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10 Foods You Should Eat

By Steve Edwards

We've all heard about superfoods—consumables with mystical powers to cure whatever it is that ails you that will help you live forever. This list will be different. Today, we'll look at some common items that should be on your menu, even though you probably haven't heard them touted as the next great miracle cure. In fact, some of these you probably thought were bad for you.

Mushrooms and Avocados

I begin this list with a caveat; we're all different. One person's superfood is another's trip to the emergency room (soy comes to mind here). There are some nutritional factors we all share, such as the need to eat a certain amount of calories that come from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to keep our bodies functioning as they should. Beyond this, our exact dietary needs begin to diverge.

There are some obvious reasons for this. Lifestyle and activity level are pretty easy to understand. That someone who is pregnant or training for an Ironman® needs more calories than a computer programmer who sits for 14 hours a day isn't difficult to fathom. Neither is the fact that a 90-pound ballerina uses less fuel than a 350-pound lineman. That we all eat a different number of calories and a different percentage of fats, proteins, and especially carbs is obvious, or at least should be, since the bigger you are and the harder you work, the more fuel your body needs to recharge itself.

What's more subtle are body type differences. These can be difficult to understand, and many people never figure them out. Blood type, heredity, and other factors come into play and make each of us unique individuals. When it comes to eating, most of us spend a fair portion of our lives figuring out just what we should be eating to maximize our life experience (which doesn't necessarily mean we choose the healthiest options). For this reason, there is no true "superfood." There are, however, helpful foods that are specific to each of us. By experimenting with our diets, we will all find a course of eating that makes us feel better than anything else.

To help you begin your self-experiment, here's a list of common foods that you'll want to try. Most of these are very healthy for almost everyone, even though some have been vilified by society. This doesn't mean that they'll transform you into an epitome of health, but they're certainly worth a try.

  1. Peanut butter. I'm leading with this because I'm fairly certain peanut butter single-handedly kept me from getting chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) during the no-fat 1990s. In the early 1990s, the average amount of fat in our daily diets plummeted while the incidence of CFS skyrocketed (CFS is the colloquial veil for debilitating disorders marked by chronic mental and physical exhaustion.). This was particularly true among the otherwise healthy endurance sports sect. In the early 1990s, my body fat was once recorded at 2 percent. Sure, I was ripped. Healthy? Not so much. I'm pretty sure that only my adherence to peanut butter as a healthy fat source kept my athletic obsession intact.

    A bevy of modern studies now vindicates my opinion with science. Peanuts are high in both fat and calories, but their fat has been associated with decreased total cholesterol and lower LDL and triglyceride levels. It's also high on the satiation meter, meaning that a little can fill you up.

  2. Cabbage. Every Asian culture, as well as European, eats more cabbage than we do, and it's time we thought about it more often than when we happen to splurge on P.F. Chang's®. Cabbage is absurdly low in calories and very high in nutrients. Among these is sulforaphane, which a Stanford University study showed as boosting cancer-fighting enzymes more than any other plant chemical.
  3. QuinoaQuinoa. This "grain" isn't technically a grain at all. It just tastes like one. It's actually a relative of spinach, beets, and Swiss chard. All of these are extremely healthy from a nutrient point of view, but quinoa is the only one that can fool you into thinking you're eating a starch. It's high in protein, minerals, vitamins, and fiber.
  4. Spelt. This one is actually a grain, but its origin is slightly mysterious. Some claim it comes from wheat while others say it's a different species. Regardless, it has a high nutritional profile and can be eaten by many people with gluten intolerance, making it a good alternative to wheat products. Spelt can be found in many products, but as it's still considered a "health food," it's off the major processing radar. Unlike wheat, if spelt is on the ingredients list, it's probably good for you.
  5. Walnuts. All nuts, really, but walnuts seem to be the king of the nut family. Used in Chinese medicine for centuries, walnuts are becoming more associated with Western health than ever before. A 2006 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that eating walnuts after a meal high in bad fat could reduce the damaging effects of the meal.
  6. Avocado. Another villain in the old no-fat movement, avocados are now thought to be one of the healthiest fat sources available. Beyond this, they have very high amounts of cancer-fighting antioxidants, and recent research seems to indicate that avocados' phytonutrients may also help with the absorption of nutrients from other sources.
  7. MushroomMushrooms. The more we learn about phytonutrients—those that come in a small enough quantity to be missed on a food label (this is a layman's definition only)—the more we should admire ancient cultures. These culinary delights have been feuded over for decades until, for some reason, we'd decided they were pretty much empty calories. The study of phytonutrients has taught us that warring over fungi may have held some rationale after all. Mushrooms are loaded with antioxidants and are thought to boost the immune system, help ward off some cancers, and have high amounts of potassium. Furthermore, researchers at Penn State University have found that mushrooms may be the only food to contain an antioxidant called L-ergothioneine.
  8. Tea. Despite a ton of positive press over the last, oh, century, tea and coffee are still the devil's brew in some circles. Perhaps even worse is how many coffee and tea restaurants have bastardized these natural brews into sugar- and fat-filled dessert items. Both tea and coffee, in their basic states, have no calories and many healthy benefits. Between the two, coffee is arguably more popular, most likely due to its higher caffeine content. But tea is probably healthier. Both have a high amount of antioxidants but stats on tea are almost off the charts. A recent study on calcium supplementation in elderly women, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that bone mineral density at the hip was 2.8 percent greater in tea drinkers than in non-tea drinkers.
  9. CinnamonCinnamon. Maybe the novel Dune was more prescient than we've given it credit for. After all, the plot revolves around an entire solar system at war over a cinnamon-like spice. Nowadays, we think of this as little but the flavoring in a 1,100-calorie gut bomb we find at the mall. But Frank Herbert knew a thing or two about history, and cinnamon has long been the prized possession of the spice world. It has a host of benefits, but perhaps none more important than this one: USDA researchers recently found that people with type 2 diabetes who consumed one gram of cinnamon a day for 6 weeks significantly reduced their blood sugar, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol. "He who controls the spice controls the universe!"
  10. Natto. This is on the list because, for one, it's one of the few foods I've eaten that I truly don't like. But mainly, it's here because we've really messed up the way we eat soy. Natto is fermented soybeans and very popular in Japan, which is where I had it. It's becoming more popular here, and this is most likely due to its health benefits. Nearly all the soy options we're offered in the U.S. are non-fermented. The list of health benefits of fermented soy is a mile long. It's associated with reducing the risk of cancer, minimizing the likelihood of blood clotting, aiding digestion, increasing blood circulation, an improved immune system, improving bone density, lessening the likelihood of heart attacks, more vibrant skin, and reducing the chance of balding. It also has strong antibiotic properties, among other things. So you might want to ditch the soy crisps, soy ice cream, and your iced soy mochas, and add some natto to your diet.

The Shakeology label reads like a who's who of superfoods. I take it myself and recommend it highly.—Dr. Kevin Kane, Anesthesiologist, Milwaukee, WI

Related Articles
"Climbing Michi's Ladder: Quinoa"
"Climbing Michi's Ladder: Spelt"
"9 Appetite-Suppressing Foods to Conquer Your Cravings"
"The Best Food on the Planet"

Steve EdwardsQuestions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Monday, May 17th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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16 Pantry Essentials

By Joe Wilkes

In Los Angeles, we're often reminded to have a well-stocked pantry in case of an earthquake, but it's the day-to-day diet emergencies where having a full larder can really help out. The best-case scenario is that you've been to the farmers' market and stocked up on fresh fruit and veggies, lean meat and fish, and other healthy staples. But when someone's polished off the last chicken breast, the fresh blueberries have sprouted green fuzz, and that head of romaine is now a brown puddle at the bottom of the crisper, it's time for Plan B. (See "6 Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Kitchen" in the Related Articles section below for tips on cleaning that green fuzz and that brown puddle.) And hopefully, Plan B isn't that folder of delivery menus you've been collecting. You can save money and your diet by storing up some nonperishable items for a rainy day. Here's a list of items a healthy pantry shouldn't be without.

Peanut Butter, Tea, and Sweet Peas

  1. Canned tuna. This is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids—120 calories and 30 grams of protein in one 6-ounce can. Try to buy tuna packed in water instead of oil to reduce fat and calories. And look for preparation methods that aren't mayonnaise based. Other good fish choices include canned salmon, sardines, or anchovies (although you might want to watch the sodium content in these). Note: Consuming large amounts of fish, including tuna, can expose you to unhealthful levels of metal contamination (especially mercury). Generally, the benefits of eating fish far outweigh the risks, but it's worth mentioning to your physician to determine whether you need to limit your fish intake.
  2. Instant oatmeal. Oatmeal you prepare on the stove is OK, too. But for those of us who are culinarily or time-challenged, instant is the way to go. Low in fat and high in fiber, oatmeal is a great filling breakfast or snack. Try to skip the presweetened, flavored oatmeals though. You're better off adding your own sugar, maple syrup, or honey, as you're more likely to add less than the manufacturer. Better yet, try to accustom your palate to eating it plain. The first few times might have a higher yuck factor, but before long, you'll wonder how you ever ate it so sweet. There are also a lot of oatmeals on the market with added ingredients like soy and flaxseed—even healthier!
  3. Meal Replacement ShakeEnergy bars and shakes. When all else fails, I say, hit the bar. Actually, I'm usually talking about the other kind of bar, but energy bars are great, too, and far more nutritious. I know several people who are short on time (and also the love of cooking) who practically live on them. But, to repeat our tired refrain yet again, it is important to read the label. Some brands are little more than glorified candy bars that have an oat or two mixed in. Try to find bars and shakes that offer a balanced mix of protein, carbs, and healthy fats, such as Beachbody's P90X® Peak Performance Protein Bars and Meal Replacement Shake, and of course, Shakeology, the Healthiest Meal of the Day®.
  4. Peanut butter. The best peanut butter will be preservative free and contain only peanuts, and will have to be refrigerated after being opened. Two tablespoons will give you 8 grams of protein (although don't go "nuts"—those tablespoons also have 16 total grams of fat). If you get bored with peanut butter, you might give almond or soy nut butter a try. Nut butters are also great additions to smoothies.
  5. Canned vegetables. Fresh vegetables are usually better, and organic better still, but the downside of getting rid of nasty preservatives in your veggies is that they tend to spoil faster. Believe me, ask my crisper. Enter frozen and canned vegetables. In my opinion, frozen tastes better, but thawing adds another step to the preparation process and real estate is at a higher premium in the freezer than the cupboard, so canned vegetables win for their convenience. The only downside besides a mushier texture is the sodium that some brands load their veggies with. Read the label to make sure you're getting the veggies with the least salt.
  6. Canned fruit. Similar to the veggies, canned fruit is another easy option. Just make sure to avoid fruit that has been packed in heavy syrup. Even light syrup is the wrong direction diet-wise. Try to find fruit packed in its own juice.
  7. Legumes. Canned or dried, it's great to have a supply of lentils, pinto beans, kidney beans, low-fat refried beans, and/or garbanzos on hand. As with other vegetables, watch the sodium content in the canned beans. Dried beans won't be as mushy as canned, but can require soaking overnight to achieve a non-tooth-breaking consistency. The lentil is a wonderful dried food that tastes great, has lots of fiber, and does not require soaking.
  8. Bowl of SoupBroth and soup. Every good cook should have several cans of chicken, beef, or vegetarian broth on hand—preferably reduced fat and low sodium. Bouillon cubes add a prep step, and can be saltier, but work in a pinch. Broth is a great way to flavor rice, vegetables, and pasta, and can be used instead of oil or butter to sauté foods. Some cooks recommend filling an ice cube tray with broth and using a cube at a time—although make sure everyone in the household knows this system, as I've seen many a cocktail hour ruined this way. Low-sodium soups are also great, but check the labels carefully. And if the name of the soup begins with "cream of", it probably isn't the best diet choice.
  9. Whole-grain pasta. There has been an encouraging trend in the pasta market, with brands now offering whole-grain versions of the old white-flour standbys. Some brands also include flaxseed, protein, and other healthy stuff. Grant you, some brands of adulterated pasta also taste like feet. Some sampling may be required before you find the one that's right for you.
  10. Tomato sauce. Tomatoes are full of the antioxidant lycopene, and cooked tomatoes have even more of it than raw tomatoes, so using canned and cooked tomatoes is actually a potentially healthier choice than the farmers' market tomatoes. Canned tomatoes, sauce, and paste are all great ways to get all the nutrition the tomato packs in, but with all due respect to former President Reagan, ketchup is barely a vegetable. It's mostly salt and corn syrup. As with all canned food, watch the sodium.
  11. Brown rice. Rice has an incredibly long shelf life and is easy to prepare, and brown rice and wild rice have lots of fiber. And now, there are even microwavable versions available!
  12. Nuts. Nuts are a great snack. They're filling and high in omega-3s. They're also high in fat, though, so portion control is a must. I like buying the nuts with the shells on. Having to shell them myself slows me down a little, so by the time my stomach finally tells my brain it's full, I haven't powered through an entire bag. (See "4 Reasons to Nibble Nuts" in the Related Articles section below to read more about nuts.)
  13. Flaxseed. This usually has to be refrigerated after it's been opened, but having ground flaxseed on hand is a great way to add a little fiber and some heart-healthy omega-3s into your diet. It's very versatile and has a mild, nutty flavor that goes with almost anything. You can add a couple of teaspoons to a smoothie, a bowl of soup, or a salad.
  14. Tea. The best tea, health-wise, is probably green tea. But black tea has some healthy properties as well, and herbal teas offer a whole range of benefits. (See "12 Teas to Brew Up Better Health" in the Related Articles section below to read more about herbal teas.) Recently, I was forced to confess to being a compulsive tea buyer. I had about 30 boxes of different teas packed in my cupboard, some boxes containing only one or two bags. I solved the storage problem by buying a "tea box" and dumping the individually wrapped bags into it. It's a real space saver and impresses company after dinner.
  15. CondimentsCondiments. Sometimes the healthiest food is not always the tastiest. Instead of resorting to salt and fats to make a meal more savory, it's good to keep a small army of healthy, flavorful condiments on hand. Vinegars, mustards, and hot sauces are among the many available flavor-izers that can perk up a drab dish without adding additional fat or calories.
  16. Shakeology®. When stocking your pantry, it's important to have healthy meals and snacks that can be made quickly. One of our favorites is Shakeology because it's a low-calorie, delicious meal that packs a serious protein punch, but even more important is it a source of serious nutrition in an efficient serving. This shake, referred to as "The Healthiest Meal of the Day®," can help curb cravings for other not-so-healthy options. Plus, it's easy to change the flavor by mixing it with other tasty ingredients (such as nut butters or fruit), so even if you enjoy it every day, you won't get bored.

Related Articles
"6 Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Kitchen"
"4 Reasons to Nibble Nuts"
"12 Teas to Brew Up Better Health"
"The Slim Pantry: 5 Weight Loss Products You Already Own"

Joe WilkesQuestions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Monday, May 17th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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The Beauty Blender: Seamless Makeup Application

Woman with Towel

Even after a workout, the right makeup tools can help you look polished on the go. Though you can't bring an airbrushing system or makeup artist to your workouts, there is something you can pack in your gym bag to give you that airbrushed makeup look you see in magazines.

Click here to view the full article!

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Fruit and Veggie IQ!

By Joe Wilkes

Fruits and Vegetables on a ScaleTrue or False?

  1. False: Apples are the most popular fruit in America. Bananas have apples beat hands down. Americans consume about 33 pounds of bananas a year per person. Which is not a bad thing, as they contain high amounts of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium.
  2. True: The artichoke is a member of the sunflower family. Artichokes and sunflowers are both members of the thistle family. The artichoke is native to the Mediterranean and Canary Islands. Its Latin name, Cynara scolymus, comes from a legend of a young girl, Cynara, discovered by the god Zeus, who in typical fashion, seduced her; moved her into a Mt. Olympus-adjacent home (for easy cheating access when his wife was out of town); and when, homesick, she snuck back to Earth, turned her into what we now call an artichoke in a fit of rage. Zeus could be a real jerk.
  3. False: Ladyfingers is another name for Jerusalem artichokes. Actually, it is a slang term for the humble okra. A staple in African cuisine, it is rarely eaten in America except in Cajun and Creole cuisine. It is the okra that gives gumbo its unique gelatinous texture. It is high in fiber and has lots of vitamins.
  4. True: In ancient Greece, if a man threw an apple at a woman, it meant he wanted to marry her. Today, the prospective groom would just be booked for assault. But back in the day, you could throw assorted produce at a woman and it meant all kinds of good things. In other apple history, the ancient unmarried Celts started the practice of bobbing for apples. The superstition was that whoever got the first apple would be the next to be married.
  5. False: Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, was allergic to carrots. An urban myth has long circulated that he was allergic, but in fact he just didn't like them. He tried eating other vegetables like celery, when voicing the cartoon hare, but nothing had that distinctive carrot-y crunch. So he would eat the carrot, say Bugs' line, then spit the carrot in the garbage while they stopped tape.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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