Charlyn Fargo, Contributor
So many times, we focus on foods to avoid in order to have a healthy lifestyle. Nutrition Action Healthletter offers 10 foods to make sure you include on your plate to boost your nutrition. Plan your menus around these foods, and try to include them more often.
1. Sweet potatoes. Even Wendy's has now come out with a sweet potato side. Go easy on the condiments, but this nutritional all-star is one of the best vegetables you can eat. They're loaded with carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium and fibre. Bake and mix with unsweetened applesauce or crushed pineapple for extra sweetness and moisture without a lot of extra calories.
2. Mangoes. Just one cup of mango supplies 100 per cent of a day's vitamin C, one-third of a day's vitamin A as well as potassium and fibre.
3. Unsweetened Greek yoghurt. Greek yoghurt has twice the protein of ordinary yoghurt - about 17 grams in six ounces of plain Greek yoghurt - making it a great way to start the day.
4. Broccoli. It still makes the list because of its vitamin C, carotenoids, vitamin K and folic acid.
5. Wild Salmon. Thanks to the omega-3s in fatty fish, a serving or two of this a week can help reduce the risk of heart attacks. It's thought that wild salmon has fewer PCB contaminants that farmed salmon.
6. Whole grains. Whole grains are loaded with fibre. Choose fat-free or low-fat versions.
7. Garbanzo beans. Really, all beans are good — rich in protein, fibre, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. Garbanzo beans stand out because they're so versatile. Drain and rinse and toss in a salad, add them to vegetable stews and soups, or use them in hummus.
8. Watermelon. A standard serving has a third of the day's vitamins A and C, potassium and lycopene for only 80 calories.
9. Butternut squash. Steam it, or buy it peeled and diced to bake in the oven or use in stir-fry or soup. It's rich in vitamin A, C and fiber.
10. Leafy greens. Try kale, collards, spinach, Swiss chard and greens such as mustard and turnip. More than iceberg, they are packed with vitamins A, C and K, folate, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, lutein and fibre.
Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists. Creators Syndicate website: www.creators.com.
Q: Do the bacteria in our gut really affect health? If so, can probiotics help?
A: Yes, research suggests that gut bacteria may affect your health, including chronic inflammation (in the gut and throughout the body), colon cancer risk and even weight control. People do have different types of bacteria in their digestive tract, but changes in diet can alter the proportions of these bacteria in our gut within days or weeks, so your overall diet is important. Diets with mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans provide compounds called polyphenols that in cell studies support growth of health-promoting bacteria and inhibit less desirable bacteria.
Diets high in meat seem to encourage more gut bacteria that promote compounds that damage colon cells, and less of the health-promoting bacteria. Probiotics are live organisms that offer a health benefit for our gut and are part of, or added to, food and supplements. Foods that contain probiotics include fermented dairy products (yoghurt, cheese and kefir), sauerkraut, kimchi (a spicy Korean condiment made from fermented cabbage), the fermented soy products miso and tempeh, and certain salt-cured pickles and olives.
Studies show that foods with prebiotics that support growth of healthy bacteria may be more effective than probiotics. Prebiotics are certain types of carbohydrate such as inulin (found in onions, garlic, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, chicory and artichokes) and fermentable dietary fibre and resistant starch you get from dried beans and peas and certain whole grains.
- Information courtesy of the American Institute for Cancer Research