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Calcium and Bone Health

Calcium is the key to lifelong bone health. Learn how to eat to strengthen your bones and prevent osteoporosis.

Calcium is a key nutrient that many of us overlook in our diets. Almost every cell in the body uses calcium in some way, including the nervous system, muscles, and heart. Your body uses calcium to build healthy bones and teeth, keep them strong as you age, send messages through the nervous system, help your blood clot, your muscles contract, and regulate the heart’s rhythm.

If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, your body will take it from your bones to ensure normal cell function, which can lead to weakened bones or osteoporosis. Calcium deficiency can contribute to mood problems such as irritability, anxiety, depression, and difficulty sleeping.

Despite these vital functions, many of us are confused about calcium and how to best protect our bones and overall health. How much calcium should you get? Where should you get it? And what’s the deal with vitamin D, magnesium, and other nutrients that help calcium do its job? This confusion means that many of us are not getting the recommended daily amount of calcium and approximately one in two women (and about one in four men) over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

Getting enough calcium in your diet is not just important for older people. It’s also vital for children, teens, and young adults since we continue building bone mass into our mid-20s. From then on, we can lose bone mass without sufficient calcium in our diets. Whatever your age or gender, it’s vital to include calcium-rich foods in your diet, limit those that deplete calcium, and get enough magnesium and vitamins D and K to help calcium do its job.

The calcium and osteoporosis connection

Osteoporosis is a “silent” disease characterized by loss of bone mass. Due to weakened bones, fractures become commonplace, which leads to serious health risks. People with osteoporosis often don’t recover after a fall and it is the second most common cause of death in women, mostly those aged 60 and older. Men are also at risk of developing osteoporosis, but typically 5 to 10 years later than women. For most people, osteoporosis is preventable, and getting enough calcium in your diet is the first place to start.

Food is the best source of calcium

Doctors recommend that you get as much of your daily calcium needs as possible from food and use only low-dose supplements to make up any shortfall. Your body is better able to absorb calcium from food than it can from supplements. In fact, studies show that even though people who take calcium supplements have a higher average intake, those who get their calcium from food have stronger bones. Furthermore, using high-dose calcium supplements may increase your risk of kidney stones and heart disease.

Good food sources of calcium

Good sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, certain fish, oatmeal and other grains, tofu, cabbage, summer squash, green beans, garlic, sea vegetables and calcium-fortified foods such as cereals and orange juice.

Calcium and whole milk dairy: The pros and cons

While milk and other dairy products contain a lot of calcium in a highly absorbable form, there may be some potential downsides.

Whole milk dairy products are often high in saturated fat. Many prominent health organizations recommend that you limit your saturated fat intake and choose low- or non-fat dairy foods, though an increasing body of research shows that eating whole-milk dairy products is linked to less body fat and lower levels of obesity. Low-fat and non-fat dairy products also tend to contain lots of hidden sugar to make up for the loss of taste, which can be far more detrimental to your health and weight than the saturated fat it’s replaced.

Milk can contain high levels of estrogen. Some studies show a possible link between the natural estrogens found in milk and breast, prostate, and testicular cancer. Part of the problem is modern dairy practices, where the cows are fed synthetic hormones and antibiotics, kept continuously pregnant, and milked over 300 days per year. The more pregnant the cow, the higher the hormones in the milk. Organic milk comes from cows that are grass-fed and not given synthetic hormones or other additives, although organic milk can still be high in natural hormones. Because both natural and synthetic hormones are found in the milk fat, skim milk has a much lower level.

Some people are lactose intolerant, meaning they are unable to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products. Symptoms range from mild to severe, and include cramping, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Beyond the discomfort it causes, lactose intolerance can also interfere with calcium absorption from dairy.

Tips for upping your calcium intake

To boost your daily intake, try to include calcium-rich foods in multiple meals or snacks.

Tips for adding more calcium from dairy to your diet

  • Use milk instead of water when making oatmeal or other hot breakfast cereals.
  • Substitute milk for some of the liquid in soups such as tomato, squash, pumpkin, curries, etc.
  • Milk can be added to many sauces or used as the base in sauces such as Alfredo and Béchamel sauce.
  • Make whole-wheat pancakes and waffles using milk or yogurt.
  • Get creative with plain yogurt. Use it to make a dressing or a dip, or try it on potatoes in place of sour cream.
  • Add milk or yogurt to a fruit smoothie. You can even freeze blended smoothies for popsicles.
  • Enjoy cheese for dessert or as a snack. Try cheddar, mozzarella, Gouda, jack, Parmesan, or a type of cheese you’ve never had before.

Tips for getting your calcium from non-dairy sources

Greens can easily be added to soups, casseroles, or stir-fries. Opt for kale, collard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, mustard greens, beet greens, broccoli, and cabbage. Spice up these and other dishes with garlic, basil, thyme, oregano, and rosemary to add more nutrients.

Eat dark green leafy salads with your meals. Try romaine hearts, arugula, butter lettuce, mesclun, watercress, or red leaf lettuce (avoid iceberg lettuce as it has very little nutrient value).

Add extra servings of veggies to your meals, i.e. asparagus, fresh green peas, broccoli, cabbage, okra, bok choy.

Top salads or make a sandwich with canned fish with bones, such as sardines and pink salmon.

Use beans/legumes as part of your meals. They are wonderful in stews, chili, soup, or as the protein part of a meal. Try tofu, tempeh, black-eyed peas, black beans, and other dried beans. You can also snack on edamame.

Start your day with oats. Steel cut oats or rolled oats make a filling breakfast. For an added punch include cinnamon

Snack on nuts and seeds such as almonds and sesame seeds. You can also add these to your morning oatmeal.

Order or prepare sandwiches on whole grain wheat bread.

Beyond calcium: Other nutrients for healthy bones

When it comes to healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis, calcium alone is not enough. There are a number of other vital nutrients that help your body absorb and make use of the calcium you consume.

Magnesium

Why it’s important: Magnesium helps your body absorb and retain calcium to help build and strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis. Since your body is not good at storing magnesium, it is vital to make sure you get enough of it in your diet.

How much do you need? For adult men, 400-420 mg daily. For adult women, 310-320 mg daily (more during pregnancy).

How to include more in your diet: Magnesium is found in nuts (especially almonds and cashews), seeds (pumpkin, sesame, flax, sunflower), whole grains, seafood, legumes, tofu, and many vegetables, including spinach, Swiss chard, summer squash, turnip and mustard greens, broccoli, sea vegetables, cucumbers, and celery. Reduce sugar and alcohol, which increase the excretion of magnesium.

Vitamin D

Why it’s important: Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and regulates calcium in the blood.

How much do you need? Up to age 70, 600 IU (international units) per day. Over 70, 800 IU per day.

How to include more in your diet: Your body synthesizes vitamin D when exposed to the sun. Spend at least 15 minutes outside in the sun each day and include good food sources of vitamin D in your diet, such as fortified milk, eggs, cheese, fortified cereal, butter, cream, fish, shrimp, and oysters.

Phosphorous

Why it’s important: Phosphorous works with calcium to build bones. But again, it’s important to get the balance right: too much phosphorous will cause your body to absorb less calcium and can even be toxic.

How much do you need? For adults, 700 mg a day.

Vitamin K

Why it’s important: Vitamin K helps the body regulate calcium and form strong bones.

How much do you need? Adult men, 120 micrograms daily. Adult women, 90 micrograms daily.

How to include more in your diet: You should be able to meet the daily recommendation for vitamin K by simply eating one or more servings per day of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, dark green lettuce, collard greens, or kale.

Vitamin C and vitamin B12

New research suggests that vitamin C and vitamin B12 may also play important roles in bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis.

Consuming foods rich in vitamin C may help to prevent bone loss. Good sources include citrus fruit, such as oranges and grapefruit, strawberries, kiwi, mango, Brussels sprouts, and green bell peppers.

Studies have also found a link between vitamin B12 levels and bone density and osteoporosis. Good sources of B12 include seafood such as salmon, haddock, and canned tuna, as well as milk, yogurt, eggs, and cottage cheese.

Other tips for building strong bones and preventing osteoporosis

In addition to adding calcium-rich foods to your diet, you can also minimize the amount of calcium you lose by reducing your intake of foods and other substances that deplete your body’s calcium stores.

Salt – Eating too much salt can contribute to calcium loss and bone breakdown. Reduce packaged and convenience foods, fast foods, and processed meats which are often high in sodium. Instead of salt, try using herbs and spices to enhance the taste of food.

Caffeine – Drinking more than 2 cups of coffee a day can lead to calcium loss. The amount lost can have a significant impact on older people with already low calcium levels. You can buffer the effects to an extent by drinking coffee with milk.

Alcohol – Alcohol inhibits calcium absorption and disrupts your body’s calcium balance in a number of ways. Try to keep your alcohol consumption to no more than 7 drinks per week.

Soft drinks – In order to balance the phosphates in soft drinks, your body draws calcium from your bones, which is then excreted. Opt for water or calcium-fortified orange juice instead.

For lifelong bone health, exercise is key

When it comes to building and maintaining strong bones, exercise is essential, especially weight-bearing activities such as walking, dancing, jogging, weightlifting, stair climbing, racquet sports, and hiking. Find something that you enjoy doing and make it a regular activity.

Calcium supplements: What you need to know

While food is the best source of calcium, making up any shortfall in your diet with supplements is another option. But it’s important not to take too much.

Calcium citrate is a highly absorbable calcium compound.

Calcium ascorbate and
calcium carbonate are not as easily absorbed as calcium citrate.

Be smart about calcium supplements

Don’t take more than 500 mg at a time. Your body can only absorb a limited amount of calcium at one time, so it is best to consume calcium in small doses throughout the day.

Don’t take more than the recommended amount for your age group. Take into account the amount of calcium you get from food. And remember: more isn’t better; it may damage the heart and have other negative health effects.

Take your calcium supplement with food. All supplemental forms of calcium are best absorbed when taken with food. If it’s not possible to take your supplement with food, choose calcium citrate.

Purity is important. It’s best to choose calcium supplements with labels that state “purified” or, if you’re in the U.S., have the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) symbol. Avoid supplements made from unrefined oyster shell, bone meal, or dolomite that don’t have the USP symbol because they may contain high levels of lead or other toxic metals.

Be aware of side effects. Some people do not tolerate calcium supplements as well as others and experience side effects such as acid rebound, gas, and constipation. For acid rebound, switch from calcium carbonate to calcium citrate. For gas or constipation, try increasing your intake of fluids and high-fiber foods.

Check for possible drug interactions. Calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K supplements can interfere with other medications and vitamins you’re taking, including heart medicine, certain diuretics, antacids, blood thinners, and some cancer drugs. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about possible interactions. Any medications that you take on an empty stomach should NOT be taken with calcium.

If you’ve ever wondered how French women stay slim while eating cheese, bread, and drinking wine, the book “French Women Don’t Get Fat” has the answers.

Author Mireille Guiliano visits The Early Show to share slimming secrets French women have known for years.

Consider this, only 11 percent of French people are obese compared to 30 percent of Americans who are 30 pounds heavier than a healthy weight. And the reason is not because French women smoke more. The percentage of female French smokers is not much greater compared to the number of Americans who smoke according to the American Cancer Society.

Guiliano describes it as the “ultimate non-diet book.” There are no carb counts, and no fat grams listed in the various personal recipes she shares with readers in the book. Her basic advice is: Eat only good food (as in good quality). Relax and savor every bite.

to read an excerpt from Chapter 1
– VIVE L’AMÉRIQUE: THE BEGINNING . . . I AM OVERWEIGHT

The author says that she understands why a recent study showed that most “diets” don’t work for long term. She writes, “there is no lasting glory in rapid weight loss. That’s what diets offer: a fast (weeks, not months) round of misery for temporary results. If you believe you can shed pounds quickly by force of will and deprivation, you will in all likelihood not only regain the ones you lost, but add a few more besides.”

Part of the problem, she says, is that diets bore people after a while; dieters eventually lose interest in eating altogether, so they become more tempted to eat poorly and quickly.

If you are interested in following her plan, she suggests giving it about three months for it to really become a part of your life. And ask yourself some very important questions as to why you want to change your eating habits:

  1. Why Am I Doing This? She says you need to do it for yourself – not for others – and embrace pleasure.
  2. What’s going on here? You can’t start eating and living well in a physical vacuum. Why do you think you have gained weight? Age? Stress? Loneliness? Answering these questions can help you determine if you’re using food to compensate for other problems.

When it comes to drinking wine, Guiliano believes Americans numb themselves by drinking too many cocktails these days and points out cocktails have more calories than wine. She says it is best to have wine with food. She says that’s how it’s meant to be consumed.

The following are a few of her tips from her book:

Keep A Food Journal: You might not eat bread, but you may drink big cappuccinos topped with a ton of sugar everyday. Also you may realize that you ALWAYS clear your plate, even if you weren’t really hungry. Guiliano says once you realize, for example, how many bagels you are consuming, it will be easy for you to cut this food out. She writes though, “but if one of them is critical to your contentment, reduce incrementally.”

Savor What You Eat: Guiliano believes that guilt about eating is what really has ruined food for American women. There’s so much guilt and sin associated with food, she writes, that of course eating becomes a burden for American women. French women, instead, eat with all five senses, she says. This allows them to actually eat less because they are actually paying attention to what they are tasting. The other key factor, she says, is that French women don’t eat until they are full. She believes that three bites of a dish are all you really need to enjoy, and she really applies that rule personally when it comes to her weakness: pastries.

Slow And Steady: The author says that if you’re looking for a quick fix, this book is not for you. This book is about a lifestyle change not a quickie lose-five-pounds diet plan. She says that a “proper recasting, resetting your body’s dials, is a three-month affair. The key is to make it a pleasant three months, not a sentence in Bastille.”

Variety: Eating the greatest possible variety of good foods is the KEY to losing weight. She writes that “such variety will go a long way toward compensating you for those things you miss — you will actually find yourself not missing them so much.” She compares eating the same old thing to a bad romantic rut. “Losing that spark — and just as likely to get you in trouble,” she writes. This is a good opportunity to try your hand at cooking, trying new flavors, foods, herbs, etc. And again, CHOOSE QUALITY OVER QUANTITY. PICK THINGS IN SEASON. “A final trick of variety: Since the pleasure of most foods is in the first few bites, eat one thing on your plate at a time, at least at the start of the meal when you can concentrate and enjoy the full flavors. The mouthful of melange (blend of foods) defeats the purpose of variety.”

Drink Water: She believes Americans don’t drink enough water. Instead of reaching for a glass of juice or a cup of coffee, drink a glass of water when you wake up. She says that French women understand that drinking water is a powerful way of controlling one’s weight -virtually without sacrifice. Water helps keeps your body hydrated, but also helps flush out the toxins that can make our bodies bloated and swollen. Water is lost passively more than people think: sleeping is a good example.

Ritual Eating: Make eating a special time. Turn off the T.V. Don’t read at the table. Instead, focus your attention on what you’re eating. The reason why people gain more weight when they eat in front of the T.V., is that they are not paying attention and are carelessly eating for the sake of eating. So eat only at the table (even if you’re single), using nice plates (no paper). And eat slowly and chew properly; practice putting down your silverware and savoring your bites.

Portion Control: Learn it slowly. Cut back gently. Eating good food is great, but do you really need to eat half a pound of salmon? No. Use a scale, and reduce ounce by ounce. You won’t notice that you’re eating less, but your body will.

And on a related note, if you are craving chocolate, have one bar of good quality chocolate and have one bite, that’s all you really need to satisfy your craving. It’s that discipline that really separates American women and French women. American women are so wrecked with guilt regarding food that they tend to go from one extreme to the other.

Walk: She writes that French women don’t like sports or the gym. Instead, it’s part of their culture to walk everywhere. That isn’t the case in the states, but she says even walking a few blocks here and there or climbing the stairs will do wonders.

Ritual Preparations: She writes that “French women love to shop and prepare food. They love to talk about what they have bought and made. It’s a deeply natural love, but one that is erased in many other cultures. Most French women learn it from their mothers, some from their fathers. But if your parents aren’t French, you can still learn it yourself.” She says that you should go to the market two to three times a week and buy only what you need. None of this twice-a-month grocery shopping Americans do, she writes. This way you can bring your own lunch, and make your own dinner. She says that in no time, you will find yourself doing it automatically.

Guiliano learned first-hand what an American diet can do to a woman’s body. She came to the U.S. when she was a teenager as an exchange student, and returned to France with 20 additional pounds. She writes that she gained much of this weight eating cookies and brownies, and eating huge portions. She returned to France depressed about her weight and actually continued to gain more weight the first year she was back. Finally, her mother sought the help of a family doctor, whom she only refers to as “Dr. Miracle.” He helped Guiliano get her body back, using the old French methods. And she shares his advice in this book, which includes delicious, easy-to-make recipes.

Guiliano has kept to these rules since and has kept off the weight for nearly 30 years. At 5′ 3″, she maintains her weight at 110 to 112 pounds. She still eats three meals a day, drinks champagne and wine daily (part of her job). Her business requires her to eat out nearly 300 times a year, and when she does, she’s eating full meals – not a wimpy frisee salad. She is the president and CEO of Clicquot, Inc.

You wake up in the morning and start your day with a hearty breakfast to get your mental engines up and running. The question is, what power foods exactly give you that awesome mental brain boost that you need to conquer the day!

Power foods have the ability to boost our physical health, build up our muscle mass physique, and most importantly, they give you the needed energy.

There are, however, some power foods that can improve the working of our brain and memory as well.

In this article, we’ll be covering some of the food types that are considered power food for the brain and memory.

Great Power Foods For Energy

With so many “healthy” food options out there today that claim to be the miracle food group that’ll give you energy, boost immunity, and turn you into a superman, it makes it quite hard to know truth from marketing lies.

There is one rule you can apply when it comes to picking and choosing the best fail-safe option. Stick to real foods! What we mean by “real foods” is something that is natural, unprocessed and most likely can be found in nature.

So to help give you a simple and short guide to follow, we’re going to go through foods that are great for giving your body and brain that energy boost you need.

And to make it even simpler, we’ve gone through the top 9 power foods that will give you that extra kick you need.

We’ve noticed that too many people that like taking shortcuts ask the question, what is the most powerful food? As if there is this silver bullet of food that will rule all.

I’m sorry, there isn’t. But there is a better question for you to start with…

What should I eat for power?

A healthy mind starts with a healthy body…A healthy body starts with healthy eating

Remember when your parents told you to eat your veggies? And you thought they were simply trying to trick you into eating boring foods? Well, turns out mom and dad were quite on the mark.

Fruits, vegetables, and fish are exactly the type of power foods you need. If you didn’t get a good nights sleep or you’re just having that lazy afternoon slump on a busy day, you are going to need that energy kick—pronto!

Let’s skip on the energy drinks and check out awesome energy fueled power foods that’ll make you feel great.

4 great energy power food combinations you can incorporate to your morning routine right now:

  1. Bananas:

I know you are thinking, “really, bananas?” But know this, studies show that bananas can reduce feelings of anxiety and stress, help muscles recover faster, and can also fight off depression. Mix them with your shakes, or add them to your cereals. Get creative and go bananas!

  1. Quinoa:

Packed with more protein than any other grain, quinoa is the perfect mid-day energy boost. It is also many healthy minerals and amino acids, making it a great power food for long-lasting energy. You mix it in your salad or scrambled eggs. You can even use it as a rice replacement.

  1. Mixed Nuts:

Most nuts are filled with nutrients, proteins, and healthy fats. Almonds, peanut butter, and walnuts are great for fueling your body throughout the day. But don’t go nuts and down a whole bag…all you need is a handful.

  1. Eggs

Eggs are considered to be a power food both for your body and for your brain. They’re amazingly rich in nutrients and vitamins, including vitamins B6 and B12.

However, the reason they’re on this list is that they have a large amount of choline inside them.

Choline is a very important micronutrient. Our body uses it to create acetylcholine, which plays an important role in the regulation of our memory. Choline in eggs is stored within the yolk.

Increase your energy and get the most out of your day with this easy list. Remember, more energy = more brain power.

Power Foods For A Brain Boost

Feedback is the breakfast of superheroes.

— Jim Kwik, Author of Mindvalley’s Superbrain Program

Your brain just like your body uses energy throughout your day. As a matter of fact, your brain works so hard that it consumes more than 20% of your body’s energy output.

If you like to be sharp, focused, and super alert anytime…you’ll need to give your brain the same nutritional attention as you give the rest of your body.

So, which food is the best for your memory and brain power?

Here are the 5 best foods to eat: for the brain

  1. Fatty fish

When it comes to power foods for the brain, fish like salmon or tuna take the cake. They’re both rich with omega-3 fatty acids, which are very important for the brain. More than half of our brain mass is made exactly from this type of fat.

By incorporating more fatty fish in your diet, it can aid the brain in learning and memorizing things more efficiently. You also build more resistance to Alzheimer’s disease and are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.

  1. Coconut Oil+Coffee

If you love to start your day with a good old cup of coffee, you’re doing things right. And that’s because the caffeine in coffee gives you an energy rush, especially in the morning when you need to get up and prepare for a long day of work.

But here’s the best part, you can maximize the benefits of caffeine by combining coconut oil to your morning coffee.

Aside from making you more attentive, and sharpening your focus, it helps you maintain a metabolic state in which your body breakdown fat as an energy fuel. This state is known as ketosis.

Maintaining ketosis has been linked to many health benefits like weight loss, improved blood sugar control, and reduced heart disease risk factors.

  1. Broccoli

Broccoli may be the least favorite type of vegetables for some of us. However, broccoli is filled with antioxidants and vitamin K, both play a key role in forming a special type of fat called sphingolipids, which can be found within our neurons.

The high concentration of vitamin K and sphingolipids in our neural cells protect our brain from certain cancers and slows down mental decline as you age.

  1. Leafy Greens

Spinach and kale are powerful brain boosters. They’re packed with antioxidants, nutrients, vitamins and improve your brains cognitive function.

Aside from giving you a boost in brain power, it also contains high levels of potassium and iron that increase your brains oxygenation and improves longterm cell health.

It’s also really simple to prepare. Just add a handful of spinach and kale to a cup of OJ and blend away!

  1. Pumpkin Seeds

Packed with an abundance of valuable nutrients, pumpkin seeds are, in our opinion, on the top of this list. Why? For one they taste great and easy to add to literally any dinner, salad, lunch, or breakfast. This tiny seed contains magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper, all of which are important for brain health.

A Final Word From Mindvalley

Foods like these are great for energy and to strengthen your brain power.

It’s important to remember that we can improve our brain and body function, and protect it from aging and disease with a diet that is rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, iron, and other nutrients.

Keep your brain young and healthy by including some of the power foods we talked about in this article. And be sure to add these power foods to your grocery list the next time you go shopping.

What is your favorite food that keeps your brain active? Share it with us in the comments below!

Some foods just aren’t taken seriously.

Consider celery, for example—forever the garnish, never the main meal. You might even downgrade it to bar fare, since the only stalks most guys eat are served alongside hot wings or immersed in Bloody Marys.

All of which is a shame, really. Besides being a perfect vehicle for peanut butter, this vegetable contains bone-beneficial silicon and cancer-fighting phenolic acids. And those aren’t even what makes celery so good for you.

You see, celery is just one of six underappreciated and undereaten foods that can instantly improve your diet. Make a place for them on your plate, and you’ll gain a new respect for the health benefits they bestow—from lowering blood pressure to fighting belly fat. And the best part? You’ll discover just how delicious health food can be. (Want to eat your way to better sex? Check out this list of .)

Celery
This water-loaded vegetable has a rep for being all crunch and no nutrition. But ditch that mindset: Celery contains stealth nutrients that heal.

Why it’s healthy: “My patients who eat four sticks of celery a day have seen modest reductions in their blood pressure—about 6 points systolic and 3 points diastolic,” says Mark Houston, M. D., director of the Hypertension Institute at St. Thomas Hospital, in Nashville. It’s possible that phytochemicals in celery, called phthalides, are responsible for this health boon. These compounds relax muscle tissue in artery walls and increase bloodflow, according to nutritionist Jonny Bowden, Ph. D., author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. And beyond the benefits to your BP, celery also fills you up—with hardly any calories.

How to eat it: Try this low-carbohydrate, protein-packed recipe for a perfect snack any time of day.

In a bowl, mix a 4.5-ounce can of low-sodium tuna (rinsed and drained), 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion, 1/4 cup of finely chopped apple, 2 tablespoons of fat-free mayonnaise, and some fresh ground pepper. Then spoon the mixture into celery stalks. (Think tuna salad on a log.) Makes 2 servings

Per serving: 114 calories, 15 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrates (3 grams fiber), 1 gram fat

Seaweed
While this algae is a popular health food in Japan, it rarely makes it into U. S. homes.

Why it’s healthy: There are four classes of seaweeds—green, brown, red, and blue-green—and they’re all packed with healthful nutrients. “Seaweeds are a great plant source of calcium,” says nutritionist Alan Aragon, M.S. They’re also loaded with potassium, which is essential for maintaining healthy blood-pressure levels. “Low potassium and high sodium intake can cause high blood pressure,” Bowden says. “Most people know to limit sodium, but another way to combat the problem is to take in more potassium.”

How to eat it: In sushi, of course. You can also buy sheets of dried seaweed at Asian groceries, specialty health stores, or online at edenfoods.com. Use a coffee grinder to grind the sheets into a powder. Then use the powder as a healthy salt substitute that’s great for seasoning salads and soups.

Hemp Seeds
Despite the Cannabis classification, these seeds aren’t for smoking. But they may provide medicinal benefits.

Why they’re healthy: “Hemp seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke,” says Cassandra Forsythe, Ph. D., a nutrition researcher at the University of Connecticut. What’s more, a 1-ounce serving of the seeds provides 11 grams of protein—but not the kind of incomplete protein found in most plant sources. Hemp seeds provide all the essential amino acids, meaning the protein they contain is comparable to that found in meat, eggs, and dairy.

How to eat them: Toss 2 tablespoons of the seeds into your oatmeal or stir-fry. Or add them to your postworkout shake for an extra dose of muscle-building protein.

Scallops
Perhaps these mollusks are considered guilty by association, since they often appear in decadent restaurant meals that are overloaded with calories. (But then again, so does asparagus.)

Why they’re healthy: Scallops are more than 80 percent protein. “One 3-ounce serving provides 20 grams of protein and just 95 calories,” says Bowden. They’re also a good source of both magnesium and potassium. (Clams and oysters provide similar benefits.)

How to eat them: Sear the scallops: It’s a fast and easy way to prepare this seafood.

Purchase fresh, dry-packed scallops (not the “wet-packed” kind) and place them on a large plate or cookie sheet. While you preheat a skillet on medium high, pat the scallops dry with a paper towel and season the exposed sides with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. When the skillet is hot, add a tablespoon of olive oil to it. Being careful not to overcrowd, lay the scallops in the skillet, seasoned-side down, and then season the top sides.

Sear the scallops until the bottoms are caramelized (about 2 minutes), and then flip them to sear for another 1 to 2 minutes, depending on size and thickness. Now they’re ready to eat. Pair the scallops with sauteed vegetables, or place them on a bed of brown rice.

Dark Meat
Sure, dark meat has more fat than white meat does, but have you ever considered what the actual difference is? Once you do, Thanksgiving won’t be the only time you “call the drumstick.”

Why it’s healthy: “The extra fat in dark turkey or chicken meat raises your levels of cholecystokinin (CCK), a hormone that makes you feel fuller, longer,” says Aragon. The benefit: You’ll be less likely to overeat in the hours that follow your meal. What about your cholesterol? Only a third of the fat in a turkey drumstick is the saturated kind, according to the USDA food database. (The other two-thirds are heart-healthy unsaturated fats.) What’s more, 86 percent of that saturated fat either has no impact on cholesterol, or raises HDL (good) cholesterol more than LDL (bad) cholesterol—a result that actually lowers your heart-disease risk.

As for calories, an ounce of dark turkey meat contains just 8 more calories than an ounce of white meat.

How to eat it: Just enjoy, but be conscious of your total portion sizes. A good rule of thumb: Limit yourself to 8 ounces or less at any one sitting, which provides up to 423 calories. Eat that with a big serving of vegetables, and you’ll have a flavorful fat-loss meal.

Lentils
It’s no surprise that these hearty legumes are good for you. But when was the last time you ate any?

Why they’re healthy: Boiled lentils have about 16 grams of belly-filling fiber in every cup. Cooked lentils also contain 27 percent more folate per cup than cooked spinach does. And if you eat colored lentils—black, orange, red—there are compounds in the seed hulls that contain disease-fighting antioxidants, says Raymond Glahn, Ph. D., a research physiologist with Cornell University.

How to eat them: Use lentils as a bed for chicken, fish, or beef—they make a great substitute for rice or pasta.

Pour 4 cups of chicken stock into a large pot. Add 1 cup of red or brown lentils and a half cup each of onion and carrot chunks, along with 3 teaspoons of minced garlic. Bring everything to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the lentils until they’re tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the lentils from the heat, add a splash of red-wine vinegar, and serve.

The Editors of Men’s Health The editors of Men’s Health are your personal conduit to the top experts in the world on all things important to men: health, fitness, style, sex, and more.

No single food — not even a superfood — can offer all the nutrition, health benefits, and energy we need to nourish ourselves. The 2015–2020 US Dietary Guidelines recommend healthy eating patterns, “combining healthy choices from across all food groups — while paying attention to calorie limits.”

Over the years, research has shown that healthy dietary patterns can reduce risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Dietary patterns such as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet, which are mostly plant-based, have demonstrated significant health benefits and reduction of chronic disease.

However, there are a few foods that can be singled out for special recognition. These “superfoods” offer some very important nutrients that can power-pack your meals and snacks, and further enhance a healthy eating pattern.

Superfoods list

Berries. High in fiber, berries are naturally sweet, and their rich colors mean they are high in antioxidants and disease-fighting nutrients.

How to include them: When berries are not in season, it is just as healthy to buy them frozen. Add to yogurt, cereals, and smoothies, or eat plain for a snack.

Fish. Fish can be a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease.

How to include it: Buy fresh, frozen, or canned fish. Fish with the highest omega-3 content are salmon, tuna steaks, mackerel, herring, trout, anchovies, and sardines.

Leafy greens. Dark, leafy greens are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium, as well as several phytochemicals (chemicals made by plants that have a positive effect on your health). They also add fiber into the diet.

How to include them: Try varieties such as spinach, swiss chard, kale, collard greens, or mustard greens. Throw them into salads or sauté them in a little olive oil. You can also add greens to soups and stews.

Nuts. Hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans — nuts are a good source of plant protein. They also contain monounsaturated fats, which may be a factor in reducing the risk of heart disease.

How to include them: Add a handful to oatmeal or yogurt, or have as a snack. But remember they are calorically dense, so limit to a small handful. Try the various types of nut butters such as peanut (technically a legume), almond, or cashew. Nuts are also a great accompaniment to cooked veggies or salads.

Olive oil. Olive oil is a good source of vitamin E, polyphenols, and monounsaturated fatty acids, all which help reduce the risk of heart disease.

How to include it: Use in place of butter or margarine in pasta or rice dishes. Drizzle over vegetables, use as a dressing, or when sautéing.

Whole grains. A good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, whole grains also contain several B vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. They have been shown to lower cholesterol and protect against heart disease and diabetes.

How to include them: Try having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. Substitute bulgur, quinoa, wheat berries, or brown rice for your usual baked potato. When buying breads at the supermarket, look to see that the first ingredient is “100% whole wheat flour.”

Yogurt. A good source of calcium and protein, yogurt also contains live cultures called probiotics. These “good bacteria” can protect the body from other, more harmful bacteria.

How to include it: Try eating more yogurt, but watch out for fruited or flavored yogurts, which contain a lot of added sugar. Buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit. Look for yogurts that have “live active cultures” such as Lactobacillus, L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, and S. thermophilus. You can use yogurt in place of mayonnaise or sour cream in dips or sauces.

Cruciferous vegetables. These include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radishes, and turnips. They are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals including indoles, thiocyanates, and nitriles, which may prevent against some types of cancer.

How to include them: Steam or stir-fry, adding healthy oils and herbs and seasonings for flavor. Try adding a frozen cruciferous vegetable medley to soups, casseroles, and pasta dishes.

Legumes. This broad category includes kidney, black, red, and garbanzo beans, as well as soybeans and peas. Legumes are an excellent source of fiber, folate, and plant-based protein. Studies show they can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

How to include them: Add to salads, soups, and casseroles. Make a chili or a bean- based spread such as hummus.

Tomatoes. These are high in vitamin C and lycopene, which has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

How to include them: Try tomatoes in a salad or as a tomato sauce over your pasta. You can also put them in stews, soups, or chili. Lycopene becomes more available for your body to use when tomatoes are prepared and heated in a healthy fat such as olive oil.

10 Everyday Superfoods

Superfoods are a little bit of hype but also some of the healthiest foods you should be eating everyday. While there’s no real definition of a superfood, at EatingWell, we think of them as multitaskers-foods brimming with various disease-fighting nutrients and delivered in a delicious form (think: antioxidant-packed blueberries).

But some super-healthy foods are a little exotic and expensive to fit into our everyday diets (ahem, goji berry) or something-like, say, sardines-that you’d likely only have once in a while. We’re all for trying new foods and variety is important for a healthy diet but we wanted to find the healthiest foods that were easy to incorporate into your diet. After all, it doesn’t matter how healthy a food is if you’re not eating it.

The healthiest foods and diets focus on real whole food. Lots of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, healthy proteins and fats. Added sugar and sodium is limited. There are plenty of other good-for-you foods that didn’t make this list-like lentils, bananas and beets-but this list is a great place to start to add more healthy foods to your diet.

So, here is a list of 10 easy-to-eat, easy-to-find, everyday superfoods to keep eating healthy simple and delicious.

Get More: 7-Day Superfood Meal Plan

1. Berries

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Pictured Recipe: Berry-Almond Smoothie Bowl

All berries are great sources of fiber-a nutrient that most Americans don’t get enough of. Fiber helps keep your digestive system healthy and working properly (ahem…) and is good for your heart and your waistline, since it’s so filling. All berries are good for you so be sure to mix it up. In the winter, when berries aren’t in season, grab frozen (without sweeteners) which are great for smoothies, oatmeal, or thawed in yogurt. Raspberries (one of the best breakfast foods for weight loss) boast the most fiber at 8 grams per cup-and also contain ellagic acid, a compound with anti-cancer properties. The same amount of blueberries has half the fiber (4 grams), but is packed with anthocyanins, antioxidants that may help keep memory sharp as you age. A cup of strawberries contains 3 grams of fiber, but more than a full day’s recommended dose of skin-firming vitamin C.

2. Eggs

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Pictured Recipe: Avocado Egg Chilaquiles

A source of high-quality vegetarian protein, eggs might give your meal more staying power too. One egg has about 70 calories and 6 grams of protein. Plus, egg yolks contain lutein and zeaxanthin-two antioxidants that help keep eyes healthy. In fact, mounting research links lutein and zeaxanthin with reduced risk for age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 50. And lutein also may help to shield your skin from UV damage. Who knew the humble egg was so nutritious?

3. Sweet Potatoes

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Pictured Recipe: Salmon & Sweet Potato Buddha Bowls

Sweet potatoes are so brilliantly orange thanks to their alpha and beta carotene. The body converts these compounds into the active form of vitamin A, which helps keep your eyes, bones and immune system healthy. These phytochemicals also operate as antioxidants, sweeping up disease-promoting free radicals. One medium sweet potato-or about 1/2 cup-provides nearly four times the recommended daily value of vitamin A, plus some vitamin C and B6, potassium, manganese and lutein and zeaxanthin.

Read more: Your Go-To Guide on How to Cook Sweet Potatoes Perfectly

4. Broccoli

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Pictured Recipe: Balsamic & Parmesan Broccoli

This green powerhouse packs vitamins A, C and K (which helps with bone health), as well as folate. There is another reason broccoli frequently earns a top spot on “superfoods” lists: it delivers a healthy dose of sulforaphane, a type of isothiocyanate that is thought to thwart cancer by helping to stimulate the body’s detoxifying enzymes.

5. Oats

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Pictured Recipe: Creamy Blueberry-Pecan Oatmeal

Oats are a breakfast staple and quite the superfood. Eating more oats is an easy way to up your fiber intake, a nutrient most of us don’t get enough of. Fiber is good for our guts and our waistlines and for keeping us full-all very important qualities in a breakfast food. Plus, oats are a whole grain and plain oats don’t have any added sugar. For a superfood meal or snack start with plain oats and turn them into healthy meals and snacks like blueberry oat cakes, homemade granola to enjoy with fruit and yogurt or DIY energy bites with peanut butter.

Learn more: The Right Way to Prepare Oatmeal and 5 Tips for Making It Better

6. Spinach

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Pictured Recipe: Spinach Salad with Japanese Ginger Dressing

Dark leafy greens do a body good. Spinach is teeming with important nutrients: vitamins A, C and K-as well as some fiber, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin E. Studies have found that eating more greens, like spinach, can help you lose weight, reduce your risk of diabetes, keep your brain young and help fight off cancer.

7. Tea

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Pictured recipe: Soothing Ginger-Lemon Tea

Studies show if you drink tea regularly, you may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, diabetes and some cancers, plus have healthier teeth and gums and stronger bones (Tea may also help with weight loss). How? Tea is rich in a class of antioxidants called flavonoids. Regardless of the variety of tea you choose, maximize the power of its flavonoids by drinking it freshly brewed. If you want to keep a batch of cold tea in your refrigerator, add a little lemon juice-the citric acid and vitamin C in that squeeze of lemon, lime or orange help preserve the flavonoids.

8. Nuts

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Pictured Recipe: Dark Chocolate Trail Mix

What can’t nuts do? They’re packed with healthy polyunsaturated fats and magnesium, two important nutrients for heart health. These nutrients may also ­offer protection against insulin resistance, which can lead to ­diabetes. Antioxidant compounds found in nuts, including ellagic acid and resveratrol, can reduce the wear and tear on your body from free radicals. In turn, this lowers inflammation, which may reduce cancer risk. Plus, nuts provide insoluble fiber, which studies suggest may help you stay healthy by feeding beneficial gut bacteria. Spread nut butter on toast, grab a handful of nuts for a snack or make your own simple trail mix.

9. Oranges

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Pictured Recipe: Carrot-Orange Juice

Oranges are an underrated fruit. But the humble orange is an excellent source of vitamin C, just one large orange (or a cup of OJ) contains a full day’s dose. Vitamin C is critical for producing white blood cells and antibodies that fight off infections; it’s also a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from free-radical damage and plays a key role in producing skin-firming collagen. Oranges are also high in fiber and folate.

10. Yogurt

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Pictured Recipe: Raspberry Yogurt with Dark Chocolate

Yogurt contains probiotics or “good bacteria” that help keep our guts healthy. It’s also rich in calcium. Just 1 cup of yogurt provides nearly half the recommended daily value of calcium and delivers phosphorus, potassium, zinc, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and protein. Choose Greek yogurt for an even bigger protein boost and whenever possible reach for plain. Flavored yogurts tend to have lots of added sugar which add calories without nutrition.

Power Up With These 10 Power Foods!

Very similar to superfoods, power foods are excellent to keep on hand for a quick, nutritious meal at a moment’s notice. Eating these foods on a regular basis helps improve your energy levels, overall health and prevent future medical issues!

Stock up on these power foods for more energy and a healthier you!

1.) Bok Choy

A post shared by Simo.m (@_thepowerofcooking_) on Mar 12, 2017 at 4:18pm PDT

Bok choy is a Chinese cabbage with dark green leaves attached to a thick, fibrous stalk. One cup of bok choy has just 9 calories and low fat, but it packs a great punch of protein, fiber and almost all the essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need. Boy choy has 34% of the recommended daily value of vitamin c and more than a full day’s intake of vitamin A. These antioxidants prevent cellular damage by free radicals – an important job to keep our skin and organs healthy. The amount of magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin K help build and maintain strong bones, while folate and vitamin B-6 cleanse the blood for healthy heart function.

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2.) Barley

While not as popular of a grain as oats, wheat or quinoa, barley is very healthy for us due to its high fiber content and various vitamins and minerals. The fiber helps improve digestion and weight loss. The slowly digested grains help balance blood sugar levels and lower high cholesterol levels. It’s nutrients niacin, thiamine, selenium, copper and magnesium decrease the risk of heart disease by controlling the production and metabolism of cholesterol and improving arterial health. Try working more barley into your diet by using hulled barley anywhere you’d normally use other whole grains like quinoa or rice.

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3.) Baby Spinach

Because of its high amount of water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, spinach is a wonderful green to work into your diet for a variety of nutritional benefits. Just 1 cup of spinach will provide 1 gram of protein, fiber and carbs, plus 223% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin K, 28% DV vitamin A and a cocktail of other vitamins including folate, manganese, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium. The carotenoids of leafy green vegetables like spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale etc – can dramatically protect against the occurrence of various cancers including colon, breast and prostate. The neoxanthin and violaxanthin in spinach is also fantastic for lowering body-wide inflammatory responses which improves circulation, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, plus skin health. Work more spinach into your diet by adding it to eggs, pastas, sauces, sandwiches, and smoothies!

Tip: The best way to get the most from your baby spinach is to enjoy it fresh & raw in a juice or smoothie!

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4.) Black Beans

Gaining the benefits of the protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals of black beans is easy because they are extremely affordable and simple to prepare. Eating more black beans helps protect us from inflammation, heart disease, weight gain, diabetes, certain cancers and nutrient deficiencies often seen in the S.A.D (Standard American Diet). Within black beans you will find phytonutrients which reduce inflammation, antioxidant flavonoids which shut down the cell destruction caused by free radicals, fiber to benefit our digestive tracts, and the best kinds of carbohydrates, plant based. Plant based carbs provide long lasting energy, the most important factor in a power food!

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5.) Canned Salmon

A post shared by Dan Niederloh (@dannyderlo) on Jul 31, 2016 at 11:07am PDT

Salmon doesn’t have to be fresh (or pricey!) for you to reap the benefits! You can trust canned salmon for its famous omega-3 fatty acids, plus salmon canned with the bones will also provide a great dosage of calcium for your own healthy bones and teeth. Omega-3’s lower triglyceride levels – a fat found in the blood. Lower levels of triglyceride = healthier heart!

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6.) Chia Seeds

A post shared by Anat Prompanao (@ms.anat) on Mar 15, 2017 at 5:13am PDT

These tiny black seeds from a relative of the mint family grows natively in South America. While they were often used by the Aztecs and Mayans, they have only been recognized as a source of powerful health benefits recently. About 2 tablespoons of chia seeds has 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 5 grams of mostly-healthy fats (including omega-3s), 18% DV of calcium, plus manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. Based of their caloric value alone, chia seeds are among the world’s best sources of vital nutrients. Their antioxidants combat free radicals. While 1 ounce has 12 grams of carbs, 11 of those grams are pure fiber making it low-carb despite being a whole grain. This makes them over 40% fiber, one of the highest concentrations in the world! Fiber makes for a healthy digestive tract and longer fullness over time, great for weight loss and management! They are also 14% protein which makes them an excellent plant-based protein source. This is important for healthy cellular (therefore, muscular) growth. You can sprinkle chia seeds onto almost any food, but you should definitely try them in smoothies!

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7.) Citrus

A post shared by Lisa Murphy (@cherrytherapies) on Mar 15, 2017 at 6:54am PDT

Citrus is a broad terms for a family of acidic fruits including oranges, lemons, tangerines, limes and grapefruits. What makes them a power food is their excellent composition of vitamin C, fiber and more. These tangy fruits are juicy, flavor-filled and packed with nutrients which make them a go-to addition to a healthy diet. One orange serves up 2.3 grams of soluble fiber to help lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels. The portion of it that is insoluble fiber helps our digestive tracts. Flavonoids are beneficial for heart health. Vitamin C gives a boost to our immune system to limit and reduce the severity of colds & sickness. Potassium helps fluid regulation, mineral balance, and muscle contraction while high water content keeps us hydrated. While citrus can be incorporated into foods, they are more commonly enjoyed in drinks.

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8.) Kefir

A post shared by Barbtastical (@barbtastical) on Mar 15, 2017 at 7:06am PDT

This fermented drink made from cow’s or goat’s milk has recently busted through in the natural health community because of its high amount of nutrients and probiotics. It is viewed as a healthier and more powerful version of yogurt. Made by adding kefir “grains” to milk, this sour tasting drink is similar to Greek yogurt, but thinner in consistency. In kefir you will find about 30 strains of microorganism probiotics making it one of the best sources to help with digestion and weight management. Some of these probiotics are antibacterial and help with inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria in our stomachs which also eases digestion. When made from full-fat dairy, kefir is also a great source of calcium and vitamin K2 to help with bone health, especially later in life. Does dairy not agree with you? Kefir might be an exception! While regular dairy has lactose, the fermentation process turns lactose into lactic acid, so is has a much lower amount of lactose than milk.

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9.) Vegetable Juice

A post shared by Sabrina (@queen_vegan_crumbs) on Mar 15, 2017 at 7:29am PDT

When we say vegetable juice, that means any juiced or smoothie-d combination of vegetables out there. Be it carrot, turnip, spinach, broccoli, kale, tomato, or beet – the right combination of vegetables can be used to create a concentrated cocktail of nutrients and their specific health benefits!

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10.) Tomato Sauce

A post shared by @karma_semkyi on Mar 15, 2017 at 7:21am PDT

While we love it on our pastas and pizzas, 1 cup of tomato sauces also contains a quarter of your recommended amount of vitamin A, C and even some vitamin K! Since tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, enjoying your tomato sauce will also help combat free radicals for healthy cells, skin and organs. While it varies depending on which brand you buy or how you prepare your sauce, chunky tomato sauce can be a great source of fiber.It’s no wonder that tomatoes are the second most popular vegetable around the world!

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March 15, 2017

A balanced diet is a cornerstone of health. Women, like men, should enjoy a variety of healthful foods from all of the foods groups, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, low-fat or fat-free dairy and lean protein. But women also have special nutrient needs, and, during each stage of a woman’s life, these needs change.

Eating Right

Nutrient-rich foods provide energy for women’s busy lives and help to reduce the risk of disease. A healthy eating plan regularly includes:

  • At least three ounce equivalents of whole grains such as whole-grain bread, whole-wheat cereal flakes, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice or oats.
  • Three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products including milk, yogurt or cheese; or calcium-fortified plant-based alternatives.
  • Five to 5-and-a-half ounce equivalents of protein such as lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds.
  • Two cups of fruits — fresh, frozen or canned without added sugar.
  • Two-and-a-half cups of colorful vegetables — fresh, frozen or canned without added salt.

Iron-rich Foods

Iron is one of the keys to good health and energy levels in women prior to menopause. Foods that provide iron include red meat, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, kale, spinach, beans, lentils and some fortified ready-to-eat cereals. Plant-based sources of iron are more easily absorbed by your body when eaten with vitamin C-rich foods. So eat fortified cereal with strawberries on top, spinach salad with mandarin orange slices or add tomatoes to lentil soup.

Folate (and Folic Acid) During the Reproductive Years

When women reach childbearing age, they need to eat enough folate (or folic acid) to help decrease the risk of birth defects. The requirement for women who are not pregnant is 400 micrograms (mcg) per day. Including adequate amounts of foods that naturally contain folate, such as citrus fruits, leafy greens, beans and peas, will help increase your intake of this B vitamin. There also are many foods that are fortified with folic acid, such as breakfast cereals, some rices and breads. Eating a variety of foods is recommended to help meet nutrient needs, but a dietary supplement with folic acid also may be necessary. This is especially true for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, since their daily need for folate is higher, 600 mcg and 500 mcg per day, respectively. Be sure to check with your physician or a registered dietitian nutritionist before taking any supplements.

Daily Calcium and Vitamin D Requirements

For healthy bones and teeth, women need to eat a variety of calcium-rich foods every day. Calcium keeps bones strong and helps to reduce the risk for osteoporosis, a bone disease in which the bones become weak and break easily. Some calcium-rich foods include low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese, sardines, tofu (if made with calcium sulfate) and calcium-fortified foods including plant-based milk alternatives, juices and cereals. Adequate amounts of vitamin D also are important, and the need for both calcium and vitamin D increases as women get older. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, such as salmon, eggs and fortified foods and beverages, such as milk, plant-based milk alternatives, some yogurts and juices.

Foods and Beverages to Limit

Women should avoid excess added sugars, saturated fat and alcohol.

  • Limit sweetened beverages, including regular soft drinks, candy, cookies, pastries and other desserts.
  • Limit alcohol intake to one drink per day, if you choose to drink and are of legal age. One drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
  • Eat fewer foods that are high in saturated fat. Opt for low-fat or fat-free dairy products and lean proteins instead of their full-fat counterparts. Cook with olive oil instead of butter and coconut oil. Incorporate more plant-based protein foods, such as beans, lentils and tofu, into your diet.

Balancing Calories with Activity

Since women typically have less muscle, more body fat and are smaller than men, they need fewer calories to maintain a healthy body weight and activity level. Women who are more physically active may require more calories.

Physical activity is an important part of a woman’s health. Regular activity helps with muscle strength, balance, flexibility and stress management.

After 40: Women’s Nutrition and Metabolism Needs

They say 40 is the new 30, thanks to healthier habits. Yet, women (like men) continue to struggle with weight and other medical concerns as they enter their 40s.

Both your nutritional needs (the food and water) and your metabolism (how fast your body converts food to energy) change at this age. Your metabolism gets slower. Women lose about half a pound of muscle per year starting around the age of 40. That makes losing weight even more difficult. Some of the changes women experience are due to decreased hormones, reduced activity level, and medical conditions.

Path to improved wellness

What you eat is even more important as you enter your 40s. Women need protein (meat, fish, dairy, beans, and nuts), carbohydrates (whole grains), fats (healthy oils), vitamins, minerals, and water. These foods have been linked to some disease prevention, such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. The American Academy of Family Physicians supports the development of healthy food supply chains in supplemental nutrition programs so as to broaden the availability of healthy food.

Nutrition

If you haven’t gotten serious about your nutrition by the time you are 40, it’s time to start.

  • Choose a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, beans and peas, starchy and non-starchy.
  • Eat a variety of fruits.
  • Include grains in your daily diet. Half of your grains should be whole grains.
  • Stick to fat-free or low-fat dairy. This includes milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy products.
  • Have protein at every meal. Healthy protein includes lean meat (chicken), seafood, eggs, beans and peas, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
  • Use healthy oils, such as olive oil.

Additionally, women should consume:

  • Less than 10 percent of your daily calories from added sugars (desserts and processed foods).
  • Less than 10 percent of daily calories from saturated fats (red meat, high-fat dairy).
  • Less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium.
  • Nor more than one drink per day of alcohol.

Calcium, dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C are important nutrients to include in your daily diet.

Metabolism

After 40, your hormone levels (estrogen) drop. This causes your insulin (hormone that helps your body use sugar) rise. Your thyroid levels go down. This combination makes you hungrier. You end up eating more and burning fewer calories. Much of the weight gain occurs around your belly. Eat more foods with fiber (berries, whole grains, nuts) to fill you up and help you eat less. Aim for 25 grams of fiber each day after the age of 40. Other ways to increase your metabolism include:

  • Eat breakfast.
  • Exercise.
  • Drink cold water.
  • Sleep well.
  • Eat spicy food.

Things to consider

After 40, most women gain belly fat. Belly fat has been linked to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and certain cancers. If you have any of these conditions in your 40s, follow your doctor’s advice for nutrition.

At age 40, women lose muscle mass twice as fast as men. Most of the loss occurs in your core muscles, which supports your abdomen (another reason for belly fat). Crash diets (eating a very low amount of calories to lose weight fast in a short amount of time) and not using your muscles also causes muscle loss.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • How long should I exercise to help lose weight?
  • Do certain foods build muscle?
  • How do I know if I am not getting the proper nutrition?
  • Should I have my hormones and thyroid tested?

Resources

ChooseMyPlate.gov, Make Better Food Choices

Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Your Health at Every Age

Key Facts

  • Healthy eating means eating consistently throughout the day, aiming for 3 balanced meals and 2-3 healthy snacks.
  • Eating healthfully means fueling your body with foods from all the food groups.
  • Healthy eating keeps your energy levels up, your body strong and your mind focused.

What is “healthy eating?”

Healthy eating is a way of balancing the food you eat to keep your body and mind strong, energized, and well nourished. Healthy eating is an important part of taking good care of yourself.

  • Aim for regular meals (usually 3 meals per day; one in the morning, afternoon, and evening) and healthy snacks (when you are hungry or need extra energy)
  • Eat foods from all of the food groups (grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins, dairy, and healthy fats) each day to meet your nutritional needs
  • Balance nutrient-rich foods with small amounts of less nutritious foods, such as sweets or fast foods
  • Listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are feeling full and satisfied

Healthy eating is a great way to:

  • Have energy all day long
  • Get the vitamins and minerals your body needs
  • Stay strong for sports or other physical activities
  • Reach your maximum height (if you are still growing)
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Prevent unhealthy eating habits, like skipping meals and feeling overly hungry at the next meal

Tips for Healthy Eating

  1. Don’t skip meals – plan meals and snacks ahead of time.
    • Believe it or not, eating 3 meals with 2-3 healthy snacks in between is the best way to maintain your energy and a healthy weight. You are more likely to choose foods that are not as nutrient-rich when you skip meals and become overly hungry.
    • Eat breakfast! Skipping breakfast can lead to over-eating later in the day. Beginning your day with a balanced breakfast gives you the energy you need to start the day and focus at school or work.
    • Eating away from home? Don’t leave yourself stranded—pack foods with you or know where you can go to buy something healthy and satisfying.
  2. Learn about simple, healthy ways to prepare foods.
    • Try healthier ways to cook foods such as grilling, stir-frying, microwaving, baking, and boiling instead of deep frying.
    • Try fresh or dried herbs (basil, oregano, parsley) and spices (lemon pepper, chili powder, garlic powder) to flavor your food. Other ways to add flavor include using lemon juice, lime juice, hot sauce, or olive oil to foods.
    • Trim the skin and fat off of your meat—you’ll still get plenty of flavors and it’s more nutritious.
  3. Limit sugary foods or sugar-sweetened beverages.
    • Sugary drinks, such as soda and juice, are big sources of empty energy. This means that they contain a lot of energy (in the form of calories) but they don’t contain a lot of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, or fiber). Try sugar-free drink mixes, water (plain or you can add fruit to your water), and seltzer water instead of soda or juice. Even if labeled “natural” or “100% fruit juice,” juices are missing an important nutrient found in whole fruit: fiber. Without fiber, the sugar from the fruit will give you quick energy, but it won’t last long and you may find yourself feeling tired soon after drinking. If you are going to drink regular juice, try to limit the amount you drink to 4-8 ounces, one time per day and consider adding water to “dilute” it
    • Lots of sugar is also found in foods such as cakes, cookies, and candies. Whole grain desserts may contain less sugar. It’s okay to enjoy these foods in small amounts as long as they don’t replace healthier foods.
  4. Aim to replace solid fats with liquid fats.
    • Foods with solid fats such as butter, cream, hydrogenated oils, or partially hydrogenated oils contain saturated and possibly trans fats. This can be a big source of empty energy, without many nutrients. Try heart healthy oils such as olive or canola oil instead.
    • Fat found on meat is also a solid fat. Try lean proteins such as beans, fish, and poultry without the skin.
    • As with sugar, solid fats can be found in desserts too. It is okay to enjoy these foods in small amounts, as long as they don’t replace healthier foods.
    • Creamy sauces and dressings such as alfredo or ranch are often high in saturated fat. Use these sparingly; with sauces like this a little goes a long way.
  5. Be mindful when eating
    • Slow down when you eat. Try to relax and pace yourself so that your meals last at least 20 minutes, since it takes around 20 minutes for you to feel full.
    • Listen to your body. Eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full will help your body balance its energy needs and stay comfortable. Ask yourself: Am I eating because I’m hungry? Or am I stressed, angry, sad, or bored?
    • Eating naturally fiber rich foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits will help you feel comfortably full.
  6. Avoid “diet thinking.”
    • There are no good foods or bad foods. All foods can be part of healthy eating, when eaten in moderation.
    • You do not need to buy low carb, gluten-free, fat-free, or diet foods (unless told specifically by your medical provider to do so). These foods are not necessarily lower in calories—they usually have lots of other added ingredients to replace the carbohydrates or fat.
    • YOU are more important than your weight or body size—believe it! Your health and happiness can be hurt by drastic weight loss plans. If you have not yet reached your adult height, rapid weight loss could interfere with your growth. Instead of trying extreme approaches, focus on making small lifestyle changes that you can stick with for life. This approach will leave you feeling healthier and happier in the long run.

If you want to make some changes in your food intake, it’s a good idea to talk to your health care provider (HCP). You may also want to ask your HCP for a referral to see a dietitian (a person who has studied nutrition and knows about healthy eating). Learning about nutrition can help you make healthier choices, but it’s important to think of food as just one important part of your life.

As women approach 50, their bodies prepare for and go through menopause and other side effects of aging. Many women need to take new and different approaches to maintain their health, including adapting their diets to obtain the requisite nutrients. In that case, they may want to look into the best diets for women over 50.

“The 50s are a time for big changes, thanks to perimenopause and menopause. This is a time in a woman’s life where she has hormone fluctuations, which can cause changes in metabolism and body weight,” registered dietitian Julie Kay, MS, RDN, tells Woman’s Day. Kay also cites osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and changes in blood sugar regulation (insulin resistance can occur due to hormone changes) as other conditions women in this age group might experience.

Registered dietitian Kayla Hulsebus, MS, RD, LD, explains that women can alter their diets to better adapt to their bodies’ natural changes. Below, Hulsebus shares the best diets, or rather, lifestyles, for women over 50 that can, “help support healthy muscle mass, hormone balance, and proper weight management.”

Mediterranean

The Mediterranean diet is great for heart health and may prevent cancer and diabetes. It doesn’t restrict or eliminate any food groups, but instead encourages everything in moderation. Hulsebus notes that it emphasizes carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables, in addition to whole grains, which have a lot of fiber and will leave you feeling full for longer.

The Mediterranean diet highlights omega-3 fats, which are found in fish and olive oil. Alejandro Ascanio / EyeEm

It has plenty of omega-3 fats, found in foods like fish and olive oil, that also boost satiety in addition to assisting with hormone production. It’s also high in protein, both in plant and animal-based products. This protein is important for women over 50 who need it to fight muscle loss that happens with age.

Paleo

The Paleo diet is a high-protein, low carbohydrate meal plan that is rich in eggs, veggies, fruits, nuts, and unprocessed meat. Hulsebus says that its lower carbohydrate nature is beneficial for women in their 50s and older who may be dealing with insulin resistance and are unable to process carbs like they were before.

The Pale diet emphasizes protein and limits soy and dairy. samael334

She also notes that “Paleo has no soy or dairy, which can help women going through changes with hormones since excess soy and hormones found in conventional dairy products can lead to high estrogen levels, making women store weight in their thighs and hips.” It also includes good fats which promote healthy hormone production.

Whole Foods

The whole real food, or “clean eating,” plan avoids all processed foods, which can prevent inflammation. This diet can also help manage hormones, due to the fact that whole foods don’t have antibiotics or preservatives, which can be big hormone disruptors.

Packaged foods are not permitted on the Whole Foods diet. istetiana

It focuses on whole real food products, like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, meats, and healthy fats. Hulsebus says that the lack of processed food equals less refined sugars, resulting in better blood sugar stability and less abdominal fat being stored. The high number of nutrients and fiber in these foods also results in feeling full, preventing overeating.

Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)

Autoimmune protocol (AIP) focuses on repairing the gut and decreasing inflammation, which can be very helpful with the hormonal changes women in their 50s experience. It can also remove toxic and trigger foods such as refined sugars and processed foods which can cause malabsorption and inflammation in the gut.

Sugar fiends may benefit from the AIP diet, which eliminates the sweet stuff. saraidasilva

“If the gut is unhealthy, it inhibits the body’s ability to absorb nutrients,” Hulsebus says. “This causes hormonal imbalances which exacerbate the hormone changes that are already happening.” AIP also supports your immune system which can decrease the risk of illness as we age.

Higher Protein/Moderate Carbohydrate

Eating a high-protein/moderate carbohydrate diet can aid the body during its natural aging process. Studies have found that higher protein levels support your body’s muscle mass since it decreases as you age and also keeps you full, decreasing the amount of food that’s consumed.

Increasing your protein and decreasing your carbohydrates can help stabilize your blood sugar levels. skaman306

A diet high in protein can also encourage blood sugar stability, as protein can decrease blood sugar levels. “As women age and go through hormonal changes, one thing that’s affected is their insulin sensitivity and how they process and utilize blood sugars,” says Hulsebus. Eating moderate levels of carbohydrates helps the body get enough B complex vitamins, which can be beneficial for preventing dementia as we age.

Best diet for women

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