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Soy nutrition

Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, fiber, isoflavones, and protein, soy can claim many health benefits. But there’s reason to guard your enthusiasm. Get the lowdown on soy’s benefits and potential detriments.

  • Heart help: Some research suggests soy lowers cholesterol and inflammation, while also protecting against high blood pressure. But the American Heart Association contends the evidence isn’t strong enough to stamp its seal of approval on soy’s heart-healthy claims. What is for certain is that cutting down on overall meat consumption can be beneficial to cardiovascular health, and substituting vegetarian protein like tofu for meat in your diet can be a helpful way to do this.

  • Sustenance: Aside from being a complete protein, soy contains a relatively high amount of iron — in fact, one ounce of tofu has about as much iron as you’d find in a four-ounce chicken breast. And it’s a low-calorie food that may reduce insulin resistance. Try boiled edamame — green soybeans — as a snack you can enjoy.

  • Cancer connection: The jury’s still deliberating on whether the isoflavones and phytoestrogens in soy play a role in reducing cancer risk.

  • Thyroid concerns: Some studies have linked overconsumption of soy products with increased risk of hypothyroid disease. If you have concerns about your metabolism, make sure to only consume soy in moderation, if at all.

  • Allergic reaction: Because soy is a common allergen, it’s best to slowly introduce soy products into your diet to make sure you’re not susceptible.

Lower your blood pressure with fruits and vegetables

Evidence shows that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits helps control blood pressure. Enhance the benefits with these tips:

  • Take five. For optimal nutrition, adults need at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. One cup of vegetables or one medium-sized piece of fruit, such as an apple, counts as one serving. Check the portion sizes for specific items.

  • Shun sauces. Avoid produce dishes that come with dressings, glazes, or coatings. They often contain loads of salt, fat, and/or sugar, which can contribute to high blood pressure. Choose steamed, roasted, or stewed preparations instead.

  • Go for fresh or frozen over canned. Canned vegetables and soups are super convenient but can also be very high in sodium. For the most flavor and nutrition, choose fresh produce whenever possible. Frozen vegetables are also great in a pinch, since they usually don’t contain added salt.

  • Boost potassium. Some fruits and vegetables — like bananas and tomato paste — are high in potassium, which helps counteract the negative effects of salt. Look for potassium-rich foods to support healthy blood pressure.

  • Don’t overcook. Vegetables keep more of their vitamins, minerals, and flavor when you lightly steam, bake, or roast them, rather than frying or boiling.

Shopping for all sizes

Shopping for all sizes

Sometimes supermarket trips can be stressful. Reconciling your family’s nutritional needs with your budget while keeping children engaged can turn any shopping excursion into a food-finding fiasco. But your trip to the store doesn’t have to be harried. Get the kids involved in the mission with these ideas:

  • Use weekly ads to promote interest. Even little children can contribute to the shopping list. Turn to the produce page and teach them names of different fruits and veggies. Ask preschoolers to help select items, and let older kids practice their handwriting by making the list.

  • Encourage participation and education. Give older children tasks as you cart through the aisles, such as finding 100 percent whole-grain bread or weighing a bag of tomatoes. Help younger children count bananas or identify bundles of broccoli.

  • Turn your children into supermarket spies. Make it their mission to scan every package for unidentified food ingredients, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, or hydrogenated oil. Challenge them to find items with less than a few grams of sugar or fat. Have them hunt for items that contain five or fewer ingredients, indicating they are less processed (having fewer additives and preservatives) and generally healthier.

Play smart with sports nutrition

As an athlete, making high-energy food choices at every meal is a vital part of your lifestyle — but that’s not the only consideration. What you eat and drink just before, during, and after your workout matters, too. The right amount and types of foods and fluids at the right times will help you achieve your peak performance.

Complex carbs — like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables — are the mainstay of sports nutrition. Just over half of your daily calories should come from carbs; they’re stored as glycogen in the body, which is broken down into glucose to fuel your workout.

  • Before exercise. If your stomach is empty, your performance will suffer. If it’s been three to four hours since your last meal, have a small snack — like trail mix, nuts or fruit, and water — an hour or so before your workout.

  • During exercise. Staying well hydrated prevents overheating and excess fatigue. During heavy exercise, drink about 6 to 12 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes. For workouts longer than 90 minutes, eat 15 to 30 grams of carbs every 30 minutes.

  • After exercise. For optimum recovery, drink plenty of fluids with a meal that combines carbs and a lean protein within two hours of completing your workout.

 

 

Lighten your liquid load

Nobody wants to lug extra pounds through life. Lighten up by dumping liquid calories that can slow your stride.

  • Kick the can. A 12-ounce can of soda packs about 150 calories and 40 grams of sugar, and is laced with artificial flavors and colors. It also can deplete your body of essential nutrients like calcium. Don’t think the sugar-free alternatives are any better. Studies show that one soft drink per day, diet or not, raises your risk of metabolic syndrome. For that fizzy fix, try club soda — on its own or mixed with 100 percent fruit juice.

  • Lick the latte habit. They’re frothy and sweet, but those fancy coffee beverages cost an arm and a leg, along with padding your waistline. High in fat and sugar, some of the most popular java jolts contain 450 calories per cup. If you crave that creamy taste, you’re better off nixing the daily frap and making fruit smoothies instead.

  • Avoid alcohol. At 7 calories per gram, a beer here and a shot there can quickly add up. And while a glass of wine may have cardiovascular benefits, studies find that it could raise your cancer risk, and even contribute to allergy sensitivity. Drink in moderation and flush your system with water. Or be the designated driver and enjoy sparkling water with lime instead.

Going green groundwork

Supermarket shelves are allocating more and more space to organic products, and farmers markets are popping up all over the place. But what is the real advantage to eating green?

Many people feel organically grown produce is tastier than conventionally grown fruits and veggies, but that’s a matter of opinion. Take your own taste test and find out!

  • Here are a few other things to keep in mind when buying green: Foods labeled “certified organic” must meet government standards for organic farming (other foods may just state “organic,” which means synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics weren’t used).

  • Although free range is touted as a more humane way of raising poultry, by U.S.D.A. standards, poultry can be labeled free range as long as the birds had a minimum of five minutes of access to the outdoors each day. To learn more about how poultry (and other animals) are raised, consider joining a local organic co-op.

  • Buying locally grown food, at a farmer’s market for example, means it has to travel fewer miles from field to plate. So it’s a great way to reduce fuel consumption and make sure you’re getting the freshest food possible.

Giving fat the frown? Not so fast.

Obsessing about fat grams and eating fat-free goodies — while remaining unable to shed pounds, or even gaining weight — is a widespread phenomenon. An irrational fear of fat has become part of our culture. Don’t buy the deception.

Many people do eat an unhealthy amount of fat and calories, but fat isn’t the source of all evil — and fat-free foods certainly won’t melt away your excess pounds. You need some fat in your diet to feel satisfied, produce essential hormones, and build your body’s insulation, cushioning, and energy reserves.

  • Don’t go too low. Consistently skimping on fat may leave you hungry all the time — in which case you’re likely to compensate by consuming extra calories through carbs and protein. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your total daily fat intake to between 25 and 35 percent of your total calories.

  • Choose wisely. Most of the fat you take in should be from monounsaturated sources (canola oil, olive oil) or polyunsaturated sources (corn oil, safflower oil). Limit saturated fats (found in animal products), and avoid all trans fats, such as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (often found in processed and fried foods).

  • Say goodbye to guilt. If you’re eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, including a sensible amount of fat in your diet is not only acceptable — it can be beneficial. So don’t waste your energy worrying about it.

  • Say hello to essential fatty acids. Try these foods: flax seeds, walnuts, and cold-water fish such as wild salmon or sardines. Other sources of healthy fats include avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.

Energy boosts that last

What you eat throughout the day dictates your energy level. By stocking up on power chow, you can keep your pep from plummeting. Nibble on these nutrient-dense foods and maintain your stamina for any task.

  • Fruit with muscle: Healthy carbs are your best energy source. You’ll find them in fruit, where they provide the natural dose of glucose you need without the empty calories that come in treats made with refined sugar. To get the most punch from your produce, combine it with a little protein. Try apples dipped in peanut butter, berries with plain yogurt, or raisins and nuts. The protein satisfies hunger and slows down the sugar release so your pick-me-up lasts longer.

  • Whole grains: While a doughnut will jolt your battery, it’ll also send you crashing within the hour. But a slice of whole-wheat toast, a bowl of oatmeal, or a handful of popcorn delivers a stream of complex carbs that supercharge your get-up-and-go.

  • Timing and portions: Too much food at one sitting can leave you lethargic. By spacing your meals every three hours, you can avoid the tummy grumbles that increase the tendency to gorge. Also keep your snack servings small — around 200 calories or less.

California is FIT

You can put that in meatloaf?

Crushed crackers, garlic, diced onions, and ketchup are staples in any meatloaf recipe. But if you want to add some dazzle to your mound of ground, boost the veggie and herb content to enhance flavor and nutritional value.

  • Subtle slips: For those with taste buds sensitive to texture changes, grate confetti-sized strips of zucchini and carrots into the mix. Or add mushrooms, which blend quietly into the background while enriching overall flavor. Knead mashed avocado or pureed squash into the beefy blend.

  • Audacious additions: Think outside the recipe box with bold culinary inserts. Turn up the heat with diced jalapenos and sprinkle in fresh cilantro for a Southwestern spin. Or slice up a topping of red and green bell peppers. Accent your loaf with Asian ingredients by throwing in Chinese cabbage, sugar snap peas, broccoli florets, and some ginger. Add crushed nuts if you dare.

  • Simple standbys: You can’t go wrong with the bag of frozen veggies in your freezer. Drop a medley of corn, green beans, and carrots into your mixture. Or try chopped spinach. The bottom line: no vegetable is off limits. Tap your inner chef for innovative ideas that will have your family asking, “You can put that in meatloaf?”

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