Try for: One egg a day, unless you have high blood cholesterol, in which case you should check with your doctor first. (One egg packs about 213 milligrams of cholesterol.)
Soybeans are a great source of antioxidants, fiber, and protein. Plus, they’re incredibly versatile. Snack on dry-roasted soybeans, toss shelled edamame into soups, and slip a spoonful of silken tofu into your morning smoothie. Liquid soy also makes a good meal
Try for: Twenty-five grams of whole (not isolated) soy protein daily. A half cup of steamed edamame contains about 130 calories and 11 grams of protein. Four ounces of tofu (94 calories) contain 10 grams. Choose whole soy foods over products packed with “isolated soy protein” — the latter may not provide all the benefits of whole soybeans.
A 2003 study in the journal Nutrition found that overweight women who consumed three apples or pears a day for three months lost more weight than their counterparts who were fed a similar diet with oat cookies instead of fruits. “A large apple has 5 grams of fiber, but it’s also nearly 85 percent water, which helps you feel full,” explains Elisa Zied, RD, author of So What Can I Eat?! (Wiley, 2006). Apples also contain quercetin, a compound shown to help fight certain cancers, reduce cholesterol damage, and promote healthy lungs.
Try for: An apple (or two) a day. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the Red Delicious, Cortland, and Northern Spy varieties had the highest antioxidant activity.
Most are loaded with fiber, every dieter’s best friend. The more fiber you eat — experts say that it’s best to get between 25 and 35 grams every day — the fewer calories you absorb from all the other stuff you put in your mouth. That’s because fiber traps food particles and shuttles them out of your system before they’re fully digested. Berries (and other fruits) are also high in antioxidants, which not only help protect you from chronic diseases like cancer but may also help you get more results from your workouts. “Antioxidants help improve blood flow, which can help muscles contract more efficiently,” says Dr. Katz.
Try for: At least half a cup daily, or about 30 calories’ worth. Don’t limit yourself to the usual suspects, like raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. If you can find them, add boysenberries, gooseberries, and black currants to the mix for excitement.
Their cancer-preventing carotenoids won’t help shrink your waistline, but their low calorie count definitely will. One cup of spinach contains only about 40 calories, while a cup of broccoli has 55 calories and satisfies 20 percent of your day’s fiber requirement. Most leafy greens are also a good source of calcium, an essential ingredient for muscle contraction. In other words, they help fuel your workouts.
Try for: Three servings daily. Keep a bag of prewashed baby spinach in your fridge and toss a handful into soups, salads, pasta dishes, stir-fries, and sandwiches. When you get sick of spinach, reach for a bunch of arugula, broccoli rabe, or broccolini, a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale.