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Healthiest Foods

Some of the Healthiest Foods on the Planet



Mushrooms:  Meaty and filling, as a stand-in for beef, they can slash up to 400 calories from a meal.  They

may also protect against breast cancer by helping to regulate a woman’s estrogen levels.  Studies show a 65% reduction in breast cancer among regular mushroom eaters.  Try this: Saute sliced mushrooms and shallots

until tender.  Add a splash of white wine and cook until evaporated.  Serve over roasted fish or chicken.


Whole grain pasta:  Contains three times the amount of fiber per serving as the typical semolina variety.  Skip pasta labeled “multigrain”:  it may be made with a number of grains but they aren’t necessarily whole ones. 

Try this:  Toss whole grain or brown rice pasta with pesto, chopped arugula and grated lemon zest.


Walnuts:  A surprisingly good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Those are the fats that lower the bad-for-you cholesterol (LDL) and raise the good-for-you kind (HDL).  Try this:  mix a pound of walnuts and a pound of pumpkin seeds in a bowl; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle some sea salt and cayenne pepper over; mix and

bake at 350 degrees for 10 min.  Cool, place in a zip-lock in the fridge and you have a ready made snack to go!


Almond and Peanut Butter  Heart-healthy monounsaturated fats abound in these protein-rich spreads.  Opt

for those with just two ingredients: nuts and sea salt.  Try this:  Mix with soy sauce, brown sugar,and rice wine vinegar to make a quick Asian dipping sauce for chicken skewers or dressing for whole grain noodles.


Oatmeal (steel-cut or old-fashioned)  Holds cholesterol in check, helps fight against heart disease, and keeps you full until lunch thanks to its soluble fiber.  Try this:  Add chopped walnuts and grated apple; skip the

raisins and bananas to keep down the level of glucose released into the bloodstream; keeps you full longer, too.


Quinoa  A complete plant-based protein (meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids), this seed, actually, offers the same energy and satiety you would get from meat, sans the fat or cholesterol. Try this: Stir in chopped sundried packed-in-oil tomatoes, along with a Tbsp or two of crumbled goat or feta cheese to the cooked quinoa.


Lentils  A protein powerhouse, these are flush with folate, a nutrient that may prevent certain birth defects. 

Try this:  Toss cooked lentils with extra-virgin olive oil, red wine or balsamic vinegar, chopped celery, fresh thyme. Serve over arugula or other greens.


Almonds:  Packed with monounsaturated fatty acids, which keep blood vessels healthy.  The plant fibers help lower cholesterol and reduce glucose levels.  Try this:  Fold chopped almonds into cooked grains, oatmeal, and sprinkle on salads.  Especially good in chicken salad.


Eggs:  The whites offer up protein with minimal calories.  The yolks are awash with vitamin B12, vitamin A

and omega-3 fatty acids.  Try this:  Make a sandwich with whole-grain bread, sliced hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes,red onion, anchovies, and drizzle with olive oil.  Keeping the yolk in-tact prevents the oxidation of cholesterol.  Poached, over-easy, hard or soft boiled eggs are all healthier than scrambled for this reason.


Chicken Breasts:  A dinner staple from the leanest part of the bird:  Half a breast has just 25 grams of fat and more than 22 grams of protein.  Try this:  Shred cooked chicken and toss with olive oil, raisins, curry powder

and fresh lime juice.


Wild Salmon:  Its omega-3 fatty acids may improve your mood and keep your skin glowing.  Why wild?  It’s been exposed to fewer toxins than the farmed Atlantic variety.  Try this:  For breakfast, mash some avocado

on whole grain toast and top with flaked poached salmon.


Sardines:  This protein-rich winner is an acquired taste for some, but totally worth it.  Chockablock with  vitamins D and B12, it is also an excellent source of calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.  Try this:  Toss chopped sardines into a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, and parsley.


Kale:  The payoff from this leafy green: loads of Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, and antioxidants. 

Try this:  Make chips by tearing the leaves into pieces and tossing with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper.  Spread

on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees until crisp, 20 – 30 minutes.


Blueberries:  Packed with fiber, this superfruit was one of the top antioxidant-rich picks in a US Department

of Agriculture study.  Try this:  mix a handful into plain yogurt with 2 tsp. omega-3 fish oil for a super snack.


Broccoli:  A vitamin C goldmine – ½ cup of cooked broccoli satisfies 80% of the FDA’s recommended daily dose.  It’s also a key source of vitamin K which helps blood clot properly.  Try this:  Toss with olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper.  Roast at 375 degrees until tender.  Sprinkle with grated parmesan before serving.


Avocados:  You’ll get nearly 20% of your daily dose of fiber in one ½ cup serving, plus cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fats.  Try this:  Stuff ½ an avocado with cooked bay shrimp tossed with chopped tomato,

finely minced red onion and lime juice, serve over arugula or baby spring lettuces.


Black Beans:  These burrito mainstays boast the highest level of antioxidants in the legume family because of

the dark color.  They are also high in magnesium which helps maintain nerve and muscle function. 

Try this: On a baking sheet, toss canned black beans, drained, with olive oil, ground cumin and sea salt. Roast

at 450 degrees until crispy, about 10 minutes, for a tasty snack.


Winter squashes:  The darker the color, the richer these plants are in antioxidants and beta-carotene. 

Try this:  Toss cubed yellow or orange squash with olive oil, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with sea salt.  Spread on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until soft but not mushy.  In a large bowl, toss cooked squash with pomegranate seeds, chopped arugula and crumbled goat or feta cheese. 


Sweet Potatoes:  Red skinned yams and yellow skinned sweet potatoes are both rich in antioxidants and vitamins.  Yams have more carotene but sweet potatoes have less sugar, so are a better choice.  Try this:

Mash cooked sweet potatoes with salt and butter and serve instead of potatoes.  Next day, make a patty of the mashed sweet potato, heat, and top with poached egg for breakfast.  Great choice for gluten-free diets.


Chard:  Supercharged with nutrients, think calcium, magnesium, B vitamins and beta-carotene (similar to all greens) this leafy green fuels your body with fiber, too.  Try this:  Sauté finely chopped chard with garlic and chopped onion, mix with cooked quinoa and serve as a base for spaghetti sauce that has been fortified with chopped broccoli slaw.  When cooked, it disappears into the sauce.


Oranges:  Your go-to source for Vitamin C, which, among other useful traits, can help the body burn fat.

Try this:  Roast orange wedges or slices along with wild salmon.


Spinach:  You’ll get iron (for healthy hair)plus folate and at least a dozen flavonoids – compounds that are loaded with antioxidants.  Try this:  Blend a handful of spinach into your favorite smoothie.


Winter Squashes and Pumpkin:  The antioxidants in these yellow/orange squashes keep skin healthy and its

potassium helps lower blood pressure.  Try this:  Peel, cut into chunks, roast with olive and sprigs of fresh



Edamame:  These young soybeans pack more fiber per serving than shredded wheat cereal and have the same amount of protein as roasted turkey.  Try this:  Puree cooked edamame with garlic, olive oil, and fresh lemon juice for a quick hummus-like spread.  Also: boil, sprinkle with sea salt and eat as a snack.  Kids love them!


Kidney Beans:  These beans, along with black beans, are two of the most antioxidant rich foods in a USDA study, besides being a fiber-rich food that lowers cholesterol.  Try this: Make a quick salad with kidney beans, olive oil, fresh lime or lemon juice and fresh cilantro.  Add finely minced red onion if desired.


Cocoa Powder:  Pure cocoa powder has been shown in several recent studies to have various cardiovascular benefits.  Now we learn that it also significantly increases the friendly bacteria in the intestines and acts as a potent anti-inflammatory.  Try this:  Stir a tsp. of organic cocoa powder into your morning cup of coffee or sprinkle over a bowl of cooked steel cut oats.


Olive Oil:  Extra virgin olive oil is an outstanding source of monounsaturated fats.  When used in moderation, this tasty Mediterranean staple may even cut the risk of heart disease.  Try this:  Gently heat olive oil with turmeric (the most powerful anti-inflammatory in the plant world) and other favorite spices and drizzle over vegetables and sandwiches instead of mayo. 


Coconut Oil:  Once maligned by food science as being a saturated fat and therefore artery clogging, it is now known that this is not the case.  In fact, coconut is a medium-chain fatty acid that burns and metabolizes as a carbohydrate, therefore it actually encourages weight loss and isn’t stored as a fat. Try this: When using a fat

that requires high heat, use coconut oil in place of olive oil as it can tolerate much higher temperatures without being denatured.  It’s also a wonderful face and body cream.


Garlic:  Garlic contains allium compounds, which keep carcinogens from entering cells.  According to studies, garlic – as well as onions, leeks and chives – lowers the risk of stomach and colon cancer.  Other studies have found that garlic reduces cholesterol levels, and that it can thin blood more effectively than asprin. 

Try this:  Add garlic toward the end of cooking to preserve the highest level of allium compounds.


Tea:  Green and white teas contain large amounts of EGCG, an antioxidant linked to a lower risk of heart

disease, Alzheimer’s, and numerous kinds of cancer.   It also strengthens the eyes against glaucoma, helps regulate blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, and boosts metabolism.  Try this:  Drink 3 cups a day for greatest




Adapted and expanded from “Real Simple” Febuary 2011 edition.

Mary Anne Robinson, M.S. Bio-Nutrition