15 Food Swaps That Could Save Your Life
By NICOLE YORIO JURICK - These 15 foods have life-extending superpowers! Add them to your grocery list to help your body fight disease, ward off cancer, reduce your risk of diabetes -- and make you healthier and stronger. (15 Photos)
To Protect Your Heart -- and Your Figure -- Snack on Pistachios -- Not PretzelsIf you’re craving a snack that’s salty and crunchy, reach for the little green nuts. Eating 1.5 ounces of nuts a day may reduce the risk of heart disease, says Jackie Newgent, registered dietitian and author of The Big Green Cookbook. Those heart healthy benefits are due to the monounsaturated fats in the nuts, which lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol. If you’re watching the scale, know that pistachio eaters lost more weight than those who snacked on pretzels, a study from UCLA found. “The work that’s required to shell a pistachio makes it harder to munch mindlessly, Newgent says. And unlike carb-rich pretzels, pistachios contain filling fiber, protein, and energy-boosting B6 to keep you satisfied for longer.
Serve it Up: Place 30 pistachios in a baggie for a 100-calorie snack, then store at your desk, in your purse, or in your glove compartment for the next time your tummy rumbles.
Sip Iced Green Tea Instead of Diet Coke to Ward Off Cancer and Whittle Your WaistlineThink diet is a smart sip? Know this: People who drank diet soda had a 70 percent greater increase in waist circumference after 10 years compared to non-cola drinkers, according to a recent study from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Researchers aren’t sure if a compound in cola causes people to overeat or if soda drinkers typically have poorer eating habits than those who down mainly water. What they do know: Abdominal fat is a major risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
The better choice: Iced green tea. Plant chemicals called flavonoids found in green tea leaves may help ward off cancer by targeting and eliminating cell-damaging compounds called free radicals, says Cheryl Forberg, registered dietitian and author of Flavor First.
Serve It Up: Drinking four cups of green tea a day can kick up your metabolism so you burn an extra 80 calories a day, she says. That could add up to a 6-pound weight loss in a year!
For Super Strong Bones, Get Your Greens From Kale Instead of SpinachNext time your recipe calls for spinach, pick up a bunch of kale instead. Both leafy greens can be prepared the same ways -- sautéed, steamed, or eaten raw -- but kale has the highest antioxidant levels of any other veggie out there. It boasts more bone-building vitamin K than spinach, and because kale is a member of the cabbage family, it contains powerful phytochemicals that protect against colon, cervical, and breast cancers, thanks to a compound called sulforaphane, which may help stop cancer cell proliferation, according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition.
Serve It Up: To reap the benefits, aim to eat 1 cup of kale twice a week. Add chopped kale to pastas, soups, or salads, sauté with garlic and olive oil, or simply steam and serve.
Swap Sour Cream with Greek Yogurt to Fight Stomach and Flu BugsIf you’re craving a creamy topping on a baked potato or quesadilla, go Greek. Both sour cream and greek yogurt have a rich, tangy taste, but 1 cup of yogurt provides more bone-strengthening calcium (20 percent of your daily value versus 1 percent in sour cream), filling protein (20 grams versus 8), and digestion-supporting probiotics. Studies show that probiotics also ease gastrointestinal illnesses and can even boost immunity. University of Michigan researchers found that probiotics stimulate the immune system by increasing disease-fighting microbes and minimizing disease-causing ones.
Serve it up: Add Greek yogurt to your breakfast rotation three times a week by topping one cup of yogurt with berries and granola. And substitute yogurt for sour cream in recipes for baked goods, dressing, and dips.
Blend Your Smoothie with Cocoa Powder Instead of Peanut Butter to Keep Your Arteries Clean and HealthyCocoa tastes great with everything from bananas to berries, plus one tablespoon of chocolaty goodness will add only 12 calories to the blender (the equivalent amount of peanut butter adds 100 calories). Plus, cocoa is loaded with compounds called flavonoids, which prevent fat from clogging the arteries, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. To swallow the maximum antioxidant benefits, look for a cocoa percentage of at least 60: A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that flavonoids found in the dark stuff can decrease blood pressure and improve insulin resistance in healthy adults.
Serve it up: Add one tablespoon of cocoa powder to your smoothie or morning coffee. Or swirl the powder in your oatmeal for a chocolaty, antioxidant-rich bowl.
To Keep Blood Pressure in Check, Coat With Panko Instead of Italian BreadcrumbPanko, Japanese breadcrumbs made from crustless bread, contain less than one-tenth the sodium of Italian breadcrumbs. This is critical since excess sodium can cause high blood pressure, one of the leading risk factors of heart disease. And though the two coatings are calorically equivalent, “you can use less panko and still get the same crunch,“ Newgent says. “Panko breadcrumbs are coarser, and therefore absorb less oil, which translates to way less fat in every forkful.” For an even healthier coating, reach for whole-wheat panko to add fiber and protein to whatever you’re cooking.
Serve it up: Coat chicken breasts, pork chops or eggplant in ¼ cup of panko, or use panko in place of breadcrumbs as a binding agent in turkey meatballs or crab cakes.
To Absorb the Most Nutrients, Choose a Chicken Thigh Over a BreastWhite meat chicken breasts do contain less fat and fewer calories than the darker thighs (2.5 grams of fat and 115 calories in a 4oz chicken breast, and 7.5 grams of fat and 146 calories in a thigh) -- but dark meat also packs a bigger nutritional punch. Chicken thighs beat out breasts in: iron, which your body needs to move oxygen to your organs; zinc, which helps your body fight cold and flu bugs; and vitamin A, which promotes eye health.
Serve it up: To get those nutrients, throw thighs on the grill or braise with veggies two to three times per week. Leave the skin on during cooking to help retain moistness and flavor. Remove before eating.
Reduce Your Lung Cancer Risk by Picking Red Peppers Instead of Yellow or Green OnesReach for peppers with a rosy hue: “Red peppers have three times more fiber and eight times more vitamin A than yellow peppers, plus 60 percent more vitamin C than green ones,” says Tonia Reinhard, program director of the Department of Dietetics at Wayne State University in Detroit and author of Superfoods. And unlike the other varieties, red peppers contain the cartenoid beta-cryptoxanthin: People who eat a diet rich in cryptoxanthin-containing foods have a 27 percent lower risk of developing lung cancer, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.
Serve it up: Aim for four servings a week. Slice one red pepper and dip into hummus, or roast and add to sandwiches, pasta dishes, salads or pizza.
To Lower Cholesterol, Top Your Sandwich with Avocado Instead of MayoThe green fruit will give you the creamy texture you crave, plus lots of other good stuff. “Avocados are high in omega 3 fatty acids, which have been shown to boost heart heath and brain function and reduce inflammation,” Forberg says. And even though they’re high in fat, it’s the good monounsaturated fat, which actually lowers cholesterol. In one Mexican study, 45 people who ate avocados for a week saw a 17 percent drop in bad cholesterol and a boost in good cholesterol.
Serve it up: Add ½ chopped avocado to a corn and tomato salad; top a turkey burger with ¼ cup of guacamole; or slice a quarter of an avocado onto your sandwich, then take a big heart-healthy bite.
To Ward Off Breast Cancer, Think Quinoa, Not CouscousPlain couscous contains protein, but not much else, Newgent says. Whereas a half cup of quinoa gets you almost 8 grams of iron–much more than any other grain. It also offers a hefty 5 grams of fiber, important for protection against breast cancer. “Fiber binds and eliminates excess estrogen, thereby leading to a potentially lessened risk of estrogen-sensitive breast cancer,” Newgent says. In fact, researchers found that diets rich in fiber from whole grains like quinoa offered significant protection against breast cancer in pre-menopausal women, according to a study in the International Journal of Epidemiology. In another study, black women who ate quinoa and other magnesium-rich whole grains reduced their risk of diabetes by 19 percent.
Serve it up: Add a ½ cup serving of quinoa to your plate 3-4 times a week. Mix quinoa with nuts and dried fruit or grilled veggies, or serve as a side in place of rice or couscous.
Fish for Trout Instead of Cod to Ward Off Alzheimer’sSalmon gets all the credit for omega-3 action, but rainbow trout holds its own: One 3.5-ounce serving of trout will give you 240 percent of your daily omega-3s. You’d have to eat 23 times that amount in cod to get anywhere close. Farm-raised trout also contain one of the highest levels of omega-3s EPA and DHA, which have been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Serve it up: Eat two servings a week to reap the benefits. Bake in the oven with almonds, roast and top with lemon and dill, pan fry with garlic and herbs, or grill skewered trout filets and brush with honey mustard.
Cut Your Risk of Tumors by Picking Raspberries Instead of StrawberriesRaspberries possess almost 50 percent higher antioxidant activity than strawberries, according to research published in the journal BioFactors. Most come from ellagic acid, a compound that helps cells neutralize free radicals, thus reducing your cancer risk and prohibiting the growth of tumors. Plus, one cup of raspberries provides 8 grams of dietary fiber, making them one of the highest-fiber foods out there. Studies show that high-fiber diets can reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Buy a few pints when they’re in season and freeze what you don’t eat in an airtight container. Studies show that freezing won’t diminish their antioxidant levels.
Serve it up: Eat one cup of raspberries 3-4 times a week by blending berries into smoothies, swirling into frozen yogurt, or adding to cereal.
To Fight Cancer and Diabetes, Pour Real Maple Syrup, Not the Fake StuffSorry Aunt Jemima. Pure maple syrup has you beat. Unlike imitation syrups that usually include a long list of ingredients (starting with high fructose corn syrup), the real stuff contains only one ingredient: pure maple syrup. It also comes with a long list of health benefits. University of Rhode Island researchers found more than 20 antioxidant compounds in pure maple syrup that have anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and anti-diabetic properties. Sweet!
Serve it up: Twice a week, pour ¼ cup of maple syrup onto whole-wheat pancakes, or 2 tablespoons of syrup and a handful of walnuts into oatmeal.
Chew on Parsley Not Gum to Ward Off Breast CancerDoes your breath need a little freshening? Chew on a sprig of parsley. The chlorophyll it contains freshens your breath—and the rest of your system, too, says Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. Studies show that the herb deactivates cancer-causing compounds in the body called carcinogens. In fact, apigenin, a compound found in parsley can stop certain breast cancer tumor cells from multiplying and growing, University of Missouri researchers found.
Serve it up: The more parsley you eat, the stronger its effects, Bowden says. Chew on a sprig after lunch and dinner, and top fish, chicken, and pasta dishes with chopped fresh Italian parsley to add a burst of freshness to every bite.
To Keep Your Liver Clean and Healthy, Eat Whole Eggs Instead of Egg Whites or BeatersThe paradox: Most people avoid egg yolks because they’re afraid of the cholesterol, however egg yolks are one of the best sources of the nutrient choline, which actually helps prevent the accumulation of cholesterol and fat in the liver, Bowden says. Eggs are also the perfect source of protein, containing nine essential amino acids, which your body needs to boost energy, absorb calcium, build connective tissue, increase concentration, and protect against disease.
Serve it up: Aim to eat six eggs each week: A study published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention found that women who ate six eggs per week had a 44 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who ate only two.