Our old American diet has cost us dearly: One in three of us is now overweight or obese, and a third of American children will develop diabetes in their lifetimes. But the answer isn’t eating less food—it’s eating more of the right foods: 12 of them in particular, called the New American Diet Superfoods. Read on for the list of 12, and for more secrets on how to lose weight and keep it off for good, order your copy of "The New American Diet."
Nuts are New American Diet smart bombs. They’re packed with monounsaturated fatty acids, those good-for-you fats that lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes, and, according to new research, help you control your appetite.
It's not a magic disappearing act, but it's close: When Harvard University researchers analyzed the diets of more than 27,000 people over 8 years, they discovered that those who ate whole grains daily weighed 2.5 pounds less than those who ate only refined-grain foods.
Avocados and Other Healthy Fats
Just because a food has plenty of fat and calories doesn’t mean it’s fattening. See, certain foods cause you to gain weight because they provoke hormonal changes that trigger cravings, or “rebound hunger.” One hunger-control hormone, leptin, becomes blunted by starchy, sweet, fatty, and refined-carbohydrate foods. That's why a bagel is fattening: It's a high-calorie load of refined carbohydrates that double-crosses your natural satisfaction response. Avocados, on the other hand, aren't fattening, because they’re loaded with healthy fat and fiber and don't cause wild swings in insulin levels
Meats (Pasture-Raised and Free-Range)
Grass-fed beef, chicken, and pork are leaner and healthier than conventional livestock—and can help trim away pounds. A 3.5-ounce serving of grass-fed beef has only 2.4 grams of fat, compared with 16.3 grams for conventionally raised beef. In fact, grass-fed beef is so much more nutritious than commodity beef that it's almost a different food.
Grass-fed beef contains more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been shown to reduce abdominal fat while building lean muscle. It also has more omega-3s and less omega-6s than corn-fed beef. It’s the same with chickens. According to a recent study in the journal Poultry Science, free-range chickens have significantly more omega-3s than grain-fed chickens do, and less harmful fat and fewer calories than grain-fed varieties. This is important because omega-3s improve your mood, boost your metabolism, sharpen your brain, and help you lose weight.
Environmentally Sustainable Fish
Choosing seafood these days isn't easy. Some species (swordfish, farmed salmon) contain obesity-promoting pollutants (dioxins, PCBs). Others are fattened with soy, which lowers their levels of healthy omega-3s. In fact, the American Heart Association recently urged people who are concerned about heart disease to avoid eating tilapia for just that reason. Wow. That goes against conventional wisdom, doesn’t it?
So what kind of fish should you eat, and how can the New American Diet help? Generally, small, oily ocean fish (herring, mackerel, sardines) are low in toxins and score highest in omega-3s. Wild Alaskan salmon, Pacific halibut, rainbow trout, and yellowfin tuna are generally low in toxins and high in nutrients. And then there are fish that we should avoid at all times: farmed (or “Atlantic”) salmon, farmed tilapia, Atlantic cod, Chilean sea bass, and farmed shrimp.
Raspberries and Other Berries
A recent study by researchers at Yale University school of medicine discovered that after eating a high-carb, high-sugar meal, free radicals (rogue molecules produced when your body breaks down food) attack the neurons that tell us when we’re full. The result: It’s hard to judge when hunger is satisfied. Escape the cycle of overindulgence by eating foods that are rich in antioxidants. And berries top the charts.
The berries that give you the most antioxidant bang per bite, in order: cranberries, black currents, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, pomegranates.
Fiber is the secret to losing weight without going hungry. One U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that those who increased their daily fiber intake from 12 grams to 24 absorbed 90 fewer calories per day than those who ate the same amount of food but less fiber.
Cruciferous Vegetables and Other Folate-Rich Greens
The more folate you have in your diet, the lower your risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s and depression. And a recent study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that those with the highest folate levels lose 8.5 times more weight when dieting. And cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, Swiss chard, and bok choy, are not only rich in folate, they’re also rich in potassium.
Apples and Other Fruits
What makes the apple so potent? In part, it’s because most of us eat the peel: It’s a great way to add fiber and nutrients to your diet. But there’s a downside: The peel is where the fruit tends to absorb and retain most of the pesticides they are exposed to, apples and peaches being the worst offenders. That’s why, for maximum weight-loss potential, we strongly recommend you buy organic versions of apples, pears, peaches, and other eat-the-peel fruits.
Navy Beans and Other Legumes
Study after study reveals that bean eaters live longer and weigh less. One study showed that people who eat 3/4 cup of beans daily weigh 6.6 pounds less than those who don't eat beans. Another study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that people who eat one and a half servings of beans a day (3/4 cup) have lower blood pressure and smaller waist sizes than those who skip beans in favor of other proteins
A new study from Denmark found that those who eat dark chocolate consume 15 percent fewer calories at their next meal and are less interested in fatty, salty, and sugary foods. And research shows that dark chocolate can improve heart health, lower blood pressure, reduce LDL ("bad") cholesterol, decrease the risk of blood clots, and increase blood flow to the brain. Dark chocolate boosts serotonin and endorphin levels, which are associated with improved mood and greater concentration; it's rich in B vitamins and magnesium, which are noted cognitive boosters; it contains small amounts of caffeine, which helps with short-term concentration; and it contains theobromine, a stimulant that delivers a different kind of buzz, sans the jitters. Dark chocolate is also one of the best foods for better sex.
Ice Cream and Other Healthy Desserts
Calcium-rich desserts like ice cream bind to fatty acids in the digestive tract, blocking their absorption. In one study, participants who ate 1,735 mg of calcium from low-fat dairy products (about as much as in five 8-ounce glasses of milk) blocked the equivalent of 85 calories a day. Plus, half a cup of vanilla ice cream gives you 19 milligrams of choline, which translates to protection from cancer, heart attack, stroke, and dementia. We’re not suggesting you have a bowlful of ice cream every night. But a scoop (the size of a tennis ball) every few days isn’t the diet saboteur it’s made out to be.