10 guilt-free foods you can add to your diet

June 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Affordably delicious and surprisingly healthful: 10 foods you can add back to your diet without guilt! Amy Albert, senior associate editor of Bon Appetit Magazine, shares her finds.

Every month, Bon Appétit features a column called "Health Wise," where we offer a guide to eating healthfully while still enjoying your food. It's designed to help our readers make sense of nutritional information that can sometimes be hard to decipher.

1. BACON

· Jennifer McLagan, author of Fat, tells us that 45% of the fat in bacon is monosaturated - which is a good-for-you-fat that can actually help lower bad cholesterol levels.

· This fat is the same fat found in olive oil (called oleic acid) - so our argument is that bacon is about half as good for you as olive oil and twice as delicious!

· Of course, it's not a free ride - moderation is key and you should seek out artisanal varieties without preservatives.

· Also remember that when cooking with bacon, a little goes a long way - sometimes you just need one slice to spice up a pot of soup. Or use it as a yummy garnish for fish or sautéed greens.

2. WHOLE MILK

· Whole milk can be good for you - the saturated milk fats you find in whole milk may help us absorb calcium better, and contains big helpings of vitamins A and D. In fact, milk producers are required by the government to fortify low-fat and skim milk with synthetic vitamins that are found naturally in whole milk.

· Other studies have found that low-fat diets can actually be counterproductive to weight loss - so having some fat from whole milk can be good for you. In a Swedish study, researchers found that women who ate one serving of whole milk or cheese a day put on less weight than women who ate these foods less often. · Another study suggested that one or more servings of whole milk a day may even enhance a woman's fertility

3. PINE NUTS

· You find about 11 grams of protein in about one half cup of pine nuts.

· They are also loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants and pinolenic acid, a natural appetite suppressant - which will help you eat less.

· And if you are worried about fat in nuts, a 2003 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found little evidence that eating nuts causes weight gain; some evidence actually pointed to weight maintenance.

· Here's how you can use them in your cooking: Pine nuts are a terrifically easy way to add a little flavor, richness, and texture to everything from last-minute salads to weeknight pastas

4. DUCK BREAST

· Although duck has a decadent reputation, this doesn't make it a bad thing to cook at home every once and a while.

· It has a thick layer of fat under the skin - but duck fat is considered to be among the healthiest of animal fast. With 63% unsaturated fat, it beats out beef and is right up there with chicken. And it is absolutely delicious! So you shouldn't be afraid to splurge on duck breast every now and then.

· A great way to cook it: Score the skin and sauté it skin side down to render out much of the fat, and sprinkle with sea salt.

· We also have a great recipe for Seared Duck Breast in the June issue

5. WATERCRESS

· All greens are good for you, but watercress is especially healthful.

· A 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that watercress has a high enough antioxidant count to make a measurable difference in reducing DNA damage to our white blood cells (a precursor to many forms of cancer).

· Eating watercress has also been found to consistently lower elevated blood triglyceride levels, a risk factor for heart disease.

· Watercress tossed with a Dijon vinaigrette is a perfect accompaniment to a grilled grass-fed skirt steak (or even duck breast!).

6. CANNELLINI BEANS

· These are a pantry staple - and are budget-friendly, versatile, and incredible good for you.

· Beans have cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, potassium and magnesium that can help regulate blood pressure.

· Plus, their complex carbs and protein help keep you feeling full (so you aren't temped to snack 30 mins after dinner).

· All beans are good for you, but cannellinis are especially great - they are building blocks for delicious soups, salads, sides and appetizers.

· The best place to buy beans is somewhere that moves them in large quantities so you know they haven't been sitting around.

7. LEEKS

· Did you know that one medium-sized leek can contain more fiber than a bran muffin? Leeks are an incredible source of dietary fiber.

· They also have tons of folic acid, iron, potassium, vitamin C, and cancer-fighting antioxidants.

· They are incredible versatile to cook with as well - use them in potato-leek soup, try them in place of celery in stock and stew recipes, or slow-braise them for a great side dish for roasted meats.

8. ANCHOVIES

· Small, oily fish from cold northern seas - like anchovies - contain a high concentration of omega-3s with a minimum of mercury.

· These omega-3 fatty acids have been recommended by doctors for protection against everything from heart disease to depression.

· Anchovies have just as much omega-3 as salmon and nearly twice as much as halibut.

· Although the serving sizes aren't the same, anchovies can add incredible depth of flavor to a wide variety of dishes - from pastas to salads to homemade mayonnaise.

· So you can easily get some omega-3's in surprising and delicious ways.

9. FRESH STRAWBERRIES

· When it comes to healthful eating, scientists have discovered that color is key.

· Brightly colored fruits and vegetables (like strawberries) contain the highest levels of phytonutrients - powerful disease-fighting compounds.

· A study conducted at the University of Illinois found that strawberries may fight inflammation, cancer-causing compounds, and may even be capable of suppressing the progression of tumors

10. BUCKWHEAT

· Most people think that buckwheat is a grain, but it is actually an herb that's related to rhubarb and sorrel.

· It contains all the essential amino acids, B vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium, iron zinc, copper and manganese, and a fatty acid critical to good health.

· It has 4.5 grams of dietary fiber in every cup - so it's up there in nutrition with granola.

· You can eat buckwheat in soba noodles, French-style crepes, or use buckwheat flour to make pancakes.

· Because it's high-protein, you will be getting a low-glycemic index meal that won't leave you hungry an hour later.

Visit bonappetit.com for tons of recipes that use all of these ingredients.


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