You can't go wrong when you make room for more healthy foods in your diet. Unlike the worst foods you can eat, these are foods that have a great taste and are good for you. Adding them to your daily routine is a great idea, whether you want to get in shape for the summer swimsuit season, to lose weight or just get a little bit healthier. Of course, these aren't all of the best foods you can eat (that list would be too long), but it's a great place to start.
Almonds -- While walnuts contain up to 90% of the recommended daily amount of omega-3 fatty acids per serving, almonds are very high in monounsaturated fats, which have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. They are high in calcium and fiber, low in saturated fats and are very satisfying. A great way to incorporate more almonds into your diet is by using a natural almond butter on your toast or in sandwiches, instead of a processed peanut butter, which may have sugars, stabilizers and hydrogenated fats added to it.
Oatmeal -- Oatmeal is high in soluble fiber, protein, vitamins B1, B12 and E and is low in fat. It has been shown to lower cholesterol when eaten regularly, and has been associated with the reduced risk of many cancers, including colon cancer. Steel cut oats, which are made by cutting a whole oat groat (the most nutritious form) into a few pieces, are the best way to get the maximum benefit from your oatmeal, but regular rolled oats are a good choice, too. Avoid instant oatmeals and, if plain is too boring, top a bowl with any kind of fruit or some of your own spices.
Yogurt -- Yogurt is high in calcium, potassium, and many vitamins. Yogurt forms when bacteria transforms lactose into lactic acid, meaning that yogurt products are much better suited for people with lactose intolerance than other types of dairy - but it is definitely best to choose yogurts with live active cultures as opposed to super-processed ones. Buy plain yogurt and add your own sweeteners. Plain low fat yogurt can be used as a substitute for higher fat cream or sour cream in dips and dressings and topped with fruit and honey for breakfast or dessert.
Dark chocolate -- Every time you turn around someone is saying something else about the health benefits of dark chocolate. It has antioxidant flavinoids which come from cocoa, not the fat, in the bar. This means that the darker the bar, the better. There have been indicators that milk may interfere with the absorption of these antioxidants, which is what makes dark chocolate a better choice than milk chocolate.
Berries -- All fruits are good for you, but since only one type can make the list, berries are it. Berries include anything that ends with "berries," as well as bananas and avocados. They are high in fiber and excellent sources of vitamin C, zinc, potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium. Since they taste so good, they're easy to incorporate into your diet. Add avocados to salads, blueberries to yogurt and bananas to cereal. Even if you're having something decadent, like ice cream, toss in a handful of berries, too!
Chard (or swiss chard) -- This vegetable was a tough choice because so many have so many nutritional benefits. Second place goes to sweet potatoes, but chard takes the nutritional cake. It is low in calories and packed with: Thiamin, Folate, Phosphorus, Zinc , Dietary Fiber, Vitamins A, C, E, K and B6, Riboflavin, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. The easiest way to prepare chard is by sauteing it until just tender with a bit of garlic.
Eggs -- Eggs may have a fair amount of cholesterol in the yolks, but each large egg has only 70 calories (on average) and approximately 4.5 grams of fat. They have approximately 10% the recommended daily amount of protein, mostly coming from the egg white, and a nearly perfect balance of amino acids. Eggs also have a nutrient called choline, which it thought to improve brain function and memory. If you're watching your cholesterol, instead of using two eggs, use one egg and two whites in your next scramble or omelet. To make it really good for you, go easy on the cheese and top your eggs with a healthy helping of salsa!
Salsa -- Salsas are basically sauces comprised of chopped fresh vegetables, often including tomatoes, peppers and onions, but almost anything can go into them. Picking salsa is, admittedly, a sneaky way to add more than one vegetable to an 8-item list, too. Salsas are flavorful, low in fat and calories and very satisfying - a much better choice for topping tortilla chips, meats and other dishes than cheese (or "cheese sauce")! If you add avocado, you'll be adding some natural fats, but also a whole lot of potassium, fiber and vitamin C.
[Photo by Nicole Weston]