5. Spread the wealth
You could buy your own produce stand in order to keep up with the National Cancer Institute’s recommended nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Or you could just buy your fruit in a jar. One tablespoon of unsweetened fruit spread (not sugary jelly or jam) on your morning bagel counts as one of the day’s servings, says David Grotto, R.D., director of nutrition education at the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care in Evanston, Illinois. Look for brands with a high vitamin content, like Crofters Organic.
6. Supplement with herbs
More oregano makes for a more powerful pizza. A tablespoon of fresh oregano (not the dried, bottled kind natch) has a higher antioxidant yield than an entire apple, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers, who measured the antioxidant levels of 39 common herbs. Bonus: Calorie counts for most herbs and spices are nonexistent. The same can’t be said for other pizza toppings, like, say, sausage.
7. Be crafty with broccoli
Power up your mac and cheese by stirring in a cup of chopped steamed broccoli. When you eat cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and brussels sprouts your body produces a chemical compound called 3,3′-diindolylmethane that inhibits prostate-cancer cell growth by up to 70 percent, according to Leonard Bjeldanes, Ph.D., a professor of nutritional sciences and toxicology at the University of California at Berkeley. “I eat a large serving of them three to five times a week,” he says. You should, too.
8. Get a fruit fix
That muck on the bottom of most yogurts has more fructose as in high-fructose corn syrup than it has fruit. In addition to unnecessarily inflating the calorie count, HFCS can significantly increase blood levels of triglycerides, raising your risk of heart disease. Opt for plain yogurt instead and toss in some raisins or dried pineapple chunks. Dehydrated fruit offers all the health benefits of regular fruit, just concentrated.
9. Go to seed
Risk an encounter with patchouli-scented Birkenstock wearers and buy a bag of ground flaxseed at the health-food store. Add 3 or 4 tablespoons of it to cereal or oatmeal. Ground flaxseed contains omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and compounds called lignans the nutrients that can reduce your risk of colon and prostate cancers, heart disease, and age-related vision loss. “You can consume flaxseed as an oil,” Grotto says, “but the oil contains more calories and fewer lignans, even in products that boast high lignans content.”
10. Feel like a nut sometimes
Nuts may have shed their unhealthy reputation, but that’s still no reason to . . . well, go nuts, cautions Sass. To keep their high calorie content in check, she suggests adding a golf ball-size serving of slivered almonds to cereal and steamed vegetables. Almonds are a rich source of vitamin E, which may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 70 percent, according to a National Institute on Aging study.
11. Turn over a new leaf
Banish iceberg lettuce from your sandwiches and salads; it has about as much nutritional value as it has taste. “Spinach gives you more bang for the buck,” says Forberg. A cup of spinach is an excellent source of folate (58 micrograms), which may help reduce your risk of heart attack.
12. Choc one up
It may sound weird, but try dropping a couple of chunks of chocolate into your pot of chili. Your chili will taste better (trust us), and you’ll feel better, knowing that the flavonoids and polyphenols in chocolate can lower your risk of heart disease by 20 percent and keep LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidizing into an artery-damaging form. Dark or semisweet chocolate has more of the beneficial compounds than other types do.
13. Sow your oats
In recipes that call for crumbled crackers (such as burgers or meat loaf), bait and switch with an equal amount of rolled oats. “Oats contain soluble fiber, and that’s been shown to reduce cholesterol,” says Grotto. “Oats also contain glucans, which have been shown to enhance natural killer cells a type of white blood cell that bolsters immune function.”
14. Add meal to your meal
Add cornmeal to watery soup to transform it into a hearty, healthier stew, says Forberg. Cornmeal contains an antioxidant called zeaxanthin, which helps preserve vision by increasing the concentration of macular pigment in your eyes. Cornmeal also contains starch that will thicken the soup broth, which is why you should whisk or stir a small handful of it in very slowly (otherwise, the soup may get lumpy).
15. Mash in milk
Whole milk helps make mashed potatoes fluffy. Unfortunately, it does the same for you. Whether you’re making the real thing or rehydrating potato flakes, use evaporated skim milk instead. “It’s thicker, so you get the creaminess but not the fat,” says Sass. You also get three times the calcium per cup (742 mg). Cans of it hide in that most alien of grocery-store aisles: the baking section.