A to Z Foods for Better Health

Here's my A to Z food guide, featuring one healthy food for each letter of the alphabet that you can incorporate into your life for better health.

Apples. High in fiber, vitamin C and potassium, apples contain flavanoids such as quercetin, which protect brain cells from free radical damage that lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

Beans. Rich in iron, protein and magnesium, beans are a great starter for meatless meals. For better digestibility, beans should be rinsed and soaked prior to cooking.

Chicken. With a mild flavor that lends itself to infinite variations, chicken is a great source of protein without a lot of saturated fat or calories. You can’t beat the convenience of pre-cooked boneless, skinless organic chicken breasts.

Dandelion Greens. High in vitamin A and with more calcium than a cup of cottage cheese, dandelion greens are named for their toothed leaves (dent de lion comes from old French meaning “lion’s tooth”) and are a mild laxative that stimulates digestion.

Eggs. Since our body doesn’t make Omega 3’s (a fatty acid that keeps our brain and eyes healthy), we need to get them from foods such as eggs. For maximum benefit, buy organic eggs from pastured hens that aren’t fed corn or soybeans.

Flax Seed. Containing both insoluble and soluble fiber, flax seed acts like a sponge in the large intestine to help prevent constipation and promote regular bowel movements. Try adding a small amount to salads or smoothies!

Garlic. The healing properties of this vegetable include the ability to reduce blood pressure and use its antiseptic qualities to stimulate digestion and relieve gastrointestinal inflammation. Its history dates back to early civilization as the pyramid builders were given garlic for endurance and strength.

Hominy. Low in fat with no sodium, this dried corn is high in folate, iron, selenium and thiamin. It’s commonly used to make grits, a classic Southern comfort food.

Ice Cream. Okay, so you can’t be healthy all the time! If you’re going to indulge, go for the super premium, high fat version -- you’ll be satisfied with a smaller quantity. Try to find one made with local and organic ingredients.

Jicama. Rich in beta carotene and vitamin C but low in fat and cholesterol, jicama also helps lower homocysteine levels (an amino acid that increases the risk of heart disease by damaging the lining of blood cells).

Kale. We’ve all heard that we need to eat more green, leafy vegetables, right? Kale offers an alternate source of calcium for people who are lactose intolerant and is also a good source of vitamin K, which helps strengthen bones.

Lemon Juice. Once used by the ancient Romans as a cure for poison, lemon juice mixed with hot water can relieve heartburn, combat nausea and help flush harmful bacteria and toxins from the body.

Millet. A small, yellow grain-like seed, millet is a gluten-free alternative for those with Celiac disease or food sensitivities. It’s high in B vitamins and can be used as a hot cereal like oatmeal.

Nuts. Monounsaturated fat. Polyunsaturated fat. You know, the “healthy fats.” Just one or two tablespoons of nuts with each meal helps activate your metabolism and also gives you magnesium, zinc and potassium.

Olive Oil. Called “liquid gold” by the Greek philosopher Homer, olive oil is another example of “healthy fat.” Try expeller or cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, which is made without the use of chemicals, colorings or preservatives.

Pineapple. I like to use this tropical fruit as a compliment to tilapia and chicken, as it contains a protein digesting enzyme called bromelain. And you can often find it already sliced into bite-sized pieces, what can be easier than that?

Quinoa. Known as “the gold of the Incas,” this South American whole grain (pronounced “keen-wa”) is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids our bodies need to grow and repair tissues. Use it as a substitute for rice or couscous.

Raspberries. Just thinking about these small, ruby colored nuggets of sweetness makes you think about summer, doesn’t it? Raspberries, eaten at the peak of freshness, are an exceptionally tasty fruit that is low in calories and high in fiber. They also contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant important for female health.

Salmon. Another excellent source of heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids, salmon is mild tasting for those who don’t like seafood tasting too “fishy.” Be sure to look for the wild caught Alaskan variety, as farmed salmon often contains high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a toxic chemical that can produce serious side effects for our immune and reproductive systems.

Tomatoes. Another extremely versatile choice, bright red tomatoes (technically a fruit) contain the antioxidants lycopene and beta carotene and preserve their nutritional benefits whether you’re eating them fresh as a condiment, using canned variations as a base for soups or stirring this red sauce into your favorite pasta for a quick meal.

Umami. Most people are familiar with the four major tastes: salty, sweet, sour and bitter. Umami, meaning “good flavor” in Japanese, is known as the fifth taste and adds the savoriness to Asian foods including shellfish, soy sauce and seaweed.

Vinegar. A shorter list would be one that this all-purpose acidic liquid doesn’t do. Use it to soothe a sunburn, clean out drains, remove salt from suede and leather shoes or drink apple cider vinegar diluted in water as an antacid.

Wild Rice. With its nutty flavor, wild rice (actually a type of marsh grass) is low glycemic, which means it doesn’t raise your blood sugar as fast as other starchy carbohydrates.

Xigua. An ancient form of watermelon, xigua is a refreshing source of vitamin C, beta carotene and lycopene. You can trace its roots back to ancient Egypt as xigua seeds were reportedly found in Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb!

Yogurt. Look for Greek yogurt with live active cultures, which not only contains a healthy dose of probiotics supporting digestive health, but is also a go-to snack rich in calcium and protein that can be blended with fresh fruit, granola, nuts, cinnamon, honey…the possibilities are endless!

Zucchini. A member of the squash family, zucchini contains beneficial amounts of fiber and its mild taste lends itself as a nearly invisible addition to stir fries, salads or casseroles. As it’s 95% water, it’s low in calories but high in vitamin C.

If this list seems overwhelming, start small! Add a couple to your next shopping list and prepare to reap the benefits of nature’s bounty. Bon appétit!

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