I love being subscribed to the “Eat This, Not That!” newsletter. Granted, it has become less relevant to me now, as I can’t eat as many of the carbohydrates in some of the foods suggested – but they do give good warnings when it comes healthy foods to eat, and foods that look ‘healthy’ but we should avoid at all costs, because they are anything but. (Who knew the “Maccaroni and Grill” could make a ‘salad’ reach almost 3,000 calories?!)
- Spinach: It may be green and leafy, but spinach is no nutritional wallflower. This noted muscle builder is a rich source of plant-based omega-3s and folate, which help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. Bonus: Folate also increases blood flow to the nether regions, helping to protect you against age-related sexual issues. And spinach is packed with lutein, a compound that fights macular degeneration. Aim for 1 cup fresh spinach or 1/2 cup cooked per day. Substitutes: Kale, bok choy, romaine lettuce
- Yogurt: Various cultures claim yogurt as their own creation, but the 2,000-year-old food's health benefits are not disputed: Fermentation spawns hundreds of millions of probiotic organisms that serve as reinforcements to the battalions of beneficial bacteria in your body. That helps boost your immune system and provides protection against cancer. Not all yogurts are probiotic, though, so make sure the label says "live and active cultures." Aim for 1 cup of the calcium and protein-rich goop a day. Substitutes: Kefir, soy yogurt (I prefer the Fiber One yogurts, myself, as they have 13 g of CHO per serving, and 5 of those are from fiber. I add cocoa powder to it.. Yum)
- Tomatoes: There are two things you need to know about tomatoes: Red are the best, because they're packed with more of the antioxidant lycopene, and processed tomatoes are just as potent as fresh ones, because it's easier for the body to absorb the lycopene. Studies show that a diet rich in lycopene can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers, as well as reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Aim for 22 mg of lycopene a day, which is about eight red cherry tomatoes or a glass of tomato juice. Substitutes: Red watermelon, pink grapefruit, Japanese persimmon, papaya, guava.
- Carrots: Most red, yellow, or orange vege- tables and fruits are spiked with carotenoids--fat-soluble compounds that are associated with a reduction in a wide range of cancers, as well as reduced risk and severity of inflammatory conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis--but none are as easy to prepare, or have as low a caloric density, as carrots. Aim for 1/2 cup a day. Substitutes: Sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, yellow bell pepper, mango.
- Blueberries: Host to more antioxidants than any other North American fruit, blueberries help prevent cancer, diabetes, and age-related memory changes (hence the nickname "brain berry"). Studies show that blueberries, which are rich in fiber and vitamins A and C, also boost cardiovascular health. Aim for 1 cup fresh blueberries a day, or 1/2 cup frozen or dried. Substitutes: Acai berries, purple grapes, prunes, raisins, strawberries.
- Black Beans: All beans are good for your heart, but none can boost your brain power like black beans. That's because they're full of anthocyanins, antioxidant compounds that have been shown to improve brain function. A daily 1/2-cup serving provides 8 grams of protein and 7.5 grams of fiber. It's also low in calories and free of saturated fat. Substitutes: Peas, lentils, and pinto, kidney, fava, and lima beans. (I stew my beans, becasue I'm Puerto Rican, and don't eat them AT ALL how they would be traditionally made in America. I have noticed that if I eat beans, by themselves... a 1 cup serving, or more, and have NO meat of any kind with them, I will not spike. Otherwise, I keep my serving to 2/3-3/4 cup.)
- Walnuts: Richer in heart-healthy omega-3s than salmon, loaded with more anti-inflammatory polyphenols than red wine, and packing half as much muscle-building protein as chicken, the walnut sounds like a Frankenfood, but it grows on trees. Other nuts combine only one or two of these features, not all three. A serving of walnuts--about 1 ounce, or 7 nuts--is good anytime, but especially as a postworkout recovery snack. Substitutes: Almonds, peanuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts.
- Oats: The éminence grise of health food, oats garnered the FDA's first seal of approval. They are packed with soluble fiber, which lowers the risk of heart disease. Yes, oats are loaded with carbs, but the release of those sugars is slowed by the fiber, and because oats also have 10 grams of protein per 1/2-cup serving, they deliver steady, muscle-friendly energy. Substitutes: Quinoa, flaxseed, wild rice. (I have not had oats in such a long, long time... I can't have them for breakfast, anymore... but perhaps there's a recipe out there for a lunch or dinner, I can incorporate.)