Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Few Nutrient Packed Foods You Should Add to Your Diet

Whenever I see lists of foods you "should" eat, I typically cringe. Why? Because I think it is absolutely ridiculous to single out the "Top 10 Foods You Should Eat" (no doubt after I say this some editor is going to ask me to write such a list). Who says blueberries are nutritiously superior to blackberries? Or that spinach contains more antioxidants than my favorite leafy green, arugula. What criteria are these lists based on and what if I don't like the food on there? (FYI: you'd have to pay me to eat spinach unless it is finely chopped and sprinkled on top of pizza so I can't taste it).

Despite my disgust in the "Foods You Should Eat Daily" lists, there are a few nutrition powerhouses that cross my mind as "maybes" as in "maybe one day I'll get up the gusto to try that food." These include liver, oysters and sardines. So when I saw this list on Dr. Oz's website (add clams in there), I felt a bit of shame and guilt for my wuss-like fear of trying new food.

So why are these 3 foods on my mind? All are loaded with iron (which is especially great for non-meat eaters). In fact, as Dr. Oz points out a serving of chicken liver contains 70% of your iron needs for the day and it contains heme iron (the kind your body absorbs more of). Different types of liver contain varying amounts of iron, pork liver contains more than twice the amount found in chicken liver. Liver is also a natural source of vitamin D (which is not found in many foods), packed with vitamin A, B vitamins, copper (very hard to find in food and some trace minerals.

Oysters remind me of one of my basic nutrition classes in college. We had to create one day's worth of food that contained 100% of the daily value of everything we needed. Then we had to do the same thing but we had 3 days to meet that 100% value. That one exercise made me realize that by my estimates, 99.99% of the population does not get what they need from food alone (unless maybe they are loading up on vitamin and mineral fortified foods and beverages). The nutrient hardest to get: copper. So, I added oysters to my mock diet and came out with a winning nutrition plan that I bet no one would ever eat. But, nevertheless, oysters are rich in iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, a few B vitamins, copper, magnesium, calcium, zinc, manganese and phosphorus. One day I swear I'm going to try one of those slimy little creatures.

And last but not least are an Italian favorite, sardines. Sardines are rich in omega 3 fats, vitamin D, a few B vitamins, iron, phosphorus and the trace mineral, selenium.

While all of these "Top 10" type lists contain no-brainer fruits and vegetables, it's also a wise idea to take a look at a variety of types of protein. If your mainstay is chicken, try chicken livers (I did eat my share of these as a kid), oysters and sardines. I promise I too will try oysters and sardines as soon as I get to a good seafood restaurant! Or, I may try a family favorite - sardines on pizza because, after all, if I can eat spinach on pizza, I'm sure I can try sardines!

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