1. Almonds: Almonds are one of the most nutritious of all nuts. Among its many attributes, almonds are a cancer preventative. They are low in saturated fat and contain calcium and magnesium for strong bones and vitamin E and many other phytochemicals which may help protect against heart disease and many types of cancer. They also pack 12 percent of your daily allowance of protein in just one ounce. There are a host of other healthy benefits from lowering your cholesterol to reducing your heart attack risk. These little beauties can be easily taken on the go and are delicious to boot.
2. Quinoa (pronounced Keen-Wa): Although commonly considered a grain, quinoa is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like beets, spinach and Swiss chard. Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), Quinoa is one of the few vegetarian sources of complete protein, meaning, like meats, it has all nine of the essential amino acids. The protein content is very high (between 12-18%). It’s also gluten-free, full of fiber (making it easy to digest), and contains other heart-healthy vitamins. Quinoa is very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Manganese.
3. Greek Yogurt: My husband and I love Greek yogurt. It’s thick and creamy consistency is such a treat and the fact that it is often better for you than the traditional yogurt we find in our grocery stores, makes it that much ‘sweeter’. According to Health.com, Yogurt promotes intestinal and vaginal health, improves lactose intolerance, builds stronger bones, enhances immunity, lowers blood pressure, and may even have anticancer and weight-loss effects. In a recent study in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers found that obese adults who ate three servings of fat-free yogurt a day as part of a reduced-calorie diet lost 22% more weight and 61% more body fat than those who just cut calories. A plus for Greek yogurt, in particular, is that it doesn’t give you the sugar overload of what you usually find in U.S. grocery stores. To save on fat and calories, reach for a low-fat version. Look for Fage Total yogurt at specialty food stores, Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats, or Trader Joe’s. Try it with a drizzle of honey and a handful of walnuts or almonds.
4. Artichokes: Artichokes are a delicious way to get nutrients that research shows we typically lack in our diets — fiber, vitamin C, magnesium and potassium. Digestion-aiding vegetable fiber helps to control cholesterol levels, and the antioxidant (silymarin) level which is higher than red wine or chocoloate, may prevent skin cancer. Like Almonds, Artichokes contain phytonutrients, or plant compounds that have antioxidant properties and promote human health.
5. Hard Boiled Egg: Hard boiled eggs are a good source of Riboflavin, Vitamin B12 and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Protein and Selenium. However, they are also high in Saturated Fat, and very high in Cholesterol so you’ll want to eat them in moderation or only eat the egg white. I personally, like to couple my hard boiled egg with an avocado – I call it the quick California omelette. Eggs are a good source of low-cost high-quality protein, providing 5.5 grams of protein (11.1% of the daily value for protein) in one egg for a caloric cost of only 68 calories. Another health benefit of eggs is their contribution to the diet as a source of choline. Although our bodies can produce some choline, we cannot make enough to make up for an inadequate supply in our diets, and choline deficiency can also cause deficiency of another B vitamin critically important for health, folic acid.
6. Avocado: Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. They also act as a “nutrient booster” by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha and beta-carotene and lutein, in foods that are eaten with the fruit.
7. Flaxseed: Whether eating them whole, ground or as oil, flaxseed is an Omega-3 fatty acid powerhouse. My favorite way to eat them is ground in yogurt, on cereal, or cottage cheese and even used in muffins, pancakes and more. Flaxseeds are rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fat that is a precursor to the form of omega-3 found in fish oils called eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA. Since the fats are found in their isolated form in flaxseed oil, it is a more concentrated source of ALA than the seeds themselves. Studies show that pregnant or lactating women who take omega 3 fatty acids may increase their child’s IQ by about six points. Other oils include canola and fish oil.
8. Watermelon. This past summer (and in our recipe database here) we made an amazing watermelon salad. Make this salad for your next summertime bbq and know that you are providing a salad with more of the heart disease and cancer thwarting antioxidant lycopene than a salad with tomatoes. This sweet, juicy picnic staple is packed with antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C and is also a very good source of vitamin A. It has also been known to reduce the inflammation that contributes to conditions such as asthma, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer and arthritis.
9. Strawberries: These little berries pack one of heck of a healthy punch. Touted as having more vitamin C than some citrus fruits, strawberries are also high in fiber, folate, potassium and antioxidants, making them a natural means of reducing the chances of heart disease, high blood pressure and certain cancers. Strawberries are only 55 calories per one cup serving, and contain 140% of the recommended daily dose of vitamin C for children.
10. Collard Greens. These are so fast to make and so good for you. A one cup serving has 357 mg of calcium whereas one cup of low-fat milk has 290 mg of calcium. Collards are a good source of soluble fiber, but first and foremost is Collard Greens’ notoriety as a cancer preventative. They are packed with antioxidants, such as vitamin C, diindolylmethane and sulforaphane as well as lutein, an antioxidant that protects against age-related vision loss and even cataracts. At only 46 calories for approximately 100 grams, that is a powerhouse indeed.