These good-for-you foods also taste great—try them in recipes from the cookbook.
MEN'S FITNESS Editors 1 / 16
Sure, we all eat ten tons of it on Thanksgiving, but have you really given turkey more thought? Loaded with B vitamins, potassium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc, turkey is a powerhouse in the protein department. One 3.5 oz serving (about the size of a deck of cards) of skinless turkey breast packs 30 grams of protein – and only 161 calories and 4 measly grams of fat. Also, switch up your chicken routine and opt for turkey when you need to catch up on some zzz’s – it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that triggers serotonin production for a restful sleep.
Remember when you dreaded eating oatmeal in the morning as a kid? Turns out your parents knew a thing or two about heart health—oatmeal is filled with high levels of soluble fibe, which lowers your risk of heart disease by trapping and expelling cholesterol from your arteries. It also keeps you fuller longer, can help promote weight loss, boosts your immunity, and fights stress. Make sure you stick to the big tub of oats rather than the small instant oatmeal to make sure you’re not getting any added sugar that you don’t need and you’re golden Ponyboy.
This versatile food staple is one you can’t leave out of your diet—especially the yolks. Most of the 13 different vitamins and half of the protein in an egg are found in the yolk, so don’t go overboard with the egg white craze. Amino acids found in eggs also are converted into muscle, skin, collagen, and other body tissue more efficiently than the proteins from any other food you eat. Studies show that people who eat eggs in the morning have an easier time avoiding excessive caloric intake during the day. If that’s not enough to convince you, two eggs provide nearly half your daily quota for choline, which basically helps you to remember things—like your anniversary, bro.
Rich in omega-3s, salmon has the capability to reduce stress and anxiety by more than 20%, according to researchers at Ohio State University. What does that mean for you? Less stress—leaner body. With 48 grams of protein per eight-ounce serving, salmon should be a major staple for any healthy diet. Just wrap a seasoned filet in foil and pop it in the oven for a quick and delicious meal. That’s how easy it is to fend off stress.
Everyone’s favorite creamy addition to any meal, avocados are a guiltless pleasure that actually have some real benefits. According to the CDC, avocado eaters are healthier than those who don’t indulge in its fatty goodness. Avocado enthusiasts rejoice because chances are you adhere more closely to dietary guidelines, have significantly higher intakes of certain nutrients, weigh about 7.4 pounds less than your non-avocado-eater counterparts, and have 50% lower odds of developing metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. As if you needed a reason to eat it every day.
Chicken, chicken the magical protein. It’s the superfood staple that never goes out of style. A lean, mean fighting machine, coming in at only 142 calories and 3 grams of fat for a 3 oz. cooked chicken breast—you won't get bored of the stuff with these recipes.
Although it may not be the favorite among broccoli die-hards, cauliflower is actually a great option for those looking to cut their carb intake. At only 27 calories a cup, this powerful veggie should make a regular appearance on your plate. Being low-cal is cool and all, but it also is chock-full of vitamin C, potassium, and the mineral boron, which is believed to be an aid in building muscle and increasing testosterone levels. See? Cauliflower can be manly.
Yeah, we know. It makes your pee smell. Now that we got that out of the way we can focus on the insane benefits of this stalky veg, one of which is asparagine. This amino acid prevents fluid retention, ensuring you look as buff as humanly possible while also helping to lower your risk of high blood pressure. Just 12 cooked stalks of asparagus supply your entire recommended daily dose of vitamin K, which is necessary for maintaining healthy bones as well as proper blood clotting and circulation. What else you ask? Asparagus is one of the few natural sources of the antioxidant glutathione—it defends your cells’ DNA against damage, detoxifies pollutants, kills carcinogens, and decreases inflammation.
Another protein-packed creature of the ocean, tuna is easily accessible to the general public, whether bought in cans, pouches, jars, or chilling on ice at the fish counter. What’s great about the chicken of the sea is that there is a multitude of ways to prepare it. Not only that but a 3.5-ounce serving has 30 grams of lean protein in it, along with a dose of potassium, B12, and selenium. Stick to tuna packaged in water versus oil and opt for light tuna, which is lower in mercury than the darker varieties. For tuna steaks, avoid any with brown spots or a rainbow sheen.
We’re not talking about the ones smothered with brown sugar and butter that you eat at Thanksgiving. No, sweet potatoes deserve to be treated better than that – they’re full of vitamin E and rich in carotenoids, or plant compounds that nix cell damage resulting from everyday living and challenging physical activity like pumping iron. A medium sweet potato can account for 10% of your daily fiber needs and as for your muscles, the copper found in these sweet tubers assists in the production of connective tissue, including collagen. With spring season in the works, sweet potatoes may actually have the ability to help you breathe easier and ward off allergies.
It’s perfectly OK to indulge in red meats every now and then—as long as you stick to leaner cuts. Opting for a skirt steak not only decreases the calories, but it’s also an excellent source of protein. And just one serving supplies 15 percent of your daily iron intake. Now get on that grill and savor the charcoal aroma.
Oh, the craze that is quinoa. But let’s be real, it has every reason to be. The gluten-free seed—yes it’s a seed not a grain—is a great source of protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. The nutty flavor makes it a great compliment to creamy foods like avocado, winter squash or buttery cheeses. You can use it as a replacement for rice or add it to your favorite stir-fry, soup or salad. It’s an amazing source of antioxidants and heart-healthy fatty acids, so jump on the quinoa trend because it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
Garden-fresh tomatoes that burst with flavor are one of summertime’s most abundant gifts to man. We could rave all day about their incredible taste, but one medium tomato provides you with more than a quarter of your vitamin C per day, and it’s also full of vitamin E and beta-carotene. Replenish your electrolytes and lower your blood pressure with a handful of cherry tomatoes. And let us not forget the power of lycopene, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation and may decrease your risk of stroke. An apple a day is nice, but a tomato a day could be better.
If you’re looking for ways to up your calcium intake but don’t want to go the dairy route, look no further than bok choy. It’s calcium content is on par with kale and mustard greens, but has a milder flavor. It’s easy to toss in a soup or a stir-fry, or you can use it as a low-cal base for your lean protein by steaming it.
Commonly overlooked in the grocery store, flaxseed is actually a great source of protein and fiber for your diet. It comes in a variety of forms (oil, ground, whole.) But it's also a major disease-fighter. Flaxseed may be an effective way to decrease the risk factors involved with liver disease. It can even reduce your risk for skin cancer, as long as you continue to use sunscreen. Other benefits include lowering blood pressure, helping to ease depression, and lowering cholesterol.
These little green peppers are packed with a ton of tongue-scorching heat, but what you may not know is that a special ingredient found in the peppers, called capsaicin, may help prevent weight gain. Studies have also found that people who eat a lot of chili peppers have a lower incidence of prostate cancer, most likely due to carotenoids and flavonoids which help to eliminate damaging free radicals. Chop them up and toss them in your homemade salsa or add them to a hearty soup.