The Power of Food
These 12 foods make up a large part of your diet. The more of these foods you eat, the better your body will be able to increase lean muscle mass and avoid storing fat. They have been proven to do one or more of the following:
- Builds muscle
- Helps promote weight loss
- Strengthens bone
- Lowers blood pressure
- Fights cancer
- Improves immune function
- Fights heart disease
Though you can base entire meals and snacks around these foods, you don’t have to. But do follow these guidelines.
- Incorporate two or three of these foods into each of your three major meals and at least one of them into each of your three snacks.
- Diversify your food at every meal to get a combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
- Make sure you sneak a little bit of protein into each snack.
1) Almonds and Other Nuts
Eat them with skins intact.
Superpowers: Building muscle, fighting food cravings
Secret weapons: Protein, monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, folate (in peanuts), fiber, magnesium, phosphorus
Fight against: Obesity, heart disease, muscle loss, cancer
Sidekicks: Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, avocados
Impostors: Salted or smoked nuts. High sodium spikes blood pressure.
2) Beans and Other Legumes
Including soybeans, chickpeas, pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans, lima beans.
Superpowers: Building muscle, helping burn fat, regulating digestion
Secret weapons: Fiber, protein, iron, folate
Fight against: Obesity, colon cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure
Sidekicks Lentils, peas, bean dips, hummus, edamame
Impostors: Refried beans, which are high in saturated fats; baked beans, which are high in sugar.
3) Spinach and Other Green Vegetables
Superpowers: Neutralizing free radicals (molecules that accelerate the aging process)
Secret weapons: Vitamins including A, C, and K; folate; beta-carotene; minerals including calcium and magnesium; fiber
Fight against: Cancer, heart disease, stroke, obesity, osteoporosis
Sidekicks: Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts; green, yellow, red, and orange vegetables such as asparagus, peppers, and yellow beans
Impostors: None, as long as you don’t fry them or smother them in fatty cheese sauces.
4) Dairy Products
Fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese.
Superpowers: Building strong bones, firing up weight loss
Secret weapons: Calcium, vitamins A and B12, riboflavin, phosphorus, potassium
Fight against: Osteoporosis, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer
Impostors: Whole milk, frozen yogurt
5) Instant Oatmeal
Superpowers: Boosting energy and sex drive, reducing cholesterol, maintaining blood-sugar levels
Secret weapons: Complex carbohydrates and fiber
Fights against: Heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, obesity
Sidekicks: High-fiber cereals like All-Bran and Fiber One
Impostors: Sugary cereals
Superpowers: Building muscle, burning fat
Secret weapons: Protein, vitamins A and B12
Fight against: Obesity
Sidekicks: Egg Beaters, which have fewer calories than eggs and no fat, but just as much of the core nutrients
7) Turkey and Other Lean Meats
Lean steak, chicken, fish.
Superpowers: Building muscle, improving the immune system
Secret weapons: Protein, iron, zinc, creatine (beef), omega-3 fatty acids (fish), vitamins B6 (chicken and fish) and B12, phosphorus, potassium
Fight against: Obesity, mood disorders, memory loss, heart disease
Sidekicks: Shellfish, Canadian bacon, omega-3 rich flaxseed
Impostors: Sausage, bacon, cured meats, ham, fatty cuts of steak like T-bone and rib eye
8) Peanut Butter
Superpowers: Boosting testosterone, building muscle, burning fat
Secret weapons: Protein, monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, niacin, magnesium
Fights against: Obesity, muscle loss, wrinkles, cardiovascular disease
Sidekicks: Cashew and almond butters
Impostors: Mass-produced sugary and trans fatty peanut butters
9) Olive Oil
Superpowers: Lowering cholesterol, boosting the immune system
Secret weapons: Monounsaturated fat, vitamin E
Fights against: Obesity, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure
Sidekicks: Canola oil, peanut oil, sesame oil
Impostors: Other vegetable and hydrogenated vegetable oils, trans fatty acids, margarine
10) Whole-Grain Breads and Cereals
Superpowers: Preventing your body from storing fat
Secret weapons: Fiber, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc
Fight against: Obesity, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease
Sidekicks: Brown rice, whole-wheat pretzels, whole-wheat pastas
Impostors: Processed bakery products like white bread, bagels, and doughnuts; breads labeled wheat instead of whole wheat
11) Extra-Protein (Whey) Powder
Superpowers: Building muscle, burning fat
Secret weapons: Protein, cysteine, glutathione
Fights against: Obesity
Sidekick: Ricotta cheese
Impostor: Soy protein
12) Raspberries and Other Berries
Superpowers: Protecting your heart, enhancing eyesight, improving memory, preventing cravings
Secret weapons: Antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, tannins (cranberries)
Fight against: Heart disease, cancer, obesity
Sidekicks: Most other fruits, especially apples and grapefruit
Impostors: Sugary jellies
Written by: David Zinczenko
Originally published in Men’s Health Magazine online.