While bouts of modest calorie restriction are both healthy (for longevity) and an occasional tool for fat loss, the reality is...
Food is fuel.
It nourishes us, sustains us and protects us from disease.
The heart of the obesity epidemic (1 in 3 Americans are clinically obese) lies less in the amount of food being eaten, and more in what is being shoveled down our gullets.
This seems like common sense, but actually it's not... Most people believe that "moderation" (i.e. quantity) is more important than quality when it comes to being lean and healthy.
And they're wrong.
To be healthy, lean and strong, you cannot avoid food, but, instead, you must eat foods that nourish, strengthen and protect your body... and eat it frequently.
You need to reset your paradigm from "avoid bad food" to "eat good food".
So, the question is, what constitutes "good food"?
Here's a list of 11 not just "good" foods, but downright "super" foods that you should eat often and in substantial quantities to get lean, strong and healthy...
Replace a good portion of your current grocery list with these 11 power foods, and watch your endurance, strength and leanness rise to new levels.
Top 11 Super Foods
1. Greek Yogurt
I'm leading off with this because I'm partial to protein-packed foods. :)
Greek yogurt is like ordinary yogurt on steroids... This isn't the frou-frou stuff soccer moms pack in their kids' lunches with princess colorings and the like.
Because it's strained, Greek yogurt contains double the (high quality) protein of regular yogurt, along with less carbohydrates and virtually zero lactose.
It also has a much higher concentration of probiotics (live and active cultures).
And you can't beat the versatility of Greek yogurt. It's relatively heat-resistant so you can cook with it, or you can toss it in a protein shake/smoothie to improve taste and texture, or simply eat it plain.
2. Coconut Oil (Organic, Virgin or Unrefined)
Despite a history of getting something of a bad rap (because of its saturated fat content and the researchers' terrible study design), recent studies confirm what bodybuilders and other athletes have believed for years: coconut oil is healthy.
The saturated fats in coconut oil are composed of "medium-chain triglycerides" (MCTs), which are natural fats with an array of benefits, including fat loss (by improving insulin sensitivity).
Coconut oil's list of benefits is not small:
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Enhances your immune system
- Has antibiotic properties
- Improves your metabolism (by increasing "thermogenesis")
- Improves digestion
- Is a powerful antioxidant
Like Greek yogurt, it's extremely versatile.
I've often mixed it in protein shakes, and cook with it daily... (Try using it in place of butter for pan frying... heat doesn't lessen it's health benefits.)
3. Shiitake Mushrooms
Mushrooms contain a number of important vitamins and minerals, including the mineral zinc, which is a powerful regulator of testosterone in men. Studies have shown that natural testosterone can increase up to 20% by simply supplementing with enough zinc to eliminate the common deficiency among Americans.
But there's much more to this super food.
Shiitake mushrooms exhibit some remarkable anti-viral and anti-cancer properties, most notably through a sugar they contain called Lentinan.
Lentinan extract has been approved in Japan for over 30 years as a treatment for cancer because of its ability to shrink tumors, which it does by stimulating your body's production of certain lymphocytes and other cellular defenders.
4. Grass-Fed Beef
Most beef sold in the States is corn-fed.
This is why that's bad:
Beef from corn-fed cattle has been shown, in numerous studies, to exhibit an Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acid profile of 20 to 1.
That's not good considering that most scientists agree that the optimal ratio, the one that factored into human evolution, is around 1 to 1.
An acceptable ratio, to maintain proper health, is approximately 3 to 1.
Well, it turns out that grass-fed cattle produce beef that exhibits an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of about 3 or 4 to 1.
And, considering that in the modern American diet, Omega-6 fats are grossly outweighing Omega-3's, producing a host of negative health consequences (such as low-testosterone in men), this is a big deal.
The optimal ratio can help prevent hypertension, coronary artery disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and more.
You'll spend a bit more on grass-fed beef, but the health advantages are well worth it.
Blueberries are incredibly concentrated in antioxidants.
In fact, they contain more antioxidants than any other known fruit or vegetable!
Studies conclude that just one cup a day is enough to produce a powerful antioxidant effect the reduces your risk for cancer, cardiovascular and degenerative eye diseases.
Interestingly, because blueberries are not heavily treated with pesticides, virtually any form of them will produce the desired effect. Dried, frozen or fresh will do the job.
Avocados are chock full of healthy monounsaturated fats, which lower "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and raise "good" (HDL) cholesterol, which leads to a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
In fact, avocados have been shown in studies to lower bad cholesterol by 22% in as little as one week in subjects with high HDL cholesterol!
They also contain:
- beta-sitosterol, which protects your prostate
- lutein, which protects your eyes and skin
I like to use avocado on burgers because of it's "buttery" texture... It alleviates the need for less healthy toppings in order to get the right consistency.
Beans are remarkable for their high concentrations of fiber, calcium, B-vitamins and "anthocyanins", which are the phytochemical pigments giving various fruits their trademark colors.
Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants believed to offer protection against a great number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cognitive (brain) decline and cancer.
Also, beans are believed to lower your risk for prostate cancer.
8. Wild Salmon
Notice this is "wild" salmon, which refers to salmon raised in the wild, such as Alaska, rather than raised by man.
Like the beef discussion above, the dramatic difference in health benefits between wild and farm-raised salmon comes down to their food source (farm-raised are also fed corn and other grains, while wild salmon eat other fish, squid, eels, etc.), which alters the fatty acid profile of their yields.
Wild salmon is high in Omega-3's, and salmon oil lowers your risk of coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, cancer, degenerative eye disease and more.
It also reduces inflammation and boosts your metabolism.
Speaking of Omega-3's, walnuts are one of the richest sources of plant-derived (vs. animal-derived) Omega-3 fatty acids.
They also contain a high level of plant sterols, which lower cholesterol, and the amino acid arginine, which keeps your blood vessels healthy.
Put all this together, and you can understand why walnuts are extremely heart-healthy.
Plus, they contain high amounts of copper and - this is a big one - magnesium.
Why is magnesium so important?
Well, for one, Americans are often deficient in it. But also, because magnesium, like zinc mentioned above, plays a crucial role in natural testosterone production in men.
Diets high in magnesium go a long way toward ensuring healthy testosterone levels in men over 30.
Proving that there is no particular order to this list, cabbage is one of the most powerful known vegetables for preventing cancer and promoting health.
It consists of an array of important phytochemicals including indoles, isothiocynates, sulforaphane and disthiolethiones.
These nutrients wage war against breast cancer, prostate cancer and environmental toxins.
The indoles, in particular, also improve estrogen metabolism and support healthy testosterone in men.
- contains lots of fiber
- prevents heart disease
- is anti-inflammatory
- is a natural source of the amino acid glutamine
By the way...
Kale, which has become popular recently, is a type of cabbage often compared to spinach, but with a higher ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) rating, which measures antioxidant power.
Broccoli, like cabbage, is high in indoles, which as noted, improves estrogen metabolism and promotes increases in free (bioactive) testosterone in men.
It also prevents cancer like a champion.
A study in the early-90's at Johns Hopkins found that eating broccoli prevented tumor development by a shocking 60%, and even more incredible, reduced the size of existing tumors by 75%.
Broccoli also build stronger bones, boosts your immune system, prevents degenerative eye diseases, and reduces birth defects.
Your Grocery List
Obviously, the point of the above list isn't to suggest that you need to eat everything on it... (Although you'd be smart to do that.)
However, it's a great place to start when making your weekly grocery list, and if you start incorporating these super foods into your weekly diet, you'll quickly find that it's easy and satisfying to do.
And if your goal is to get lean (or make "race weight") while preserving muscle, simply replacing the less nourishing foods in your current diet with the super foods above - without necessarily eating less - will enable you to drop that unwanted fat in no time.