Sunset magazine (January 2009) put out a delightful alphabetized list of foods that are good for your health. Or, perhaps I should say, foods that are a better choice than others out there.
A: Almonds. They’re loaded with heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and are the best nut source of the antioxidant Vitamin E. Try almond butter instead of peanut butter in your next PB&J sandwich, or in place of peanut butter when making Thai peanut sauce. B: Berries. There’s a reason they’ve been dubbed superfoods. Berries help lower blood pressure, increase the body’s level of good cholesterol, and contain potent antioxidants. Use frozen raspberries as the chilling ingredient in a smoothie; add to yogurt, cereal, even salads. C: Cabbage. Cabbage and its botanical relatives contain potentially cancer-fighting compounds called glucosinolates. Red cabbage is rich in anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that give it its red-purple color. Add thinly sliced cabbage to soups, stir-fries, and sandwiches. D: Dates. Medjool dates in particular are wonderful and caramelly that having just one can satisfy a dessert craving – at a mere 66 calories each. Plus, they’re a good source of fiber. E: Eggs. Eggs developed a bad rap a few years ago as being high in cholesterol. Recent research, however, shows that, for most people, eggs don’t contribute to heart disease and may actually be good for heart health. Eggs are full of protein, are low in calories, and are a fine source of lutein and zeaxanthin (pigments that may keep eyes healthy). F: Fat. Fat helps the body process carbs and protein, and using mono- and polyunsaturated fat s can be good for you. Some fats (like omega-3) can even be very good for you. Aim for no more than 30% of your calories per day to come from fat, and choose unsaturated olive, canola, and nut oils. G: Grass-fed. The meat from herbivores such as cows and sheep is lower in fat and cholesterol and higher in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids when the animals are allowed to eat by grazing on grass. Seek out meat labeled “grass-fed” or “pasture-fed.” H: Herbs. They provide bonus vitamins and minerals, and they’re a great way to add fresh flavor to food without added calories. Try tabbouleh, which is packed with parsley. I: Identify what’s in your food and where it’s coming from. In this age of food-borne illnesses and questionable food-raising practices, it’s a smart thing to do. J: Juice. Juiced vegetables – like carrots, spinach, and beets – are a refreshing alternative to fruit juices. Look for 100% vegetable juice in the refrigerator case at your grocery store. K: Kumquats. These little citrus fruits – sour on the inside, with sweet-tasting skins – are high in vitamin C and dietary fiber. L: Lentils. They’re high in fiber, protein, B vitamins, folate and iron, but they’re low in fat and cheap. Check out black beluga lentils, a mild, earthy variety that keeps its tiny round shape when cooked. M: Mustard greens. They have a pungent bite and cook to tenderness in just a few minutes. They’re loaded with vitamins A, C, and K. N: Nori. A paper-thin, dried seaweed, nori has an intense briny flavor. Researchers are taking note of its omega-3 content, so expect to hear more about nori in the future. Use it cut into slivers and sprinkled on soups or stirred into steamed brown rice to add flavor without lots of additional calories. O: Oranges. Consider eating sections of a whole orange instead of a cup of juice – nearly as much vitamin C and 9 times as much fiber. P: Papaya. Cup for cup, papaya has as much vitamin C and potassium as oranges do, with more vitamin A to boot. Q: Quinoa. Pronounced keen-wah, this grain-like seed is gluten-free, high in protein (12 to 18%), and full of fiber and minerals (folate, iron, magnesium, and manganese). Try it instead of rice of pasta. R: Raw. Rather than cooking all the vegetables in your side dishes, leave a few of them raw; they’ll add texture and flavor to your meal. Mix cooked pasta or rice with thinly sliced raw vegetables and dress the dish with your favorite vinaigrette. S: Salad. It’s not just a side dish but also a meal. Rule of thumb: The darker the salad green, the more vitamins it has. Use more romaine, spinach, and watercress. T: Tea. Drink it freshly brewed from loose leaves or bags to get maximum benefits. Tea may lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, and the polyphenols (a class of antioxidants) in tea may help prevent cancer. Drink it with lemon, which helps preserve its antioxidants. U: Use a smaller plate. V: Vegetarian. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables lowers your risk for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, not to mention being good for your waistline. Try going meatless one day per week. W: Water. Beyong being essential for life, water helps joints stay lubricated, flushes waste, and lets the body maintain the proper temperature. Add a slice of lemon or cucumber if you want flavor. X: X this off your list: fad diets . They just don’t work, period. If you want to lose weight, focus on consuming more vegetables, limiting portions, and exercising. Y: Yogurt. Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and protein, but many contain as much as 2 tablespoons of sugar per serving. Look for the kind of yogurt that a shepherd would have made – unsweetened and without added thickeners. If you’d like some sweetness, mix in a bit of fruit. Z: Zinfandel. This red wine is full-bodied and aromatic – and, in moderation, good for you, too. Researchers are looking at a number of antioxidants in red wine, among them quercetin, resveratrol, and catechins, and their positive links with heart health. Pair a glass with sweet-and-spicy toasted nuts.