A simple dietary guideline is to fill up on foods high in nutrients and low in calories, and eat fewer foods low in nutrients and high in calories. Also, avoid processed foods. If you do this, you could reduce your risk of most of the chronic diseases plaguing Americans today.
Vegetables have more nutrients per calorie than any other food group, with non-starchy vegetables containing about 100 calories per pound. Technically, frozen and canned vegetables are processed, but as long as they contain only vegetables and not much salt, they are very healthy. Eat as many servings as you can.
Fruits contain about 300 calories per pound. Some health care professionals recommend limiting fruit intake because of the sugars in fruit, especially for Type 2 diabetics. However, a 2013 study published in Nutrition Journal found that reduced fruit intake had no affect on blood glucose levels, waist circumference or weight loss of type 2 diabetes patients. In 2001, researchers found that people could eat 20 servings of fruit daily with no adverse effects on body weight, blood pressure or insulin levels. Limit servings of more caloric dried and canned fruits, but eat lots of fresh and frozen fruit.
Whole grains contain about 500 calories per pound and have been found to increase longevity in population studies. Many people who follow the Paleo diet believe that you should not eat beans or grains. However, archeologists have shown that fossilized dental plaque from teeth of skeletal remains includes grains and beans. Whole grains and starchy vegetables should be a part of your diet.
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Legumes (beans, peas and lentils) contain protein, fiber, iron, calcium, other nutrients and about 700 calories per pound when cooked. Include these in your diet too.
Just four nuts per day reduces stroke risk.
Meats, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy are good sources of protein, but they contain unhealthy fats, so avoid eating more animal protein than you need. One pound of 85 percent lean ground beef contains about 1,100 calories and twice the RDA of protein for men.
Pass up processed meats and limit dairy to low and nonfat options.
Nuts and seeds are also good sources of protein and many other nutrients, and they contain healthier fats, but they have about 3,000 calories per pound. Studies have shown that nut consumption increases longevity, but it doesn’t take much. Just four nuts per day reduces stroke risk. Enjoy them in small amounts.
Refined grains, sugars and solid fats are nutrient poor, with almost 1,800 calories in a pound of sugar and about 3,200 in a pound of butter. The U.S. Department of Agriculture 2015 Dietary Guidelines and Advisory Committee recommends restricting total consumption of added sugars and solid fats. Eat few of these foods.
Colorful Roasted Vegetables
Servings: 4. Start to finish: 1 hour
2 garnet yams, scrubbed
1 pound broccoli, rinsed well
1 pound cauliflower, rinsed well
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Peel yams and cut into 1-inch chunks. Place on one cookie sheet and top with one tablespoon of oil. Mix well. Place in the oven and set a timer for 25 minutes. Meanwhile cut the broccoli and cauliflower into 1-inch pieces. Place on the other cookie sheet and top with one tablespoon of oil. Mix well.
Once the yams have cooked for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and stir. Place both cookie sheets into the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir, and place back into the oven, swapping the placement of the cookie sheets. Roast for another 10 minutes. When lightly browned the vegetables are ready. Sprinkle with pepper and salt substitute and serve.
Nutrition information per serving: 192 calories, 7 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, no cholesterol, 94 mg sodium, 30 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fiber, 8 grams sugars, 7 grams protein, 230 percent Vitamin A, 102 percent Vitamin C, 9 percent calcium, 8 percent iron.