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7 of the healthiest foods you should be eating but aren't

By Matthew Thompson, January 6, 2012 - 11:36am

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When it comes to choosing what to eat, I like to get a lot of nutritional bang for my buck, so to speak. The best deals? “Superfoods” that are far more plentiful in nutrients than they are in calories and that research has shown deliver health benefits. You’re probably already eating a lot of everyday superfoods—like bananas, eggs and broccoli—and maybe even some exotic ones (acai, anyone?).
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But what about the power-packed foods filled with good-for-you vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting phytochemicals you aren’t eating? Rather than rattling off a laundry list of every fiber-rich, antioxidant-packed, vitamin-saturated food I can imagine, I’m going to focus on 7 of the healthiest foods that I, and probably many of you, have mostly missed the boat on eating, especially on a regular basis.

1. Kale
On top of delivering a raft of cancer-fighting antioxidants, kale is one of the vegetable world’s top sources of vitamin A, which promotes eye and skin health and may help strengthen the immune system. It’s a good source of heart-healthy fiber and a 1-cup serving has almost as much vitamin C as an orange. What’s not to love? Add more of these hearty winter vegetables to your diet to help you lose weight.

2. Sardines
Sardines are one of the best sources of heart-healthy, mood-boosting omega-3 fats, and they’re packed with vitamin D. And because sardines are small and low on the food chain, they don’t harbor lots of toxins as bigger fish can. Find out 6 of the healthiest fish to eat and 6 to avoid.

3. Pomegranate
This vibrant fruit is chock–full of antioxidants, natural chemicals found in plants that mop up harmful free radicals, which damage tissues and may contribute to a variety of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Don’t have time to prepare the fruit? You can get many of the same benefits from drinking a glass of pomegranate juice! Don’t pass up an opportunity to enjoy the fruit itself, however—the tart, jelly-like taste is unique and wonderful. A 1-cup serving of juice has 150 calories and 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds has only 72 calories and 4 grams of fiber!

4. Oatmeal
Oatmeal has 4 grams of fiber per cup and research suggests that increasing your intake of soluble fiber (a type found in oatmeal) by 5 to 10 grams each day could result in a 5 percent drop in “bad” LDL cholesterol. Also, according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition, eating a breakfast made with “slow-release” carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, three hours before you exercise may help you burn more fat. Here’s why: in the study, eating “slow-release” carbohydrates didn’t spike blood sugar as high as eating refined carbohydrates, such as white toast. In turn, insulin levels didn’t spike as high, and because insulin plays a role in signaling your body to store fat, having lower levels may help you burn fat.
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5. Quinoa
Quinoa is a delicately flavored whole grain packed with fiber and protein and, to top it off, it only takes 15 to 20 minutes to cook. That combination of fiber and protein has an extra value too: research shows that the two together can help you feel full for longer.

6. Kefir
Think yogurt in a glass. This drinkable fermented dairy beverage is packed with beneficial probiotics that may help give your immune system a little extra edge, plus 29 percent of your daily value of calcium per 8-ounce serving. Look for it in your supermarket’s dairy section; choose plain for less sugar and fewer calories or fresh fruit flavors, such as peach and raspberry, for extra taste.

7. Lentils
Lentils are a versatile, budget-friendly and healthy addition to many dinner recipes. A half-cup of cooked lentils contains over 9 grams of protein and a jaw-dropping 8 grams of dietary fiber. Lentils are also a good source of iron and an excellent source of folate.

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What healthy foods do you want to eat more of? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Matthew Thompson, Food Blog, Health, Nutrition

Matthew Thompson
Matthew Thompson is a former associate food editor for EatingWell Magazine.

Matthew asks: What healthy foods do you want to eat more of?

Tell us what you think:

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