Start by looking at the mineral calcium. Currently, nine out of ten teenage girls fail to get enough calcium, which significantly impacts the likelihood of developing bone fractures at that age, and osteoporosis later in life. Adolescence is the best time to build strong healthy bones. Rather than suggesting that their girls skip the soda and drink water, parents should encourage their daughters to drink low-fat milk regularly. Aside from calcium, milk and milk products are a major source of vitamin D, protein, potassium and phosphorus. However, don’t think that just because teenaged girls are at the highest risk, they are the only ones who need to drink up the milk. At every age, you can improve your bone health, so at every stage in life, make sure to drink milk and enjoy all of the nutritional benefits present in every glass.
Spice up your metabolism with the addition of hot chili peppers. A study from the University of California found that a few hours after a meal that contained capsaicin, found in hot peppers, the rate at which the body burned calories doubled! This powerful antioxidant increases fat oxidation and caused people in the study to notice a decrease in their appetite. It adds flavor, boosts metabolism, helps burn fat and cuts down appetite, so definitely add this ingredient to your next meal.
Tomatoes are rich in fiber and have high water content. They offer a lot of volume with few calories. You can enjoy them raw, cooked, steamed, roasted or sautéed; each method of preparation offers different health benefits. For example, when tomatoes are cooked, they contain high levels of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that can lower the risk of heart disease, many cancers, and chronic illness.
Did you know that 93% of Americans are not getting enough vitamin E? This important vitamin supports the immune system, healthy skin and works as antioxidant to lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Add avocados, which contain vitamin E, to your menu, because they are a healthy fat rich in many vitamins. They also provide an excellent source of glutathione, which helps prevent oxidative damage in the body.
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common mineral deficiency in the world, the only one prevalent in developed countries. If you are always feeling tired, maybe it is time to see if you are anemic. Iron helps your red blood cells bind and carry oxygen. Without enough iron, your body does not get enough oxygen, which leaves you feeling run down and exhausted all the time. Good sources of iron are eggs, turkey, beef, spinach and lentils. To enhance iron absorption, especially when the iron isn’t coming from animal sources, take it along with vitamin C.
Garlic adds aroma, taste, and loads of nutrition to your favorite foods. Not only does it make almost everything taste delicious, it could also improve liver function, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and improve iron metabolism. It may slow the buildup of plaque in your arteries, reducing your risk of blood clots. It is a member of the Allium family, of which onions and leeks are also part. Garlic is rich in several sulfur-containing compounds including thiosulfinates, sulfoxides, and dithiins, all of which help give garlic various health promoting effects.
Cabbage provides the phytonutrient called glucosinolates, part of a unique group of indirect antioxidants. This type of antioxidant signals our bodies to make our own antioxidants, which can be produced for three or four days after we eat a food like cabbage. This type of antioxidant plays an important role in helping to stimulate our bodies’ own internal detoxification system and decrease the risk of breast cancer. Raw, fermented (sauerkraut) and lightly cooked (steamed or blanched) cabbage have the highest levels of glucosinolates. The more cabbage is cooked, the more these antioxidants are destroyed, so try to include mostly raw green and red cabbage into your diet several times a week. Broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts also contain glucosinolates, though in smaller quantities than cabbage.
Broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse. It contains a high amount of potassium, which helps maintain a healthy nervous system and optimal brain function and promotes regular muscle growth. Broccoli also contains magnesium and calcium that help regulate blood pressure. It is a great source of vitamin C, an antioxidant necessary for fighting against free radicals. Due to broccoli’s high levels of calcium and vitamin K, it is great for bone health. Broccoli is a great source of chromium, which is involved with increasing levels of the hormones serotonin and melatonin, so it can boost your mood. It also can help your body regulate insulin levels, an added bonus if you have prediabetes or are diabetic. Broccoli is high in fiber, which helps with digestion, maintaining normal blood sugar levels, and helps prevent you from overeating. Many other benefits can be found in broccoli, so try adding it to your side dishes, eggs, pastas, soups, and kugels.
Following a healthy lifestyle is not about restriction. It is about finding a way to enjoy a healthy menu that provides you with the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants necessary to maximize your health, along with daily exercise.
Shani Goldner is a Registered Dietitian and a CDN with a Master’s of Science. She runs a private nutrition practice where she counsels children, adolescents and adults in weight loss, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular health and cancer related nutrition. She has a practice in Brooklyn and Long Island. She can be reached at (718) 854-5784 or (516) 239-3784. Phone consults are available. For more information please visit her website at www.mynydiet.com.