3. Fish and SeafoodOily fish, such as sardines and salmon, and the fish oil supplements from these and similar sources contain the important omega-3 fats which are essential for normal functioning of the body. They may also provide a range of health protection for heart function, as a general anti-inflammatory, and in brain function, in learning and mood.
Omega-3 fats, such as those found in fish oils, may also play a minor role in assisting with weight loss. Supplements of fish oil are popular with bodybuilders in the weight loss or cutting phase, when very low body fat is the target. There is no consistent evidence, though, that they help with weight loss, even though they help reduce triglycerides, a fat in the blood.
Crustaceans, such as shrimp and crab, may be higher in dietary cholesterol, yet this is not likely to raise blood cholesterol with moderate consumption. Iodine is an essential mineral found in seafood, and this may be important in regions where iodine is less available in other foods.
Large fish such as swordfish, shark, and tilefish can have high amounts of mercury and organic pollutants, which may be harmful if too much is eaten. Smaller fish are a better choice for your dose of omega-3s.
Advantages. Fish and seafood provides essential omega-3 polyunsaturated fats and iodine.
4. Mono and Polyunsaturated Fats and OilsWhile omega-3 fats are essential for a wide range of critical body functions, the vegetable fats containing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, when they replace animal fats, have been shown to improve blood cholesterol readings, including the good high-density cholesterol (HDL) that protects against heart disease.
Seeds and nuts contain omega-6 oils and monounsaturated oils, and a few, such as walnuts, have the vegetable version of omega-3 fats. Vegetable oils, such as sunflower and safflower, have mostly polyunsaturated omega-6 fats. Earlier fears that this type of oil was “pro-inflammatory” and might lead to diseases such as cancer and arthritis in humans have not been proven.
The seed and nut oils (and green leafy vegetables) also contain a plant version of omega-3 oils, which is only a small portion of what is converted to the fish oil equivalents of EPA and DHA. These plant omega-3s are probably important in their own way for human health, but not enough is known about their role. Canola and soy oils and margarines contain these oils called "alpha-linolenic acid."
Monounsaturated fats are found in olives, nuts, seeds, avocado and in some cuts of meat. Most vegetable oils, except the tropical palm oil and coconut oil, have a reasonable percentage of monounsaturated oils.
Polyunsaturated fats are more abundant in seed products, such as canola, safflower and sunflower, and in many nuts. Until more definitive research on the omega-6 oils is available, mostly monounsaturated oils such as olive oil, peanut oil or high-monounsaturated sunflower oil should be used for cooking and salads.
Advantages. These oils protect against heart and artery disease and provide essential fats that the body cannot make.
5. Green Leafy VegetablesThis includes spinach, lettuce, Chinese vegetables and the brassicas (cabbage, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and all similar vegetables).
Green leafy vegetables, vitamins and minerals (iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and vitamins C, A and K) and carotenes are potent sources of antioxidants and anticancer agents. A daily consumption of this potent food group is not only promotes good health but is consistent with our evolutionary heritage as primates.
Advantages. Antioxidants provide essential protection from free radical damage produced in high-intensity or endurance exercise, including regular sessions of hard weight training workouts. Nutrient-dense foods, such as the green leafy vegetables, also supply essential nutrients at the expense of energy density, which may be important if you’re trying to lose weight.
6. Red, Yellow, Purple and Orange VegetablesThe "rainbow" vegetables like peppers, beetroot, red cabbage, carrots, sweet potato and eggplant are full of antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenes and anticancer agents.
Advantages. For the same reasons as above, eating a variety of these vegetables (some raw) is important for general health and withstanding the rigors of hard weight training.