Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Twenty Healthy Foods

When it comes to eating healthy most people think of dull, boring food that's green in color. In reality, most of the world's healthiest foods not only taste great, they also come in a vast array of vibrant colors. Many require little, if any preparation, yet provide you with the energy and stamina to get through the day. They are the ultimate fast food!

Although fresh, whole fruits and veggies are amongst the world's healthiest foods, it's also important to consume an assortment of grains, nuts, seeds and foods rich in essential fatty acids. Experts recommend consuming a daily total of 3-5 servings of vegetables, 2-4 servings of fruit, 6-11 servings of grains, and 1-2 servings of nuts and seeds.

One serving of vegetables is equivalent to1/2 cup cooked or chopped raw vegetables, or 3/4 cup vegetable juice, or 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables (cabbage, lettuce, collard greens). One serving of grains equals 1/4 cup of cooked grains. A serving of nuts and seeds equals one ounce or approximately two tablespoons sunflower seeds or 12 whole almonds.

Essential fatty acids are obtained through a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains. Daily intake should be between 1 and 3 grams. The omega-3 and omega-6 oils are the essential fatty acids. There are omega-9 oils, but these are not essential because the body can produce them naturally.

Omega-3 and omega-6 oils must come from your diet because the body cannot make them. Not only must you consume both oils, you must consume them in the proper balance. The human brain contains omega-3 and omega-6 in a ration of 1:1. Unfortunately, the typical American diet has most people consuming the omegas at a 1:10 ratio.

Foods rich in omega-6 EFAs include vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains. Foods rich in omega-3 EFAs include flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, green leafy vegetables, grains, and spirulina.

Scientific research has shown eating a balanced diet provides a host of benefits. Eating healthy foods can provide you with more energy, brain clarity, less aches and pains, restful sleep and more.

Here you will find twenty of the world's healthiest foods and the health benefits they provide. Start by adding one new food each day. In just 20 days you will be well on your way to a healthier you!


Apricots: These beauties are rich in the antioxidant beta carotene; the molecule that gives fruits and vegetables their orange color. Apricots also contain an abundant supply of iron and potassium. They help regulate blood pressure and maintain regular bowel function. If you ever experience constipation, eat an apricot!

One fresh apricot or a handful of dried apricots, provide an adult with one-fifth of the daily recommended value of potassium. It also packs a whopping 20 percent of the RDA of vitamin A, 8 percent vitamin C, and 5 percent fiber. Apricots contain tryptophan, which helps to induce sleep and relaxation.
Avocados: Oftentimes, people shy away from avocados because of their fat content. However, avocados contain "good" fat and are rich in vitamins C, E, and B6. They are also a good source of potassium.

Studies have shown avocados possess the ability to reduce cholesterol. Individuals diagnosed with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) can obtain health benefits by consuming two to three avocados per week. Avocados are high in calories, so limit weekly consumption to a maximum of three.

Bananas: Need a quick energy boost? Eat a banana. This delectable fruit contains only 62 calories and is rich in potassium and vitamin B6. It also boasts a healthy dose of vitamin C and dietary fiber. Look for bananas which are fully ripened because they contain more starch than "green" bananas. Banana starch is converted to sugar, making this fruit a good choice for people with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Bananas are probably one of the most versatile health foods available. They can be eaten with every meal, as a snack or dessert. You can add them to frozen yogurt or a fruit salad. They can be grilled, broiled, sautéed or flambéed. One of my all-time favorite banana recipes is to insert a popsicle stick into a banana, coat in melted carob, roll in chopped nuts and freeze. There's nothing better on a hot summer night!

Blueberries: This tart berry has been shown to reduce inflammation; making blueberries a good choice for individuals with arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Research shows that eating thirty blueberries per day can help alleviate aches and pains in the joints.

In addition to being an anti-inflammatory fruit, blueberries also offer anti-blood clotting and antibacterial effects. They can help ease the pain associated with diarrhea or food poisoning. Blueberries contain the highest level of antioxidants and are said to possess anti-aging properties.

One cup of blueberries contains less than 100 calories, yet provides nearly 30 percent of the RDA for vitamin C, 10 percent vitamin E, and 15 percent dietary fiber. They can be added to cereal, oatmeal, fruit salads, and yogurt or eaten plain. Add dried blueberries to granola and eat as an afternoon snack for a quick-pick-me-up.

Mangoes: Mangoes contain beta-cryptoxanthin, a potent antioxidant that prevents free radicals from damaging your cells and DNA. Recent studies have shown that mangoes may help to reduce the risk of colon and cervical cancer. Mangoes are rich in beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A within the body. It's important to note that beta-cryptoxanthin is best absorbed by the body when eaten with fat. For best results, consume mangoes as part of a meal.

Mango salsa makes an excellent companion with chicken and pork. They add a tart, yet sweet flavor to fruit salads and smoothies. Mangoes can be frozen, but be certain to remove the skin and core and store in a freezer bag.

Artichokes: This odd-looking vegetable is fat-free, a good source of complex carbohydrates, and contains fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a non-digestible fiber. The human body does not possess the enzymes required to break down FOS. However, bacteria found in the large intestine and colon does contain the enzymes. For this reason, artichokes are beneficial to people who experience bowel problems.

Artichokes are a good source of iron, potassium, magnesium, copper and manganese. They provide nearly 20 percent of the RDA for vitamin C, 23 percent of vitamin K and 17 percent folate.One artichoke contains around 76 calories.

Broccoli: Research has proven broccoli has the potential to prevent cancer. That fact alone should make you want to eat it on a daily basis. Broccoli has also been proven effective in lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Broccoli is rich in beta carotene, calcium, iron, folate, vitamin C and E, and zinc. Broccoli contains about 15 percent of tryptophan; an essential amino acid that aids in sleep and relaxation. Eat this food throughout the day and for an evening snack to keep your nerves calm and to obtain a peaceful sleep.

Garlic: One of the most notable benefits of garlic is its ability to reduce blood pressure. Garlic is also known for its antibacterial properties, which can reduce the risk of infection and illness. Recent studies show garlic may also help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

At only 9 calories per clove, it is a perfect vegetable for those watching their weight. Garlic is a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C and calcium. Garlic can be eaten raw, added to nearly every recipe, or baked for a delicious garlic spread. Garlic salt or garlic powder can be used as a salt substitute.

Onions: Not only are onions a good source of fiber, potassium, and B vitamins, they also possess anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Research indicates onions may help to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, and relieve bronchial congestion.

At only 36 calories per medium-sized onion, these flavorful veggies can be abundantly consumed on a daily basis. Raw onions provide the highest level of health benefits. Add a splash of extra virgin olive oil to onion slices and toss on the grill. Fresh herbs and spices can be added for an extra punch of flavor.

Tomatoes: Perhaps one of the most versatile vegetables is the tomato. It can be eaten raw, cooked, steamed, grilled, baked, juiced, or pureed. Tomatoes are compatible with nearly every type of food including meats, vegetables, potatoes and rice.

One tomato contains a mere 17 calories, making it an excellent choice for those following a weight management program. Tomatoes contain a high level of antioxidants and are a good source of vitamins C and E. Just one cup will provide you with more than 50 percent of the RDA of vitamin C, 20 percent of vitamin A and 15 percent of vitamin K. Tomatoes also contain lycopene, a phytochemical known to reduce the risk of heart disease.


Barley and rye: These grains are high fiber whole grains and contain five times more fiber than any other whole grain. Studies show barley can slow the progression of atherosclerosis and may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. It is believed these grains reduce estrogen levels, help prevent the risk of heart disease, and stabilize blood sugar levels.
Barley and rye are both good sources of potassium and fiber. They contain small amounts of iron, Pantothenate, vitamins B1 and B6, and zinc. One cup of cooked grains contains 270 calories. These grains are a good choice for dinner, as they are high in tryptophan and can aide in restful sleep.

Oats: Starting your day off with a bowl of steaming oats can provide you with energy and brain clarity. Studies have shown eating oats on a daily basis can help to lower blood cholesterol. Oats also have the ability to stabilize blood sugar levels and maintain regular bowel function.

Oats are a good source of fiber, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E. One cup contains less than 150 calories, making it an excellent choice for those who are watching their waistline.

Quinoa: Pronounced keen-wa, and known as the "Mother of all Grains", this grain contains more protein than any other. Quinoa is an excellent source of manganese, magnesium, iron, and copper. It is a light grain that can be substituted for rice or pasta and makes a nice addition to soups and stews.

Rice: Rice is a good source of both magnesium and potassium. It also contains fiber, iron, niacin, vitamins B1 and B2, and zinc. Rice provides a quick energy boost and is easily digested. Rice helps to maintain bowel health and stabilizes blood sugar levels. There are many varieties of rice including white, brown, basmati, jasmine and saffron.

Wheatgerm: This super grain has been used for centuries to relieve constipation. Studies show wheatgerm supports the heart and may reduce the risk of heart disease. It strengthens the immune system and may help maintain cognitive function as we age.

Wheatgerm is rich in antioxidants and folate. It also contains vitamins B1, B6, and E and is a good source of potassium and zinc. It is recommended to consume two tablespoons of fresh wheatgerm on a daily basis. Sprinkle wheatgerm on cereal, oatmeal, fruit salad or yogurt.


Almonds: Classified as a nut, almonds are actually the seed of the fruit of an almond tree. They offer a delicate and mild flavor to dishes and can be added to vegetables, meats, fruits and desserts.

Eating twelve almonds per day can provide you with the recommended daily allowance of essential fatty acids. Almonds are rich in potassium and are considered a "good" fat. These fruit seeds are high in calories, so limit your intake to no more than twelve per day. Unblanched almonds are considered to be the healthiest choice. Avoid dry roasted almonds or almonds covered in sugar, honey or salt.

Brazil nuts: Brazil nuts contain all the essential amino acids, making them a complete protein. Brazil nuts contain exceptionally high levels of selenium; a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Brazil nuts are an excellent source of zinc, which is essential to digestion and metabolism. Brazil nuts contain a high level of fat and should not be consumed more than three times per week. One serving equals eight nuts and is equivalent to 30 grams of fat.

Chestnuts: These nuts pack a wallop of beneficial carbohydrates, making them an excellent choice for people trying to gain weight. Chestnuts are cholesterol-free, low in sodium, and a good source of dietary fiber.
Additionally, chestnuts contain small amounts of vitamin C, thiamine, and riboflavin. Although chestnuts are considered a "good" fat, they should not be consumed more than four times per week. One serving of chestnuts equal five whole nuts. It's best to roast chestnuts at home by baking them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 5-6 minutes.

Pumpkin seeds: Research shows pumpkin seeds to be effective in lowering cholesterol levels, promoting prostate health, and supporting the function of the immune system. Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of potassium, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc. One and one-half ounces of pumpkin seeds can provide over one-third of an adult's daily zinc requirements. However, pumpkin seeds are high in calories and should be eaten in moderation. Limit consumption to no more than three times weekly.

Sunflower seeds: One of the most popular seeds consumed, sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E and known to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Studies have also shown them effective in guarding against cataracts. Experts recommend eating two tablespoons of sunflower seeds each day. Doing so will double your intake of vitamin E. However, they are high in calories and should be eaten in limited quantities.


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