Keeping track of what you eat is not just about counting calories. Although many people use calorie and food trackers as a tool to help them shed excess weight, maintaining a food diary is also a great way to make sure that you’re eating the healthiest, nutrient packed foods. The great news is that so-called “healthy” food need not be boring or medicinal.
In recent weeks, there have been some interesting studies that confirm that some of our favorite foods may, in fact, be good for us. Researchers from Kings College London and the University of East Anglia, both in the U.K., found that compounds called flavonoids found in plant foods may offer protection against diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and even cancer. It was the first large human-scale study to investigate how these “phytochemicals” work inside the human body. In their study of almost 2,000 people, they found that those who consumed high levels of foods rich in these compounds had lower rates of insulin resistance, better blood glucose regulation and lower levels of inflammation. Herbs and vegetables like parsley, thyme and celery are great sources of flavonoids. So are berries, wine, red grapes and chocolate — these foods contain anythocyanins, a particular type of flavonoid present in red or blue colored fruits and vegetables and dark chocolate.
A Finnish study found that eating fatty fish might also protect against diabetes. Researchers found that men with the highest serum concentrations of long chain omega 3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, had the lowest risk for developing diabetes. The best sources of omega 3s include salmon, herring, anchovy, rainbow trout, bream and mackerel. Based on this study, simply eating two to three fatty fish meals a week may help reduce the risk for developing diabetes. One caveat: fatty fish may also contain higher levels of pollutants like mercury, so it’s best not to eat it everyday, and to vary the types of fish that you eat during the week.
Love nuts but were worried about their fat content and calories? A recent study published online in PLOS One from Loma Linda University found that people who ate the most tree nuts had the lowest rates of obesity. Tree nuts include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pistachios and walnuts. They also found that consuming one serving (one ounce) of tree nuts per week had an 8 percent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a risk factor for both cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. The researchers studied the eating patterns of 803 Seventh-day Adventists. This is not to say that nut calories don’t count, but the study suggests that it makes sense to include them in your diet.