If you had an expensive sports car, you would only fill its tank with top-quality fuel, right? Your body is an even more precious vehicle, one that runs much better on quality food. According to a recent Reuters article, if the U.S. population continues to partake in its unhealthy lifestyle, half of all U.S. adults will be considered obese by the year 2030.
Unlike many diets that aim to restrict food intake, it is best to introduce super foods into an everyday diet in order to lose weight and improve overall health. Super foods are "super" because they have the highest concentrations of easily digestible nutrients, fat-burning compounds and vitamins and minerals that protect and heal your body. These 10 super foods, when incorporated regularly into your diet, can help you run on all cylinders.
Eggs. The best protein source on the planet, eggs consistently outrank milk, beef, whey and soy in the quality of protein they provide. In addition to containing all the essential amino acids, eggs are loaded with nutrients. People avoid the yolks because they fear cholesterol, but egg yolks contain choline, which helps protect heart and brain function and prevents cholesterol and fat from accumulating in the liver.
Kale and spinach. When it comes to leafy green vegetables, the darker green, the better. Greens are low in calories, vitamin-rich and high in fiber. Considered perhaps the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food, greens are packed with vitamin K, which regulates blood clotting and helps protect bones from osteoporosis.
Avocados. Sure, they're high in fat, but avocados contain healthful monounsaturated fat, which has been linked to a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. "Avocados aid in blood and tissue regeneration, stabilize blood sugar, and are excellent for heart disorders," says Ed Bauman, Ph.D., director of Bauman College. They're loaded with fiber (11 to 17 grams per fruit) and are a good source of lutein, an antioxidant linked to eye and skin health.
Salmon. Eating fish helps cut the risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, stroke, diabetes and arthritis. The fatty varieties may also help alleviate depression. The American Heart Association recommends that adults eat at least two fish meals per week, especially wild salmon, herring and sardines. The omega-3 fatty acids that salmon provides can improve insulin sensitivity-which helps build muscle and decrease belly fat.
Apples. With twice the fiber of other common fruits, apples are a great low-calorie snack that will fill you up and keep blood sugar in check. Loaded with the powerful antioxidants quercetin and catechin, which protect cells from damage, apples can help reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, especially if you eat the skin. An apple's peel contains five times more polyphenols than its flesh.
Blueberry. These anti-aging superstars have the highest antioxidant level of all regularly consumed fruit. They're rich in anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve vision and brain function. Studies show that eating blueberries also slows impairments in motor coordination and memory that accompany aging. These little blue gems also reduce inflammation, which is inextricably linked with virtually every chronic disease from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to diabetes and heart disease.
Olive oil. Another on the list of cancer inhibitors is olive oil, a "healthy" type of fat which has anti-inflammatory properties. Replacing other fats in your diet with olive oil can significantly lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack. Chronic inflammation in the body is linked to metabolic syndrome but a diet rich in cold-pressed (not heated) olive oil can fight inflammation in your body.
Pomegranates. These beauties have up to three times the antioxidants of red wine and green tea-and the juice has been shown to reduce artery-clogging plaque, which in turn prevents heart disease and stroke. Research shows that long-term consumption of pomegranate juice may also help slow aging and protect against cancer.
Garlic. Research shows that garlic lowers total cholesterol and triglyceride (blood fat) levels, helping prevent clogged arteries. Two to three cloves a day cut the odds of subsequent heart attacks in half for heart disease patients. Garlic also tops the National Cancer Institute's list of potential cancer-preventive foods.
Almonds. Even though almonds are relatively high in fat and calories, studies show that eating them can help with weight loss and lowering cholesterol (their protein, fiber and monounsaturated fats provide the feeling of fullness, preventing overeating).
This list only skims the surface of the abundance of exotic super foods available. Do some research and try incorporating a new super food into your diet each week.