By Julie Upton
THE CHANGE OF SEASONS is a great time to Marie Kondo your closets and do some deep spring cleaning. It’s also a great time to de-clutter your kitchen and reboot your diet for a fresh start to eating right. To help you get started, add these 10 healthy choices to your shopping list.
Mushrooms are one fungi you want more of in your diet. They are low in calories – about 20 calories per 3-ounce serving – yet they pack in vitamin D, selenium, antioxidants, B-vitamins, copper, fiber, potassium and several other essential nutrients. Mushrooms provide antioxidants to help protect cells, and preliminary research shows that they may inhibit the growth of some types of cancer cells.
Outside of sun exposure, mushrooms are one of the only plant-based sources of vitamin D. What’s more, mushrooms are a great stand-in or complement to meat, due to their umami flavor. A great blending ratio is 25% to 50% chopped mushrooms blended with ground meats or poultry to slash saturated fat and calories – but not the flavor.
These uber-eats are rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, B6 and myriad other nutrients. Diets rich in leafy greens help tamp down chronic inflammation, risk for heart disease, certain types of cancer and premature aging – a natural way to fight wrinkles! As part of a plant-rich eating plan, they’ll also help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your memory sharp as you age.
An egg-a-day may keep the doctor away. It’s true! A large egg provides 6 grams of high-quality protein, 13 essential nutrients including iron, zinc, choline, selenium and zeaxanthin, making them an eggcellent choice. Eggs may also help you lose weight as studies show eating eggs as part of a balance first meal helps curb hunger and cravings for hours. The nutrient profile of eggs has been shown to be beneficial for cognitive development, enhancing satiety, maintaining lean muscle mass and promoting eye health.
Arguably one of the healthiest whole grains to enjoy, oats are naturally gluten-free, nutrient rich and pack in a combo of protein and fiber that can help fill you up — not out. A cup of cooked oats packs in 4 grams fiber and 6 grams protein and a variety of essential nutrients including B-vitamins, iron and zinc. Reams of research also show that the unique fiber in oats — beta-glucan — naturally help lower LDL cholesterol and tempers blood sugar levels to help reduce your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Fresh or frozen, whether you prefer strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or any other kind of berry, add them to your shopping list. Berries are calorie-poor and fiber- and nutrient-rich. Berries are among the best sources of beneficial antioxidants and other bioactive compounds in the food supply. Numerous studies show that they are heart-healthy, may help reduce risk for certain types of cancer and keep your brain sharp as you age. For an added boost, try wild blueberries that pack in about twice the antioxidants and fiber of their cultivated cousins and can be a delicious option to add to smoothies, oats, baked goods and yogurt.
Herbs and Spices
Don’t discount the health benefits of adding a pinch of this or a dash of herbs and spices to your meals. Studies show that fresh or dried herbs and spices provide more antioxidants than most other foods. In fact, a teaspoon of ground cinnamon packs in as much antioxidants as a cup of pomegranate juice or ½ cup of blueberries. Aromatics are known to have hundreds of bioactive compounds that can help improve heart health, reduce inflammation, risk for certain types of cancer. They also add flavor without added calories or sodium.
Naturally sweet and satisfying, prunes provide big health payoffs. A serving of prunes (four prunes) provides 3 grams of filling fiber and several key nutrients including boron, potassium, vitamin K and B-vitamins. Prunes help maintain blood sugar levels, reduce appetite, improve GI tract health, maintain bone mass, lower harmful cholesterol and much more. They may also provide protection against osteoporosis for postmenopausal women, according to a 2019 study.
Use them as an ingredient to enhance sweet and savory flavors. Pureed prunes are a healthy replacer for fat or sugar in your favorite baked goods, from brownies to chocolate cake and keep convenient individually-wrapped Sunsweet Ones in your office, car and gym bag for a wholesome snack.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and low in unhealthy saturated fats, EVOO has decades’ worth of research that document its cardiovascular benefits. EVOO is the primary fat used in the Mediterranean diet, considered the gold standard for healthy eating and adding more years to your life. EVOO reduces inflammation, and studies show it may help reduce risk for certain types of cancer, dementia and Type 2 diabetes. Other great news is that EVOO can be used for all of your cooking and baking needs — from baking to sauteing.
Greek yogurt is a healthy, must-have in your diet. Traditional Greek yogurt is strained to lose the watery whey, resulting in a richer, thicker creamier yogurt with twice the protein and less sugar than regular yogurt. A cup of nonfat Greek yogurt packs in about 24 grams protein – the equivalent of four eggs – and is an excellent source of calcium. To keep saturated fat in check, opt for nonfat or lowfat Greek yogurt, and purchase brands that include live, active cultures.
To achieve a healthy diet, you also have to think about what you drink. Tea is the most enjoyed beverage in the world, second only to water. And, significant research for decades consistently confirms that drinking unsweetened black, green or oolong tea is good for your heart, helps reduce certain types of cancer and can help you live longer.
A meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Nutrition, revealed that a one cup increase in green tea was associated with a 5% reduced risk of dying from CVD and a 4% reduced risk from dying of all causes. For black tea, each cup enjoyed provided an 8% lower risk of CVD mortality, when studies involving only CVD outcomes were analyzed. The health benefits associated with tea leaves are present in green, black and oolong tea. An added perk: Tea contains about half the caffeine of coffee and is hydrating.