Tuesday, November 30, 2010

6 Surprising Health Foods

Posted on Nov 5th 2010 12:30PM by That's Fit Editors

If the low-carb craze of the early 21st century left you believing that potatoes equal pounds and corn is no better than candy, it's time to wake up and taste the produce. The truth is: Certain fruits and vegetables -- along with other foods with less than stellar nutritional reputations -- are rich in vitamins and minerals, not to mention come in an array of colors, flavors and textures. If you've been avoiding the following dietary outcasts, it's time to give them another look.

1. POTATOES

For the 161 calories in a medium baked potato with skin, you get 4 grams of fiber plus 20 percent of your daily requirement for potassium, along with a boatload of phytochemicals known as kukoamines. Both potassium and kukoamines help keep your blood pressure in check. If you allow that cooked potato to chill before eating it, you'll get a generous dose of resistant starch, a fiber-like substance that promotes post-meal satiety -- important for losing weight without feeling hungry. "If you keep portion sizes in check -- no more than one medium potato in a given meal -- and eat the fiber-rich skin, potatoes make a satisfying, low-calorie, nutrient-rich side dish," says Michelle Dudash, a Gilbert, Ariz.-based registered dietitian.

2. ICEBERG LETTUCE

Just one cup of shredded iceberg lettuce delivers nearly 20 percent of your daily dose of vitamin K, a nutrient that many women don't get enough of. When Harvard University researchers tracked the diets of more than 72,000 women, those who ate one or more servings a day of any type of lettuce (all are good sources of vitamin K) had the lowest rates of hip fracture. Iceberg lettuce also is a good source of vitamin A, which helps keep your vision sharp; just one cup supplies 15 percent of your recommended daily intake. So if iceberg lettuce is the leafy green that floats your boat the most, go ahead and eat up!

3. CELERY

This pale, crunchy veggie delivers a unique combination of disease-fighting vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. For example, celery is a good source of pthalides, rare compounds that lower your blood pressure by relaxing artery walls. It also is rich in apigenin, a potent plant chemical that protects against cancer by inhibiting gene mutations. Munch on celery sticks for a low-calorie, crunchy snack: One large rib has just 10 calories and one gram of filling fiber.

4. CORN

Corn does double duty as a veggie and a whole grain, with one large ear supplying 15 percent of your recommended daily fiber intake. It also satisfies 10 percent of your daily folate requirement. This heart-healthy B vitamin plays an important role in keeping blood levels of potentially dangerous homocysteine in check. Not to be outdone, the lutein and zeaxanthin in corn help protect your eyes against agerelated macular degeneration. For a simple corn salsa, toss together fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels; finely chopped jalapeno chili pepper; chopped fresh cilantro, tomato, and onion; and a pinch each of chili powder or ground cumin.

5. WATERMELON

The amino acid arginine, abundant in watermelon, might promote weight loss, according to a new study in the Journal of Nutrition. When researchers supplemented the diets of obese mice with arginine over three months, the animals' body fat gains declined by a whopping 64 percent. Adding this amino acid to the diet enhanced fat and glucose oxidation while increasing lean muscle, which burns more calories than fat. Snack on watermelon while it's in season, and enjoy other arginine sources -- such as seafood, nuts and seeds -- year-round.

6. BUTTERMILK

It might sound as rich as cream, but, in fact, buttermilk has 98 percent less fat. This tart, thick dairy product contains beneficial bacteria that convert the milk protein lactose into lactic acid, a natural preservative. Buttermilk can be used in place of milk in many recipes, reducing fat and calories; it makes pancakes, waffles and cakes rise quite nicely, and adds a tangy flavor to smoothies and salad dressings.

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