Working with calcium, this vitamin helps keep bones strong. In addition, many studies have looked at its potential to reduce the risk of everything from some common cancers and multiple sclerosis to diabetes, hypertension, and age-related muscle weakness, especially in the lower legs. The RDA is 200 to 600 IU of vitamin D a day, but 800 to 1,000 IU is a better target for everyone. Most people need to take supplements to meet this goal.
Read labels on muffins.
A bran muffin may not even contain wholewheat flour and may have excessive amounts of eggs, butter, and oil, as well as sugar, honey, and other sweeteners. Some have more than 20 grams of fat—as much as a Big Mac—and more than 500 calories.
If you’re susceptible to urinary tract infections (UTIs), try cranberry juice. A study at Harvard showed that women who drank 10 ounces of cranberry juice cocktail daily significantly reduced infection rates.
over a six-month period. The researchers noted that cranberry juice should be used as an adjunct to medical treatment—not a substitute for it. If a UTI is serious enough to cause symptoms, it requires medical attention.
If you have frequent headaches, look at what you eat.
Foods and beverages may play a role in some headaches, especially migraines. Most of the suspects, such as chocolate, ripe cheeses, and freshly baked yeast products, contain a naturally occurring chemical called tyramine, which may constrict or dilate blood vessels in the brain.
Keep bacteria out of your food.
Wash your hands before starting to prepare any meal. Between steps, wash all equipment that comes in contact with food—especially raw meats— including the cutting board and countertop. Don’t let cooked or refrigerated foods sit around at room temperature. Reheat foods to at least 165° F. to be sure that any harmful microorganisms are destroyed. Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, in cold running water, or in a microwave oven.
Microwaving tends to destroy fewer vitamins than conventional cooking methods. To get the most from microwaving, add a little water as possible to the food: a teaspoonful may be enough to prevent burning. Always cover foods while microwaving; this reduces cooking time and thus nutrient loss.
To get the most nutrients from your baked potato, eat the potato skin.
Ounce for ounce, the skin has far more fiber, iron, potassium, and B vitamins than the flesh. The only reason to avoid the skin is if the potato has a greenish tinge. That’s chlorophyll, a sign that the potato has been exposed to too much light after harvest. It’s also an indication that solanine (a naturally occurring toxin) may be present in increased amounts, especially in the skin. This might cause cramps and diarrhea.
Try barley. It is the best source of beta-glucan, a soluble fiber known to lower cholesterol. It also contains another soluble fiber called pectin, along with iron, selenium, zinc, and some B vitamins. Look for hulled barley, which retains its nutrient and fiber-rich bran. Though its bran has been removed, pearled barley is still a good source of beta-glucan.
High fiber foods can help you lose a little weight.
Not only are they filling and nutritious, but their fiber reduces the number of calories your body absorbs from the meal. A USDA study found that women who double their daily fiber intake from 12 to 24 grams absorb about 90 fewer calories a day from fat and protein, on average; men going from 18 to 36 grams of fiber absorb about 130 fewer calories. Nutritionists recommend at least 20 to 30 grams of fiber daily.
When you buy salt, choose iodized. Iodine is essential for proper thyroid functioning and for mental development. Iodine was once lacking in the American diet, especially in the Great Lakes region, where deficiency diseases such as goiter (enlarged thyroid) were once common. The introduction of iodized salt in 1922 did much to correct this. There’s no need to take iodine supplements.
Check out the broccoli.
It’s a powerhouse of nutrition. One cup of chopped broccoli supplies the daily requirement of vitamin C, plus beta carotene (and other carotenoids), niacin, calcium, thiamin, vitamin E, and 25% of your daily fiber needs. Not only that, but other substances in broccoli, such as sulforaphane, may also protect against cancer. All this for only 30 calories. And don’t forget other cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, kale, collards, mustard greens, and Brussels sprouts.
Rounding out the top 10 nutrition all-stars among fruits and vegetables, along with broccoli and kale, are cantaloupe, carrots, mangoes, pumpkin, red bell peppers, spinach, strawberries, and sweet potato.
To get less mercury from canned tuna, choose chunk light tuna instead of albacore (solid white)—this is especially important for pregnant women and children. Albacore has, on average, about four times more mercury than chunk light, and some cans of albacore exceed the maximum mercury levels set for women of childbearing age. Most light tuna, which actually is darker than albacore, comes from smaller varieties, and smaller fish tend to have less mercury.
To ward off strokes, eat more fruits.
A large Danish study found that people who ate the most fruit had a 40% lower risk of ischemic stroke, the most common type, compared to those who ate little fruit. Citrus fruits were most protective. The likely protective elements in these foods are vitamin C and flavonoid pigments, plus an array of other antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Add onions and garlic to your tomato sauce. Such allium vegetables, which also include leeks and scallions, may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men who eat them frequently. Scallions seem to be the most protective.
Eat magnesium-rich foods: they may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, according to a Swedish study. Good sources of magnesium include nuts, beans, some fish, whole grains, spinach, and other leafy greens, and dark chocolate. 33. When cooking hamburgers, don’t judge doneness by the color inside. Burgers that look brown in the center may not be cooked through and thus may be unsafe to eat. Cook burgers to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C).