Ten perfect foods

by Bella Rum

I haven’t mentioned my health kick lately. You remember, don’t you – the one I started back in late January? I posted about it every Wednesday for a number of weeks. I haven’t abandoned it, but progress was being measured in such small increments that it seemed a weekly progress report could turn into a lifetime commitment.

I may have stopped posting about it, but I haven’t ended my commitment to better health. In fact, I’ve continued with a moderate plan, and I’ve been rewarded with moderate but consistent progress. It’s been quite satisfying to take control of this. I have so little control over other parts of my life, and I believe that if I’m going to take a stand on anything, this is a good place to start. I’ve resisted allowing anything to get in the way, something that isn’t always easy around here.

I exercise almost everyday and I eat anything I want, but I keep the portions small. I’ve recently decided to shoot for a little more than just reduction of portion sizes. My intention is to direct my focus toward some of the healthier foods, while trying to avoid the worst foods. I’ve been doing this somewhat, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. We all know what those baddies are – trans fats, saturated fats, sugar, yada, yada, yada.

I found one of those ubiquitous top ten lists that are always appearing in magazines. This one was in a Woman’s Day that my aunt brought over last week. Someone had given it to her. That’s a small community peculiarity that I ran into when we moved in with Dad, or maybe it’s a senior thing. I’m not sure, but everyone shares their old magazines. They just show up at your door and pass them on. I like it. The Husband is convinced that only one person in our entire city subscribes to magazines, and they get passed on to everyone else.

I thought I’d share this particular top ten list with you since it involves healthy foods (10 perfect foods). Of course, the title itself is a misnomer; there are no perfect foods, and if there were – based on the qualities of these ten foods – it would be impossible to narrow the list to ten choices. But lists are fun, and people like The Husband enjoy the idea of the discovery of perfect foods – a simple answer to a complex set of needs – how to achieve and maintain good health.

Most people seem to know it’s a delicate balancing act of healthy food, exercise, managing stress, environment, genetics, etc. But not The Husband. He loves and believes in simple answers regarding health. He’ll soon lay in a supply of teff that could feed the entire third world, and before I know it he’ll be throwing it into everything we eat – until the next perfect food comes along.

You’re probably familiar with most of the foods on this list. Similar lists have been making the rounds for quite awhile. Broccoli always makes the list, which I love. In fact, I enjoy most of these foods. Beans and salmon are conspicuously missing, two choices that are usually staples on every top ten list of healthy foods, but I suppose they have to shake it up a little or they would be publishing the same list over and over again, and we can’t have that now. I also find it ironic how certain foods, once upon a time considered “good,” were suddenly considered “bad”, and have now been elevated to “perfect.” If you live long enough you’ll see it all.

Oh, and let’s just put this out there. In my humble opinion, they’ve made one glaring omission – red wine. Don’t you agree?

10 perfect foods

Almonds

The combination of protein and fiber (3 grams an ounce) in this tasty nut will keep you feeling full. A good source of healthy monounsaturated fats, almonds also contain calcium and vitamin E. Studies have shown that eating them may help keep your bones strong and perhaps even lower your cholesterol.

Try this:
Sprinkle pan-toasted, sliced or slivered almonds onto nearly any cooked veggie, like broccoli, kale or green beans.

Avocados

The fat in avocados may be high, but it’s mostly the heart-healthy monounsaturated kind. They’re also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate and lutein, which is beneficial for eye health. Avocados contain a plant sterol (beta-sitosterol) that may help lower cholesterol levels.

Try this:

Mash avocado and stir until smooth, add a squirt of lemon or lime juice, and use in place of mayo or other condiments.

Broccoli

It’s packed with vitamins A, C, K and beta-carotene, as well as possible cancer-fighting compounds like sulforaphane.

Try this:
Steam some florets and stuff into your favorite burrito.

Eggs

For just 75 calories, one little egg gives you 13 essential vitamins and minerals, including choline (which may help prevent birth defects), selenium (an antioxidant) and riboflavin (which helps you produce red blood cells and releases energy from carbs). Don’t skip the yolk; it contains the bulk of the egg’ nutrients, including vision-protecting lutein and zeaxanthin. Because they’e a good source of high-quality protein, eggs may also help you feel full longer.

Try this:
Serve a pan-cooked egg on top of a pizza slice, like they do in Italy.

Kale

Though this leafy green looks a little like spinach, it’s actually more closely related to cabbage, and provides more nutritional value per calorie than nearly any other food. It’s rich in vitamin K (important for bone health and normal blood clotting) and beta-carotene (which protects your sight). It also contains compounds that may reduce your risk of ovarian, breast and other types of cancers.

Try this:
Finely chop it and use it in place of spinach in cooked dishes, such as lasagna.

Quinoa

It’s now super-trendy (you can find it in major supermarkets these days, not just health food stores), but this grain has actually been around for thousands of years. It’s different from almost every other plant food on the planet because it’s a complete protein, which means it contains all of the essential amino acids that your body needs. What’s more, quinoa has a significant amount of iron, potassium and magnesium. The tiny grains look similar to sesame seeds and have a nutty flavor and fluffy, crunchy texture—and they cook in less than 15 minutes!

Try this:
Eat quinoa at any meal that would normally include rice (like Japanese or Chinese food). Drizzle a little teriyaki or soy sauce onto it for extra flavor.

Raspberries

They’re loaded with potassium, vitamin C, fiber and protective antioxidants like anthocyanins, salicylic acid, quercetin and catechins. They’re also especially rich in a compound called ellagic acid, which research suggests may play an important role in cancer prevention.

Try this:
Create a sandwich spread by mixing Dijon mustard with mashed raspberries.

Sweet Potatoes

One sweet potato has all the beta-carotene you need in a day—a nutrient that research indicates may be cancer-protective. Your heart will be happy, too, thanks to the vitamin C and potassium content. Be sure to eat the peel—it contains fiber along with additional disease-fighting phytonutrients.

Try this:
Dice boiled, chilled sweet potato and stir into your favorite guacamole recipe. For a unique taste twist, slice boiled sweet potato and use instead of tomato as a topping on your turkey or veggie burger. l Mash up baked sweet potato with a little vegetable broth and serve as an eye-appealing “bed” for an entrée, like salmon.

Teff

You’ve probably never heard of it, but it’s definitely worth trying. These tiny whole grains (which you can find at health food stores or at bobsredmill.com) are super-nutritious: Teff has more than twice as much iron and about 20 times as much calcium as other grains, plus a significant amount of fiber. But it’s the unique molasses-like flavor that will really win you over.

Try this:
Pour 1/4 cup boiling water over 1/2 cup dry (uncooked) teff. Let sit for about 10 minutes, then mix into extra-lean ground beef or turkey for a healthier, moist and tasty burger.

Yogurt (Plain, fat-free)

Like other dairy foods, yogurt is a good source of protein and calcium. But thanks to its live active cultures (good bacteria), it may also help your digestive and immune systems. To be sure you’re getting what you need, look for the “Live & Active Cultures” seal on the package.

Try this:
Mix equal parts yogurt and mayonnaise to make a naturally lower-fat mayo. If you prefer a more intense flavor, add in a few drops of hot sauce.

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