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5 Foods To Improve Your Health

Registered dietitian, Melanie Douglass, picks her top five foods that will improve your health from the moment you start eating.

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The following foods are considered "super foods" by some, but in reality they are just "foods" that are far superior to the nutrient-stripped processed foods prevalent in our food supply today.

These 5 important foods should be consumed on a regular basisâ"”they should be part of the foundation in any healthful eating program. I say, "part of the foundation" because a healthy diet consists of a variety of foods.

1. SPINACH

Why it's in the top 5: Besides its potent nutrient content, it's affordable, accessible, versatile and very low in caloriesâ"”about 7 calories per cup. Spinach makes the most beautiful and delicious salads. You can even eat spinach plainâ"¦ yes, right out of the bag! (Really, it's good.) It's also great in sandwiches, or even cooked into main dishes and casseroles.

a. Spinach has the following nutrients:
- Carotenoids: beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin
- Vitamin K
- Calcium
- Potassium
- Folate

2. POMEGRANATE

Why it's in the top 5: Pomegranate has powerful phytochemicals like anthocyanins, ellagitannins, pelargonidin and other names people can't pronounce. These compounds have antioxidant and/or anti-carcinogenic properties and work in the body to clean up "metabolic rust" and damage from free radicals. They help reduce the risk of disease and are indisputably good for our health.

I also recommend Pomegranate becauseâ"”to many peopleâ"”it's something "new". The arils (the fleshy seeds inside) burst with a sweet, satisfying flavor in your mouth. The combination of a "new" food to eat and a refreshing taste make for a healthy snack that can help combat food cravings.

a. Pomegranate has the following nutrients:
- Carotenoids: beta-carotene, alpha-carotene
- Anthocyanins (phytochemical, antioxidant)
- Ellagic Acid (phytochemical, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic)
- Potassium
- Fiber

3. FLAXSEED

Why it's in the top 5: Flaxseed is one of the best sources of alpha-linolenic acidâ"”the plant-derived form of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for cardiovascular health. Omega-3's help to make blood less sticky and reduce the incidence of dying from a heart attack. Flaxseed is a great source of fiber as well (4 grams per 2 Tbsp). I sprinkle ground flaxseed in my cold or hot cereal. You can add it to breads, quick breads, French toast, etc. as well.

a. Flaxseed has the following nutrients:
- ALA fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid) (heart healthy fats)
- Carotenoids: lutein + zeaxanthin (phytochemicals)
- Fiber
- Protein
- Iron
- Niacin

4. BLACK BEANS

Why they're in the top 5: One, because black beans have the perfect combination of protein and fiber. A ½-cup portion packs only 100 calories, but 8 grams of protein and a whopping 7.5 grams of fiber--plus iron, folate, and potassium. Plus, black beans are so easy and versatile! You can add beans to soups and salads, eat them plain, or put a few spoonfuls in a whole-wheat tortilla.

a. Black beans have the following nutrients:
- Carotenoids: beta-carotene, alpha-carotene (antioxidants)
- Flavonoids: quercitin (anti-inflammatory, antioxidant)
- Saponins (phytochemical, binds cholesterol, prevents cancer cells from growing)
- Protein
- Fiber
- Iron
- Folate
- Potatssium

5. YOGURT

Why it's in the top 5: Yogurt is a rich source of much-needed calcium and probiotics (live active cultures). It's a good source of protein and Vitamin B12 and is a filling, satiating food that is portable and convenient for eating on the run.

a. Yogurt has the following nutrients:
- Active cultures (promote healthy digestive system, protect against infection, enhance immune system)
- Calcium: 1 cup provides 320 mg - 33% of daily needs
- Protein
- Vitamin B12

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Have a health question for Melanie? Click here to submit your question http://www.tipadayguide.com/blog and Melanie will answer your question on an upcoming Studio 5 segment!

HEALTHY LIVING TIP OF THE DAY
By Melanie Douglass, R.D., NASM
Author: Tip-a-Day Guide to Healthy Living
(Deseret Book, 2007)
http://www.tipadayguide.com

© 2007 Melanie Douglass, Deseret Book

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