Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eat the Rainbow!

It's 2:15am, and I find myself busted out of an online poker tournament I was hoping would take me at least another hour (grrrr 88 v. AQ). I managed to waste the entire day today by transferring blog entries from iWeb/MobileMe to Blogger/GoDaddy, so I might as well just go whole hog and stay up too late to wake up for my 9am Bankruptcy class. Bankruptcy that I will have to file, by the way, if I don't go to bed before Anthro's new sale items are (potentially) posted at 3am.

What better time than now to think about food?

Eat This, Not That, in affiliation with Men's Health Magazine, posted a list of "8 Foods You Should Eat Every Day." After reading it, I switched my daily salad from mixed greens to spinach (and I'm adding black beans and tomatoes, too).

Note the importance of color on this list. Most of these foods are different colors (and substitutions are the same color). In the natural world, different colors indicate the presence of different vitamins and minerals. Eating something of each color every day (ROY G. BIV - eating the rainbow) ensures that you are getting the widest possible range of vitamins!



1. Spinach (1 cup fresh, 1/2 cup cooked)
Eat it because: it builds muscle, reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. Contains lutein, which keeps your vision sharp. It also contains folate, which "increases blood flow to the nether regions."
Consumption Suggestions: I have been using it as the base to my salads, but it's great in omelets, mixed in smoothies (green monster time!), or just steamed with salt and fresh pepper.
But I hate it: You can get similar benefits from Kale, bok choy, or romaine lettuce.

2. Yogurt (1 cup)
Eat it because: yogurt contains pro-biotic bacteria that keep your digestive system healthy. They also improve your immune system and can even protect you against cancer. This article taught me to look for the "live and active cultures" label on the product; some yogurts are heat-treated after being fermented, which can kill the beneficial bacteria in the yogurt. The "live and active cultures" seal is "the industry validation of the presence and activity of significant levels of live cultures."
Consumption Suggestions: Yogurt makes a nice, thick base for smoothies or sorbets. It's also a hearty breakfast with fruit. Add some uncooked old fashioned oats the night before and you'll wake up with a soft, creamy treat. You can also use it as a base for salad dressing or sauce.
But I hate it: vegan alternatives (Kefir, soy) are okay.

3. Tomatoes (8 cherry tomatoes or 1 glass tomato juice)
Eat it because: tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which is an antioxidant that can decrease the risk of several types of cancer, plus coronary heart disease. Interestingly, processed tomatoes (like the pureed kind in a can) are just as potent and healthful as fresh tomatoes.
Consumption suggestions: Make your own tomato sauce using canned crushed tomatoes (amazingly easy). Add tomatoes to omelets or salad (or eat them as a snack with some yogurt dip!)
But I hate it: You can substitute red watermelon, pink grapefruit, japanese persimmon, papaya, or guava. I think color is important here.

4. Carrots (1/2 cup)
Eat it because: they contain carotenoids, which also reduce the risk of cancer (this is starting to get old, frankly), and help alleviate inflammatory conditions like asthma or arthritis.
Consumption Suggestions: baby carrots are delicious raw and with dip, but you can also puree them into a soup, roast them with maple syrup, or bake them into a carrot cake.
But I'm not a rabbit: Carotenoids are also found in sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, yellow bell pepper, and mango. Carrots have the fewest calories, though!

5. Blueberries (1 cup fresh, 1/2 cup dried)
Eat it because: they are a superfood, very high in antioxidants that prevent cancer, diabetes, and loss of memory. They also contain vitamins A and C, which improve heart health.
Consumption suggestions: blend them in smoothies, add them to oatmeal, bake them in a pie, make jam. I keep a bag of frozen blueberries in the fridge as a cost-effective way of having a bunch around at all times.
But Willy Wonka traumatized me: try acai (even more antioxidants than blueberries, but harder to find), purple grapes, prunes (for some real trauma), raisins, or strawberries.

6. Black Beans (1/2 cup)
Eat it because: Beans, beans, they're good for your heart! The more you eat, the more you absorb antioxidants that also improve brain function! Oh yeah, and you'll get some fiber in there, too.
Consumption suggestions: Great way to add low-calorie protein to salads! Good as a side dish. Make chili. Add to soup.
But I've got a hot date later: These substitutes won't help you avoid some of the less fortunate side effects of beans---peas, lentils, and pinto/kidney/fava/lima beans may have similar digestive effects.

7. Walnuts (1 ounce = 7 nuts)
Eat it because: Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (like Salmon), have more polyphenols (anti-inflammatories) than red wine, and contain protein to boot.
Consumption suggestions: Add to salads, baked goods, steamed/sauteed/roasted veggies, your morning oatmeal, or eat by the handful. These make a good post-workout snack.
Inferior Alternatives: Almonds, peanuts, pistachios, macademia nuts, and hazelnuts all have some of the walnut's properties, but not all of them.

8. Oats (1/2 cup)
Eat it because: fiber lowers your risk of heart disease and slows the release of carbohydrate sugars so as not to spike your blood sugar and cause carb cravings. Amazingly, oats also contain protein for your muscles. Don't forget - eating protein more often will keep you more satisfied throughout the day!
Consumption Suggestions: I eat it for breakfast with fruit mixed in (either hot or mixed with yogurt the night before). Add an egg white to your morning cup before microwaving for an extra protein burst (and for fluffier oatmeal). Bake oatmeal into bars for soft, healthy snacks throughout the week. Add to meatloaf for texture and fiber.
I'm out of oats: Quinoa, flaxseed, and wild rice will do. Quinoa does actually work as a breakfast grain - add milk, cinnamon, and a bit of honey.


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