8 Foods for a Healthier You
Eat Your Way to Better Health
"You are what you eat -- right now," says David Heber, M.D., director of the Center for Human Nutrition at UCLA and author of What Color Is Your Diet?
For example, Dr. Heber explains, every day your body is subjected to the damaging effects of oxygen particles known as free radicals. They can cause harmful inflammation anywhere in the body, which certainly can result in disease later on in life, but can also make you feel tired and dull today.
On the other hand, "Certain nutrients in foods can fight this inflammation, and the daily effects of getting them in your diet can be seen and felt," says Dr. Heber. Here, our top eight foods (okay, one is a drink) for more feel-good-now vitality.
1. Don't Fear Lean Red Meat.
Surprised to see beef on the list? Don't be. Millions of women in the U.S. are deficient in iron. Lean red meat is one of the best food sources of iron and zinc, which are needed to boost energy and repair damaged tissue, respectively. A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who had lower levels of iron in their diets (but not anemia) were more fatigued when they exercised compared with those who had higher iron levels. Lean beef is a great source of protein, too.
"Most women don't eat enough protein," says Dr. Heber. "But it's crucial to have adequate amounts of this nutrient in your diet, about 20 percent of calories, to help sustain energy and reduce hunger." Although nutrition experts are not sure why, protein has been shown to satisfy hunger better than fats or carbohydrates do. Don't take this as an open invitation to move into the Slab o' Beef Steakhouse, however.
Two or three weekly servings of lean beef will keep your iron and zinc at healthy levels. And no, we're not talking 16-ounce T-bones here -- keep portion sizes to 3 to 4 ounces apiece.
2. Give a Standing Ovation for Oats.
Oatmeal is a great source of soluble fiber, which absorbs water in the digestive tract and bulks up, making you feel fuller longer than do carbohydrates without soluble fiber (such as a bagel).
Oatmeal is also low on the glycemic index, which means it doesn't cause a rapid increase in blood sugar, followed by a crash that can leave you tired, jittery and even hungrier, as you may experience after eating sugary foods. Steady blood sugar levels mean steady fuel to maintain your energy.
Two studies conducted at Pennsylvania State University, in University Park, showed that people who ate a fiber-packed high-carbohydrate breakfast, including oats, increased the amount of time they exercised.
In his book, Eating Well for Optimum Health, wellness expert Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends choosing steel-cut oats, which have an even greater effect on regulating blood sugar for the long haul. If you're not an oat-lover, try other whole grains such as barley, bulgur and quinoa.