Two days ago I posted my 08 Food Awards Hall of Shame and since every coin has two sides here's the flip: the best foods you can eat and why. Though it doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell us that fruits & vegetables win hands down on the health scale but there are still quite a few surprises in the nutrient quiver!
There are basically two groups of foods that you can eat ad nauseam without piling on the dreaded calories: vegetables and fruits. Eat your fruits and vegs with fiber and you get nutrients. Another super-nutrient is protein. It's becoming more scientifically accepted that protein helps to control appetite. Protein also offers greater staying power, and can boost your metabolism. Come check my list (not in alphabetical or preference)
Most doctors and nutritionists agree that fiber is good for us, and for this reason we should eat fruit, which contains fiber. But both fruit and vegetable also contain a lot of carbohydrate. One apple, for example, contains about 3 grams of fiber and 16 grams of carbohydrate. A banana has approximately 3 grams of fiber and 22.84 gr of carbohydrates per 100gr.
A note for folks afflicted with either type 1 and type 2 diabetes: as you know, as little as one gram of carbohydrate can raise blood sugars so keep this in mind as eating too much carbohydrate at one time from any source can raise your blood sugar so spacing those carbohydrates throughout the day will help control your blood sugar and blood glucose levels. A good friend of mine has type 2 and she has discovered years ago that eating several small meals a day not only kept her BG to acceptable levels but also kept her weight down. For instance she would eat a single baked potato and two hours later she would make herself a large tomato salad with a few bits of avocado thrown into it. Three hours after that she would make a "milkshake" with red berries, 1 passion fruit and use butter milk instead of regular (good for the skin, she'd say).
My number 1 on the all time scale of greatness:
the humble sweet potato! Or yam as it's known in some countries. It packs a wallop! Simply cut lengthways in four or six, drop a little olive oil and a pinch of rock salt and bake till tender. They're loaded with carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, and ot course a ton of fiber (highest fiber vegetables: avocado (though some see this as a fruit), beans, broccoli, eggplant (aubergine), lima beans, Brussel sprouts & cabbage (both green and red), carrot, chick peas - garbanzo to you)
Quinoa. This grain may well save us from famine if it were given the attention it deserves, grows in poor soil (like amaranth, the other wonder grain), and demands little water. A half cup of cooked quinoa has 5 grams of protein, more than any other grain, plus iron, riboflavin and magnesium. A half-cup has 320 calories, 5 grams of fat and 5 grams of fiber. Great also in stir-fries and soups, and it is reasonably priced!
Kale: the truly amazing greens! These leafy greens are jampacked with vitamins A, C, and K, folate, potassium, magnesium, iron, and lutein among other goodies. Great in stews, soups or baked with potatoes, or simply steamed by itself and served with a dash of olive oil and crusty bread.
Praise the Gods: Garlic, the magic bullet! I can talk and write endlessly on garlic and its powers. The sulfur compounds that give garlic its pungent flavor can also lower bad cholesterol, lower blood pressure and even reduce your risk of stomach and colon cancer. A clove has 4 or 5 calories, 0 fat and 0 fiber. Make a puree by baking a few heads (skin on) into a medium oven and use it a spread on bread, vegetables, anything that you like. Never mind the smells and the breath, it's more important to be healthy. Also use liberally in stews, soups and stir-fries.
Can't talk about garlic without mentioning onions! Quercetin is one of the most powerful flavonoids (natural plant antioxidants) and the humble onion is blessed with large amounts of it. Studies show it helps protect against cancer. 1 single cup has 60 calories, 0 fat and 3 grams of fiber. Onion soup, onion tart laced with anchovy, onion marmalade, the options are endless. And since onions are a conductor of oxygen, let me give you this hangover tip: juice 1 onion, 1 tomato, half a lemon, half a chili and drink asap. You will feel discombobulated for a moment but the headache will go.
The wonders of the tomato: lycopene, one of the strongest carotenoids, acts as an antioxidant. Research shows that tomatoes may cut the risk of bladder, stomach, prostrate and colon cancers in half if eaten daily (both my grandfather & great grandfather died of prostate so I'm eating tomatoes like there's no tomorrow). 1 tomato has 28 calories, 0 fat and 1 gram of fiber. You can be liberal the use of olive oil, because lycopene is best absorbed when eaten with a little fat.
King Broccoli: broccoli has heaps of vitamin C and beta-carotene, indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane, which help protect against breast cancer. 1 cup has 25 calories, 0 fat and 3 grams of fiber. You can eat it raw in salads, cook it in soups and stir-fries and every time you munch on it think of Bush 1 who hated it with passion. I bet he could do with some now as his face is a little pasty.
The power of Apricots: filled with beta-carotene, which helps prevent free-radical damage. One apricot has 17 calories, 0 fat, 1 gram of fiber. Eat them fresh or dried (make sure they're free of sulphites), my favorite way of eating apricots is to combine them with some berries and cherries and make a cold summer soup using either molasses or acacia honey to sweeten it.
Which brings me to berries, in this case raspberries.
These berries are packed with vitamin C and are, oddly, high in fiber. 1 cup has only 60 calories, 1 gram of fat and 8 grams of fiber. Eat them fresh in season, try some with muesli and yogurt, in tartlets and smoothies, and frozen the rest of the year (great for ice-cream, sorbets, smoothies and cakes/muffins).
Lentils & protein: lentils pack a punch! 1 cup of cooked lentils will deliver an astonishing 18 grams of protein and 0 fat (120 calories, 8 grams of fiber) Filled with isoflavones (which inhibit estrogen-promoted breast cancers) they even hold up through processing. Use in soups, stews and my favorite, a warm lentil and chicken breast salad laced with a tomato & onion salsa. A drop of Balsamic vinegar and olive oil complete the deal.
Green Tea: researchers suppose that the catechins in the tea may trigger weight loss by stimulating your metabolism. The body will burn calories so drink copiously as tea or as iced-tea, with a little fresh mint thrown into it.
Figs & fig bars: a great source of potassium and fiber, figs also contain vitamin B6, which is responsible for producing mood-boosting serotonin, lowering cholesterol and preventing water retention. One fig has 37 to 48 calories, 0 fat and 2 grams of fiber. A healthy fig bar would have around 60 calories, 1 gram of fat and 1 gram of fiber. I love dried figs as well as use them with lamb, and as a snack.
Citrus, lovely citrus: lemons, limes and grapefruit all have limonene, furocoumarins and vitamin C, all of which help prevent cancer. A wedge has 2 calories, 0 fat and 0 fiber. I don't have to tell you how to deal with citrus, everyone has an idea on how to eat or drink it. It's all good.
Spices: ginger is known to ward off migraines and arthritis pain by blocking inflammation-causing prostaglandins. I use it in tea, stir-fries, soups, stews, you name it, ginger will be in it. I use other spices and one that is prevalent is the chili, fresh or flaked. I could write an entire book on chili and still not cover everything it does.
Spinach & Bok Choy: though quite different they both pack major vitamins. Spinach is rich in lutein, zeaxanthin and carotenoids that help fend off macular degeneration, a major cause of blindness in older peopleb (Popeye was not wrong!) 1 cup has 7 calories, 0 fat and 1 gram of fiber. 1 cup of Bok Choy will give you 160mg of calcium (16 percent of your daily recommended requirement) to help beat osteoporosis. 1 cup has 20 calories, 0 fat and 3 grams of fiber. Bok Choy is not understood properly and should be on the menu quite frequently, in soups and stir-fries.
Wild salmon, if you can get it: it is a superior food, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce the risk of cardiac disease. A 150 gram portion (cooked) has 130 calories, 4 grams of fat, 0 fiber. It's great baked with a little olive oil, a few sliced tomatoes and 1 sliced lemon or lime, moderate oven, add a dash of white wine and you're in heaven.
Other super foods I also like: watercress, arugula (I'm an elitist, duh!), squash, roasted pumpkin seeds, almonds, bananas, celery, and more...and here's a last entry: wheat germ. 1 tablespoon gives you about 8 percent of your daily magnesium, which helps prevent muscle cramps. It's also a good source of vitamin E. One tablespoon has 28 calories, 1 gram of fat and 1 gram of fiber. I stick some on my muesli, along with a tablespoon of powdered lecithin....for the memory, you know!
The star juices: cranberry, pineapple, mango and pomegranate: 1 glass has 144 calories, 0 grams of fat and 0 fiber.
A note on skim milk: drink in moderation, riboflavin is important for good vision and along with vitamin A might help improve eczema and allergies. Plus, you get calcium and vitamin D, too. 1 glass has 90 calories, 0 fat and 0 fiber.
And finally we arrive at water (unbottled, please) Water is your body’s lifeblood and it has zero calories. What more can I say on this? Oh, yes: water is life.