By Susan Adams
Eaten many coconuts lately? How about cherries or blueberries or grass-fed beef?
You should, because these are all foods with powerful health properties. However, few people pack their grocery carts full of these items.
Take kiwifruit. It’s chock full of vitamin C–a whopping 115% of what you need to eat in a day. It’s also low in calories–just 45 per fruit, sans skin.
“In America, most people don’t eat three servings of fruit and vegetables a day,” says nutritionist Jonny Bowden, author of seven books including, most recently, The 150 Most Effective Ways to Boost Your Energy. According to him, there are 10 very healthy foods we don’t eat enough of.
IGNORE THE FOOD PYRAMID (or at least branch beyond it)
Bowden says many Americans are misled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid, which is a graphic, pyramid-shaped depiction of nutrition guidelines, updated every five years, that tells Americans what to eat according to food groups. Bowden dismisses it as the product of interest group politics.
“It demonizes fat,” notes Bowden. “Fat is an essential building block for many important compounds in the body.” This is why Bowden puts grass-fed beef, wild salmon and, yes, coconuts, on his top 10 list.
Salmon, in particular, is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which are associated with heart and brain health as well as bringing down blood pressure and triglycerides, a risk factor for heart disease. Omega-3s have also been found to improve mood and reduce inflammation, says Bowden.
Another food packed with nutritional value that’s present–but not necessarily front and center in every grocery store–is kale. A member of the cabbage family, which Bowden dubs “vegetable royalty,” kale contains indoles, a compound found to fight cancer. Kale is also rich in antioxidants, which also help prevent cancer, says Bowden.
If that’s not enough for you, kale is also full of sulforaphane, yet another cancer-prevention agent. Kale has calcium, iron and vitamins A, C and K, and two nutrients that are great for the eyes, including zeaxanthin. Kale’s pièce de résistance: Two cups packs three grams of fiber. Try sautéing it with garlic and butter, recommends Bowden. Or eat it like salad, with pine nuts, cranberries and olive oil.
Then there are coconuts, a terribly misunderstood food, according to Bowden. The fat in coconuts is a particular kind that’s good for you. It’s called MCT, or Medium-Chain Triglycerides. The body doesn’t store MCT as fat, says Bowden, but rather uses it as energy, like a carbohydrate. Coconuts are also high in lauric acid, a fatty acid that tends to kill pathogens. In addition, coconut oil is great for cooking since it has a very high smoke point.
For Bowden, sticking to a Mediterranean-style diet is the healthiest way to eat. That means plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and lots of olive and nut oils. The Mediterranean diet has indeed been proved by study after study to have multiple healthful properties.
If all that sounds just too healthy, consider the 10th food on Bowden’s list: dark chocolate. Rich with a phytochemical called flavanol, found by a 2005 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology to improve cardiovascular health, chocolate with at least 60% cocoa content should be a regular on your shopping list.
Chocolate and coconut anyone? OK, but not until you’ve finished your kale.