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March is Nutrition Month

Here I am again talking about health and fitness again!  I firmly believe that we perform better in all aspects of our life, AND cope better with stress when we are healthy and fit.  So whatever your status in life, getting in a little better shape will benefit you and hence the reason for these blog entries.  A couple of weeks ago I blogged about Nutrition Myths, and today I wanted to share the result of a recently published list of 10 great health foods from the Mayo Clinic.   These 10 health foods were chosen because they meet at least three of the following criteria: 

  • Are a good or excellent source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients

  • Are high in phytonutrients and antioxidant compounds, such as vitamins A and E and beta carotene

  • May help reduce the risk of heart disease and other health conditions

  • Are low in calorie density, meaning you get a larger portion size with a fewer number of calories

  • Are readily available  

The foods on this list are as follows: 

Apples: Apples are an excellent source of pectin, a soluble fiber that can lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Fresh apples are also good sources of the vitamin C – an antioxidant that protects your body’s cells from damage. Vitamin C also helps form the connective tissue collagen, keeps your capillaries and blood vessels healthy, and aids in the absorption of iron and folate. 

Almonds: Almonds are packed with nutrients – fiber, riboflavin, magnesium, iron and calcium. In fact, almonds have more calcium than any other nut, and one serving provides half of your body’s Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin E. 

Blueberries: Blueberries are a rich source of plant compounds (phytonutrients). As with cranberries, phytonutrients in blueberries may help prevent urinary tract infections. Blueberries may also improve short-term memory and promote healthy aging. 

Broccoli: Besides being a good source of calcium, potassium, folate and fiber, broccoli contains phytonutrients – a group of compounds that may help prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Broccoli is also a good source of vitamins A and C – antioxidants that protect your body’s cells from damage. 

Red beans: Red beans – including small red beans and dark red kidney beans – are good sources of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and thiamin. They’re also an excellent low-fat, low-calorie source of protein and dietary fiber. Red beans also contain phytonutrients that may help prevent chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. 

Salmon: Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids – a type of fat that makes your blood less likely to form clots that may cause heart attacks. Omega-3s may also protect against irregular heartbeats that may cause sudden cardiac death, decrease triglyceride levels, decrease the growth of artery-clogging plaques, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. 

Spinach: Spinach is high in vitamins A and C and folate. It’s also a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B-6, calcium, iron and magnesium. The plant compounds in spinach may boost your immune system and may help keep your hair and skin healthy.

Sweet potatoes: The deep orange-yellow color of sweet potatoes tells you that they’re high in the antioxidant beta carotene. Food sources of beta carotene, which are converted to vitamin A in your body, may help slow the aging process and reduce the risk of some cancers. Sweet potatoes are also good sources of fiber, vitamins B-6, C and E, folate and potassium. 

Vegetable juice: Vegetable juice has most of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients found in the original vegetables and is an easy way to include vegetables in your diet. Tomato juice and vegetable juices, which include tomatoes, are good sources of lycopene, an antioxidant which may reduce the risk of heart attack, prostate cancer and possibly other types of cancer. Some vegetable and tomato juices are very high in sodium, so be sure to select the low-sodium varieties. 

Wheat germ: At the center of a grain of wheat is the wheat germ – the part of the seed that’s responsible for the development and growth of the new plant sprout. Though only a small part of the wheat seed, the germ is a highly concentrated source of nutrients, including niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin E, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and zinc. The germ also contains protein, fiber and some fat. 

SO WHAT you may ask … the magic comes in trying to substitute some of these items into your diet instead of some of the  “other” stuff you might currently eat. 

Are you going to switch out your French fries for broccoli … probably not!  BUT you can start to make some changes. 

  1.  Eat a small handful of almonds mid morning and mid afternoon.  They will make feel less hungry when it comes time to have your next meal, reducing your temptation to overeat … plus they are good for you.

  2. If you are prone to dessert could you have some low fat whipped cream and blueberries instead of ice cream?

  3. Could you have salmon once a week instead of red meat?

  4. Could you snack on an apple in the evening instead of the bad stuff? 

There are lots of small ways to improve your nutritional intake, without changing your life wholesale.  In fact the worst thing you can do is to try and change everything … it doesn’t work, you need to slowly introduce good habits and perhaps reduce your intake very gradually … just slightly smaller portions.  Then you have a chance of sticking to it! 

It is interesting that the Mens Health Abs Diet (and Women’s Health Abs Diet) promotes a set of “good” foods very similar to those shown here.  You can read about their Power Foods here.

Give it a try … change your whole life by feeling better!