OK, so by now you know this is no diet. This is about eating well to look, feel, and perform your very best. It’s not about a matter of choking down foods because they’re good for you. It’s about filling your plate with delicious, beautiful whole foods bursting with flavour.
“Food, if it’s chosen well, can reshape our medical destinies for the better,” says David Katz, MD, one of my nutrition professors and also director of the Yale Prevention Research Center.
It can also improve mood, focus, energy, skin, and metabolism. Here’s how to graze your way this spring to a supercharged you. And check out the sample menu at the end to make sure you are getting it all in. It’s that easy!
Beans are one of your best bets if you’re trying to drop pounds. Your body has to work to break down the bean to get through the fiber, so you’re actually expending energy to digest it.
Even better, the protein in legumes activates an “I’m satisfied” message in the hunger center of your brain. Have you tried these protein packed lentil burgers? I add them to green leafies, eat them on their own or just pop them in my mouth.
Walnuts are packed with tryptophan, an amino acid your body needs to create the feel-great chemical serotonin. (In fact, Spanish researchers found that walnut eaters have higher levels of this natural mood-regulator.) Another perk: “They’re digested slowly,” Dr. Katz says. “This contributes to mood stability and can help you tolerate stress.”
These spears are one of the best veggie sources of folate, a B vitamin that could help keep you out of a slump. Folate is important for the synthesis of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. All of these are crucial for mood. Try making this rendition of fries. Peak season.
These tasty leaves are a great source of iron, which is a key component in red blood cells that fuel our muscles with oxygen for energy. Researchers in Sweden recently identified another way in which these greens might keep you charged: Compounds found in spinach actually increase the efficiency of our mitochondria, the energy-producing factories inside our cells. That means eating a cup of cooked spinach a day may give you more lasting power whether working out or in the office. Go-Go Juice anyone?—You knew that was coming!
There’s wrinkle prevention on your plate: “Salmon is rich in a fatty acid called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a type of omega-3 that naturally helps block the release of UV-induced enzymes that diminish collagen, causing lines and sagging skin,” says Ariel Ostad, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. Bonus: Omega-3s also regulate oil production in the skin and boost hydration, which helps keep your complexion dewy and acne-free. This salmon dish is double whammy in the omega department.
They may not have the smoothest complexion themselves, but strawberries can get you one. They’re loaded with antioxidants that help your skin repair damage caused by environmental factors like pollution and UV rays. Plus, they’re packed with Vitamin C (less than a cup gets you your entire 75 mg RDA)—the vitamin associated with fewer wrinkles and less dryness, per research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Over-easy, scrambled, boiled or baked, eggs are one of the best sources of protein and healthy fats. Forget the egg white omelettes, that was so low fat 80s thinking. The yolks are chock-full of choline, a key nutrient for recall. Your body needs choline to make a brain chemical called acetylcholine, crucial for storing memories. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for choline is 425 mg. There are 147 mg in a large egg; other good options are nuts and red meat.
Eat them regularly and you may reap big brain benefits. In a recent study, people with age-related memory decline who drank roughly two and a half cups of blueberry juice per day for 12 weeks (the equivalent of eating a cup of blueberries) made significant improvements on memory and learning tests compared with those who drank a placebo juice. The secret component? A type of antioxidant called anthocyanins which have been shown in animal studies to increase signals among brain cells and improve their resilience, enhancing learning and memory. Love eating these on their own, topping cereal or packing frozen ones in smoothies. Here’s a favourite.
Breakfast: Go-Go Juice; 2 Hard Boiled Eggs
Morning Snack: Handful of Blueberries and Strawberries
Lunch: Lentil Burgers and a Salad
Mid Day Snack: Blueberry Smoothie
Dinner: Walnut Crusted Salmon and Asparagus Fries