Sunday, October 18, 2009

The 7 Healthiest Foods You're Not Eating, But Should

A little culinary adventure can add nutrients, fiber, and flavor to your diet.

These trendy seeds are one of the few plant sources of healthful omega-3 fatty acids. Toss these tiny brown seeds into cereal, yogurt, soups, and stews. Sprinkle them on top of ice cream or on slices of apple coated with peanut butter. My kids call this “ants on apples.”

Greek yogurt
Called "yiaourti" in Greece, this is a thicker, creamier yogurt because the liquid (whey) has been strained away. It contains probiotic cultures and has twice the protein of regular yogurt and fewer carbohydrates. It is lower in lactose, too.

Paddlefish caviar
When you’re trying to get more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet, expanding your repertoire of egg dishes can help. We’re talking fish eggs as well as those from chickens. Caviar contains three times as much omega-3 as salmon does. Spooning 2 teaspoons of paddlefish caviar into your omelet just before folding it over will give you a tasty morning boost of fish oil. And if you use omega-3 eggs from chickens who are given feed rich in omega-3s, you’ll get a double shot.

Shirataki noodles
These noodles made from the root of an Asian yam consist of a no-calorie soluble fiber, so they are a healthier alternative to egg noodles or pastas high in fast-digesting carbohydrates. Studies show that the fiber, called glucomannan, helps lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and may even help lower body weight. Researchers say that just 1 gram of this fiber can significantly slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream after a high-carbohydrate meal. Because they have little flavor of their own, shirataki noodles take on the flavor of sauces and herbs from the dishes to which they are added. Try them in vegetable salads, soups, and stir-fry dishes.

Pickled lunch herring
Keep a jar of pickled herring chunks in your refrigerator for a quick omega-3 lunch with crackers. It’s an easy way to get more fish into your weekly diet without the hassle of cooking fresh fish. Herring, essentially a larger sardine, is still small enough to be low in contaminants. And it’s a good source of EPA and DHA as well as calcium.

Pearled barley
The chewy, nutty hulled grain used in soups and bread and as a substitute for rice, is quickly becoming a favorite of people trying to lose weight. It’s made up of 43 percent slow-digesting carbohydrates and 12 percent of a fiber known as a “resistant starch” because it goes through the small intestine without being digested at all. In 2008, a Swedish study showed that people who ate barley bread as part of their dinner felt much less hungry than those who munched on plain white bread--and the hunger-quenching effect lasted for more than 10 hours.

Most of us are in a food rut. The Belly Off! Diet will break you out of it by introducing you to delicious foods that’ll surprise your taste buds while maximizing nutrition—making the most of every calorie you consume. Here are seven that we recommend you rotate into your meal plan for variety and to reap their rich health benefits. You just might find a favorite that’ll become a staple on your table.

Koreans are among the leanest and healthiest people on the planet. Could it have something to do with this spicy pickled cabbage, which they eat the way Americans eat French fries and baked potatoes? Eaten at almost every meal in Korea, Kimchi is packed with vitamins and immune system-boosting phytochemicals. Its main ingredient, fermented cabbage, contains lactic acid, which helps with digestion and may weaken infections. Several years ago, kimchi made big news when Korean researchers found chickens infected with the avian flu recovered more quickly after being fed an extract of kimchi. More recently, a study at the University of New Mexico suggested that eating cabbage might help ward off breast cancer. Kimchi is low in calories and rich in dietary fiber.

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