BEANS AND LENTILS.
These legumes are heroic performers in the nutrition world. They not only supply protein and fiber, but a host of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals such a phosphorous, zinc and calcium. One serving of beans or lentils contains practically the complete spectrum of daily dietary needs. Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, who wrote Read It Before You Eat It, tells her readers that some of the best foods, like canned beans and lentils, are to be found right in the heart of the supermarket, and not in some specially marked aisle or near the checkout stand. “They are ancient and honored food items in almost every culture on earth, and as such are considered staples, something to eat at every meal. The best part is that they are extremely cheap and abundant.”
To lower the sodium content of canned beans simply rinse them in a colander before eating.
Elisa Zied, MS, RD, writer of Nutrition at Your Fingertips says that including legumes regularly in your diet can significantly lower LDL (low density lipids) and increase HDL (high density lipids), which is what doctors have been advocating for years now. It also helps with weight loss programs.
Beans can be added to salad, omelets, soups and stews, used as a topping on pizza, even put between slices of bread for a bean sandwich – plus they are easy to puree for dips of all sorts. They are the nutritional equivalent of Lon Chaney – the Bean of a Thousand uses!
Who doesn’t like watermelon? It’s not only delicious, but it’s good for you! And guess what? It’s not even that high in sugar. One slice of watermelon contains only a quarter teaspoon of fructose.
Elizabeth Ward, RD, who wrote Expect the Best, writes that watermelon is ripe with lycopene, and is an essential rehydrator for athletes and all others who sweat heavily over an extended period of time. Several slices of watermelon, she claims, equals a quart of Gatorade, and doesn’t have all the additional chemicals or sugar. Watermelon is also chock full of vitamins A and C, as well as a good source of potassium.
Its thick rind, excellent for making watermelon pickles (just ask your Grandmother) also means that pesticide never penetrates to the sweet red fruit inside, making it one of the ‘Top 15’ chemical free items on the Environmental Committee’s List of Pesticide-Free Food.
Don’t let the ‘sweet’ in sweet potatoes fool you. This superlative tuber is actually quite low in sugars and carbohydrates, and has virtually no salt or cholesterol of any kind. Of course, if you load one up with all sorts of gooey, sugary confections, as happens at Thanksgiving, you are going to get something quite unlike the natural yam, or sweet potato.
Heather Mangieri, RD, says beta-carotene is one of the best benefits of including sweet potatoes in your diet. They are also rich in fiber and vitamin C. Just pop one in the microwave, after poking a few holes in it with a fork, and nuke it for three minutes before turning it over and giving it another three minutes. With no other additions except a small pat of butter, the sweet potato is a versatile main meal or side dish morning, noon, and night. And the skins are excellent for compost, exuding a natural aroma that flies find intolerable, keeping your compost heap bug-free for days at a time!
Red cabbage is not as highly popular as it should be in the United States. Probably because of the smell when it is cooked too long. Kept simmering for hours on end, the Brassica vegetable family has a tendency to release sulfur compounds into the air that most people find disagreeable. The secret to cooking, and liking, red cabbage is to keep the heat low and the cooking time short.
“It’s a great source of fiber; vitamins A, D, and K; folate; and lots of trace minerals with only 22 calories in one chopped cup,” says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, physician and certified dietitian. She says that studies have shown red cabbage can help reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Red cabbage coleslaw is considered a delicacy in many parts of Eastern Europe. Raw cabbage is high in vitamin C and riboflavin, as well as a proven anti-bacterial for your mouth. So next time you need to gargle before a big date, chew on some red cabbage instead of swishing mouthwash. Your breath will be a sweet as the meadows of Poland!
Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, is a professor emeritus at Georgia State University. He loves to use canned tomatoes in his food because, he says, cooking them releases health-giving lycopene and makes it easier to digest. His favorite dish, shared with thousands of students over a teaching career spanning sixty years, is gazpacho – a cold Spanish soup that combines canned tomatoes with cucumbers and fresh herbs and spices in the blender for a tart and satisfying collation that is especially welcome during the warm and humid Georgia summers.
The Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2009 suggested that a diet abounding in canned tomatoes, with the attendant lycopene antioxidant, helps curb prostrate cancer and other types of cancer. It should be noted, however, that many lifestyle choices go into factoring the probability of getting prostrate or any other type of cancer.
Rosenbloom also recommends stocking up on canned tomatoes in case of a power outage. They can be eaten straight out of the can and are a good way to stay hydrated if your water runs low. Because tomatoes are naturally acidic, their shelf live in the can is almost eternal.
If you cannot bring yourself to like canned tomatoes, how about low sodium vegetable juices, such as V-8? According to Sheah Rarback, MS, RD, such juices contain only 140 mg of sodium and are high in vitamin C and potassium. They can be drunk straight or added to soups and stews, or even combined with gelatin for dynamite tomato aspic!
PLAIN, NONFAT GREEK YOGURT.
Every type of yogurt provides outstanding supplies of calcium, potassium, protein, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12. But the standout, hands-down, for delivering powerhouse vitamins, minerals, and protein, is undoubtedly nonfat yogurt made the Greek way. It has less lactose sugar and more fiber than other yogurts. The liquid whey is removed, which makes it richer and creamier, and each cup is full of probiotic cultures that are known to increase your gastro-intestinal functions, plus protect them from invading microbes.
Judith Rodriguez, PhD, RD, advocates Greek-style yogurt mostly because its high protein content helps weight control, making you feel fuller for longer.
Rodriguez is a big fan of combining Greek yogurt with granola or other high fiber cereals for a breakfast boost that keeps hunger pangs at bay until lunch time. Add fresh fruit whenever possible, because the vitamin C helps to absorb all of the minerals, especially calcium, that Greek yogurt contains.