Last week we started an alphabetical list of good-for-you foods. Today we continue with some tricky letters, starting with I.
Ice cream — that most luscious of desserts made from frozen sweetened cream — is definitely good for the soul, if not the waistline. So here’s the deal: It’s true that all foods (in the right balance) can fit into a healthful diet. We just need to avoid snarfing down a whole carton in one sitting.
Juice? Is that good for us? Actually, fruit juice has all the nutrients of whole fruit with the exception of important dietary fiber. So here’s what we do: Eat whole fruit as much as possible and when presented with that nice glass of fresh-squeezed juice, sip it from a small glass like a fine wine.
Kale: This green, leafy cruciferous vegetable happens to be one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. One cup of raw kale has a measly 33 calories, yet is brimming with health-promoting vitamins and minerals. It makes tasty salads and enhances the flavor, as well as the nutrient content, of soups and stews.
Lettuce not forget all the varieties of greens we have to choose from. Just remember that — in general — the greener your greens, the more nutrients your body will enjoy.
Meat: Yes, I know I will get hate letters for this. Yet foods like beef and pork are truly nutrient-dense. One example is zinc, an essential mineral needed for healing and a strong immune system. Next to oysters, beef provides more zinc per serving than any other natural food.
Nuts! These seed-type fruits are high in healthful fats that help keep our arteries clear. Nuts also provide protein, dietary fiber, and a host of valuable vitamins and minerals to our hard-working bodies. A small handful of nuts (unsalted, please) a few times a week is also good for blood pressure, say scientists.
Oats: They are a whole grain. And a good source of soluble fiber, now recommended to help control blood sugars as well as cholesterol levels. I use the old-fashioned variety in my homemade granola, by the way.
Peas — seeds that grow in pods — are packed with protein and other life-enriching nutrients. Split peas are the dried version of this popular legume. And don’t be afraid of this starchy vegetable if you have diabetes. Peas contain a carb called resistant starch, which may help control blood sugar levels and may even help with weight loss.
Quinoa is considered a “pseudo-cereal.” We cook its seeds like a grain but the quinoa plant is closer botanically to spinach or Swiss chard. Quinoa is considered a valuable whole grain, says the Whole Grains Council (www.wholegrainscouncil.org). It is also one of only a few plant foods known to be a complete protein.
R we out of space again? To be continued …
Barbara Quinn-Intermill is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator affiliated with the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. She is the author of Quinn-Essential Nutrition: The Uncomplicated Science of Eating. Email her at [email protected].