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25 Ways to Improve Your Health with Food

25 Ways to Improve Your Health with Food

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Food is much too often associated with weight gain or loss. From the calorie-counters to the most gluttonous of eaters, oftentimes the first things someone thinks when they put a piece of food in their mouth are, "How many calories are in this?" and "What's this going to do with my waistline?"

Sure, we're seeing plenty of other ways that food is associated with our body these days — whether that's keeping our immune systems strong, fighting cancer, or even battling a hangover, just to name a few. But despite all of the recent studies and reports that have been released about foods' positive effects on the body, too many people still think of a "diet" only as a way of controlling one's weight.

Click here for 25 Ways to Improve Your Health with Food slideshow.

At least that's what New York City nutritionist Samantha Lynch tells us. A lot of her time at work is spent convincing people that they won't solve all of their problems by just knowing what foods will help them lose weight the fastest. Of all the patients Lynch sees, about 80 percent are strictly focused on weight loss, and it can cause Lynch's ultimate vision for their nutrition plan to become blurred.

"[They] focus so much on the calories that they become preoccupied with food, and the food they feel they shouldn't be eating. This backfires and [leads] to yo-yo dieting," she explains.

Rather than focusing strictly on weight loss, Lynch looks at nutrition from the bigger picture, and works with her clients to help them make permanent changes to their diets that will improve their overall health. Instead of just focusing on the calorie and fat counts in food with her clients, Lynch stresses the importance of whole, non-processed foods that will use the domino effect to improve her clients' overall health — foods that will boost energy, which in turn will affect their mood, support their digestion, and so on. At that point, weight loss is merely a side effect of her counseling, she says.

We like her approach, which is why we asked her to work with us again when we decided to define the necessary foods for overall health. To do this, we determined eight, fundamental pillars of health, and worked with Lynch to outline the foods that are best for each of them. While at first we thought that eight was surely too few to encompass one's overall well-being, Lynch encouraged us to see that when you overwhelm yourself with things to "keep in check," you're setting yourself up for failure. By outlining eight, simple, and of course, important, pillars, we're not only creating a plan to make you healthy, but one that you'll succeed at, too.

But while there are only eight structural foundations to your health, you'll be happy to hear there are lots of foods to consume to help you stay healthy. For example, enjoying a glass of milk before bedtime doesn't have to be just for children, because it helps improve your sleep, too, and raw oysters aren't the only aphrodisiac out there — avocados can get your get you in the mood, as well. You may already know that fiber is good for your gut, and that omega-3-rich foods support your joints, but you might not know that asparagus promotes a healthy gut, too, and that there are foods, like fried food and gluten products, that can be detrimental to your joint health.

Food affects more than just your waistline, and with informed and smart choices, it can become a tool for helping you achieve your overall health. Improve your health with food by eating your way through the eight pillars of health — we're here to help you do it.

Story was originally published on June 25, 2013.

22 Mediterranean diet recipes to improve your health

By now most people know that many studies have linked a Mediterranean diet to a lower risk of cancer and Alzheimer's disease, better cardiovascular health, and a longer life. The building blocks of the Mediterranean diet are foods that are low in saturated fat, rich in healthy oils, and packed with fresh fruits and vegetables (plus exercise). But what exactly should you be eating for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks? These delicious Mediterranean diet recipes will give you lots of ideas.

Packed with vegetables, this Mediterranean-style panini is the healthiest and most satisfying sandwich you'll ever make. Roasted red peppers add sweetness and color, and provide more than half the recommended-daily intake of immunity-boosting vitamin C. Basil, black olives, zucchini, provolone cheese, olive oil, and a dab of mayo are the other flavorful ingredients sandwiched between two pieces of rustic bread.

Tip: If you're watching your weight, swap the mayo for creamy low-fat Greek yogurt.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

What makes this mouthwatering pasta salad Mediterranean? It's full of resistant starch, a natural fiber that makes you feel fuller longer and can help you burn nearly 25 percent more calories a day. Now that's a mouthful! Peas and artichoke hearts taste great together, and contribute a whopping 8 grams of fiber per serving (1/3 of your daily target) which help to keep you full.

Mediterranean Tuna Salad

Love tuna salad, but want to avoid fatty, mayo-filled recipes? This recipe uses zero mayonnaise to create a delicious tuna salad with 2 grams of fiber and less than 200 calories per serving. Our recipe uses classic Mediterranean ingredients like scallions, capers, and olives to create a bold flavor combination. Smooth it over whole-wheat bread or crackers for a healthy lunch. Surprise: you don't need to spend a lot of money on fresh tuna. Both canned and fresh fish pack omega-3 fatty acids.

Mediterranean Halibut Sandwiches

Lean proteins packed with healthy monounsaturated fats are a main component to the Mediterranean diet, and fish are a great source. Monounsaturated fats are great for your heart because they raise HDL (good cholesterol) and lower LDL, the kind of cholesterol you want to keep low. This recipe dishes out just that with delicious and low-fat halibut on crispy ciabatta bread. Halibut is rich in selenium, a mineral with antioxidant properties that regulates thyroid function as well as contributes to a healthy immune system. On a low-carb diet? You can skip the bread and add additional arugula to make the recipe as a nutrient-rich salad.

Mediterranean Skewers with Bloody Mary Vinaigrette

This pretty snack or appetizer contains only 3 grams of carbs and about 150 calories. The skewers are simple to make as you just slide your ingredients onto a stick. We like metal skewers, which can go straight onto the grill. The vinaigrette comes together in a flash and can be effortlessly made in one bowl. Simple, delicious, and healthy, what's better than that?

Seafood Grill with Skordalia

Skordalia is a Greek dip or sauce made with potatoes, garlic, and olive oil, among other healthful ingredients. Here, it's the base of a seafood dish. We used halibut, but you can sub in any fish of your choice. It's flavored with dried thyme, lemon juice and zest, and includes healthy ingredients like zucchini and vitamin C-rich red bell peppers.

We're always looking for new ways to cook with chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, because they're one of the best and tastiest sources of fiber you can eat! These easy-to-make patties are a light and healthy meal, especially when they top a delicious salad the whole recipe adds up to a skinny 225 calories. As if you needed another reason to make this dish, chickpeas are also the richest vegetarian source of vitamin B6, which helps to metabolize foods, stabilize blood sugar, and make antibodies that fight disease.

Mediterranean Detox Salad

Could this be the healthiest salad you've ever eaten? It's only 200 calories and packed with vegetables, including cucumbers, watercress, artichoke hearts, celery, and red onion, and gets a hint of tangy flavor from feta cheese. Even the simple dressing—fresh lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil—is heart healthy and light. Cucumbers are a Mediterranean superfood as they're very low in calories provide 62 percent of the vitamin K recommended for daily-consumption, and offer a healthy dose of vitamin C.

Mediterranean Salmon Recipe

Salmon is one of our favorite types of fish. It's full of monounsaturated fats, a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, and it's low in calories. There are so many ways to prepare salmon, but the people from the Mediterranean think simple is best. We agree! This recipe uses delicious and healthy ingredients, and when you pair it with some sautéed spinach or whole-wheat couscous you're in for a delicious dinner.

Mediterranean Shrimp and Pasta

This protein-rich dish features low-calorie shrimp with healthy Mediterranean ingredients including crumbled feta cheese, which is lower in fat than many other cheeses. Sub in whole-grain pasta to get an extra boost of fiber, which helps to keep you full and satisfied.

Portobello Mushrooms with Mediterranean Stuffing

This filling appetizer contains 4 grams of fiber, 9 grams of protein, and is less than 200 calories. Portobello mushrooms are a vegetarian's best friend, but we bet carnivores will love this dish's deliciously meaty flavors. To make this recipe vegan-friendly, leave out the cheese.

Greek-Style Picnic Salad

This recipe is much healthier than your average pasta salad. It packs 4 grams of fiber, less than 300 calories, and delicious, nutrient-filled ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and chickpeas. These ingredients aren't all that common in restaurant-prepared Greek salads, which makes our take on this recipe even more special. The recipe calls for dried oregano, but if you have fresh sprigs on hand, use a little extra of the fresh herb.

Mediterranean Stuffed Tomatoes

Tomatoes are sweet, juicy, meaty, and your best source of the antioxidant lycopene, which may help lower your risk of stroke and various cancers. This recipe is simple: just scoop out the pulp and seeds from a half tomato and fill with a delicious stuffing of crumbled goat cheese, kalamata olives, garlic croutons, and some fresh herbs. At 200 calories per tomato, you'll want to make this dish again and again.

Warm Olives with Rosemary

The classic Mediterranean diet includes olives every day, and we think your diet should too. In this simple one-step recipe all you do is throw together a little olive oil, your favorite olives, rosemary, and optional fennel seeds, then sauté them for three minutes over medium heat. At 110 calories per serving, you can eat olives more often with no guilt!

Mediterranean Breakfast Couscous

Want a way to add some of the Mediterranean diet benefits to your breakfast? This couscous recipe mixes dried apricots, milk, and cinnamon sticks to give a classic grain breakfast appeal. With 5 grams of fiber and 11 grams of protein, this morning meal will keep you full much longer than regular cereal.

Tip: you can make a big batch and portion out daily servings for breakfast to save time throughout the week.

This Mediterranean rice dish can be served as a side or light lunch. It includes pine nuts, a Middle Eastern cooking staple that have a sweet and nutty flavor. The recipe also calls for fresh mint, which is rich in vitamin A and is good for your breath, digestion, and more.

Our homemade, crispy, thin-crust pizza is so much better than take-out. Topped with veggies and on a delicious whole-wheat crust, you can enjoy two slices of a 12-inch pie for only 290 calories. The artichoke hearts scattered on top pack plenty of fiber, and the tomatoes are a great source of the antioxidant lycopene.

Grilled Vegetable Tagine

This stew, full of healthy veggies and flavorful ingredients like green olives, raisins, and red potatoes, packs heart-healthy fats and a whopping 14 grams of fiber! That's about half the recommended daily intake of fiber for adults all in one low-calorie meal. We served this stew up with healthy couscous, but you can also use quinoa, a gluten-free source of protein, iron, and fiber. For extra protein and omega-3s, add in a lean fish like salmon or tuna.

These healthy burgers use salmon to create high-protein patties that look as good as they taste. Layering feta cheese, cucumbers, and a salmon fillet onto a ciabatta roll, or any bread of your choice, creates an effortless, omega-3-packed lunch or dinner.

Stuffed Roasted Red Peppers

We all know how difficult and fattening classic stuffed peppers can be. This version is filled with healthy Mediterranean ingredients and takes less than an hour from start to finish. Each rich, satisfying serving packs 5 grams of fiber, 3 grams of monounsaturated fats, and only about 200 calories. Bell peppers are rich in vitamin C, and since you're getting nearly a whole bell pepper per serving, you'll be loading up on the immunity-boosting nutrient. One ounce of spinach, which is what goes into each pepper, provides 169 percent of your recommended-daily vitamin K intake as well as more than half the recommended vitamin A intake.

Chicken-Garbanzo Salad

This high-fiber dish, made with chickpeas (garbanzo beans), gets an additional boost of fiber when you scoop it into a whole-wheat pita. The tasty salad is low in saturated fat and high in protein. And, it's simple to make this dish for just one person. (You can even make it and eat it out of the same bowl.) Easy to make and to clean up—that's one of our favorite ways to cook.

Greek salad gets even better when you spruce it up with some protein-packed beans like edamame. The beans also provide some of the 8 grams of fiber found in this 300-calorie salad. Haloumi cheese, which is a combination of goat and sheep milk (and sometimes even cow milk too) is used to top this salad instead of feta, which is the most commonly used cheese on Greek salads. It adds a nice texture and great flavor to the dish.

Use Them In Desserts

Serves: 8
Nutrition: 226 calories, 8 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 159 mg sodium, 37 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 25 g sugar, 7 g protein (calculated with 60% dark chocolate chips)

"It may sound strange, but adding black beans to brownies is an easy way to increase fiber and protein to your brownies," says Rebecca Lewis, RD. "It also makes them gluten-free. Simply swap one cup of flour for one cup of black beans." For more tips on how to make your brownies healthier, check out these 20 Best-Ever Tips and Swaps for Brownies.

Get the recipe from That Oven Feelin'.

26 Recipes to Seriously Boost Your Mood

Eating when you’re stressed or feeling low is usually not recommended. After all, that box of doughnut holes will likely just make you feel worse (and sick on top of it all) once the sugar high wears off.

But certain foods have the power to ease anxiety and fight depression. From yogurt parfaits to burgers with sweet potato fries to chocolate (yes, chocolate!), these meals are tasty, nutritious ways to help you feel better.

A quick note: Eating one of these dishes isn’t going to instantly turn your mood around. Depression, anxiety, and chronic stress are complex medical conditions that often require significant lifestyle adjustments and support.

But if you eat these ingredients consistently, you may just notice a real improvement in your mental state. Enjoy!

1. Fortified whole-grain cereal with low fat milk and blueberries

This cereal is fortified with vitamin B, which studies have linked to good mental health. Moore K, et al. (2019). B-vitamins in relation to depression in older adults over 60 years of age: The Trinity Ulster Department of Agriculture (TUDA) cohort study. DOI: 10.1016/j.jamda.2018.11.031

Plus, research suggests people who get more vitamin D, whether it’s from milk, fortified cereal, or other foods, don’t just build strong bones — they may also be less likely to get depressed. Cuomo A, et al. (2017). Depression and vitamin D deficiency: Causality, assessment, and clinical practice implications.

Those berries may be blue, but they might keep you from feeling that way. So grab a spoon in the morning. Even a soggy bowl says smile!

2. Banana-almond-flax smoothie

Fights: Depression and anxiety

Slurp some happiness on the go with a smoothie that does wonders for both your mental health and your taste buds. Nuts and flaxseeds are great sources of omega-3s, which may help fight depression and anxiety.

3. Buckwheat pancakes

Whether they’re for breakfast or dinner, pancakes can almost always brighten up a bad day.

And there’s science behind it: Buckwheat pancakes contain flavonoids, which may help reduce the oxidative stress that contributes to depression. Hritchu L, et al. (2017). Antidepressant flavonoids and their relationship with oxidative stress. DOI: 10.1155/2017/5762172

4. Full fat Greek yogurt with honey and granola

This positivity parfait packs a few happy ingredients. Friendly bacteria called probiotics may ease depression, making Greek yogurt a tasty way to fight the blues. Goh KK, et al. (2019). Effect of probiotics on depressive symptoms: A meta-analysis of human studies. DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2019.112568

Honey adds a spoonful of sweetness, with compounds that may fight depression, in part by reducing inflammation in your brain. Ali AM, et al. (2018). Bee honey as a potentially effective treatment for depression: A review of clinical and preclinical findings. DOI: 10.19080/JOJNHC.2018.09.555764 (Throw on some berries for extra health points!)

5. Avocado toast

This popular breakfast import hails from Australia but has since made it into just about every “it” breakfast spot in the United States.

Though it might make a big dent in millennials’ budgets, avo toast is well worth the cost for its super high fatty acid content, which helps protect both mind and heart. Mendez-Zuniga, et al. (2019). Fatty acid profile, total carotenoids, and free radical-scavenging from the lipophilic fractions of 12 native Mexican avocado accessions. DOI: 10.1007/s11130-019-00766-2

6. Warm quinoa, spinach, and shiitake salad

Fights: Depression and anxiety

This superfood-packed salad’s got all the goods! Quinoa isn’t just an awesome vegan protein source — it’s also a complex carbohydrate. These good carbs may help prevent depression and anxiety by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in your brain.

Spinach has mood-boosting B vitamins, and mushrooms are a good source of selenium, a compound that may help fight depression (although this isn’t yet solidified). Wang J, et al. (2018). Zinc, magnesium, selenium and depression: A review of the evidence, potential mechanisms and implications.

7. Salmon salad with vinaigrette

To keep the downer days at bay, try this salad. It’s chock-full of omega-3-rich ingredients (like salmon and olive oil) that might help prevent symptoms of depression.

Swap plain ol’ lettuce for spinach leaves to really raise its health profile.

8. Beet, citrus, and avocado salad

Tell a bad day to beet it! This colorful concoction brightens your mood and your dining table. A bowlful of beets helps battle depression with lots of folate. Bender A, et al. (2017). The association of folate and depression: A meta-analysis. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.07.019

The vitamin C in citrus fruits may reduce distress, and the flavonoids in a squirt of lemon juice could be beneficial for your brain. de Oliveira IJ, et al. (2015). Effects of oral vitamin C supplementation on anxiety in students: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. DOI: 10.3923/pjbs.2015.11.18

9. Wild seaweed salad

Fights: Depression and anxiety

Vegetarians and carnivores alike can enjoy the positive feelings that come from a bowl of this snazzy salad. Seaweed’s a source of several brain-protecting substances, some of which might help fight depression. Miyake Y, et al. (2014). Seaweed consumption and prevalence of depressive symptoms during pregnancy in Japan: Baseline data from the Kyushu Okinawa Maternal and Child Health Study. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2393-14-301

Brown rice is a complex carb that’s rich in serotonin, which helps stabilize mood. The omega-3s in EVOO and the flavonoids in lemon are other uplifting components. Those are some good-tasting good vibes!

10. Poached eggs and asparagus

Fights: Depression and anxiety

Serve eggs at any time of day. They’re a good source of vitamin D, which may be important for fighting depression. Schaad KA, et al. (2019). The relationship between vitamin D status and depression in a tactical athlete population. DOI: 10.1186/s12970-019-0308-5 They also provide mood-boosting vitamin B.

Asparagus contains tryptophan, which increases levels of feel-good serotonin in your brain and helps prevent depression and anxiety. Jenkins TA, et al (2016). Influence of tryptophan and serotonin on mood and cognition with a possible role of the gut-brain axis.

11. Brown rice and black beans

Fights: Depression and anxiety

Beans aren’t just good for the heart — they’re good for the mind, too, since the selenium in them may pick you back up when you’re feeling low. Plus, brown rice might help boost your mood by regulating your serotonin levels.

12. Almond-crusted barramundi fish

The name of this meal is fun to say, but that’s not all that’s great about it. Barramundi fish and almonds are excellent sources of omega-3s, which can help reduce depression and anxiety.

Serve it with a side of spinach for a dose of B vitamins, which can also help boost your mood. (Can’t find barramundi fish in your local grocery store? Try salmon instead — it’s another abundant oceanic source of omega-3s.)

13. Stir-fried kimchi with tofu

This dish may sound — and smell — a little funky, but it could do wonders for your health and mood. Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made with pickled cabbage and other veggies.

It’s teeming with good-for-you bacteria called probiotics. These helpful critters have brain-protecting properties that may help guard against depression. Selhub EM, et al. (2014). Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: Ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry. DOI: 10.1186/1880-6805-33-2

Tofu, which is made from soybeans, has been shown to improve symptoms of depression in some studies. Messina M, et al. (2016). Evaluation of the potential antidepressant effects of soybean isoflavones.

This healthful protein source is also versatile in recipes, because it soaks up the flavor of whatever sauce you choose to toss it with.

14. Turkey burger with sweet potato fries

Fights: Depression and anxiety

Lighten up the traditional burger and fries with a meal that’s easier on your belly and your brain.

The tryptophan in turkey increases your levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. Plus, sweet potatoes are filled with mood-boosting vitamin B-6.

15. Lentil and vegetable stew with kale

Curl up with a cup of lentil stew on a rainy day to keep things sunny inside. Kale and legumes are great sources of folate, which is important for a good mood. Nguyen B, et al. (2017). Association between blood folate concentrations and depression in reproductive aged U.S. women, NHANES (2011-2012). DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.07.019

After you slurp down your soup, go outside to jump in the puddles.

16. Walnut-miso noodles

Fights: Depression, anxiety, stress

Everything about this dish screams healthy, happy, and delicious. Whole-wheat pasta is a complex carb that increases your serotonin level, and walnuts pack omega-3s that fight depression and anxiety. Hayes D, et al. (2016). Walnuts (juglans regia) chemical composition and research in human health. DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2012.760516

17. Spaghetti with steamed mussels

Fights: Depression and anxiety

A balanced meal that includes carbs, protein, and fat (like this one) can stop the hangry in its tracks. Mussels — and most types of shellfish — are loaded with vitamin B-12, which is important for a good mood. Brouwer-Brolsma EM, et al. (2015). Dietary sources of vitamin B-12 and their association with vitamin B-12 status markers in healthy older adults in the B-PROOF Study.

For maximum brain benefits, make this dish with whole-wheat pasta and extra-virgin olive oil.

18. Whole-wheat pasta with cauliflower and collards

This vegetarian pasta dish has complex carbs, which help regulate mood, plus a serving of healthy veggies. Be generous with the cauliflower — it not only tastes good but also provides vitamin B-6 and folate.

The 25 Best Healthy Cookbooks, According To Dietitians

If you think healthy cooking means grilled chicken and steamed vegetables 24/7, it&rsquos time for some inspiration. &ldquoHaving a variety of go-to cookbooks on hand helps to spark creativity and bring fun, delicious meals into your kitchen&mdashthat also happen to be healthy,&rdquo says Alissa Rumsey, RD, nutrition therapist and intuitive eating coach.

Plus, a stash of healthy cookbooks can be a game changer when you&rsquore trying to clean up your diet. &ldquoThey can make healthy cooking much more accessible,&rdquo says dietitian Georgia Rounder, RDN. &ldquoCookbooks can help prevent you from feeling the need to order in from fast food establishments, and instead turn to nutrient-packed ingredients and recipes.&rdquo

Ready to hit the kitchen? Yeah you are.

Famous for its heart health benefits, the Mediterranean diet is also perfect for beginner cooks because it emphasizes fresh, simple ingredients. Plus, Bragg's fool-proof meal plan makes it super easy to eat healthier without going on a strict diet, says Rachel Caine, MS, RD, LDN, a dietitian for Baze.

Treat your heart and tastebuds to Greek Orzo Salad, Mediterranean Frittatas, Fig Millet, and more.

Need an eating reset but aren't sure where to start? In Eating Clean, a uthor Amie Valpone offers a three-week plan filled with 200 gut-soothing recipes to help you feel like yourself again&mdashwithout sacrificing an ounce of deliciousness. Caine likes this one for those who don't mind spending some extra time in the kitchen.

Two must-try recipes: Velvety Pear Soup and Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.

With added sugar, dairy, legumes, grains, and more off the table, the Whole30 can feel pretty restrictive.

However, with recipes like Asian Pork and Carrot Noodle Bowls and Spaghetti Squash and Sausage Arabbiata Sauce, this book proves that finding delicious Whole30-compliant meals can be easy (and quick).

If jitters are preventing you from living your best life, this dietitian-created cookbook promises to nourish your body in a holistic way. "Miller does a nice job exploring the connection between food and mood, and provides recipes and resources to empower readers to successfully explore this area of their health," says Baze dietitian Alex Lewis, RD, LDN.

It's full of tasty recipes that are free of refined carbs, which Miller suggests increase inflammation and contribute to anxiety.

A long-time Instagram #fitfluencer, chef Kevin Curry makes meal prepping fun, cheap, and easy with his cookbook. "With loads of extra list shopping lists and meal prep tips, it provides delicious and healthy recipes that truly make cooking enjoyable," says Lewis.

Featuring the likes of Juicy AF Moroccan Chicken, Budget Sweet Potato Lasagna, and Stuffed Cheesy Jalapeño Turkey Burgers, you'll be drooling before you even start prepping.

If you or a loved one has celiac's or a gluten intolerance, this healthy cookbook is about to make your lives so much easier. "This one's great for beginners or anyone new to a gluten-free diet," says Juliana Dewsnap, RD, LDN, CPT, dietitian for Baze.

Sure, these hearty and crowd-pleasing recipes happen to be free of gluten, but they&rsquore truly enjoyable no matter your dietary needs (hello, baked fish and chips!).

Recruit your S.O. and embark on a healthy (but delish) culinary journey with this popular cookbook. Dewsnap loves that it packs a lot of flavor and nutrition into meals that can often be quite unhealthy.

With recipes like Dairy-Free Enchiladas, Caribbean-Crusted Fish, and Tahini Brownies, your date nights just got way healthier.

This cookbook from popular blogger Gina Homolka is a must-have if you&rsquore keeping an eye on your macros.

"The recipes are easy to prepare and always come out delicious," says dietitian Jenna Appel, MS, RD, LDN.

Complete with comprehensive nutritional information, each recipe satisfies comfort food cravings in a healthier way. A few popular picks: Cheesy Baked Penne with Eggplant and Vanilla-Glazed Scones.

This cookbook offers a fresh take on everyone&rsquos favorite&mdashItalian cooking. &ldquoIt&rsquos my go-to cookbook for plant-based Italian comfort food,&rdquo says Stephanie McKercher, RDN, dietitian and food blogger at Grateful Grazer. It&rsquos packed with a ton of healthy, simple vegetarian recipes.

Ummm, did someone say taco? That&rsquos right, thanks to this cookbook, you can totally up your Taco Tuesday game. &ldquoIt includes 100 different taco recipes that feature lots of colorful, nourishing foods including vegetables, whole grains, and many different sources of protein," says Rumsey.

It's even got recipes for Italian Meatball Tacos, Cumin Chickpea Tacos, and S&rsquomores Tacos.

You know you should eat fish twice a week, but let&rsquos face it&mdashcooking fish can be intimidating. &ldquoThis book will give you tons of delicious ways to include seafood in your meal rotation, plus lots of yummy accompanying recipes like sides and desserts,&rdquo says dietitian Lauren Harris-Pincus, RDN.

If you love Tieghan Gerard&rsquos blog Half Baked Harvest, you&rsquoll love her cookbook. It's chock-full of seasonal recipes that'll please a crowd.

From Braised Pork Tamale Burrito Bowls to Crispy Buffalo Quinoa Bites, her recipes focus on max flavor from healthy ingredients.

This cookbook is designed to help you follow a Mediterranean-style diet, which gets high marks from nutritionists. &ldquoThe 30-Minute Mediterranean Diet Cookbook is one of my favorites because it's for the entire family, and promotes a whole-foods, predominately plant-based lifestyle,&rdquo says dietitian Emily Kyle, RD.

In her cookbook, dietitian McKel Hill shows just how creative and delicious vegetables can be. Everything from lentils to Brussels sprouts take on new life.

This is a great cookbook for veggie adventurers and anyone looking to try out more innovative, plant-focused recipes, says Kercher.

&ldquoThis is my style of cooking, which I like to call gourmet everyday food&mdashbasic enough for a weeknight meal for the family, yet fancy enough to serve guests at an adult dinner party!&rdquo says Jessica Levinson, RDN, CDN, New York-based culinary nutrition expert and author of 52-Week Meal Planner.

&ldquoThe recipes are designed as complete meals, which saves you time coming up with main dishes and side dishes when planning your weekly menu.&rdquo Recipes are organized by main ingredient&mdashlike chicken, seafood, meat, and veggies&mdashmaking it easier to hone in on what you want.

These recipes are penned by Ellie Krieger, R.D. and James Beard Award winner, so you know they'll be both healthy and delicious. "There are gorgeous pictures throughout, and crave-worthy recipes like steak fajitas, honey-mustard salmon, and corn and quinoa with spicy chicken sausage that I make again and again,&rdquo says Caroline Kaufman, RDN.

What's more, Kaufman says they legitimately take 30 minutes to make, including prep. "[This cookbook] is best for anyone who is short on time who still wants to eat well and have a meal on their table at supper time.&rdquo

Vegetarian recipes don&rsquot have to be bland, and this cookbook proves it. &ldquoOttolengthi&rsquos recipes feature healthy, Mediterranean ingredients," says McKercher. "You&rsquore sure to find the perfect thing to serve at a dinner party in this cookbook."

&ldquoThis cookbook features a food-first approach for both men and women who are looking to get pregnant, or for anyone who is looking to support their journey to baby with healthful, wholesome meals,&rdquo says Kyle.

&ldquoWith over 100 delicious recipes that focus on clean, wholesome ingredients and easy-to-prepare recipes, this is a cookbook ideal for couples who love to cook together in the kitchen.&rdquo

This cookbook is a classic. It&rsquos full of simple, cozy, plant-based recipes. &ldquoThe recipes are easily adaptable, which makes it a useful resource for new and more experienced cooks looking for inspiration,&rdquo says Kaufman.

&ldquoWhen I first cooked from it after college, I made the easy black bean refritos&mdasha humble six-ingredient recipe that basically makes an elevated black bean quesadilla," says Kaufman. "And honestly, sometimes that's all you need for dinner.&rdquo

This is another one of Rounder&rsquos go-to cookbooks. &ldquoLaura does a wonderful job of illustrating how you can have cozy comfort food without sacrificing nutritional benefits," she says.

"I would definitely recommend this cookbook for parents looking for healthy recipes with sneaky nutritious ingredients that the whole family can enjoy,&rdquo Rounder says.

Bonus: Most recipes come together in 30 minutes.

If you want to make plant-based eating a lifestyle, this book will help. "It&rsquos great for those with chronic diseases who are looking to improve their health, or anyone who simply wants to make over their eating habits,&rdquo says dietitian Whitney English, RD. &ldquoThe cookbook provides a simple guide for healthy living, along with delicious recipes that support various lifestyle goals."

Plus, "the plant-based meals are easy to make, and the whole family can enjoy them."

&ldquoAfter struggling with my own health issues and healing myself with food, I became even more interested in the nutrition therapy options for autoimmune diseases, particularly those affecting women, like Hashimoto's," says Kyle, who wrote this cookbook.

It's full of no-fuss, easy-prep, gluten- and dairy-free recipes. Plus, it includes tips and tricks for streamlining your kitchen, and making it thyroid-friendly.

Whether you&rsquore new to vegetarian or vegan cooking or have been following a plant-based lifestyle for a while, you need this trusty book. &ldquoIt&rsquos hands-down the book I open up most often in my own kitchen.&rdquo says McKercher.

It&rsquos more reference than cookbook, per se, &ldquoI use it to find which foods pair well with ingredients I already have in my kitchen. You can also find information about seasonality, and proper cooking techniques for almost every plant-based ingredient.&rdquo

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? Harris-Pincus wrote this book to help you do it right.

&ldquoMaking sure to include adequate protein at breakfast is important to maximize muscle growth and repair," she says. "Protein can also help to keep you satisfied longer and maintain energy levels throughout busy mornings."

The cookbook is full of easy recipes like protein-packed pancakes, mug cakes, and overnight oats.

Okay, so technically this isn&rsquot a cookbook, but it&rsquos a must-have if you want to improve your diet and stay on track with your healthy eating habits.

&ldquoYou can have a million healthy recipes, but if you don&rsquot have a plan for how to budget your time and make them, your cookbooks will just gather dust,&rdquo says English.

This book includes a year&rsquos worth of weekly templates to plan breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, grocery lists, price comparison sheets, and recipe pages.

7. Use Bitter Herbs:

A common saying in natural health is that &ldquobitter is good for the liver.&rdquo Anything good for the liver is good for the gallbladder. This includes ginger, arugula, endive, cilantro, turmeric, dandelion, cumin, fennel, mint, milk thistle, yarrow, leeks and parsley.

Many cultures around the world have bitter foods to begin their meal. They may drink ginger or peppermint tea, have pickled ginger, have a salad with arugula, dandelion and cilantro, etc. These all act to stimulate digestive juices and give the bile flow a boost for optimal digestion.

25 Ways to Improve Your Health with Food - Recipes

We've all had those well-intentioned moments when we resolve to make sweeping lifestyle changes: Quit smoking. Lose 20 pounds. Join a gym and start exercising every day.

While we should always strive to accomplish these types of health goals, the road to better health doesn't always have to mean making huge leaps.

There are also many smaller steps you can take that will help improve your overall health and quality of life — and because they're things you can easily incorporate into your routine, they'll be easy to maintain for the long haul. Even if you have only a few minutes to spare, you can use that time to improve your well-being.

Try incorporating the following activities and strategies into your day. When these simple steps become habits, they can add up to a big positive effect on your overall health.

1. Enjoy de-stressing.

Experts recommend regular exercise, meditation and breathing techniques to reduce stress. But even something as simple — and enjoyable — as listening to soothing music, reading a good book, soaking in a hot tub or playing with your pet can help you relax.

That's advice you should take to heart because prolonged stress can cause or exacerbate a number of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, depression, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines and obesity.

Don't have a lot of time? Don't let that stress you out. As with exercise, even brief periods of relaxation are beneficial.

Spending even 10 minutes at a time doing something you enjoy can go a long way toward beating the stressors of everyday life. Just reading one chapter or taking your dog for a few laps around the block will help you feel calmer, more refreshed and more energized.

If you can't take a full break from whatever you're doing, try simply taking a few slow, deep breaths in that moment. When you slow down your breathing, it helps you relax. This relaxation response releases body chemicals that relieve stress and may improve immune function.

Deep breathing can also lower your resting heart rate. People with lower resting heart rates are typically in better physical condition than those with higher rates.

2. Put away the salt.

A saltshaker on the dining table makes it all too easy to consume excess salt, which can lead to high blood pressure. So put the shaker in a cabinet or pantry and bring it out only when you're cooking.

It's also a good idea to taste your food before you salt it. You may find it doesn't need more.

You can also try spicing up your food with lemon or lime juice, garlic, red pepper flakes, herbs or a salt-free seasoning blend. Stock your fridge and pantry with your favorite fresh and dried herbs so you'll always have them on hand to flavor your foods.

3. Get to bed earlier.

Most of us don’t get the seven or more hours of sleep adults need.

Over time, a shortage of shut-eye can raise your risk of a heart attack or stroke — regardless of your age, weight or exercise habits.

If you're consistently sleep-deprived, going to bed even 15 minutes earlier every night could help. Also set a regular sleep and wake schedule, and stick to it — even on days off.

4. Have a glass of red wine.

Studies have shown that the powerful antioxidants found in red wine protect against heart disease, colon cancer, anxiety and depression. So unless there is a medical reason why you shouldn't imbibe, go ahead and enjoy that glass of merlot with your nightly meal — you can even toast to your good health.

But drink in moderation. Just as a small amount of red wine has health benefits, too much alcohol — even red wine — can cause a variety of health problems, including liver and kidney disease and cancer.

Women, in particular, need to be careful about alcohol consumption. They are at higher overall risk of liver problems than men, so they are more likely to experience liver problems from smaller amounts of alcohol.

For a healthy man, two drinks a day is not likely to do harm women, on the other hand, should limit themselves to one daily alcoholic beverage.

5. Check your posture and ergonomics.

Next time you're at your desk or on the phone, take a moment to think about your posture. Then straighten up your back, tuck in your stomach and put your feet flat on the floor with your legs uncrossed. You'll feel more relaxed right away.

The few seconds this takes can help you avoid back pain, one of the most common health problems in the United States and a leading cause of disability.

And if you work at a computer, look at the ergonomics of your workstation — how you fit and move in your environment — to help prevent back and neck strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, eye strain and other occupational injuries.

A few simple adjustments, such as repositioning your computer monitor, switching to a chair that provides more low back support and taking regular breaks throughout the day to do stretching exercises, can go a long way toward creating a healthier and more comfortable workspace.

The next time you're going to a higher floor, bypass the elevator and climb the stairs instead. You'll get your blood pumping, exercise your lungs and work the muscles in your lower body.

6. Do a crossword puzzle.

Researchers at Rush have found that mentally challenging activities, such as reading, doing crossword puzzles or Sodoku and playing chess, may have a protective effect on your brain.

According to research studies, regularly engaging your mind may help lower your risk for the dementia associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Don't enjoy puzzles or games? Don't worry: There are other ways to maintain your brain health. Eat with your nondominant hand. Walk a new route home from work. And connect with others — staying socially engaged may also protect against dementia.

7. Weigh in.

Maintaining a healthy weight can lower your risk for heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer. But for women, there’s another reason to keep pounds from piling on: It will decrease the risk for future pelvic floor disorders.

Pelvic floor disorders are more common in women who have delivered babies vaginally. However, a recent study found that even women who have never had a vaginal birth are at increased risk for urinary stress incontinence if they're overweight or obese.

8. Make a few dietary substitutions.

  • Swap white bread, rice, crackers and pasta for healthier whole grain versions.
  • Use skinless chicken and turkey in your recipes instead of skin-on, and leaner cuts of other meats such as beef or pork.
  • Replace one sugary drink (soda, juice, etc.) each day with a tall glass of water.
  • If you get hungry between meals, snack on a handful of almonds or cashews, a piece of whole fruit, or carrot sticks dipped in hummus rather than reaching for candy bars or potato chips.

In addition, try incorporating an extra serving of nonstarchy vegetables into your daily diet.

Want a snack? Munch on a carrot instead of a cookie. Making dinner for your family? Serve broccoli or spinach as a side dish instead of mashed potatoes. Add green peas to your brown rice, or slices of red or yellow pepper to your sandwich.

It's no secret that vegetables — especially dark, leafy greens — are good for you. But there's another benefit to packing more veggies into your daily diet: They're rich in fiber and contain lots of water, so they'll leave you full and satisfied without a lot of calories and fat.

There are plenty of great recipes in cookbooks and online — including on Rush's content hub — for tasty yet healthful veggie dishes.

9. Take the stairs.

The next time you're going to a higher floor, bypass the elevator and climb the stairs instead. You'll get your blood pumping, exercise your lungs and work the muscles in your lower body.

It’s a great way to add physical activity to your day without having to block out time to exercise. If you are aiming for the recommended 10,000 steps each day, taking the stairs counts toward that total.

All of these small steps can add up to a healthier you.

10. Stretch it out.

Regularly stretching your muscles helps you avoid injuries, stay limber and move freely as you age.

Take a few minutes to stretch out before and after you exercise. If you aren't working out that day, take a few stretch breaks. Find a quiet space in the office where you won't be disturbed. On the go? Look for natural opportunities in your daily routine to stretch, such as getting out of your car or reaching for items on a high shelf at the store.

Stretching right before bed can also help you relieve tension and help you get to sleep.

And balance exercises — like Tai Chi — can help dramatically reduce your risk of dangerous falls.

Looking ahead

The good news is that it's never too early — or too late — to adopt healthy habits.

When you're young, you can build the foundation for a lifetime of good health. When you're older, healthy habits can help you control any diseases you have and lower your risk of getting others in the future.

Bonus: A Healthy Brain Meal Plan

If you’d like an example of an entire brain-healthy dinner, the folks at created this 3-in-1 recipe post.

50. Bonus: The Complete Healthy Brain Dinner Recipe

  • Roasted Kale Salad w/Kidney Beans, Walnuts & Chia
  • Coffee-Spice Rubbed King Salmon
  • Turmeric & Toasted Flax Risotto

Brain foods in these three dishes include kale, avocado, walnuts, chia seeds, coffee, salmon, olive oil, and turmeric.

Brain Food Recipes: Take the Next Step

There aren’t a lot of places online to find recipes specifically for brain health.

But now, you’ve got lots of recipes that include foods rich in the nutrients you need for optimal brain health and function.

Try one new recipe each week in a year, you’ll have 50 new recipes that will delight your taste buds and please your brain.

We discuss what makes a food a “brain food” and why you should include them in your diet in Brain Foods to Boost Memory & Mood (in-depth review).

READ NEXT: For more ideas on how to incorporate the best brain foods in your diet, check out 25 Tasty Snacks Featuring the Best Brain Foods and The MIND Diet: Eating for a Healthy Brain (in-depth review).

Dirty Sheets Can Cause Skin Irritations

A clean bed is super important for healthy skin. This means changing and washing your sheets frequently. "Humans shed dead skin on our sheets throughout the night, and if we have pets that we allow on the bed, they can shed dander and even dirt on our bed," says Dr. Niket Sonpal, MD, a New York-based internist and gastroenterologist and adjunct professor at Touro College.

All of this creates a petri dish for dust mites and germs. "If you don&apost wash your sheets frequently, the dust mites feeding on dead skin and dander will release waste and germs that cause allergies, contact dermatitis and uncomfortable skin irritations," he says.

You should wash your sheets and bedding at least once every two weeks, he recommends. "If you are in the habit of coming from the gym and lying down, or if you experience night sweats or let your pet onto your bed, you might be better off placing them in the wash at the end of each week," he says. You can set reminders for yourself on your phone&aposs calendar until it becomes routine.

Other Product Information

Discover the Foods that Fight Disease and Help You Achieve Better Health!

The foods you eat have the power to help you live a longer, healthier life. Choose the right foods and you&rsquoll fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to prevent nearly every disease and dysfunction from cataracts, infertility, and neurodegenerative conditions to cardiovascular disease and cancer.

But just as the right foods can help your health, the wrong foods (think: processed) can increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and more.

To help you fill your plate with the healthiest foods, Harvard medical experts created A Guide to Healthy Eating: Strategies, tips, and recipes to help you make better food choices. This Special Health Report uses the latest information from the nation&rsquos top nutrition experts to bring you the well-researched, specific recommendations
that have the potential to make you stronger and healthier.

For example, you&rsquoll discover:

  • Harvard&rsquos 6 simple steps to healthy eating
  • How processing can destroy nutrients like vitamins B and C
  • Why oranges are a healthier choice than orange juice
  • 4 ways to turn your favorite recipes into veggie-filled dishes
  • How to spot &ldquohigh fiber&rdquo foods that aren&rsquot that healthy
  • 7 reasons your body needs (healthy) fats
  • Why you may need more protein as you age

You&rsquoll get the inside scoop on nutrition myths that can harm your health such as, saturated fats are no longer bad for you . coconut oil is a veritable cure-all . you should eliminate carbs from your diet . meats are the only source of complete proteins . and dozens more.

  • Why you may want to cut back on eggs if you have diabetes
  • How you can lower risk of heart disease by 30% just by regularly swapping a serving of red meat with fish or chicken
  • About the mineral that helps lower risk of colon cancer
  • Why supplements won&rsquot boost your health as much as whole foods
  • How to tell if a fruit or vegetable is likely loaded with healthy plant chemicals
  • What every health conscious person needs to know about antioxidants

You&rsquoll find tips for creating healthy meals with what you have in your pantry . Easy and delicious ways to get more vegetables into your diet . 6 secrets to smarter snacking . Plus you&rsquoll get a Special Bonus Section at no extra cost with 17 mouth-watering, healthy recipes.

Make sure you&rsquore making the right food choices for your good health. Order your copy of A Guide to Healthy Eating today.

Prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publishing with faculty editor Teresa Fung, ScD, RD, LDN, Adjunct Professor, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Professor of Nutrition, Simmons College and Nutrition Editor Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN. 53 pages. (2019)

  • A healthy eating style
    • In search of a healthy diet
    • Harvard&rsquos Healthy Eating Plate
    • Choose whole foods first
    • Focus on plants
    • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans
    • Sustainability on the plate
    • &ldquoGood&rdquo carbs
    • &ldquoBad&rdquo carbs
    • &ldquoGood&rdquo fats
    • &ldquoBad&rdquo fats
    • The best protein choices
    • What about red meat?
    • The lowdown on dairy
    • Eggs in moderation
    • The benefits of food vs. supplements
    • Does your diet deliver the recommended dose?
    • The power of phytochemicals
    • Water on tap
    • Coffee and tea
    • Drinks to limit or avoid
    • Sports drinks and energy drinks
    • What about alcohol?
    • Meal planning
    • Sneaking in more vegetables
    • Reaping nature&rsquos sweet reward: Fruits
    • Boosting flavor with herbs and spices
    • Trimming salt
    • Powering up with probiotics
    • Are organics worth it?
    • Restaurant survival strategies
    • Smarter snacks
    • Seven snacking strategies
    • Appetizers, soups, and salads
    • Entrées and side dishes
    • Fruit, desserts, and baked goods

    A healthy eating style

    If you Google &ldquohealthy eating,&rdquo you will get literally hundreds of millions of hits. Follow the links, and you will find that some of them deliver solid information, while others lead you down confusing paths of outright misinformation. As one fad diet after another grabs the spotlight, conflicting information can make it difficult to distinguish scientifically backed nutrition advice from marketing and hype. And news headlines can make it seem as if views on good nutrition are changing all the time.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. The optimal diet for good health, low disease risk, healthy weight, and long life has been a matter of growing consensus over the last several decades, thanks to a hard-earned body of evidence.

    Moreover, the power of this healthful diet is becoming clearer over time. &ldquoWhen we began our research on diet and health in the late 1970s, we had a general sense that diet was likely to be important in the prevention of heart disease and cancer,&rdquo says Dr. Walter Willett, past chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. What he and other researchers found was that it did exactly that&mdashand more. &ldquoAspects of diet play a role in the prevention of disease and dysfunction in almost every organ of the body,&rdquo he says. In addition to lowering your blood pressure, total cholesterol, and risks of certain types of cancer, it can help ward off strokes, diabetes, cognitive decline, osteoporosis, kidney problems, certain gastrointestinal problems, various eye diseases, and so on down a long list.

    Yes, this plan involves eating more vegetables&mdash and, as you may have guessed, it doesn&rsquot include a lot of packaged snacks or fast food. But once you know how to prepare healthy meals, you&rsquoll find they can be much more tasty than highly processed foods. As Dr. Willett says, just think of sitting at an outdoor restaurant in Italy, savoring vegetables roasted in olive oil, perfectly seasoned with herbs and spices. Add in a hunk of hearty whole-grain bread and an entree of fresh grilled fish, and you can readily imagine just how satisfying this whole-foods diet can be. Now compare that with greasy burgers and chips at the local diner. &ldquoIt&rsquos junk food that&rsquos tasteless, requiring large amounts of added salt, sugar, and fat to make it palatable,&rdquo he says.

    If you&rsquore convinced, then there&rsquos no time like the present to start remaking your diet. You have nothing to lose&mdashexcept perhaps a few unwanted pounds and points off your cholesterol and blood pressure numbers. This report will help explain in greater depth how to accomplish this.


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