There are actually so many healthful foods to highlight that I could keep writing week after week about them. But in the interest of time and moving on, I hope the point has been made that despite our culture of fast and processed foods, there are plenty of good foods to be had, and they’re right in your grocery store. If you haven’t tried any of the ones I’ve previously mentioned or the ones I’m highlighting today, venture out of your comfort zone a little and give it a go.
Greek yogurt. If you haven’t jumped on the Greek yogurt bandwagon yet, or if you’ve never been a fan of yogurt, you don’t know what you’re missing. Greek yogurt is still yogurt, but it’s thicker and often smoother than regular yogurt. One of the key features of Greek yogurt (which is right in the dairy case of your supermarket, by the way — you don’t have to go to Greece to get it), is that it’s higher in protein, ounce per ounce, than regular yogurt. And being higher in protein means that it’s also lower in carbohydrate. More protein means that you may feel for longer after eating; it’s also helpful to have some extra protein if you’re trying to lose weight to help you maintain your lean muscle mass.
Greek yogurt tends to have less natural sugar than regular yogurt, as well. All yogurts naturally contain sugar from milk, so there’s no such thing as a “no-sugar” yogurt. But be careful when you start reaching for fruit-flavored yogurt, Greek or otherwise: these tend to have a lot of added sugar, which means extra calories and carbs. If you can, go for plain nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt (avoid the regular fat version) and if you need a bit of sweetness, add some fresh fruit, a bit of low-sugar jam, or the sweetener of your choice. Six ounces of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt has about 90 calories, 0 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbohydrate, and 17 grams of protein.
Suggestions for eating Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt is very versatile and, aside from being enjoyed as is, it can be used in many ways. Mix some lemon juice and capers into it for a tasty sauce for fish. Add chopped cucumber, some minced garlic, and a drizzle of olive oil to Greek yogurt for a healthy vegetable dip. Greek yogurt works well in place of sour cream and even mayonnaise. Give it a try!
Walnuts. They’re admittedly not one of my favorite nuts, but walnuts date back to 7,000 BC, so they’ve been around the block a few times. These nuts are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fat, fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, and magnesium. Eating walnuts has been shown to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and C-reactive protein (an indicator of inflammation); in addition, walnuts can improve blood flow in people with diabetes and may even help to prevent diabetes in the first place.
When eating walnuts, try to leave the thin, papery skin on them. Why? The skin contains substances called phenols, which have a bunch of disease-fighting properties. One ounce of walnuts, which is about 14 walnut halves, contains 185 calories, 19 grams of fat, and just 4 grams of carbohydrate. As with any nut, watch the portions, because the calories very quickly add up!
Suggestions for eating walnuts: Sprinkle walnuts into a salad or sautéed vegetables. Puree walnuts, cooked lentils, and some olive oil in a blender or food processor and serve as a sauce or a dip.
Mushrooms. There are thousands of species of mushrooms, but of course, not all of them are edible. Some mushrooms offer more health benefits than others. For example, the more “exotic” varieties of mushrooms may help with lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, protect against cancer, and give a boost to the immune system. Shiitake, maitake, enoki, and oyster mushrooms are examples of such mushrooms. Your average white button mushrooms, commonly found in the supermarket, as well as Portobello and crimini mushrooms, don’t seem to have the same possible health benefits as their Asian cousins.
You might be surprised to know that some varieties of mushrooms, including maitake and chanterelle, contain vitamin D. If the mushrooms are exposed to ultraviolet light, the vitamin D content can be even higher. Besides vitamin D, mushrooms are rich in B vitamins, potassium, and selenium. One cup of mushrooms contains just 20 calories, no fat, and just 3 grams of carbohydrate, which make them a great choice as a low-carb snack or part of a meal.
Suggestions for eating mushrooms: Add mushrooms to your stir-fry dishes. Include them in salads. Keep a batch of fresh mushrooms in your fridge to serve as an “anytime” snack (try them with the Greek yogurt dip that I mentioned above).
Eggs. I’ve mentioned eggs in previous postings, but I felt that they were worth mentioning again, probably because many people still believe that they shouldn’t eat eggs, especially if they have a high blood cholesterol level. Eggs are a perfectly packaged little food in that they’re an excellent (and low-cost) source of high-quality protein, they contain choline, a nutrient needed for brain and memory development in infants, and they provide lutein, a carotenoid (type of pigment) that protects against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
If that’s not enough for you, eating eggs has been shown to help with weight loss and to boost satiety (feelings of fullness). Ample evidence now shows us that eggs do not raise blood cholesterol levels in most people. One egg contains 78 calories, 5 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein, and practically no carbohydrate.
Suggestions for eating eggs: A hard-boiled egg is often best eaten “as is.” But eggs can be prepared in many ways. A good example is huevos rancheros — here’s a recipe for a healthier version.