10 Power Foods
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10 Power Foods

These delicious foods are the building blocks of the Sonoma Diet because they have exceptional nutritional value and relatively few calories, and they help fight heart disease and other serious illnesses.
Almonds

These mighty nuts contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, the same type found in olive oil. Recent medical studies have found that eating 1 ounce of almonds daily reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol and thereby overall heart risk. Almonds may also help protect against cancer. Rich in calcium, they deliver plenty of protein, copper, zinc, potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins as well as vitamin E.

Bell Peppers

Peppers of all colors have plenty of vitamins A and C, which help combat heart disease, while their abundant vitamin B6 and folate contribute to lower levels of homocysteine, a heart disease-related protein. Red peppers pack a special punch: lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that may reduce the risk of cancer of the colon, cervix, bladder, pancreas, and prostate gland.

Blueberries

Among fruits, they're the champion of antioxidants and, like wine, contain resveratrol, a heart-protecting flavonoid.

Broccoli

A half-cup serving provides as much vitamin C as an orange with about half the calories. A serving also delivers 40 milligrams of calcium. You'll get more in a cup of milk, but you'll also get anywhere from 85 to 150 calories. Even skim milk has saturated fat; broccoli, however, has zero fat of any kind.

Grapes

Grapes are rich in nutrients that protect blood vessels and heart muscle from tissue damage caused by free radicals and the "rusting" they give rise to. Grapes also contain myriad flavonoids, including resveratrol.

Olive Oil

Mostly composed of monounsaturated fat, olive oil actually lowers levels of LDL cholesterol as well as blood fats called triglycerides; it also reduces the risk of high blood pressure and inflammation. It contains vitamin E and carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, and extra-virgin varieties are particularly rich in antioxidant phytonutrients.

Spinach

A superb source of iron, these green leaves are a low-calorie, nonfat alternative to red meat. Spinach is also an abundant nondairy source of calcium and vitamin K, a combination that promotes bone health. Spinach is especially rich in folate, a B vitamin that reduces heart-damaging homocysteine. Recent evidence suggests it helps prevent inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

Strawberries

Half a cup contains only 25 to 30 calories, but that half cup is bursting with heart-healthy nutrients that minimize the damage caused by LDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation in the arteries, and help protect against cancer.

Tomatoes

While part of their value comes from a rich array of phytochemicals that work together to protect your cardiovascular system, their most powerful component is the phytonutrient lycopene, which gives them their bright color. Research has shown that lycopene reduces the risk of breast, cervix, prostate, pancreas, and lung cancers. To get the full benefit, try to buy vine-ripened tomatoes and eat them fresh, including the skin.

Whole Grains

When the nutrient-rich bran, germ, and endosperm are not processed out of the kernel, grains retain their natural fiber, vitamins, and phytonutrients. All of these help boost metabolism and control blood sugar; they also lower your risk of diabetes, cancer, stroke, and heart disease.

Excerpted from The Sonoma Diet, by Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD. Copyright 2005 Meredith Corporation.

Originally excerpted in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, January 2006.

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