80% Food Intake is Key to Optimized Health and Fitness.
Every single day that goes by, there’s always those confusing information about what’s bad for you. One day it’s processed meats; the next, it’s baked goods made with trans fatty acids and so on. So we’re always faced what to and not to eat!
Scientist know of a whole list of healthy foods you can choose from. Not only are there plenty of food choices that are ‘”OK” — many foods can actually give your body a boost. Your daily food choices can supply everything from essential nutrients to compounds that have been positively associated with preventing diseases and minimizing the toll of “AGING“. These are foods you can say “yes!” to as part of a well-rounded meal plan.
The list below are just a few of variety of foods you can choose in a nutritious meal plan. This list is designed to give you ideas for meals and even snacks that point your eating plan in the right direction. Keep in mind that any one food on the list isn’t necessarily “better” for you than other choices.
ACORN SQUASH – A source of lycopene, folate and vitamins A and C, winter squash of all sorts also gives you dietary fiber. Plus acorn squash, for example, is rich in potassium — almost 900 milligrams per cup
ALMONDS – A good source of potassium, almonds, like the other nuts, are low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fats. But they’re also high in calories, so substitute almonds for a snack that’s high in trans- or saturated fat; otherwise the added calories offset any heart-healthy benefits. Recent research from the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tuft’s Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging has demonstrated an antioxidant synergy between flavonoids and vitamin E in whole almonds are also a source of riboflavin, magnesium and zinc.
APPLES – You know what they say about keeping the doctor away? An apple a day may not be quite that powerful, but apples are a good source of fiber, and a medium-sized apple has only 80 calories. Red apples are among the fruits highest in quercetin, which researchers are studying for possible antioxidant benefits. But the antioxidants are concentrated in the skin, so don’t peel before eating.
APRICOTS – A good source of vitamin A and C, apricots are also are a way to get lycopene, which has been associated with cancer prevention in men. (see tomatoes, below).
ASPARAGUS – With just 25 calories in eight medium-sized asparagus spears, you get 25 percent of your daily vitamin C, plus essential folic acid.
BANANAS – A good source of magnesium, which protects against bone loss and is associated with heart health, bananas are also packed with potassium. With 422 milligrams of potassium in one medium banana, you’re getting almost 10 percent of the 4,700 milligrams of the Institute of Medicine says you need. Potassium helps lower blood pressure and reduces the risk of kidney stones and bone loss.
BARLEY – Looking for ways to get the whole-grain servings recommended dietary guidelines? (Six to 13 servings of grains depending on your caloric intake, of which at least half should come from whole grains.) Try cooking up some barley — also a good source of iron and minerals — in place of white rice. But make sure you’re buying whole-grain barley, not the “pearl” variety with the healthful outer husk removed. Whole grains have been associated with protection heart disease and cancer, and may help control diabetes. Other good whole-grain choices of this type include bulgur, buckwheat groats (also known as kasha), millet and quinoa (see below).
BEEF EYE OF ROUND – While studies continue to suggest it’s smart to limit your red-meat consumption, when you’ve gotta have beef, eye of round is the leanest cut. A three-ounce serving has nearly half your daily protein and just 160 calories. Beef is a good source of zinc and vitamin B6.
BLUEBERRIES – Tufts researchers are studying blueberries for their antioxidant benefits, including the possibility that they may boost brain functions that weaken as we age. Other scientists have found in animal testing that blueberries may lower cholesterol levels. Blueberries are also a good source of vitamin K, which Tufts researchers suggest may play a role in preventing osteoporosis and hardening of the arteries. Berries of all sorts are good choices too: Blackberries, for example, also deliver vitamin K, along with a quarter of your daily vitamin C in just a half-cup. If berries are out of season, try frozen berries blended into a smoothie.
BRAN FLAKES – Research shows that breakfast really is “the most important meal of the day,” and bran flakes can get you off to a good start. You’ll get lots of fiber and magnesium — plus many other nutrients. If you pick a moderately fortified cereal. Remember to use skim or low-fat milk and to go easy on the sugar. Need a touch of sweetness? Top your bran flakes with some berries (see above) or other fruit.
BROCCOLI — You probably don’t need any convincing that broccoli, the classic “good for you” vegetable, is a healthy choice. But one of the biggest changes in the government’s new food pyramid is an increased emphasis on dark green vegetables — like broccoli and leafy greens such as spinach and kale. Most Americans need to double or triple their intake of dark green veggies.
BROWN RICE – Part of the push to replace processed foods with whole grains means eating more brown rice instead of the white stuff you probably grew up on. Whole grains like brown rice include the bran and germ of a natural grain that are lost in processing to make white rice, which contains only the inner endosperm. A lot of good stuff gets lost in the bargain: Brown rice has almost 10 times as much phosphorus and potassium as white rice, for insurance.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS – Another no-surprise inclusion, Brussels sprouts may do your body even more good than you’d guess. A half-cup of Brussels sprouts — only about four sprouts — delivers 235 micro-grams of vitamin K, which is almost double what the average American gets in a whole day.
CANOLA OIL — Here’s where substitution is really key; Replacing butter, lard or other saturated fats with vegetable oils that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can pay dividends for your heart. Canola oils is very lowest in saturated fat, with other choices such as safflower and soybean oil close behind; the differences are small enough that you should pick whichever polyunsaturated oil you prefer. Olive oil has the highest proportion of monounsaturated and has earned heart-healthy labeling from the FDA, but it’s not necessarily best. Let taste drive your choice: When you want flavor-free oil, go with polyunsaturated; when you want flavor, pick olive or peanut oils. Whichever you choose, remember that all fat contains 120 calories a tablespoon — so go easy, and don’t add fat to your diet just to e more vegetable oil.
CANTALOUPE — That orange color inside should clue you in that cantaloupe is a great source of beta-carotene — 100 percent of your daily value in a single cup. Cantaloupe is no slouch in the vitamin C count, either, with 113 percent of daily needs per cup. Other melons such as honeydew are also good choices, though lower in both beta-carotene and vitamin C.
CARROTS — you knew carrots were good for you, but did you know h0w good? Carrots are a prime example of why it’s important to eat a “rainbow” of different fruits and vegetables representing the whole spectrum of colors. This orange option deliverers 150 percent of your daily vitamin A in just half a cup, plus lesser percentages of variety of other vitamins and minerals.
CAULIFLOWER — Don’t let the pasty white color fool you. Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable (meaning it’s from the mustard family), just like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Compounds in cruciferous vegetables have been suggested as possible cancer protectors. In any case, cauliflower packs a nutritional punch, with 45 percent of your daily vitamin C in just half a cup.
CHICKEN BREAST — Boneless, skinless chicken breasts offer great convenience and good way to get protein (half your daily value in a three-ounce serving) without a lot of fat (three grams total, including just one gram of saturated fat) or calories (140, only 18 percent of them from fat). Broil bake or grill — don’t fry — to keep chicken a smart choice.
COLLARD GREENS – Another option in the dark-green vegetable category, collard greens are packed with vitamin A. You’ll get 150 percent of your daily value of vitamin A in just a half-cup of cooked collard greens, plus 40 percent of your vitamin C and 15 percent of calcium.
CRANBERRY JUICE – Studies suggest cranberry juice can help ward off urinary-tract infections and might even prevent periodontitis and gingivitis by keeping bacteria from adhering to your teeth and gums. It’s also loaded with vitamin C. Look for juice that’s artificially sweetened to avoid added sugar. ( Note that cranberry juice can interact with the blood-thinning medication warfarin to cause bleeding.)
KALE — Here’s another vitamin A power house as well as a way to go up on your intake of dark green vegetables. Like most leafy greens, kale is a source of lutein. A mere half-cup of cooked kale also rewards you with almost seven times the recommended daily amount of vitamin K.
KIDNEY BEANS — Rich in fiber, iron and protein, beans of all sorts can be a key ingredient in an occasional meatless meal. They’re also a source of potassium and magnesium, as well as folate, which some researchers are studying for potential benefits to the brain. Beans of all types — besides kidney, for instance, black pinto and navy — are good choices and nutritionally similar. Kidney beans give you marginally the most protein and fiber with the fewest calories, but pintos are tops in folate. Cooke your own using dried beans to avoid added salt in canned beans.
MACKEREL — Less familiar than other cold-water fish, mackerel is worth adding to your seafood repertoire because it also contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also a good dietary source of vitamin D, as well as of selenium, which has antioxidant benefits. (Small children and pregnant women should eat mackerel sparingly, however, because of the risk some fish may have high levels of mercury.)
MILK (NON-OR LOW FAT) — That ad campaign urging you to get milk is on-target — as long as you stick to skim or low-fat milk. Drinking milk makes it easy to meet the new dietary guidelines’ recommendation to get the equivalent of three cups of daily products daily. In addition to delivering calcium, fortified milk is amongst the best ways to get vitamin D, which your body needs to tandem with calcium to build bone strength to prevent osteoporosis.
OATMEAL — Besides the benefits of starting your day with a healthful breakfast, and besides the fact that oatmeal helps you get whole grains, oatmeal has been shown to lower cholesterol. You can also lower blood cholesterol with oat bran and with cold cereal made from oatmeal or oat bran. (Watch out for instant oatmeal packages, though, which typically contain lost of extra sugar and over processed.)
OKRA — A food better known in southern states, okra is a good source of folate and also gives you 20 percent of your vitamin C needs in just half-cup. A recent study suggests that okra, along with eggplant and whole grains, among other foods, can be part of a cholesterol-lowering diet. (Breading and frying okra, southern-style, adds so many calories that it offsets any health benefit, however!)
ORANGES — Of course, you already know about the benefits of eating from the “sunshine tree” — notably, getting more than a day’s dose of vitamin C in just one navel orange. Oranges also are a pretty good source of potassium.
PEACHES – Peaches and similar fruit such as nectarines deliver modest amounts of vitamins (especially A and C), niacin and minerals (particularly potassium), while satisfying your craving for something sweet — all at a tiny price in calories (only 40 in a medium-sized peach).
PEANUT BUTTER — Most of the fat in peanut butter remains monounsaturated, marking “PB” an option as a sandwich substitute for meats high in saturated fat. A two-tablespoon serving has eight grams of protein and 25 percent of your daily niacin. There’s no nutritional difference between creamy and crunch peanut butter — just texture.
POPCORN — Air-popped popcorn (easy on the salt and butter!) makes a filling whole-grain snack. A cup of plain air-popped popcorn has just 30 calories.
PORK LOIN — This is the leanest cut of “the other white meat” (actually a red meat). A three-ounce serving delivers 32 percent of daily protein needs in just 2.5 grams of saturated fat and 120 calories. Because it’s so lean, be careful to cook pork loin to the safe internal temperature of 160 degrees but not beyond. Use meat thermometer and remove from the heat 5-10 degrees before it’s done, as the pork will keep cooking while “resting.” Even if still pink in the center, pork is safe to eat at 160 degrees.
PRUNES — Prunes aren’t just your mom’s constipation cure. A half-cup of dried prunes does provide a quarter of your daily fiber, sure, but you’re also getting potassium and vitamin A, plus B6 and powerful antioxidants.
QUINOA — Another whole-grain option (see the listing for barley for More), quinoa is catching on as an alternative to refined grains and other mealtime “starch” choices. Remember to rinse it well before cooking.
ROMAINE LETTUCE — This salad staple counts toward your daily goal of eating more leafy greens, and delivers vitamin A and C along with a tasty crunch. Boston, Bibb and red or green leaf lettuces are other god salad choices (easy on the fatty dressings!), though not as much as vitamin-packed. Iceberg lettuce has only a fraction of the nutritional value of its greener, darker kin.
SALMON — The classic example of fish with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, salmon can be broiled, baked or grilled to make a main dish. Keep in mind, however, that even fat that’s good for you comes with a caloric price tag — 160 in a three-ounce serving of farmed salmon, 120 for the same portion of wild Atlantic salmon. If you occasionally opt for canned salmon with the bones, you’ll also get the calcium in the bargain.
SARDINES — Another fatty fish that’s rich in omega-3’s, sardines are also a good source of vitamin D and (eaten with the bones) calcium.
SPINACH — Popeye was onto something here. Besides being the quintessential dark leafy green and rich in vitamins A and K (plus some folate), spinach is also packed with lutein. Researches have found that lutein consumption is associated with a reduced risk of macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in people age 65 and older.
STRAWBERRIES — Like most berries (see blueberries, above), grapes and prunes, strawberries contain anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that improve circulation and may have other benefits. Strawberries are also a good choice for folate and vitamin C.
SWEET POTATOES — Try this sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes. The have more beta-carotene (a whopping 25,000 IU in one baked sweet potato with skin), vitamin C, folate, calcium and manganese than white spuds.
TEA — Instead of sugary soft drink, try a nice cup of freshly brewed tea instead. Research has suggested many possible benefits from the phytonutrient antioxidants in tea, called catechins; the strongest scientific evidence for reducing heart disease. There’s not a significant difference in antioxidants between caffeinated and decaffeinated tea, but we’re not talking about herbal teas here. Iced tea contains only low concentrations of catechins, however. Premixed iced-teas and ready-to-drink teas are likewise low in antioxidants — but laden with sugar.
TOMATOES — Men have been gobbling tomatoes ever since research suggested that the lycopene therein may be protective against prostate cancer; a recent study points to a similar effect for pancreatic cancer in men. Tomatoes are also a good choice for lutein, and a single medium tomato contains half your daily value of vitamin C.
TUNA — Besides being a good choice of omega-3’s, tuna is high in vitamins B6 and B12 as well as protein. If you buy canned tuna, opt for water-packed, not oil-, and resist the impulse to mix it with fatty mayo; try low-fat mayo or mayonnaise mixed with low-fat yogurt.
TURKEY BREAST — like it’s poultry cousin, chicken, skinless turkey breast delivers plenty of protein — 38 percent of daily needs in a three-ounce portion — without a lot of fat (five grams, including 1.5 grams of saturated fat). Turkey is also rich in B vitamins and selenium. Besides making a good main dish, sliced turkey breast can substitute for processed meats in your sandwiches.
WALNUTS — Remember what we said about almonds: The same goes for walnuts: They’re low in saturated fat, free of cholesterol and high in unsaturated fats, but only a good idea when replacing foods packed with saturated fat. Although a quarter-cup of walnuts contains four grams of protein, you’re also consuming 160 calories. Walnuts are relatively high in essential minerals and in folate.
WATERMELON — A good source of lycopene, a cup of watermelon also gives you about 20 percent of your daily vitamin C and 15 percent of vitamin A, with only 45 calories.
WHITE FISH — While fatty fish such as salmon have the added benefit of omega-3’s, white fish such as flounder, cod and sole are also outstanding choices. A three-ounce serving of cod for example, offers 30 percent of your daily protein with only 66 calories and less than one fat gram. Fish sticks and fish sandwiches don’t count as a healthy choices, however — go with baked, broiled or grilled fish.
YOGURT (NON-OR LOW-FAT) — Here’s a delicious way to get your daily dairy. Besides calcium, yogurt gives you protein, magnesium and a variety of vitamins including B12. It’s even been linked to better breath. (Yogurt doesn’t have vitamin D, however, so it’s no substitute for milk.) Instead of sugared varieties, control calories by adding your own fresh fruit to plain, low-fat yogurt.
References: Tufts University, Health and Nutrition Letter (http://www.tuftshealthletter.com/SearchPage.aspx?s=51%20healthy%20foods)
Note from Mah-Ann:
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