Snack on this: Proper balance is essential to keep your body operating at maximum efficiency.
If the old adage you are what you eat really does apply —– then don’t look around your office because you may find yourself surrounded by giant tacos, cheeseburgers, slices of pizza and all manner of “fun food.”
But in today’s hectic business environment, having energy and dodging germs in the upcoming flu season would be nice for everyone. A good diet is essential to maintaining overall health. Perhaps even starting with healthier snacks can help provide the balance needed to keep our bodies operating at maximum efficiency.
Next time you reach for something nutritionally challenged, keep some of the following options in mind—super foods so named for their amazing health properties:
Along with sunflower seeds and hazlenuts, almonds are a great source of vitamin E. This vitamin is important to bone health, and with 3.3 million Americans over the age of 50 with osteoporosis, we should consider eating more nuts. In addition, one University of Texas study found that those who consumed the most vitamin E from food alone (7.3 mg or the amount in one ounce of almonds) reduced the risk of bladder cancer by 42 percent. Researchers in Chicago showed that seniors in the top fifth of vitamin E intake from food had a 70 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. An added bonus is almonds increase satiety, helping maintain a healthier body weight.
Throughout the ages, healers have attributed medicinal powers to garlic, and they were right. Chinese scientists have linked garlic oil to improved heart function. It is also beneficial in controlling inflammation in the body, increasing insulin release and regulating blood sugar levels. Garlic’s antibacterial properties have many benefits, and it has been linked to improved iron metabolism.
This fruit packs a big antioxidant punch, and research indicates it may help with the blues! British researchers fed young adults about a cup and a half of blueberries, and then measured effects on mood, memory and decision making. Mood scores rose 15 percent five hours after
consumption. Hard to say what specific mechanism is at work, but previous research has linked anthocyanins in berries with reduced inflammation—a core element in the disease process. And a cup and a half of blueberries will provide nearly 40 percent of needed vitamin C. They also help with bone mass by supplying an abundance of vitamin K.
The frumpy looking mushroom actually towers in terms of its nutritional benefits. These edible fungi supply significant amounts of selenium and riboflavin, both of which play a role in regulating your body’s liver functions. Studies also suggest that mushroom nutrients might help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Low in calories (about 20 per cup), they come in many varieties. Shiitakes are the top source of vitamin B5, a hard-to-get nutrient for neurotransmitter production. Portobellos deliver seven vitamins and minerals, including more than a third of your daily needs for vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and potassium, a mineral needed to help control blood pressure. White mushrooms account for 90 percent of the U.S. mushroom market and have been shown to enhance “natural killer” cells, improving immunity to tumors and disease-causing viruses.
A Native American plant, it was the main source of nourishment for early homesteaders and soldiers during the Revolutionary War. These tuberous roots are among the most nutritious foods in the vegetable kingdom. They are packed with calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium and vitamins A, B6, C and D. Sweet potatoes are correlated to heart health, collagen production, immune enhancement and healthy bones, nerves, skin and teeth.
This fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acid. Just one 4-ounce serving contains at least 2 grams of omega-3 fats— more than the average U.S. adult receives from all food over the course of several days. Salmon is also rich in vitamin D and selenium. Health benefits include a decrease in inflammation, enhanced cognitive function, cancer prevention, eye health and cardiovascular health.
This cruciferous vegetable gets a bad rap in the taste department. Roast with olive oil and some balsamic vinegar and voila! Brussels sprouts are high in vitamins A and C, and fiber. Like other vegetables in the cabbage family, they have phytochemicals that may help prevent certain types of cancer.
OUT TO LUNCH
Lunch can pose significant challenges, whether it’s the power business lunch at a nice restaurant or bringing food in to eat at your desk. The wrong choices and excess calories don’t make for a productive afternoon.
Here are some tips if you are eating lunch in a restaurant:
- Check the numbers. Many restaurant chains now offer nutritional information on their websites. Do the math.
- Ban “bad” carbs. Decline the bread or rolls before they reach the table. If you can’t wait for the entrée, start with a light soup.
- Cut the calories. Ask for dressings, sauces, butter and sour cream on the side so you can control the amount.
- Switch it up. Have a baked potato instead of fries, for example. Substitutions sometimes cost extra, but they are well worth it in the long run.
- Make a request. Ask to have entrees baked or steamed instead of fried, and have creamy sauces replaced by wine- or broth-based versions.
If you choose to bring food from home, gone are the days of boring PB&J sandwiches. You can make a better tasting (and better for you) sandwich in just five minutes:
- Use whole-wheat bread instead of enriched white or wheat breads.
- Whole-wheat tortillas, flatbread and other wraps can hold nearly anything you crave, from simple tuna salad to crisp salads.
- Enjoy leftover home-cooked meats such as chicken breast or lean beef.
- Use light mayo or sodium-reduced condiments sparingly.