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Super Foods for a Super You!

11.01.2011 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

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I hope you’ve been enlightened this past week by keeping your food records! I encourage you to continue tracking your food choices and portion intake for the upcoming week and we will revisit the topic of "Portion Control" in my next blog.

From time to time, I’d like to answer questions posted on WOW's Facebook page - so make sure you keep on leaving some! One reader recently posted, “What five foods should I make sure I include in my diet every day?”

Although I encourage eating a variety of foods, five super foods I would recommend enjoying in your diet on a regular basis include:

1. Yogurt

2. Almonds

3. Leafy Greens

4. Citrus Fruits

5. Beans

1. Yogurt: this tasty treat offers triple protection for our health!

A great source of calcium - one of the most important minerals in the body according to the National Institute of Health. Most of us know calcium is important for building strong bones and teeth, but did you know calcium is also needed for:

- Clotting blood.
- Sending and receiving nerve signals.
- Muscle contractions, (including the heart!)
- Releasing hormones and other chemicals throughout the body.
- Keeping a normal heartbeat and blood pressure.

Read more on the importance of calcium at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002412.htm

A great source of protein – known as the “building blocks of life.” Most of us relate protein to muscles, but did you know protein is:

- Part of every cell in the human body.
- A major component of skin, organs and glands.
- Essential in the repair of cells and to make new ones, (which you are doing millions of times a day!)
- Important for growth and development during childhood, adolescence and pregnancy.

Read more on the importance of protein at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002467.htm

A great source of probiotics - live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human intestines. Promising research continues to investigate the role these microorganisms play in:

- Irritable bowel syndrome, (IBS.)
- Inflammatory bowel disease, (e.g., ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.)
- Infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacterium that causes most ulcers and many types of chronic stomach inflammation.
- Tooth decay and periodontal disease.
- Vaginal infections.
- Stomach and respiratory infections that children acquire in daycare.
- Skin infections.

To learn more about probiotics, visit: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm

I like to enjoy yogurt as an afternoon snack and many of my clients like the “grab-ablity” of yogurt for a quick breakfast on the go.

When writing a meal plan for a Redskins player, I often include a yogurt parfait as an evening snack. The players struggle with late night sweets cravings just like we do! The parfait provides them with a nutrient dense “dessert.”

Redskins Player’s Yogurt Parfait

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1 cup of vanilla Greek Yogurt
½ cup of berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc. – fresh or frozen)
½ cup granola
2 tablespoons of almonds

Speaking of almonds, they are my second super food.

2. Almonds are a powerhouse of nutrients!

These versatile nuts are a good source of fiber, calcium, protein and harder to get nutrients such as:

Vitamin E - an antioxidant that protects body tissue from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals can damage cells, tissues, and organs. Free radicals are believed to play a role in certain conditions related to aging, cancer and heart disease.

The body also needs vitamin E to:

- Keep the immune system strong against viruses and bacteria.
- Helps the body use vitamin K – essential for blood clotting.
- Helps widen blood vessels and keep blood from clotting inside them, reducing risk of stroke and heart attack.
- Cells use vitamin E to interact with each other and carry out an abundance of important bodily functions.

Magnesium - a mineral that has several important functions:
- Contraction and relaxation of muscles, (including the heart!)
- Turns the food you eat into energy.

Phosphorus – did you know 1 percent of your weight is made up of phosphorus? It is a very important nutrient and performs the following functions:

- Integral component of teeth and bones.
- Supports utilization of carbohydrates and fats in multiple bodily functions.
- Plays a role in making protein for the growth, maintenance and repair of cells and tissues.
- Plays a role in the production of ATP, (transportation system of energy.)
- Involved in the functioning of kidneys.
- Maintains the regularity of the heartbeat and nerve communication.

To learn more about almonds visit: http://www.almondboard.com/HealthProfessionals...

To learn more about vitamin E, Magnesium and Phosphorus visit: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/vitamins.html

3. Leafy greens are one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth.

Nutrient-dense means you are getting more nutrients per calorie than most other foods.

The nutrients in leafy greens are too numerous to list here, but I encourage you to visit: http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-kitchen-11/leafy-greens-rated, to find a listing of the top 10 leafy greens and ideas of how to incorporate them into your family’s diet.

Collard greens are one of the favorite vegetables of the players; the chef at Redskins Park offers them a couple times a week!

4. Citrus fruits are my fourth favorite super food.

Citrus includes oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, tangerines and clementines, and are an excellent source of Vitamin C. We often think of Vitamin C when we have a cold or flu, but did you know this powerful vitamin also:

- Is needed for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body.
- Forms an important protein used to make skin, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels.
- Heals wounds and forms scar tissue.
- Repairs and maintains cartilage, bones and teeth.
- Is one of many antioxidants that fight free radicals.

Did you know that the body is not able to make or store vitamin C on its own? It is therefore important to include plenty of vitamin C-containing foods in your daily diet.

Meeting your recommended daily intake (RDI) of fruit and vegetables will ensure you get plenty of this important vitamin.

To find out what your RDI of fruit and vegetables is, visit: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/myplate/index.aspx

5. Last, but certainly not least, my final super food recommendation is beans.

This category which includes soybeans, kidney beans, black beans, garbonzo beans (chic peas) and more, offers an abundance of health enhancing properties including:

- A protein source with the bonus of fiber. Very few foods offer both!
- Lowers cholesterol by binding to fatty acids and taking it out of the body.
- Slows the emptying of the stomach allowing sugar to be released more slowly and prolonging the feeling of fullness.
- Keeps our digestive system running strong and consistent.

You don’t need to spend hours soaking beans – canned beans are just as healthy! You want to make sure though to drain and rinse canned beans to eliminate the sodium used in the canning process.

It is also important to integrate beans into your diet slowly due to their gas causing properties. Your digestive system will adapt over time, but to reduce the gas initially try a product such as Beano before you start eating. Follow directions on the label carefully.

For some delicious bean recipes, visit: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus...

I challenge you to integrate at least two out of the five super foods into your diet this week. Please share in the comment section below what foods you’ve incorporated and any recipes you’ve discovered.

Have a healthy week!
- Jane

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