You are what you eat. We've all heard the old adage -- and while there's little chance that eating too much turkey will make you sprout feathers, there is some truth to the oft-repeated saying. It's no secret that there is a strong correlation between your diet and your health. Some foods pack a nutritious punch, offering energy, immunity, and protection against disease. Others can negatively affect your energy and brain in ways you may not have realized. Here are some of the best "power" foods for your body and how to incorporate them into your daily diet.
Leafy greens: A green plate is a healthy plate. Leafy greens are some of the most nutrient-dense foods available -- filled with calcium, iron, zinc, vitamins, fiber, folic acid, and countless other phytochemicals and micronutrients. The presence of live enzymes also aids in digestion and nutrient absorption. If you're used to meat and carb-heavy meals, try to start incorporating a bit more green onto each plate. Your body will thank you.
Tomatoes: This versatile fruit is packed with cancer and heart disease-fighting lycopene as well as antioxidants and Vitamins A, K, and C. Cooking the skin until the skin ruptures releases even more lycopene. Try roasting sliced tomatoes with olive oil and herbs for a nutritious and delicious side dish or sauce.
Legumes: Beans and legumes may be some of the easiest, and most inexpensive, foods to incorporate into your diet. Black beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, and lentils are among the most healthful varieties, offering Vitamin B, folate, protein, copper, iron, magnesium, and potassium in every bite. Beans and legumes are a tasty, protein-packed, and low-fat substitution for meat in your diet. Perfect in stews, soups, salads, and burritos, beans and legumes are a tasty protein-packed and low-fat substitution for meat in your diet.
Berries: The pigments that give berries their beautiful color also contain phytochemicals and flavonoids that are good for your health. Cranberries can help to treat bladder infections, while the lutein in blueberries and raspberries is important for healthy vision. Try berries with a dollop of whip cream for a healthy dessert or mix a variety of berries together in a blender with a banana and milk to create a delicious smoothie that packs a healthy punch. Berries, or any type of fruit, can also be dried in a food dehydrator for a quick, easy, and portable snack.
Garlic: A culinary staple, this pungent bulb can also ward off heart disease. Garlic can help to prevent blood clots and reduce blood pressure and also has antibiotic properties to aid against infection. Raw garlic is best, but its cloves still retain most of their healing power if cooked for 3 minutes or less.
Root vegetables: Potatoes, turnips, and parsnips are all high in vitamins, fiber, and cancer-fighting polyphenols. Always cook with the skins intact to hold in the nutrients. While white and yellow potatoes are packed with nutrients, colorful varieties, like orange sweet potatoes or red or purple-skin potatoes, offer a more nutritious bang for the buck.
Dark chocolate: Chocolate lovers, rejoice! Studies have shown that dark chocolate can reduce bad cholesterol and blood pressure and increase blood flow to the brain. The higher the cacao content, the more heart-healthy flavonoids it contains. With chocolate, it's all about portion control. The good-for-you benefits of dark chocolate can be easily outweighed by fat, calories, and sugar. Stick to a square or two of chocolate to reap the benefits without packing on the pounds.
Soy: A great source of protein and calcium, soy in any form also provides protection against cancer and osteoporosis. Soy works by lowering bad cholesterol while preserving good cholesterol levels. Trading soy milk for regular milk and tofu for meat is an easy way to incorporate healthy soy into your diet.