Foods for a Healthy Diet

What foods should you really be eating? Many of the most important nutrients needed in your diet don't even show up on packaged food labels. How do you find out what foods are "good" for you?

The following list can help. It has different types of foods with many of the vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, etc., you need. Try them, and take a big step towards a nutritionally healthy lifestyle.

Broccoli
One serving = two or more spears

The best one-stop vegetable for vitamins C and A, beta-carotene and fiber. Broccoli also contains sulforaphane, which has blocked the growth of breast tumors in mice. Raw broccoli florets have the highest levels of sulforaphane; microwaving retains up to 50 percent; boiling and steaming trail far behind, and commercially frozen broccoli has no detectable sulforaphane.

Carrots
One serving = two medium carrots

Two carrots every second day provide enough beta-carotene to reduce stroke risk by half for men who have already had symptoms of heart disease, and cut women's risk of stroke as well.

Chili Peppers
One serving = one or more peppers

Capsaicin, the heat source in chilies, is an antioxidant with a multitude of benefits: it protects DNA against carcinogens; it's a natural decongestant and expectorant; its blood-thinning ability helps prevent strokes; it lowers cholesterol and some researchers believe it stimulates the release of the body's natural "feel good" chemicals, endorphins.

Spinach
One serving = one cup, uncooked

One cup of raw spinach provides vitamin A, vitamin C and folic acid, plus magnesium, which helps control cancer, reduces risk of stroke and heart disease, blocks free radicals and may help prevent osteoporosis. A salad of raw dark green, leafy vegetables also contains glutathione, which helps make an enzyme that's important to immune function.

Mushrooms
One serving = 1/4 cup dried shiitakes or similar exotics

Wild exotic mushrooms contain beta-glucan, which "kicks" the immune system into higher gear. Shiitake, enoki, zhuling, and reishi mushrooms all have anticancer and antiviral effects.

Tomatoes or Strawberries
One serving = one fresh tomato or 1/2 cup strawberries

Tomatoes are rich in lycopenes, an antioxidant more potent than vitamin C, that stimulates immune function and slows degenerative diseases. Strawberries contain ellagic acid, which has been shown to have anticancer properties.

Papaya, Pineapple or Kiwi
One serving = one papaya, one cup pineapple or one to two kiwis

Enzymes, the catalysts that speed up the rate of reactions in the body, are found in high amounts in raw, fresh papaya, pineapple and kiwi. These enzymes help combat everything from autoimmune diseases, allergies and cancer to AIDS.

Mangoes
One serving = one mango

Although rich in carotenoids, mangoes do not have papaya's high enzyme levels. They do contain another important category of phytochemical: bioflavonoids. Bioflavonoids help plants capture energy from the sun; when eaten, they aid our immune system.

Citrus Fruits
One serving = one large orange or equivalent fruit

Fresh, whole citrus fruits are a great source of vitamin C (oranges have the most), which more than 30 studies have shown help the body fight cancers of the lung, cervix, esophagus and stomach. They're also extremely rich in bioflavonoids. The highest concentration is in the white rind, the part between the colored peel and the fruit.

Apricots
One serving = three apricots

Fresh apricots are high in beta-carotene and provide medium-high vitamin C and some fiber. Vitamin C vanishes from dried apricots; and if they' re Organic, they lose beta-carotene as well. Non-organic dried apricots (and other dried fruits) retain beta-carotene because they're treated with sulphur dioxide, but the chemical can cause asthma in some people.

Bananas
One serving = one medium

Bananas are rich in magnesium (shown to help protect the circulatory system), potassium and slowly absorbed simple sugars. They're also a good source of pectin, a soluble fiber that prevents radical swings in blood sugar.

Garlic
One serving = two to three cloves of fresh garlic, one teaspoon of garlic powder

Many studies show garlic lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, is an antiviral and antibacterial, and may have chemicals capable of destroying cancer cells.

Tea
One serving = one cup

Tea is loaded with antioxidants called polyphenols, and there is evidence from laboratory studies that both green and black tea reduce heart disease, cancer and stroke risk, and even show promise as an antagonist against certain viruses.

Beans
One serving = one cup

They're high in protein and complex carbohydrates, have both soluble and insoluble fiber, are filling, cheap and taste good. Beans are loaded with phytochemicals and protease inhibitors that may help prevent cancer. Non-bean-lovers can try pasta made from lupin beans--rich in fiber, carotenes and high-quality proteins, plus twice the calcium of other nondairy foods.

Soybeans and Tofu
One serving = up to four ounces of tofu or equivalent soy product

Tofu, fresh soybeans, and soy milk lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels in blood, which reduces heart disease risk. The more you eat, the more dramatically your cholesterol drops, according to a recent study. Soy is also high in a category of bioflavonoids that inhibit estrogen- promoted cancers and protect against radiation in chemotherapy. Studies have shown that regular soy eaters have reduced risk or lower rates of prostate, colon, lung, rectal and stomach cancers.

Salmon
One serving = three ounces

In addition to salmon's heart-disease-fighting omega-3 oils, it's got calcium, magnesium, protein and B vitamins. Its B[sup 6] serves as another buffer against heart disease, and also boosts the immune system, stimulates an enzyme that regulates the nervous system and helps to prevent some cancers. Salmon even has carotenoids, which account for its orange-pink color.

Oats
One serving = one cup oats or oatmeal; 1 1/2 packets of instant oatmeal or 1 1/4 cups oat flakes cereal

Researchers have found that oat bran lowers cholesterol and blood pressure and may also be beneficial in reducing the chances of colon cancer. Oatmeal contains soluble and insoluble fiber, with soluble fiber providing the most health benefits.

Source: Mallette, Mal, What foods will make my diet healthier?., Vol. 32, Executive Health's Good Health Report, 05-01-1996, pp 7.

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