The following foods are bursting with nutrients that will enhance your muscles, strengthen your bones, boost your immunity, and fight inflammation
Bone Builder Shellfish, in general, is an excellent source of zinc, calcium, copper, iodine, iron, potassium, and selenium. “But the creamy flesh of oysters stands apart for its ability to elevate testosterone levels and protect against prostate cancer,” says Bass. “They aren’t a food most people will eat regularly, but getting five into your diet twice a week will make your weekends more fun.”
Bone Builder Also known as prunes, these dark shrivelers are rich in copper and boron, both of which can help prevent osteoporosis. “They also contain a fiber called inulin, which, when broken down by intestinal bacteria, makes for a more acidic environment in the digestive tract,” . “That, in turn, facilitates calcium absorption.” Enjoy four or five a day to strengthen your bones and boost your energy.
Bone Builder This crunchy cruciferous vegetable is more than the filler that goes with shrimp in brown sauce. “Bok choy is rich in bone-building calcium, as well as vitamins A and C, folic acid, iron, beta-carotene, and potassium,” says celebrity trainer Teddy Bass. Potassium keeps your muscles and nerves in check while lowering your blood pressure, and research suggests that beta-carotene can reduce the risk of both lung and bladder cancers, as well as macular degeneration. Shoot for a cup a day.
Bone Builder Lauded for centuries as an aphrodisiac, this fiber-rich plant contains more bone-building magnesium and potassium than any other vegetable. Its leaves are also rich in flavonoids and polyphenols—antioxidants that can cut the risk of stroke—and vitamin C, which helps maintain the immune system. “Eat them as often as you can,” . Ripe ones feel heavy for their size and squeak when squeezed.
Bone Builder Like bananas, this fuzzy fruit is high in bone-protecting potassium. “They’re also rich in vitamin C and lutein, a carotenoid that can help reduce the risk of heart disease,” . “I try to eat at least one or two a week after exercising.” Freeze them for a refreshing energy kick, but don’t peel the skin: It’s edible and packed with nutrients.
Immunity Booster Studies show that green tea—infused with the antioxidant EGCG—reduces the risk of most types of cancer. “The phytonutrients in tea also support the growth of intestinal bacteria,” . “Specifically, they inhibit the growth of bad bacteria—E. coli, Clostridium, Salmonella—and leave the beneficial bacteria untouched.” Why is this important? “Because up to 70 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive tract,” . “Four cups a day will keep it functioning at its
Immunity Booster Contrary to popular belief, ginger—a piquant addition to so many Asian dishes—isn’t a root, it’s a stem, which means it contains living compounds that improve your health. Chief among them is gingerol, a cancer suppressor that studies have shown to be particularly effective against that of the colon. Chop ginger or grind it fresh and add it to soy-marinated fish or chicken as often as you can. The more you can handle, the better.
Immunity Booster “This potent little fruit can help prevent a range of diseases from cancer to heart disease,” says Ryan Andrews, the director of research at Precision Nutrition, in Toronto, Canada. One serving (3.5 ounces) contains more antioxidants than any other fruit. Drizzle with lemon juice and mix with strawberries for a disease-fighting supersnack.
Immunity Booster “I think of tomatoes as the ‘fighting herpes helper’ for the divorcé crowd,” says Petersen. Their lycopene content can also help protect against degenerative diseases. “Cooked tomatoes and tomato paste work best,” he says. Shoot for half a tomato, or 12 to 20 ounces of tomato juice, a day.
Immunity Booster The juice from the biblical fruit of many seeds can reduce your risk of most cancers, thanks to polyphenols called ellagitannins, which give the fruit its color. In fact, a recent study at UCLA found that pomegranate juice slows the growth of prostate cancer cells by a factor of six. “Drink a cup a day,” .
Muscle Enhancer Made from soybeans, tofu was once the bastion of vegetarians. But the plant protein in these pressed bean curds—available firm or soft, and delicious when marinated and tossed into salads—provides a full complement of amino acids, as well as isoflavone, which helps muscles recover from exercise. “A serving is four ounces,” says Andrews. “Eat one to three servings a week.”
Muscle Enhancer These flat beans don’t just make delicious soups. “They’re packed with protein, not to mention B vitamins and zinc, which are important for good sexual health,” says Andrews. Eat half a cup twice a week, cooking them for about 30 minutes (until they start to break apart) to create a satisfying mashed-potato-like texture. “A single serving will help you cover all of your nutritional bases,” adds Andrews.
Muscle Enhancer All yogurt provides muscle-friendly protein as well as probiotics that keep your digestive tract healthy and your immune system in top form. “But the Greek variety is thicker than regular yogurt, so it has more protein, and it’s sweeter and heartier,” says Clark. “It’s man-style yogurt, with a velvety texture.” Mix eight ounces with fruit for breakfast, or spread it on flatbread and top with chicken and onions.
Muscle Enhancer The old school of thought was that you should eat egg whites rather than whole eggs in order to get the protein without the added cholesterol. But recent studies have proved that the fat in the yolk is important to keep you satiated, and the benefits of the minerals and nutrients in the yolk outweigh its cholesterol effect. Eggs deliver the most nutrients for the fewest calories and provide the most satiety per calorie consumed. Plus, eggs contain choline, a B vitamin that studies have linked to improved brain function. “Eat three or four servings a week for breakfast or as a protein alternative at other meals,” .
Muscle Enhancer Believe it or not, the sweet brown milk you loved as a kid is actually good for you. “Chocolate milk is one of my favorite postexercise recovery drinks because it contains whey protein, which helps muscles recover and repair,” says Grieger. “Plus, it tastes great while boosting calcium and vitamin D, which research shows is important for preserving cartilage and joint health.” Indeed, a 2006 study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that it is as good as or better than Gatorade for replacing glucose in fatigued muscles. “Drinking one large glass after you work out will boost muscle growth and speed recovery,” says Grieger.
Inflammation Fighter With its potent mix of vitamins, antioxidants, and enzymes (in particular, bromelain), pineapple is an all-body anti-inflammation cocktail. It also protects against colon cancer, arthritis, and macular degeneration, says Grieger. If only the “colada” part of the equation were as healthy. Have half a cup, two or three times a week.
Inflammation Fighter Research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that eating up to 45 bing cherries a day can lower the risk of tendinitis, bursitis, arthritis, and gout, . Studies also suggest that they reduce the risk of chronic diseases and metabolic syndrome. “They taste great on yogurt or cereal,” .
Inflammation Fighter Curcumin, the polyphenol that gives the spice its tang and yellow hue, has antitumor, antiarthritis, and anti-inflammatory properties. “Studies show that it also inhibits the growth of plaques associated with Alzheimer’s,” . Sprinkle half a tablespoon on fish or chicken to add color and flavor.
Inflammation Fighter Rich in protein and fiber, these seeds taste great on cereal and yogurt. Their oil also comes in pill or liquid form, and is high in alpha linolenic omega-3s, which puts them next to wild fish on the list of heart-healthy fare. “They’re a great brain food too,” says Andrews. Shoot for a tablespoon of ground flaxseed a day.
Inflammation Fighter These energy-rich snacks lower bad cholesterol, thanks to plant sterols, and benefit diabetics by lowering blood sugar. They’re also rich in amino acids, which bolster testosterone levels and muscle growth. “Eat a third of a cup a day with the skins on. The skin is full of antioxidants,” .
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