Choosing nutritious foods helps your health in two ways. First, a diet packed with fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats helps you feel fuller on fewer calories, which is key in keeping your weight in check. Plus, antioxidants and other beneficial compounds in foods offer unique health boons. Keep your body looking its best—inside and out—with these five foods.
1. Green Beans
Filling up on green beans, and other high-fiber foods, can help you prevent weight gain or even promote weight loss—without dieting—suggests new research in The Journal of Nutrition. Researchers found that women who increased their fiber intake generally lost weight while women who decreased the fiber in their diets gained. The scientists boiled the findings into a single weight-loss formula: boosting fiber by 8 grams for every 1,000 calories consumed resulted in losing about 4 1/2 pounds over the course of the study. Try it for yourself. If you’re consuming 2,000 calories per day, aim to increase your fiber by 16 grams. Raspberries, chickpeas and strawberries can also help you get your fill.
The omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish—such as salmon and tuna—can boost your skin’s defenses against UV damage. In a study published earlier this year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that those who ate a little more than 5 ounces of omega-3-rich fish each week decreased the development of precancerous skin lesions by almost 30 percent. Scientists think the omega-3s act as a shield, protecting cell walls from free-radical damage.
Eating just under a cup of mixed berries (such as red raspberries, strawberries, blueberries) daily for 8 weeks was associated with increased levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and lowered blood pressure—two positives when it comes to heart health—according to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The diverse range of polyphenols—health-promoting plant compounds that include anthocyanins and ellagic acid—provided by the mix of berries is likely responsible for the observed benefits.
Research shows that eating foods that are full of water, such as watermelon, helps keep you satisfied on fewer calories. (Interestingly enough, drinking water alongside foods doesn’t have the safe effect.) At 92 percent water, watermelon is a good source of vitamin C. When it’s the red variety (some are orange or yellow), it also has lycopene, an antioxidant that may help protect against heart disease and some types of cancer. Other foods that are made mostly of water include cucumbers (95 percent), salad greens (90 percent) and strawberries (91 percent).
Eating more vitamin-C rich foods, such as oranges, tomatoes, strawberries and broccoli, may be a secret to smoother skin. Research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition links consuming plenty of vitamin C-rich foods with youthful skin. The findings suggest that a higher intake of vitamin C from foods is associated with a lower risk of having wrinkled skin and age-related skin dryness in middle-age women. Vitamin C’s youthful effects on skin may be due to its antioxidant properties, which help protect against ultraviolet rays, and its role in keeping skin firm via collagen synthesis, say the researchers.