If the phrase “Meatless Monday” has you staring blankly into your fridge, take heart. There may already be a few “power foods” lurking in there that can help you get your week off to a healthy start, says nutritionist Lynda McIntytre.
Avocado, beans, berries, broccoli, eggs, leeks, nuts, oats, spinach and yogurt make the top ten power list for McIntyre, R.D., L.D., a clinical dietician specialist at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, along with spices such as cinnamon, ginger and turmeric.
“Power foods are foods that naturally contain vitamins, minerals and other nutritional benefits,” McIntyre explains. “They can energize you, boost your immune system and help you ward off disease. And incorporating these foods into your diet is a simple way to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
McIntyre works with cancer patients before and after their diagnoses, and she recommends these power foods to them to help prevent cancer recurrence. But a diet full of these power foods contains the kinds of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components that nutritionists also recommend to prevent other illnesses including diabetes, stroke, and heart disease, she says. Antioxidants in foods like blueberries, for instance, help to subdue damaging molecules in the body called free radicals that can make cells more vulnerable to cancer or heart disease.
And if you’re thinking a multivitamin might provide all these benefits without a trip to the produce section, think again, says McIntyre. “Eating the whole food insures that you are getting all the vitamins, minerals, fiber and nutrients important to health. It’s the synergy of all the nutrients in whole foods that work together to improve health.”
McIntyre’s power list has a few items that might surprise you, like eggs. “In the not-so-recent past, eggs were thought to increase cholesterol, but recent studies have proven this wrong,” she says. “Eggs are a power food that is versatile, inexpensive and a perfect source of protein for a Meatless Monday.”
“More people should include avocado in their diets regularly,” she adds. “Many people don’t include this food because they believe they are high in fat and therefore not healthy. But the fat in avocado is a very healthy form of fat, and eating this food with other power foods--like carrots dipped in guacamole, for example—helps increase the absorption of nutrients in those power foods.”
The Meatless Monday idea has been around for a little more than a decade, exploding in popularity and how observed by many in over 36 countries, McIntyre says.
“Meatless Monday is brilliant in its simplicity. It doesn’t ask a lot from you and the benefits to your health, the environment, and your wallet are significant,” McIntyre says. “The idea is simple: don’t eat meat on Mondays. That’s it. It is a small change in the way you eat, just one day a week, that brings about big benefits.”