If you include at least two "power foods" in each meal and one in every snack, you'll lose weight, build muscle, improve your health and have better sex, says David Zinczenko, editor in chief of "Men's Health." Zinczenko's six-week Abs diet is based on 12 power foods. The plan encourages regular exercise, allows a cheat meal weekly and discourages refined carbohydrates, sugar, saturated fat and trans fats. Although the Abs diet itself hasn't been scientifically studied, U.S. News & World Report says its concepts are nutritionally sound and may lead to sustainable weight loss.
Six out of Zinczenko's 12 power foods are rich sources of lean protein. These include skinless turkey and other lean meats like steak, chicken, fish, shellfish and Canadian bacon; eggs or an egg substitute; beans and legumes; sugar-free nut butters such as peanut or almond butter; unsalted nuts and seeds; and unsweetened whey powder. Vegetarians and vegans can also include flaxseeds. Avoid processed or fatty cuts of meat and commercial peanut butters containing trans fats.
Spinach and Berries
While a healthy, balanced diet should include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, Zinczenko singles out two types as power foods -- spinach and other green vegetables and berries, particularly raspberries. Besides spinach, Zinczenko recommends asparagus, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, and colorful vegetables such as red or yellow bell peppers. If you're not a fan of berries, substitute other fruit like apples and grapefruit, though steer clear of fruit products like jams that have added sugar.
Whole-grain bread and all types of whole-grain cereals are included in the 12 power foods. This can include whole-wheat pasta, brown rice and commercial whole-grain products like pretzels and tortillas. All types of refined-grain products, as well as ones containing a combination of white and wheat flours, are off-limits. Unsweetened, unflavored instant oatmeal is also on the 12 power foods list. Instead of oatmeal, you can have a high-fiber cereal that doesn't contain added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
Low-fat and Nonfat Dairy
According to Zinczenko, you need dairy products in your diet to supply you with adequate calcium and to promote weight loss. Choose only low- or nonfat dairy such as milk, cheese like ricotta cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt. Full-fat or high-sugar dairy items like whole milk or frozen yogurt are not included on the list.
Don't Skimp on Heart-Healthy Fats
You should stay away from butter, margarine and all other sources of hydrogenated vegetable oils on the Abs diet, but you don't have to eliminate all fats -- one of the 12 recommended power foods is olive oil. As a source of monounsaturated fats, olive oil may help lower your blood cholesterol and help prevent heart disease. Peanut, sesame and canola oils can also be used.