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Thursday
May212015

8 Ideal Foods You’re Not Eating

You know the general guidelines for the Healthy Way of Eating, but how can you maximize the good you get out of every meal?

The answer can be the specific foods you choose.

Some foods naturally have more nutritional bang for the buck so to speak. Let these “ideal” choices help you optimize your nutrient intake and health gains!

I challenge you to add at least one of the following (if not all!) to your healthy eating regimen and reap the benefits.

Whether you’re just beginning your weight loss/health journey or you’ve been committed for years, these eight foods can offer a boost to your everyday efforts.

Coconut Oil

It’s a natural, stable and heart-healthy oil that helps support good metabolic health, satiety and weight management.

Coconut oil’s naturally occurring saturated fat, despite being wrongly maligned for years, is genuinely beneficial for your health.

Increasing research confirms that it’s not saturated fat that’s the dietary culprit in heart disease, but rather the common unsaturated fats (i.e. vegetable oils such as corn, soy, safflower, sunflower, and canola) in addition to sugar and other processed foods. When heated, these vegetable oils change in chemical structure. Their antioxidants are destroyed, and toxins are produced - toxins that you then consume.

Coconut oil, however, remains stable during moderate heat cooking, is not genetically modified (unlike most vegetable oils), and can even benefit your skin when applied topically. The jar of organic coconut oil in my kitchen has been used to cook my eggs, sauté veggies, and make my own homemade hand lotion. You can even add a small spoonful to your cup of coffee in the morning!

Eggs

Unfortunately, eggs have also been falsely targeted in recent decades, particularly for those who have high cholesterol or are at risk for heart disease or stroke. Misguided research claims have even gone so far as to equate them with cigarettes in their effect on our health!

As a result, egg whites became the fad (without, however, any positive impact on the prevalence of noted health conditions). By cutting out the yolk, not only are you getting rid of nearly half of the egg’s protein content, but you’re also losing nearly all of the beneficial fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), B vitamins, minerals, and all of the heart-healthy omega-3 fats!

“But the yolk has all of the cholesterol!” you might respond. The fact is, cholesterol isn’t the dietary nemesis it’s been made out to be. Recent studies have shown no increased risk of either stroke or heart attack in conjunction with egg intake. Research has found, however, an increase in HDL levels (the “good” cholesterol) associated with daily egg consumption.

A genuinely ideal food, eggs are naturally nutrient rich and provide a slew of antioxidants. Look for pasture-raised whenever possible for optimum nutrient density and the USDA organic label to avoid the risk of hormones and contaminated feed. 

Kefir

Looking for ways to increase your probiotic intake? Try kefir (“kee-fer”)! Similar to yogurt, kefir is a fermented milk product with a mildly sour/tart, yet sweet taste. It’s thinner than traditional yogurt and is more of a drink.

Kefir has various types of beneficial “good” bacteria, making it one of the most potent probiotic foods available. Besides being packed with probiotics, kefir is also a great source of many vitamins (e.g. vitamins B and K, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus), minerals, and protein. A single serving has 10.5 grams of protein and will keep you feeling full for hours.

Opt for a plain, full-fat version and a brand with minimal additives and extra ingredients. I have had many clients use it in a variety of smoothies as a great way to start their day!  

Chia Seeds

Ch-ch-ch-Chia! Chia seeds (yes, the same kind used in Chia Pets!) are actually a great source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and fiber!

Unlike flaxseed, these seeds are so full of antioxidants that they can be unrefrigerated without concern for their oil going rancid. Chia seeds have a nut-like flavor and can be sprinkled in yogurt or salads, eaten as a snack or ground to mix with flour when making baked goods.

When added to water or other liquid and allowed to sit, chia seeds form a gel, which slows down digestion, keeping you fuller longer and decreasing overeating and unnecessary snacking. This versatile superfood has also been shown to support healthy digestion and detoxification, reduce cholesterol, improve cardiovascular health, and stabilize blood sugar. It can be great for kids too. Add some to protein waffles or yogurt. 

Artichoke

Intriguing at first glance, artichokes are actually rather easy to prepare and packed with antioxidants to help ward off cell damage, reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic diseases.

Unlike some fruits and vegetables that lose nutrients when cooking, artichokes actually increase in antioxidant power when cooked! Cooked artichokes have been found to have the highest amount of antioxidants among vegetables.

Artichokes are a great source for vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and fiber - nutrients that aid in muscle function, bone formation, blood sugar maintenance and immune support.

Whatever you are in the mood for, whether it is a steamed, boiled, baked, grilled, microwaved, or slow-cooked, artichokes can be prepared multiple ways! Try swapping your chips for artichoke leaves and dip into salsas, guacamole, or hummus. Other great ways to enjoy them would be as an edible bowl (fill it with soup or chili and dip petals instead of bread or crackers), or add as a homemade pizza topping.

Kiwi

When cold and flu season rears its ugly head, what is one thing that many people consume in higher dosages? Vitamin C!

For a long time, oranges were my go-to for this. Then I discovered a few foods that were even better sources - kiwi fruit being one of them.

Kiwi’s abundance of vitamin C not only helps our immune system but also helps neutralize harmful free radicals in our bodies. It is also used in making collagen (a framework for our skin and bones) and enhances iron absorption. This fuzzy little fruit is a great source of fiber and vitamin K, which is necessary for proper blood clotting as well as improving bone health and density.

Enjoy this citrus treat as a whole fruit (with the peach-like fuzz rubbed off if you wish), cut in half and scooped out with a spoon, or peeled and then sliced. They also make a great addition to a breakfast or lunch salad.

Garlic

The potent smelling and tasting sulfur in garlic gives it powerful health benefits that range from cholesterol and triglyceride reduction to preventative properties for cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Garlic has been shown to slow the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and to decrease inflammation. It has even been used topically to treat fungal infections.

Garlic is in the allium class of bulb-shaped plants, including onions, leeks, scallions, and chives. The best nutritional benefit comes with freshly chopped or pressed garlic, given that heating (especially in excess) destroys some of the potent beneficial properties. However, if you can’t tolerate raw garlic, add it toward the end of the cooking process to maximize retention of nutrition and flavor. Include garlic in sauces, soups, roasted vegetables and other dishes to boost food flavor to a whole new level.

Beets

You can’t beat a beet when it comes to delivering nutritional punch! 

This colorful veggie gives extra oomph with benefits for detoxing. It’s usually a good rule of thumb that the deeper and darker the color of a fruit or vegetable, the more nutrient-dense it is, and that couldn’t be truer when it comes to beets. The deep purple/red hue of the bulb and the bright green of the leaves indicate a variety of rich nutrients.

With an earthy taste similar to green beans, beets are loaded with iron, vitamins (A, B, C, beta-carotene, folic acid), fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. The betaine and tryptophan in beets has also been shown to help improve mental health and relaxation. Simply grate and add it to salads, steam and marinate with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, roast or combine with other veggies for a tasty side dish!

Are you interested in more ideas for maximizing nutrient intake? Talk with a club dietitian today. Thanks for reading. 

In health, Becca Hurt, MS, RD, Program Manager of Life Time WeightLoss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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