The foods and nutrients found in your refrigerator can have a far greater effect on your health than the prescription pills sitting in your cupboard. In essence, your refrigerator is the local pharmacy right in your own home.
The Diabetes Prevention Program, a large-scale clinical research study that pitted diet and lifestyle changes against drugs in preventing Type 2 diabetes, made this nutrient power evident. The people in the study who received diet and lifestyle counseling experienced nearly twice the reduction in their risk of diabetes than those taking diabetes medication. This difference was so great that the researchers stopped the study early
But in the pantheon of healthy and nutritious fare, some options are superstars, with potentially powerful and diverse effects on your health -- no prescription required.
Fresh or frozen, raw or cooked -- it doesn't seem to matter how you eat your broccoli. Just eat it.
Salmon is a potent dietary source of the heart-healthy omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. Despite what you may have heard, farmed salmon actually contains more omega-3 fats than wild salmon. Salmon is also a smart choice of fish because it contains low levels of mercury. EPA and DHA have profound effects on heart health, ranging from decreasing triglyceride levels -- an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease -- to reducing the risk of sudden death from heart attacks by almost 50 percent. Salmon can be a versatile protein and omega-3 source in your diet. Enjoy smoked salmon as a snack or in an omelet. You might also choose to broil, bake or poach salmon filets for lunch or dinner. And if you're in a pinch, canned or packet salmon is a portable source you can add to salads without needing a refrigerator to keep it fresh.
Chia seeds -- yes, from the famous Chia pet -- have emerged as a health-boosting powerhouse. One tablespoon of chia seeds contains five grams of fiber, while you'd need two tablespoons of flaxseed meal to get the same amount of fiber. One tablespoon of chia seeds has approximately 2.4 grams of the plant-based omega-3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid, also found in flaxseed meal. Chia seeds contain chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant that may help improve blood sugar control. You can find chia seeds in the health food section of your local grocery store, usually near the flaxseed. Adding chia seeds to your diet is simple. Mix them into yogurt, add 1 tablespoon to a protein shake or stir them into oatmeal for an extra infusion of fiber and antioxidants.
Blueberries are one of a limited number of fruits with its origins in North America. A berry with a long history, researchers estimate that blueberries have been around for 13,000 years. They were a long-time staple of native American foragers, used for nutritional and medicinal purposes. Blueberries have also been shown to fight America's silent killer, high blood pressure. Eating the equivalent of 2 cups of blueberries each day for eight weeks can lower blood pressure by 6 percent, according to a 2010 study in "The Journal of Nutrition." Blueberries, like raspberries, are just as nutritious fresh as they are frozen. Top a bowl of Greek yogurt with blueberries and raw cashews for a simple, high protein, high antioxidant breakfast, or have a bowl of blueberries after dinner for a naturally sweet dessert.
Blueberries are often touted as the ultimate healthy food, but raspberries contain a nutrient profile that should not be forgotten. One cup of raspberries has more than two times the fiber of one cup of blueberries. Raspberries have an antioxidant capacity -- a rating scientists use to determine the amount of antioxidants in foods -- greater than strawberries, kiwis, broccoli, leeks, apples and tomatoes. Research with black raspberries has shown that raspberries can fight DNA damage and the production of inflammation producing proteins in your body.
Depending on where you live, raspberry season usually lasts from the end of May to August. But you don't have to be limited to eating raspberries only during this time. Frozen raspberries are available year round and contain levels of nutrients comparable to freshly picked raspberries. Raspberries are naturally sweet and are perfect for dessert after dinner, on top of a spinach salad with sliced almonds and grilled steak during lunch, or in a smoothie for breakfast.
Kimchee is a traditional Korean dish consisting of fermented vegetables, mainly cabbage. The fermentation of the cabbage to make kimchee fosters the growth of probiotics such as lactobacilli, the same healthy bacteria found in yogurt. In addition to the probiotics to support healthy digestion, eating kimchee can also aid in weight loss. Researchers from Ajou University School of Medicine found that daily consumption of kimchee improved insulin levels and reduced body fat percentage. You can find kimchee in the Asian section of your local grocery store or you can make your own. Eat kimchee as a side dish or incorporate it into an Asian-inspired stir fry.
Perhaps you remember broccoli as one food that your parents forced you to eat as a child. But your parents were onto something: Broccoli is arguably one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. It is a low-carbohydrate, high-fiber food, making it perfect for weight loss. In addition, broccoli contains two compounds -- indole-3-carbinol and diindolylmethane -- with powerful anti-cancer capabilities, especially effective against breast, prostate and ovarian cancers. Fresh or frozen, raw or cooked -- it doesn't seem to matter how you eat your broccoli. Just eat it.
Spinach is your nutrition utility player because of its broad spectrum of nutrients. Spinach contains 18 different vitamins and minerals, ranging from iron to vitamin A. When looking to get more spinach into your diet, purchase triple-washed and bagged baby spinach. Baby spinach has a sweeter taste and is more tender than regular spinach. Spinach is versatile, so don't limit yourself to just salads. Stuff an omelet with wilted spinach and feta cheese for a nutrient-packed breakfast. You can easily increase the number of servings of vegetables in your day by adding a handful of baby spinach to a smoothie. Baby spinach has a mild flavor that blends in well with the berries found in most smoothies.
Cottage Cheese with Live Cultures
Cottage cheese is a cheese curd product that is high in casein, a dairy protein that is absorbed slowly by your body, fueling muscle. In addition to its high levels of casein, cottage cheese contains live cultures, or probiotics, that play both functional and nutritional roles.The live cultures are needed to manufacture cottage cheese.. Nutritionally, probiotics help repopulate your intestinal tract with good bacteria that promotes healthy digestion and may play an important role in the treatment and prevention of colon cancer. While cottage cheese contains only small amounts of lactose, it can still be too much for those with lactose intolerance. For those who face this problem, lactose-free cottage cheese is readily available. You can eat cottage cheese as a stand-alone snack or combined with berries, flaxseed meal and cashews for breakfast or a light lunch.
People have been eating walnuts for thousands of years, with reports of growing walnut trees dating as far back as the Roman empire. Researchers from the University of Oslo in Norway found that walnuts contain more antioxidants than 1,111 other foods tested, second only to blackberries. Antioxidants play an important role in our bodies by fighting molecules called free radicals, which if left to their own devices can accelerate signs of aging and cardiovascular disease. In order to maintain the highest level of freshness, walnuts should be kept in the refrigerator. Walnuts can be added, along with blueberries, to Greek yogurt for a nutritious and fast breakfast. They can be added to a smoothie because they have a neutral flavor and won't settle to the bottom of your blender like almonds.
Omega-3 eggs are the nutritionally-upgraded versions of the eggs you usually eat. By feeding chickens omega-3-rich food, the eggs they lay contain more omega-3s. One omega-3 egg can contain 150 milligrams of the omega-3 fat DHA, the long chain omega-3 fat that is essential for optimal brain function. Omega-3 eggs are found next to regular eggs, but look for the omega-3 label. Free-range or cage-free eggs are not necessarily omega-3-enriched eggs. Try scrambling two or three omega-3 eggs with a bit of reduced-fat cheddar cheese, half a diced tomato and one chopped scallion. Serve the egg mixture on a sprouted-grain English muffin for a fast, portable and nutrition-packed breakfast.
The 'Fit Fridge' Menu
Bringing healthy foods into your kitchen is only the first step in making a change. You also need to know how to incorporate those items into your meals. Here are five quick ideas.
Mix 1 cup of cottage cheese with a one-half cup of blueberries and 1 tablespoon of chia seeds.
Crush 2 tablespoons of walnuts into a powder and mix them with 1 teaspoon of olive oil to form a walnut paste. Spread the paste on top of a salmon fillet and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit about 10 or 15 minutes until the fish is flaky. Serve this walnut-crushed salmon with 2 cups of steamed broccoli.
Saute 1 cup of kimchee, 2 cups of baby spinach, 2 teaspoons of olive oil and 1 clove of garlic. Serve as the side dish to grilled steak or pork tenderloin.
Scramble two omega-3 eggs, one small handful of baby spinach, 1 ounce of Canadian bacon, and half of a diced onion for a quick and nutrient-packed breakfast.
In a bowl, combine 1 cup of blueberries, 1 cup of raspberries and one-quarter cup of walnuts. Keep in the refrigerator as a healthy snack.