The following power foods can claim big bragging rights: They can fend off serious diseases like diabetes and cancer and heart problems; fortify your immune system; protect and smooth your skin; and help you lose weight or stay slim.
If you're eating most of them already, good for you! If not, now's the time to load up your shopping cart and supercharge your health!
Egg yolks are home to tons of essential but hard-to-get nutrients, including choline, which is linked to lower rates of breast cancer (one yolk supplies 25% of your daily need) and antioxidants that may help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. Though many of us have shunned whole eggs because of their link to heart disease risk, there's actually substantial evidence that for most of us, eggs are not harmful but healthy.
People with heart disease should limit egg yolks to two a week, but the rest of us can have one whole egg daily; research shows it won't raise your risk of heart attack or stroke. Make omelets with one whole egg and two whites, and watch cholesterol at other meals.
Eggs make for a perfect meal. Jump start your day with these brain-boosting breakfast recipes.
2. Greek Yogurt
Yogurt is a great way to get calcium, and it's also rich in immune-boosting bacteria. But next time you hit the yogurt aisle, pick up the Greek kind — compared with regular yogurt, it has twice the protein (and 25% of women over 40 don't get enough). Look for fat-free varieties like Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt (90 calories and 15 g of protein per 5.3-ounce serving).
3. Fat-Free Milk
Yes, it does a body good: Studies show that calcium isn't just a bone booster but a fat fighter too. Recent research from the University of Tennessee found that obese people who went on a low-calorie, calcium-rich diet lost 70% more weight than those who ate the least. Vitamin D not only allows your body to absorb calcium, it's also a super nutrient in its own right. Recent research found that adequate D levels can reduce heart disease risk, ward off certain types of cancer, relieve back pain, and even help prevent depression, but most of us don't get nearly enough of the 1,000+ IU daily that most experts recommend.
A splash of milk in your morning coffee isn't enough to provide the calcium and vitamin D you need. Use milk instead of water to make your oatmeal, have a glass with breakfast, or stir some chocolate syrup into it for an after-dinner treat.
Salmon is a rich source of vitamin D and one of the best sources of omega-3s you can find. These essential fatty acids have a wide range of impressive health benefits — from preventing heart disease to smoothing your skin and aiding weight loss to boosting your mood and minimizing the effects of arthritis. Unfortunately, many Americans aren't reaping these perks because we're deficient, which some experts believe may be at the root of many of the big health problems today, like obesity, heart disease, and cancer.
Omega-3s also slow the rate of digestion, which makes you feel fuller longer, so you eat fewer calories throughout the day.
5. Lean Beef
Lean beef is one of the best-absorbed sources of iron there is. (Too-little iron can cause anemia.) Adding as little as 1 ounce of beef per day can make a big difference in the body's ability to absorb iron from other sources, says Mary J. Kretsch, PhD, a researcher at the USDA-ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, CA. Beef also packs plenty of zinc (even minor deficiencies may impair memory) and B vitamins, which help your body turn food into energy.
If you can, splurge on grass-fed. Compared with grain-fed beef, it has twice the concentration of vitamin E, a powerful brain-boosting antioxidant. It's also high in omega-3 fatty acids. Because this type of beef tends to be lower in overall fat, it can be tough — so marinate it, and use a meat thermometer to avoid overcooking.
It's hard to imagine a more perfect food than beans. One cooked cupful can provide as much as 17 g fiber. They're also loaded with protein and dozens of key nutrients, including a few most women fall short on — calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Studies tie beans to a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast and colon cancers.
The latest dietary guidelines recommend consuming at least 3 cups of beans a week — 3 times the measly 1 cup we usually get. Keep your cupboards stocked with all kinds: black, white, kidney, fat-free refried, etc. Use them in salads, stuffed baked potatoes, and veggie chili or pureed for sandwich spreads.
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