HealthZette

Color-Rich Foods for Great Health and a Better Attitude

Tired of feeling crummy? Break out of those 'bland' eating habits and go lighter, brighter, better

Think about the food you eat on a regular basis and how you feel after consuming it. Does “healthy and energized” come to mind — or are you leaning more toward “sluggish, sick, and bloated”?

“We have lost the ability to listen to our bodies,” said Amie Valpone, a Manhattan-based culinary nutritionist, holistic health counselor (HHC), and author of the cookbook, “Eating Clean.”

Too many of us are stuck in our old ways of eating even if they’re not good for us — we turn mindlessly, meal after meal, to the foods we’ve always eaten, she noted. These foods — wheat, sugar, processed foods, conventional animal proteins, sodas and saturated fats — are often highly inflammatory and can cause a number of health issues.

“But many people were brought up on these foods, so they’re addicted. It’s often too hard for them to let go of the taste of the fake flavors, such as chips,” she said.

We need more lycopene, she also said — the carotenoid that gives numerous fruits and vegetables their bright red color. It’s a powerful antioxidant that helps fight damage to our cells and stave off disease and aging.

She believes so much in it that she’s an ambassador for Lycored, a carotenoid-based wellness products company headquartered in England. Tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, papayas, and carrots are all good sources of lycopene. So are sweet red peppers, red cabbage, and asparagus.

“Once you see how amazing you feel when you change the food you eat, why would you ever go back to feeling bloated and getting a headache?”

“Once you see how amazing you can feel when you change the food you eat, why would you ever go back to feeling bloated and getting a headache from unhealthy foods? It’s a choice. You have to be ready to feel the struggle for a little bit to let go of our favorite unhealthy foods so that you can be healthy for the rest of your life,” she added.

Here’s her best advice for a healthier diet.

Cook your vegetables. Raw is great, but eating more warm, cooked foods may help your digestion.

Find a good balance. We eat while we work, drive, and talk — and sleep in rooms lit by bright-light clocks. All of this throws our bodies out of balance. Daily stressors make it more important that we eat right.

Know that less isn’t always better. The number of calories food has is merely information. A 100-calorie cookie is in no way “equal” to 100 calories of an avocado, for example. Counting calories is the last thing to worry about when you’re trying to eat clean. A handful of nuts may be calorically dense, but there’s a lot of goodness packed in there.

Choose foods based on how they nourish every cell in your body, rather than by how many calories you believe they provide.

Consider the cost. Many of us buy what’s cheap vs. what’s best for our bodies. Down the line, the medical costs may erase any short-term gain.

“Good, healthy food is perhaps the greatest investment you can make in yourself and your future. You have one body, and it has to last,” said Valpone.