5 foods to boost your health
If you could eat better, would you? Hopefully, you answered yes. But you’re probably thinking, I already know about salmon, blueberries, olive oil, etc., but what about some other healthy foods that you may not be familiar with?
Catherine LaBella, registered dietitian at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., explains the benefits of five foods you may not have considered to add to your diet this year to boost your health.
This oil is pretty comparable to olive oil, says LaBella. “It contains monounsaturated fat that is heart healthy and is high in vitamin E,” she says. Some people may steer clear of it because they’re unsure how to cook with it, but LaBella says incorporating it into your diet is fairly easy. She says its ideal use is as an ingredient poured sparingly on dishes like salads and pasta.
LaBella does add a word of caution, however. She says that some people with latex allergies can also have a cross allergy with avocado oil.
“We know that patients with this allergy can be allergic to bananas, avocados and papayas,” she adds.
Beets have been touted as having many health benefits. They’re rich in vitamins and minerals, are a natural energy booster and help purify the blood, among other bonuses. But to get the most benefit, drinking it straight is the best, says LaBella, although she says a bit of sugar is usually added to make it more palatable. “It has a lot of antioxidants, but it also has nitrates, which may help in terms of cardiovascular health and athletic performance, but deteriorate when you cook beets,” LaBella explains.
She cautions those with sensitivities to nitrates, which can cause migraines, to steer clear though.
When you think of ricotta cheese, what comes to mind? Bingo! Lasagna. But its virtues are not just limited to this lone Italian dish. The low-fat version of ricotta cheese can be a good, lower fat protein, especially for vegetarians, says LaBella.
“You can also use it to make cannoli, pies, put it over pasta, and if you thin it down with the pasta cooking water, it makes a nice sauce,” LaBella says.
The low-fat version can also be used over fruit with a bit of honey drizzled over it, she adds.
Yes, an oldie, but definitely a goodie, and with the varieties of apples that exist, perhaps you can even branch out a bit. Consider Opal, Pink Lady and Winesap varieties. And why are apples so good at keeping the doctor away?
“They have a lot of fiber, both soluble and insoluble,” LaBella says, “and some vitamin C but not as much as an orange.”
It also offers other perks. “It’s a perfect portion size, very portable and a good snack,” LaBella says. She adds that apples help with weight loss and because of the quercetin (a plant pigment that reduces allergic responses or boosts immunity) found in apples.
“It helps increase athletic endurance during long training workouts, although you will not likely see any change during your average fifteen minutes on the stair climber,” LaBella says.
Fermented foods are great for the digestive system. Tempeh is a fermented soybean product that’s another good source of protein for vegetarians or even those who want to eat less meat.
“It’s pretty versatile and similar to tofu,” LaBella says. “You can cut it, slice it, or grate it to add it to meals.”
LaBella adds, “However, if a doctor tells you to avoid soy, then tempeh is not the food for you.”
If you feel like some of these foods wouldn’t interest you, just consider giving it a chance. “Try new things,” says LaBella. “If you had something twenty years ago and you didn’t like it then, you may want to retry some of those things because your taste changes,” she says.
If you’re still reluctant, then perhaps you can try making some substitutions for things you traditionally eat.
Angela Malinowski, senior clinical dietitian at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill., offers the following suggestions:
- Swap rice or pasta for quinoa.
- Eat fruit for snacks instead of crackers, chips and cookies.
- Choose water or low-fat milk instead of soda, juice and other sugary drinks.
- Include two low-carb vegetables at lunch and dinner (make half your plate vegetables)
- Explore vegetarian, protein-rich sources such as beans, nuts and soy as an alternative to animal proteins.
Finally, if you do nothing else, LaBella recommends doing at least this: “Eat more fruits and vegetables. No one eats nearly enough vegetables. Also include whole grains and lean protein sources whether they’re animal or vegetable.”
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.