I'm not going to claim that eating more of these foods will help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol or reduce your risk of coronary heart disease…but seriously, eating these foods will help do all of those things. So let me ask you this…why wouldn't you eat them!? And just in case you're one of those super picky people who doesn't like chunks in their yogurt…don't judge me, that's weird. I'm giving you not one, but 12 awesome, health promoting foods supported by the folks over at Women's Health.
In no particular hierarchy, meaning, you should eat all of them. A lot...
1. Avocados, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and other Healthy Fats: The healthy monounsaturated fats found in avocados and EVOO are essential for building cell membranes; for nerve, heart, and brain health; and for nearly all the body's basic functions. Avocados have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, lower levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol and raise good (HDL) cholesterol.
Note: Because fats are calorie dense, they should be consumed in moderation.
2. Beans, Lentils + Other Legumes: All legumes are loaded with filling protein and fiber, as well as disease-fighting phytonutrients. Not only does the fiber in legumes help lower cholesterol, it also helps slow the digestion process, preventing glucose and insulin levels from rising steeply - making legumes a good choice for people with diabetes.
3. Berries. Blue, Rasp, Cran, Black…all kinds of Berries: Powerful sources of antioxidants, especially Vitamin C. Recent studies show that the anthocyanins in blueberries may help prevent the development of hypertension (high blood pressure). Many berries also contain ellagic acid, shown to have anti-cancer properties (cranberries in particular have been shown to play a role in coronary artery disease prevention). In addition, blueberries may help prevent cataracts and the short-term memory loss associated with aging. Moral of the story: Eat more berries.
4. Broccoli and Other Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, horseradish, and other cruciferous vegetables are antioxidant powerhouses that can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, protect against macular degeneration, and reduce age-related memory loss. Fun fact: Broccoli has more Vitamin C, ounce for ounce than an orange AND as much Calcium as a glass of milk.
5. Green Tea: A recent study showed that regularly drinking green tea, rich in catechins, may help promote exercise-induced abdominal fat loss. Catechins have also been shown to improve triglyceride levels and help protect against Alzheimer's disease and certain forms of cancer.
6. Seeds. Flax, Sunflower, Sesame, Pumpkin, etc.: All edible seeds are good sources of protein, fiber, and unsaturated fats. Pumpkin and sesame seeds are rich in zinc (immune-system booster); sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamin E and folate (cancer fighters). Flaxseeds are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, a heart-healthy omega-3 fat - found to help lower elevated triglycerides and total cholesterol and to reduce the formation of blood clots. They can also help to control high blood pressure.
7. Mushrooms: Mushrooms contain ergosterol, a plant sterol that converts to vitamin D when exposed to real or artificial sunlight. Mushrooms also contain eight essential amino acids as well as niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and dietary fiber. They are also an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that helps lower blood pressure. Shiitake mushrooms in particular have been found to help boost the immune system and may help protect against certain forms of cancer.
8. Whole Grains: Recent studies have shown that eating high-fiber whole grains (oats, barley, wheat, wild rice, quinoa, millet, barley, spelt, and rye) can actually lower the risk of diabetes by stabilizing blood sugar and controlling insulin production.
9. Red Wine: A phytonutrient found in red grapes known as resveratrol may help suppress plaque development and protect against artery-damaging LDL cholesterol, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Buuuut, more than one drink a day for women and two drinks daily for men can increase the risk of heart disease (and possibly breast cancer in women).
10. Oily Fish: Fatty cold-water fish such as salmon (buy wild if you can), herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines are all rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids - helping reduce blood pressure; playing a positive role in mood, memory loss, and other brain functions; and reducing inflammation. Try to eat omega-3-rich seafood two or three times a week.
11. Bright Orange Vegetables: An outstanding source of carotenoids (including beta-carotene), as well as vitamin C, calcium, and potassium, sweet potatoes (as well as carrots, pumpkin, and butternut squash) can help reduce LDL cholesterol, lower high blood pressure, fight cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, boost your resistance to colds and infections and help fight inflammation and asthma.
12. Nuts. All Kinds: Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, peanuts, and pecans are all excellent sources of protein, heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Walnuts in particular are super awesome, as they help control pre diabetes and boost cognitive function.
Eat well. Live well. Be well.