From Men's Health and Eat This, Not That!
January 27, 2009
Better nutrition starts not only by cutting out the bad, but adding in the good. Fill your children's meals with healthful, high-quality food, and you'll eventually squeeze out the bad stuff.
But what is healthy? You can't go wrong with anything that has bright, vibrant colors—think fruits and vegetables, not boxes of processed junk food.
Rosy-hued fruits and vegetables offer a payload of an important antioxidant called lycopene, which is associated with health benefits like protecting the skin from sun damage and decreasing the risk of heart disease and certain forms of cancer.
Lycopene-rich foods also have been shown to decrease symptoms of wheezing, asthma and shortness of breath in people when they exercise.
Canned and cooked tomatoes have been shown to contain more lycopene than fresh, so go crazy with the ketchup, salsa and marinara sauce.
Red Bell Pepper The reds pack twice the vitamin C and nine times as much vitamin A as their green relatives. They've been shown to aid in the fight against everything from asthma to cancer to cataracts.
Guava Guava is packed with vitamins A and C. It also contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and belly-filling fiber.
Watermelon This summertime favorite is also a big provider of vitamins A and C, which help to neutralize cancer-causing free radicals.
Pink Grapefruit This contains one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants in the produce aisle.
The vaunted vitamin C monster has critical phytonutrients known to lower blood pressure and contain strong anti-inflammatory properties. Juice is fine, but the real fruit is even better.
The secret, though, is that the orange's most powerful healing properties are found in the peel. Use a zester to grate the peel over bowls of yogurt or salads or directly into smoothies.
Sweet Potato The best part about sweet potatoes, outside of the beta-carotene, is that they're loaded with fiber. That means they have a gentler effect on blood sugar levels than regular potatoes.
Carrot The snack of choice for Bugs Bunny happens to be the richest carotene source of all. Baby carrots are perfect plain for dipping or snacking, of course, but also try shredding carrots into a salad or marinara for a bit of natural sweetness.
Cantaloupe Sliced cantaloupe and yogurt make a great breakfast, or combine the two in a food processor with a touch of honey and lemon and puree into a great low-cal dessert.
Yellow foods are close relatives to orange foods, and, likewise, they are rich in carotenoids. Studies show yellow foods can decrease the likelihood for such diseases as lung cancer and arthritis, but since youngsters have more important things to worry about, you're better off selling yellow foods on their superpowers—jumping higher and playing harder!
Research shows that yellow foods help decrease inflammation in the joints, ensuring a springy step in kids for years to come. Studies also show they may improve the functioning of the respiratory system, making beating their classmates in dodgeball and relay races just that much easier.
Yellow Bell Pepper
Yellow bells are vitamin C treasure troves, providing two and a half times the amount you'd get from an orange. Their sweet, mellow flavor is perfect for kids.
Skewer chunks and cook on a hot grill for a killer dessert.
This king of the summer barbecue is loaded with thiamin, which plays a central role in energy production and cognitive function. Boost their brains and their energy levels by carefully removing the kernels from the cob with a kitchen knife and sautéing with a bit of olive oil.
Bananas are loaded with potassium, which will help your kids grow strong, durable bones. Here's a shopping tip: Not all bananas are grown equal. Search for those with a deeper gold to their edible flesh.
With huge doses of fiber, manganese, magnesium and folate, summer squash proves to be a serious nutritional player.
Not just potent vitamin vessels capable of strengthening bones, muscles and brains, green foods are also among the most abundant sources of an antioxidant tag team that, among other things, promotes healthy vision.
Avocado This creamy fruit is bursting with monounsaturated fats, the kind that are proven to be great for your heart.
Zucchini A dense and diverse source of nutrients, this summer squash comes with everything from omega-3s to copper.
Brussels Sprouts One of the strongest natural cancer-fighters on the planet, brussels sprouts too often get a bad rap for being boring. Combat the boredom by roasting in a hot oven until crispy and caramelized.
Asparagus These potent spears can promote the growth of healthy bacteria in our large intestines, forcing out the more mischievous kind.
Romaine Lettuce Whereas the ubiquitous iceberg has nary a nutrient to its name, romaine is bursting at the leaves with everything from bone-strengthening vitamin K to folic acid, essential to cardiovascular health. Other good, nutrient-dense lettuces for salads and sandwiches include Bibb, red leaf and arugula.
Broccoli These little trees have two days' worth of vitamins C and K in each serving.
Kale These deep-green leaves are a low-calorie source of calcium. With fewer than 40 calories, each serving has nearly 10 percent.
Spinach This is one of your best sources of folate, which keeps the body in good supply of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. If your kid isn't ready to eat it from the can like Popeye, try boiling it for one minute then scrambling it into eggs or mixing it into pasta.
Green Peas Beyond the abundance of vitamins and minerals, a cup of peas contains more than a third of your kid's daily fiber intake—more than most whole-wheat breads.
Blue, Indigo and Purple
Blue, indigo and purple foods get their colors from the presence of a unique set of antioxidants called flavonoids. In general, flavonoids are known to improve cardiovascular health and prevent short-term memory loss—but the deeply pigmented ones in blue and purple foods go even further.
Researchers at Tufts University have found that blueberries may make brain cells respond better to incoming messages and might even spur the growth of new nerve cells, providing a new meaning to "smart eating."
Eggplant A pigment concentrated in the peel of the eggplant may have powerful disease-fighting properties.
Blackberries One cup of berries contains 5 percent of your child's daily folate and half the day's vitamin C.
Beets This candy-sweet vegetable derives most of its color from a cancer-fighting pigment called betacyanin. The edible root is replete with fiber, potassium and manganese. Toss roasted beet chunks with toasted walnuts and orange segments, or grate them raw into salads.
Blueberries These have more antioxidant punch than red wine, and they help the body's vitamin C do its job better!
Plums Another rich source of antioxidants, plums have also been shown to help the body better absorb iron. Roast chunks in the oven and serve warm over a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.