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By Alice Lesch Kelly
| November 18, 2019
Taking care of your health probably sits high on your list of priorities. You want to feel good enough to enjoy your life, and you want to lower your risk of chronic health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
One of the best ways to care for yourself is to eat a healthy diet. Unfortunately, though, knowing exactly which foods are best for your health can pose a real challenge, especially as grocery stores increase their health-promoting product offerings and options accommodating alternative diets such as gluten-free, dairy-free, and plant-focused.
If you’re focused on healthy eating, you know an apple is better for you than apple pie. No secret there. But making the smartest choice in a category of nutritious foods—in other words, choosing the healthiest of the healthy—can be bewildering, especially when you’re in the grocery store facing a wall of choices that all have nutritional bona fides. Just figuring out which bread to buy can leave you scratching your head.
“The grocery store can be overwhelming,” says Elizabeth Avery, a registered dietitian at Avery Nutrition in Boston. “But once you know what to look for and what to avoid, shopping becomes easier and more enjoyable.”
Feeling confused about how to make the healthiest healthy-food choices? Here are some tips to help you out.
Milk: Follow the nutrients
“Milk” used to refer to cow’s milk. But these days, milk is as likely to come from a plant as a cow. As milk choices proliferate, it’s important to know that not all milks offer equal health benefits, says Joan Salge Blake, a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University.
“Fat-free cow’s milk gives you a lot of bang for your nutritional buck,” Blake says. It contains calcium, vitamin D, and potassium—three nutrients that many people don’t get enough of, as well as protein, without any heart-harming saturated fat.
But not everyone wants to drink cow’s milk, whether because of allergies, veganism, or environmentalism. If you prefer plant-based milks you have many choices; unfortunately, though, not all plant-based milks pour the same nutrients as cow’s milk. For example, oat milk, rice milk, and nut milk (and the foods made from them, such as yogurt) typically have far less protein than cow’s milk or soymilk. And some plant-based oat, rice, and nut milks contain significant amounts of added sugar.
If you’re avoiding dairy, soymilk is the healthiest alternative, Blake says. To get the benefits of cow’s milk without the downsides, choose unsweetened soymilk fortified with calcium and vitamin D for optimal benefits.
Protein: Skip the hype
Protein helps your body in many ways, including keeping your muscles and bones healthy. You can get protein from animal sources, such as lean meat, fish, and poultry, or plant sources, such as soy, beans, lentils, and nuts.
But wait—you’ve probably been seeing trendy plant-based burgers, such as the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Meat Burger, in grocery stores. Are they really better than other protein foods?
Don’t believe the hype, Blake says. Not only are these meat substitutes highly processed, but they contain saturated fat, which raises the type of cholesterol that’s linked to heart disease. Plus, they can be pricey. “I’d rather you spend your money on fruits and vegetables,” Blake says.
If you eat animal foods, you can build a healthy burger with lean ground beef, ground white-meat poultry, or fish such as salmon or tuna. Make it even more nutritious by nestling it on a whole-grain bun and topping it with piles of fresh vegetables. And if you’re a vegetarian, Blake says, bean- or soy-based veggie burgers make more sense than the latest faux-meat burgers.
Grains and bread: Go whole
Grains are an excellent source of fiber, which aids healthy digestion, makes you feel fuller longer, and can improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels. But to get the most benefit from grains, make sure to choose whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, bulgur, and barley instead of refined grains such as white rice and white pasta, which have most of their nutrients removed during the refining process.
“Too many people cut down on grains to lose weight, and they end up missing out on fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, protein, anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, and excellent sources of energy for the brain and body,” Avery says.
When it comes to bread, choose brands with 100% whole wheat or other whole grain as the first ingredient and at least 3-5 grams of fiber per serving, says Lainey Younkin, registered dietitian at Boston-based Lainey Younkin Nutrition. “Breads with oats, nuts, and seeds are great, too, because they have more fiber, as well as protein. Ezekiel 4:9 Bread and Dave’s Killer Bread are my favorites.”
And don’t bother with gluten-free bread unless you have to. “There is no health benefit to eating gluten-free foods unless you have celiac disease or gluten-related intolerance,” Avery says. Generally, gluten-free breads have less fiber, more fat, and a higher price than gluten breads.
Fats: Protect your heart
Advice about dietary fats seems to change nearly every day. One day you hear that olive and avocado are best; the next, someone sings the praises of coconut or palm. And then there’s butter. Which is healthiest?
“The research shows time and time again that those who regularly consume olive oil have decreased inflammation in the body and reduced risk of chronic diseases” such as heart disease and stroke, Younkin says. Avocado oil is also a healthy choice, but for heart health, limit your intake of butter, coconut oil, and palm oil.
Keep foods fresher longer
Once you bring healthy foods home from the grocery store, you can help keep them fresh by storing them properly. Foods that require refrigeration taste best and stay fresher longer when stored in Bosch’s new line of refrigerators, which offer dual-compressor, dual-evaporator technology that maximizes freshness and minimizes food waste by precisely calibrating temperature and humidity.
Refrigerators with dual compressors—one for the refrigerator and one for the freezer—offer a big advantage over single-compressor units because they deliver more precise temperature control throughout the refrigerator.
“With two compressors, you don’t get air transfer between the freezer and refrigerator,” says Dave Murray, a Massachusetts-based Bosch dealer and part of the New England Appliance Group. Not only does this help keep food fresher, but it prevents the transfer of odors from aromatic foods.
Refrigerators with dual evaporators keep humidity lower in the freezer, where dryer air benefits frozen food, and higher in the refrigerator, where moister air helps keep produce fresher. “Water retention is a very important part of keeping food fresh,” Murray says.
So forget the fads, ignore the hype, and fill your refrigerator with the freshest, healthiest, most delicious foods that can help protect your health and quality of life.
To bring the latest Bosch appliances into your kitchen, visit a certified independent retailer near you using the locator map below. A variety of Fresh by design™ fridges, to keep your quality foods fresher for longer, are now available. Learn more at Bosch.com.
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