Oftentimes, diet-obsessed people make the mistake of cutting out highly nutritious foods because they aren't lowfat. But this isn't necessarily the best strategy for overall health and weight loss. Not only do these higher-calorie foods have important nutritional benefits, but usually they're more filling, leaving you satisfied for a longer period of time than lower-fat fare. From pork and red meat to pasta and cheese, find out which traditionally "unhealthy" foods will improve your health more than anything in a 100-calorie snack pack ever could.
Think that just because pork comes from a pig, it's all fatty? Think again. Different cuts of meat can have vastly different nutritional makeups, explains Milton Stokes, RD, owner of One Source Nutrition, LLC. While bacon is loaded with fat, pork tenderloin is an "extra-lean" meat, boasting only 120 calories per 3-oz serving, he explains. And it's loaded with protein, which your body uses for bones, muscles, skin and blood. Pork chops and pork roast are similarly waistline-friendly. "Where people falter is in the manner of cooking," he says. Breading and frying ramps up fat, as do fatty gravies. Instead, Stokes recommends roasting pork and seasoning it with herbs and spices.
Whatever your favorite variety-Cheddar, Swiss, feta or Brie-it's no secret that cheese is high in calories and fat. But it also happens to be high in calcium, which strengthens bones and teeth and regulates circulation. And get this: Recent reports say that cheese has cancer-fighting properties, too, as the menaquinones (a type of vitamin K) in it may activate genes that kill diseased cells. Plus, due to its fat content and satisfying flavor, cheese is the perfect hunger-fighting snack. Nourit Houminer, RD, a New York City-based nutrition consultant, suggests eating cheese with one meal a day, whether it's sprinkled on a salad, sliced and layered on a sandwich or cut right from the block.
Noodles have been shunned by the health-conscious because they're processed and refined-fair enough. However, pasta's most feared nutrient is also its greatest health offering: carbohydrates. "Carbs are the main fuel needed by the brain and body to keep energized and functioning optimally," says Elisa Zied, RD, nutrition consultant and author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips. Even the white stuff that most of us grew up eating is RD-approved: "Pasta is the world's best cluster food," says Zied, which means it goes well with everything. Mixing veggies and protein with a serving or less of pasta is an easy way to incorporate key nutrients into any meal.Try one of these lowfat pasta recipes tonight!
We love salt because it makes our food taste great. In fact, we love it so much that most of us consume about double the current daily recommendation (only 2,300 milligrams for a healthy adult). But too much salt causes health problems, including increased risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and, though less life-threatening, bloating. However, salt also helps keep our fluids balanced, helps transmit nerve impulses and helps the heart and other muscles contract, according to nutritionist Joy Bauer, RD. The key is to not overdo it. To keep your daily intake under control, choose fresh foods, not canned, and season them yourself.
Despite their bad reputation, potatoes are actually a health food. According to American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Karen Ansel, RD, a 5-oz potato has more potassium than an average-size banana, and 20 percent of your daily dose of vitamin C . Plus, potatoes are loaded with complex carbohydrates and fiber, which help keep you full longer. "But this is all provided they're not fried or slathered in butter and cheese," she notes. Baked or boiled and mixed with lowfat toppings, potatoes are more than just suitable; they're a smart diet choice.
During the low-carb diet craze of the 1990s, bread got a seriously bad rap. While it's true that bread is loaded with carbohydrates, that's not why it causes people to gain weight. Dense breads like bagels and wraps have anywhere from two to four times the calories of a regular slice of bread because they're compressed, says Ansel. So instead of reaching for that bagel, grab whole-grain bread, a great source of complex carbs, which improve brain functioning and boost energy levels. When you can't (or don't want to) choose a whole-grain variety, Ansel suggests weighing your options-literally: "If you're in a restaurant or can't read the nutrition label, pick the one that's lightest in your hand," she recommends. "Whichever piece weighs the least will likely have the fewest calories."
It's been drilled into our heads: Red meat is high in saturated fat, which clogs arteries and can lead to heart problems. But as with so many of the foods on this list, simply abiding by recommended serving sizes can help eliminate the likelihood of health problems. Plus, lean hamburgers and steaks have two major health- and diet-boosting components on their side: Red meat is satisfying and it contains tons of iron, without which we feel fatigued and lethargic due to a lack of oxygen in our blood, explains Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet.
Yes, eggs are high in cholesterol-but not high enough to harm anyone who doesn't already have heart problems. That leaves the rest of us free to enjoy their benefits. Eggs are a "high-quality protein," says New York-based weight-loss expert Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, for very little calorie intake, as one egg has 6.3 grams of protein and only 78 calories. But don't skimp on the yolk, she advises, which contains the bulk of eggs' health-boosting properties, including choline, which plays a significant role in brain function, and lutein, which is a powerful antioxidant that may promote eye health by reducing the risks of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. The best part? Eggs are low-cost and versatile.
If you're trying to lose weight, one of the first things your dietitian may tell you is to eliminate white rice from your diet, but not because it's awful for you-because it's hard to control your portion size, explains Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet (available spring 2011). When consumed moderately, rice is not only rich in hunger-fighting complex carbohydrates (plus protein and fiber when it's brown rice), but it's also relatively low in calories (½ cup dry only contains 124 calories), which is what counts when it comes to weight loss, says Gans. Plus, like pasta, rice welcomes healthy pairings, like veggies and protein.
Almonds, cashews, walnuts and other varieties of nuts add crunch and flavor to almost any meal. But when eaten in excess, they can cause weight gain. That said, most nutritionists consider nuts to be a "superfood," as they're packed with various B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc and selenium. According to Taub-Dix, almonds have been shown to reduce LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, and recent studies have even linked almonds to reducing the risk of diabetes. When it comes to choosing peanut butter-or any nut butter, for that matter-just opt for a natural spread to get all the good ingredients, without any added sugar.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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