Healthy Food No. 1: Leafy greens continued...
The most nutritious and fiber-filled greens, Cross tells WebMD, include kale (ranked highest in antioxidants in a Human Nutrition Research Center study), mustard greens, broccoli rabe, bok choy, Swiss chard, and of course, good old broccoli and spinach (iceberg lettuce, on the other hand, contains almost no nutrients and precious little fiber, Cross says).
The dark leafies are even prewashed now in some cases, adds Tanya M. Horacek, PhD, RD, associate professor at Syracuse University, making them easier to use.
Leafy greens, which run the gamut from deep green and smooth-leafed, to crinkled and lacy, can be prepared many ways, Cross says:
- Saute some onion or garlic in butter or canola oil and wilt the chopped greens in the sauce until softened. This is a great side dish. Or you can combine the sauce with bacon chips (made of soy) for a wilted salad (turnip greens are tougher, she warns, plan to cook rather than wilt those).
- Try some crispy, flavorful leaf veggies on your next sandwich, in lieu of the rusty-looking iceberg. Cross says she made a sandwich with meatloaf and cooked kale and although her husband looked skeptical, he ate it.
- Prepare your own mesclun, the pricy field greens mix so beloved of French bistros, by combining romaine, some soft Boston lettuce, and a small amount of arugula, and lace it with olive oil vinaigrette.
Greens can be a little bitter -- it's the all-important phytochemicals (plant chemicals) -- so don't be afraid to use some dressing.
Healthy Food No. 2: Olive oil
Another powerhouse food is olive oil, which just happens to pair perfectly with leafy dark-green veggies. Don't forget all the outdoorsy, energetic Mediterranean people who swear by an olive oil-based diet.
The term "extra virgin" basically means least processed. Olive oil not only doesn't cling to arteries, narrowing them, as do some saturated fats, but it contains powerful antioxidants called polyphenols found in many teas. Polyphenols can help keep some cells, such as those which cause breast and colon cancer, from warping and causing trouble.
One study done in Greece showed that the incidence of breast cancer was cut by as much as 12% in people who ate a lot of vegetables and that regular consumption of olive oil also seemed to confer protection.