Low in calories, high in satisfaction, and down-right delicious (who can say no to a perfectly ripe peach in summer or a steaming bowl of bean soup on a snowy winter evening?), Fruits, vegetables, and legumes deserve a starring role on your plate. Eat them to your heart’s content, suggests Dr. Willcox, one of the lead researchers for the Okinawa Longevity Study. “I never limit produce or legumes,” he says. “When I’m hungry, I’ll have some ripe pineapple or strawberries. I don’t count my servings of legumes, either. They’re higher in calories but so satisfying that you really can’t overdo it, as long as you watch the added fat.”
This is a very important point, worth reiterating. As long as you don’t use lots of oil or high-calorie add-ins, you can healthily eat as much fruit, vegetables, and beans as you wish. No Limit! (The exceptions are people who have diabetes or are prone to big blood sugar swings; then sweet fruit should be eaten in greater moderation.)
Beans in particular are antioxidant super-stars. When researchers analyzed the antioxidant concentration in more than 100 foods, small red beans can in first, followed by red kidney beans and pinto beans in second and third place, respectively. And beans are packed with fiber and are a terrific source of protein. No single food can help you fulfill the Long Life Eating guidelines as well as beans.
But let’s not undersell vegetables! You can’t go wrong if you shop in season. Just-ripe fruits and veggies have the highest levels of vitamins and antioxidants; levels decline as produce sits on the shelf. And don’t assume that raw is better than cooked. Some phytochemicals are actually more available for absorption when vegetables are processed, such as the prostate-protecting lycopene in tomato sauce and the carotenoids in lightly steams spinach and carrots.
Don’t shy away from convenience produce either, says dietitian and physician Dr. Gerbstadt. “Prepackaged, single-serving bags of baby carrots or raisins are one serving, and they’re ready to go,” she says. “Other options include half-cup servings of fruit in juice, available in the canned fruit section. Even fruit-roll ups count if they are all fruit. So do all-fruit pops – just look for the brands that are 99 percent fruit and have very little sugar; I’ve seen some with just 4 grams per pop.”
Take for instance, Whole Fruit brand Strawberry Fruit bars. These frozen bars are made with whole strawberries and they are the real deal. 1 bar clocks in at only 70 calories and Real Strawberries are the top ingredient. Other brand we love is Outshine’s Fruit & Vegetable bars, especially the Blueberry Medley. These have the best of both worlds because not only do they have blueberry and apple puree and real pear juice, these frozen treats also contain beet juice and sweet potato puree for added vitamins and nutrients and some natural sweetness. Once you try them, you’ll never be able to go back!
So I hope you have gotten a few great ideas of how to work these super foods into your diet. My favorite is the Fruit pops. I am going to pick some up today for a great after dinner healthy treat!
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