7. A Wide Variety of FruitsI emphasize a “wide variety,” because it has become fashionable to claim that berries are the healthiest fruits to eat and that too much of other fruit is unhealthy. This is not proven and has been derived substantially from the low-carb and Paleo-eating dietary principles, much of which I do not accept. Read more in my article on fad diets.
Berry fruits, such as blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries, are high in antioxidants, judging from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) tests, yet apples are not far behind.
There are examples of various fruits having a particular nutrient strength. Persimmons are dramatically highest in carotenes such as lutein, a nutrient important for eye health as we age. Bananas are avoided by some because of the high sugar content, yet they are high in potassium, which is important for normal blood pressure, and they provide valuable energy for exercise plus vitamins, such as B6. Watermelon is also sometimes avoided, because it lists high on the glycemic index scale, yet it has the red carotene lycopene, probably important in prostate cancer prevention. It is also relatively low in sugars because of the water content.
Advantages. Fruits supply not only a wide range of antioxidants and protective nutrients, they also provide some of the carbohydrate energy that is essential for high performance in training or competing and keeping the immune system healthy.
Don’t discriminate: Eat at least two servings each day of a variety of fruits.
8. Nuts and Beans
Beans. In the USDA antioxidant tests, beans came out on top of berries for antioxidant potential. Beans also provide protein, especially soy beans, and soluble fiber, iron, potassium and calcium. Beans are heart healthy as they contain no cholesterol, little saturated fat and some have useful quantities of omega-3 fats.
Nuts provide essential fatty acids, fiber and protein as well as magnesium and zinc, some iron, vitamin E and B6 and folate. Brazil nuts contain the highest concentrations of the mineral selenium than any other food. Almonds have the highest calcium of any nut. Walnuts have more omega-3 fats than other nuts. Nut consumption is associated with less heart disease.
Advantages. Nuts and beans, along with fruits and vegetables, provide a broad selection of all the essential vitamins, minerals and other plant nutrients required for human health, physical strength and immunity. These food groups are particularly important for vegetarian and vegan weight trainers.
9. Whole GrainsGrain foods have taken a battering in recent years from the antigrain lobby who claim that grains are unhealthy. In fact, whole grain consumption has almost certainly been shown to protect against heart disease and type 2 diabetes –- and possibly bowel cancer. Whole grains and whole grain cereals like muesli and oats contain a range of vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, magnesium, folate and B vitamins, vitamin E and (importantly) starch for energy. Eating whole grains should be preferred to adding unprocessed, bran because this may prevent the absorption of some minerals.
Advantages. Whole cereal grains are a major source of carbohydrate for energy and are a good source of magnesium, iron and zinc, particularly when eaten in mixed meals to aid absorption. Vitamin C in fruit or orange juice will help you absorb iron from whole grain foods.
10. Red WineRed wine is the only beverage on the list, although I regard clean water as a given. Red wine contains antioxidants, especially resveratrol, in the grape skins. Red wine consumption has consistently been shown to increase levels of the good cholesterol, HDL, and it seems to deliver a range of other positive effects on heart and artery function when consumed in moderation.
Advantages. A healthy heart is important for everyone who exercises. Red wine drinking may complement other dietary measures that target a healthy heart. Moderate consumption seems to be the key, because excessive consumption of alcohol can damage the heart and arteries. A maximum of one drink per day for women and two drinks for men is usually recommended, with at least one day to be alcohol free per week. Even so, some medical authorities recommend that nondrinkers not begin alcohol consumption.
SummaryI have not included foods such as various herbs, spices, teas, garlic and exotic root vegetables, which might reasonably be classified as incidental foods for many people. You can still eat them, so you can enjoy the spectrum of healthy plant foods.
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