by 34 percent, thanks to their high concentration of the nutrient lycopene. You don’t have to eat fresh tomatoes to reap the benefits: pasta and pizza sauces deliver it too, since cooking doesn’t reduce lycopene’s potency.
Turkey breast is one of the leanest proteins you’ll find, and it packs nearly one-third of your daily requirements of niacin and vitamin B6. Protein is a classic muscle-building nutrient. The body burns more calories digesting protein than it does processing carbohydrates or fat. Many studies support the notion that high-protein diets promote weight loss. In one study, researchers in Denmark found that people who substituted protein for 20 percent of their carbs were able to increase their metabolism and use up to 5 percent more calories each day.
Studies show that a diet rich in walnuts may be effective at lowering levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
Immune-strengthening probiotics are a fabulous feature. Yogurt is also a great pre-workout snack that will spike your energy without bloating your stomach. “It’s liquidy in consistency, and because you can digest it quickly, it’s easy on the gut,” Bonci says.
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