These are your best choices to lose weight, boost your energy, enhance your mood, and make your skin glow.

IT'S A FACT: WHAT YOU EAT HAS A POWERFUL effect on how you look and feel. When we talked to food researchers, health practitioners, and nutritionists, they agreed that certain foods are especially helpful if you want to be at your best. Our 50 food picks, based on these experts' recommendations, can help you achieve four important goals: a healthy weight, increased energy, better moods, and radiant skin.

Of course, we all know that no single food is a miracle cure for a poor diet. But if you already eat a well-balanced diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and beans, a few strategic choices can put you over the top in terms of how you look and feel.

The following foods help in three main ways: Some fill you up so you feel satisfied; others steady your blood sugar and stave off cravings; and a few others stimulate your metabolism so you burn calories faster. Aim to eat moderate portions of as many of these foods as you can. Doing so will push unhealthier foods out of your diet.

1. Apples Apples are a good source of pectin, a soluble fiber that provides bulk and digests slowly, helping you feel full. A 1997 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that 5 g of pectin was enough to leave people feeling satisfied for up to four hours. Two large apples provide about two-thirds that amount.
2. Barley One cup of hulled barley contains 6 g of fiber (about a quarter of your daily needs), less than 1 g of fat, and more than 40 g of complex carbohydrates. Physician Neal Barnard, M.D., says low-fat complex carbs like barley increase the rate that your body burns calories. Try barley in an easy multigrain cereal. Combine ½ cup barley, ½ cup cracked wheat, and ½ cup steel-cut oats with 41/2 cups water and place on high heat. Cover and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit covered overnight. In the morning, reheat and eat.
3. Black Beans They're low in fat and packed with 15 g of fiber per cup (about 60 percent of your daily requirement), which fills you up and digests slowly so you're less likely to crave unhealthy foods.
4. Burdock Root This root vegetable contains inulin, a carbohydrate that may regulate your blood sugar and control hunger. Find burdock in the produce section of natural food stores. Slice it into thin slivers and add it to stir-fries. (Pregnant women should avoid burdock; some practitioners say it stimulates the uterus.)
5. Cantaloupe It satisfies a sweet tooth but is super-low in calories (less than 100 in hall a cantaloupe) and nutrient-rich, says nutritionist Carol Ann Rinzler. For a filling, balanced lunch, Rinzler suggests topping half a seeded cantaloupe with a scoop of protein-rich bean salad.
6. Carrots They're a smart weight-loss food: convenient for snacking, low in calories, and rich in fiber. (One cup of carrot sticks contains just 52 calories and 4 g of fiber, about 16 percent of your daily fiber needs.) A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that fiber intake predicted weight gain in young adults. The more fiber they ate, the less likely they were to gain weight.
7. Cereal A 1999 study in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that people who consume high-fiber breakfasts eat less at lunch than those who eat low-fiber or high-fat breakfasts. For best results, look for cereals that contain at least 6 g of fiber per serving.
8. Chile Peppers Some scientists say capsaicin, the substance that gives chiles their kick, may help your body burn calories at a slightly faster rate, although more research is needed. Scientists do agree that capsaicin decreases your appetite when consumed from whole peppers. Varieties include jalapeño, cayenne, and habañero (the hottest). Place half a pepper (with some ribs and seeds removed to control the heat) in marinara sauce as it simmers.
9. Dandelion Greens Naturopath Sejal Parikh-Shah, N.D., recommends these greens for their diuretic properties (which help you lose water weight) and their ability to stabilize blood sugar (which prevents binge eating). Find them in your supermarket produce section.
10. Fruit Smoothies Nutrition researcher Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., suggests drinking a homemade fruit smoothie before going out to eat. If you make your own, smoothies are low in calories but full of water and air, so they fill your stomach and activate sensors that make you feel satisfied. Rolls says drinking water alone before or during meals doesn't have the same effect. Mix fruit with low-fat plain yogurt and ice in a blender.
11. Ginger When you're counting calories, you're more likely to feel satisfied with smaller portions if your food is highly seasoned with spices like ginger. Add freshly grated ginger to soups, stews, and stir-fries.
12. Green Tea A 1999 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who consumed green tea burned more calories than those who took either caffeine alone or a placebo. For weight-loss benefits, pour 2 cups of water, brought just to a boil, over 1 teaspoon of green tea leaves. Steep in a covered container for 30 minutes. Drink up to 3 cups a day.
13. Kimchi This spicy Korean delicacy, made of fermented cabbage, garlic, and chile peppers, may help weight-loss efforts, says preventive medicine researcher Lorraine Faxon Meisner, Ph.D. Anecdotal evidence suggests its strong flavor suppresses appetite and prevents overeating, she says. Find it in Asian supermarkets or natural food stores, and eat a small amount as a side dish with meals.
14. Onions Nutritionist Verne Varona says onions accelerate the break down of fats in your food. As a result, your body is more apt to excrete them than to store them in fat cells. It's also worth noting that one large onion contains a meager 57 calories.
15. Strawberries They're full of water, high in fiber (3 g per cup), and superlow in calories (just 43 calories per cup), which makes them ideal for weight loss. Strawberries typically contain high levels of pesticide residues, so try to buy organic berries.
16. Tempeh A fermented cake of pressed soybeans, tempeh is an easy-to-digest form of soy protein. Like all protein, it helps you hold on to muscle as you lose weight. A typical 4-ounce serving of tempeh contains 24 g of protein and 28 percent of your recommended daily fiber intake.
17. Vegetable Soup Soup contains relatively few calories but takes up space in your stomach so you feel full, says researcher Rolls. She suggests that you eat a bowl of brothy vegetable soup before meals to dampen your appetite. Avoid soups that contain cream, cheese, or other high-calorie ingredients.
18. Whole-Grain Bread A 2001 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that breads that contain unrefined grains require you to chew vigorously and create a feeling of fullness, making you less likely to overeat. Scan bread labels and choose brands that list whole grains (like whole wheat, barley, or oats) as the first ingredient and contain at least 2 g of fiber per slice.


On days when you're dragging, eating the next six foods as part of a balanced diet can give you an extra boost. Start with water (number 24), and sample the other five foods to see which work best for you.

* 19. Blackstrap Molasses An iron deficiency is a common cause of fatigue, especially in menstruating women. (If you think you could be deficient, ask your doctor to check.) Blackstrap molasses can help; one tablespoon supplies 17 percent of a woman's daily iron needs. Add molasses to baked goods or stir a teaspoon into a mug of warm soymilk.
* 20. Black Tea The caffeine in black tea can perk you up by increasing your heart rate and level of alertness. Because too much caffeine can provoke anxiety, black tea (which contains about 40 mg of caffeine per cup) is a better choice than coffee (which has about 135 mg). Black tea also has polyphenols, antioxidants that protect against free radical damage. Limit your intake to about three cups a day.
* 21. Brown Rice It's a source of complex carbohydrates, which provide sustained fuel and prevent fatigue. It's also rich in the B vitamins that help turn food into energy. If you're short on time, try instant brown rice, which takes only 10 minutes to prepare.
* 22. Quinoa Another source of B vitamins, quinoa is also rich in protein. To make this grain, rinse 1 cup quinoa (to remove traces of saponin, a bitter-tasting resin) and add it to 2 cups boiling water. Cook for 20 minutes without stirring. To boost flavor, add slivered almonds, carrots, and peas in the last 3 minutes.
* 23. Sea Vegetables Your body needs minerals to create energy-producing reactions in your cells, and sea vegetables are loaded with them. Dulse, kombu, nori, and wakame pack a concentrated variety of minerals including calcium, iodine, iron, magnesium, and potassium. To get these benefits, try sushi or sprinkle dulse flakes on soups or vegetables.
* 24. Water If you feel tired despite getting enough sleep and eating well, drink more water. Fatigue is a common symptom of dehydration, and most people “are in a constant state of low-grade dehydration,” says naturopath Mark Stengler, N.D. Drink 6 to 8 glasses a day.


Psychologist David Benton, Ph.D., says that almost any pleasant-tasting food will improve your mood by elevating your supply of endorphins, brain chemicals that make you feel good. But the 11 foods in this section don't just taste good. Many also contain compounds that help you relax, clear your mind, and prevent depression. Aim to eat a variety of these foods; it's unhealthy to consume large amounts of just one or two.

* 25. Avocados They're one of the richest plant sources of B vitamins, including B6. (Half an avocado provides one-third of your recommended daily amount.) B6 appears to help elevate mood, and some studies show that people who are depressed lack this vitamin. A ripe avocado yields to pressure when gently squeezed. A rock-hard avocado will ripen in a few days at room temperature.
* 26. Bananas These convenient snacks provide magnesium, a muscle-tension fighter that helps you relax, and more than half your daily requirement of B6, a nutrient that may ease depression.
* 27. Brazil Nuts They're the richest known source of selenium, a trace mineral that studies suggest can improve mood. Just two a day supply the amount of selenium that researchers found beneficial.
* 28. Chamomile Tea This tea has a slight anti-anxiety effect and acts as a mild sedative. To make a cup, pour 8 ounces of very hot (not boiling) water over 2 teaspoons of dried flowers or a chamomile tea bag. Steep for 5 minutes, strain, and drink.
* 29. Chocolate Cocoa contains phenyl-ethylamine, a compound that increases your production of the brain chemicals adrenaline and dopamine, which elevate mood. A 1996 study in Nature found that chocolate also contains small amounts of anandamine, a substance that's similar to the mood-altering chemicals in marijuana, but some researchers believe there's too little to have an effect. They say chocolate makes you feel good because it has an appealing flavor and a rich mouthfeel. Good quality dark chocolate is healthiest, and it's probably best to eat no more than an ounce a day.
* 30. Flaxseeds A 2000 study at the University of Arizona College of Public Health in Tucson reported that people with low blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids may be at higher risk for depression. Other studies show that consuming omega-3 fatty acids may improve mood. Flaxseeds are the richest plant source of omega-3s. To make their beneficial nutrients absorbable, grind flaxseeds in a clean coffee grinder and sprinkle 2 tablespoons on cereal or salads. Keep flaxseeds in the refrigerator.
* 31. Oatmeal It's rich in thiamin, a B vitamin. Even a mild deficiency of this vitamin can hamper brain function. Unlike other sources of thiamin, like pork and liver, oatmeal is very low in saturated fat and rich in heart-healthy soluble fiber.
* 32. Orange Juice One 8-ounce glass provides 18 percent of your daily requirement of folic acid, a B vitamin that may prevent depression. Several studies suggest that people with low levels of folic acid are generally more depressed than those with normal levels.
* 33. Potatoes Potatoes produce a calming effect because they clear your bloodstream of amino acids that compete with another amino acid, tryptophan. When tryptophan is free to enter your brain, it helps make serotonin, a brain chemical that induces calmness, says researcher Judith Wurtman, Ph.D. If you really need to relax, she recommends a plain baked potato; eating high-protein foods at the same time neutralizes the effect.
* 34. Stevia If you have a sweet tooth, try stevia, a sweet herb that does not cause your blood sugar levels (and your mood) to climb and dip the way sugar does. Use it to sweeten drinks and baked goods. Stevia is sold in concentrate form (substitute ½ teaspoon for each cup of sugar in a recipe) or in powdered leaf form (substitute 1 ½ tablespoons for 1 cup of sugar).
* 35. Veggie Burgers Eating protein is helpful when you need to clear your mind, Wurtman says. Protein contains the amino acid tyrosine, which stimulates the synthesis of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine; these chemicals increase alertness. Soy-based veggie burgers are a healthy source of vegetable protein.


Beautiful skin depends on more than the right cleansers and creams, what you eat matters too. After all, your skin is an organ, just like your kidneys or stomach, says nutrition instructor Verne Varona. “And what puts stress on these organs—too much fat and sugar, for example—can lead to skin problems,” he says. These foods contain nutrients that nourish skin and prevent skin ailments. Aim to eat as many as you can in a week.

* 36. Adzuki Beans These easy-to-digest beans provide 27 percent of your daily requirement of zinc, a mineral that your skin uses to repair damage. Because it strengthens your immune system and reduces inflammation, zinc also helps skin conditions including acne. Adzuki beans are available canned and dried at natural food stores.
* 37. Almonds Twenty-four almonds contain 9 g of monounsaturated fats (as well as some good-for-skin omega-3 fats) and 6 g of protein. They also have nearly half your recommended daily amount of vitamin E, 7 percent of your daily calcium needs, and a notable amount of zinc, all nutrients that keep skin healthy.
* 38. Beet Greens Nutrition author Deborah Kesten recommends them if you have dry skin; they contain nutrients that keep skin moist, including vitamin A, biotin, vitamin C, and linoleic acid. Try them sautéed with garlic in olive oil.
* 39. Collard Greens They're one of the best sources of lutein, an antioxidant that appears to have a sun-blocking effect for your eyes (protecting you against cataracts and macular degeneration). Researchers suspect it may similarly protect your skin from sun damage. Try them steamed and flavored with a little sesame oil and soy sauce.
* 40. Garlic It contains antimicrobial compounds that can protect your skin from fungal infections. If you're prone to athlete's foot or other skin conditions, add one or two cloves of chopped raw garlic to your food daily. (Garlic's effects are strongest when it's eaten raw.)
* 41. Grapeseed Oil This mild-tasting oil is one of the richest sources of linoleic acid, an essential fat that helps heal damaged skin, and it contains proanthocyanidin, a powerful antioxidant that may prevent sun damage. Fatty acids in the oil may also control the inflammatory response, which researchers believe triggers skin conditions like psoriasis. Because it has a high smoke point, grapeseed oil is safe for all kinds of cooking, including frying.
* 42. Hummus Diets low in iron can lead to overly pale skin, but two ingredients in hummus can help: chickpeas, which are a rich source of iron (1 cup provides 18 percent of a woman's daily iron needs), and lemon juice, a source of vitamin C, which increases iron absorption.
* 43. Kiwi Fruit Kiwi is a powerhouse for skin. It's one of nature's richest sources of vitamin C; one kiwi contains more than 100 percent of your recommended daily intake. A free radical scavenger, vitamin C prevents skin damage and helps build collagen, the fibrous protein that keeps skin elastic.
* 44. Lentils Like every other tissue in your body, skin needs protein to be healthy, and these legumes are a super source because they're also full of fiber, iron, B vitamins, and minerals. Try cooked lentils tossed with olive oil, parsley, and lemon.
* 45. Olive Oil A recent study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition examined the effects of diet on skin wrinkles. Researchers compared the diets and skin of people living in sun-exposed areas, and found that those with the least wrinkling had high intakes of olive oil, vegetables, and legumes.
* 46. Salmon Omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish like salmon keep your skin resilient and may reduce the inflammation that leads to chronic skin conditions like psoriasis. Aim to eat salmon and other cold-water fish, including mackerel, at least twice a week.
* 47. Shiitake Mushrooms Diets low in selenium are associated with an increased risk of certain types of skin cancer. One cup of shiitake mushrooms provides about two-thirds of your recommended daily intake. Shiitakes and other mushrooms also provide protein, B vitamins, and zinc, all necessary to keep skin at its best.
* 48. Soymilk If you're plagued by blemishes and drink milk, you might want to try an alternative like soymilk. The culprit may be iodine, a mineral that your body needs but that triggers acne in some cases. Iodine ends up in milk (including organic brands) because it's used to clean milking machines and cows' udders.
* 49. Tomatoes They're packed with the antioxidants beta carotene, vitamin C, and lycopene, all known to protect against sun damage and skin cancer. To increase your absorption of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, researchers recommend cooking tomatoes in a small amount of olive oil.
* 50. Wheat Germ It's one of the richest sources of the B vitamins that help prevent redness and rough, scaly skin, Kesten says. Two tablespoons provide about 15 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin E, an antioxidant that can prevent the skin damage caused by free radicals. She suggests adding 2 tablespoons to your cereal.

The seaweed in sushi is loaded with minerals you need for energy.

Chocolate's rich mouthfeel may be what lifts mood.





By Dina Aronson, R.D.

Dina Aronson, R.D., is a registered dietitian and freelance writer in the Boston area. She prefers chocolate over flaxseeds to elevate her mood.


IN A DAY: at more often. A 1999 South African study showed that when men ate parts of their morning meal at intervals over five hours, they consumed almost 30 percent fewer calories at lunch than when they ate a single breakfast. Spread your daily calories over at least five small meals.

IN A WEEK: Add short bursts of speed to your walk or run to increase your calorie burn. Start by moving one minute fast, followed by two minutes at a moderate speed, and then gradually work up to one fast minute for every moderate minute.

IN A MONTH: Join a support group. Researchers at Columbia University in New York City found that people enrolled in group weight-loss programs lost more weight than those who did it alone. There was a strong relationship between number of meetings attended and amount of weight lost, so find a group you can meet with often.

More Ways to Increase Your Energy CONSIDER THIS

IN A DAY: When inhaled, essential oils of basil (Ocimum basilicum), peppermint (Mentha piperita), and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) are thought to stimulate your brain to provide a natural energy boost. Add a drop or two of one of these oils to a handkerchief, hold it near your face, and breathe deeply.

IN A WEEK: Short, shallow breaths exacerbate feelings of fatigue. For 10 minutes a day, sit quietly and breathe deeply through your nose, filling your abdomen first and then your chest. Hold for three counts and then exhale through your nose.

IN A MONTH: Try Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosis). When taken for a month or more, this herb can increase your energy levels. Take 1 g of the powdered root or 200 mg of a standardized extract twice daily for up to three months.



IN A DAY: Listen to good music. Researchers say music may relieve stress by absorbing your attention and distracting you from distressing thoughts.

IN A WEEK: Plan for fun. Anticipation can improve your spirits, so schedule enjoyable activities in advance. Monday mornings are easier if you have something fun to look forward to later in the week.

IN A MONTH: Use a journal. Writing your thoughts in a journal daily allows you to let go of difficult feelings. Writing as a Way of Healing (Beacon Press, 2000) by Louise DeSalvo gives practical techniques to get you started.



IN A DAY: Give yourself a facial with homemade papaya mask. Papaya contains enzymes that exfoliate dead skin cells, says herbalist Laurel Vukovic, author of Herbal Healing Secrets for Women (Prentice Hall, 2000). Mix ¼ cup diced papaya, 1 teaspoon of honey, and 2 drops of frankincense essential oil (Boswellia carteri). Apply mask to clean skin, relax for 15 minutes, and rinse with warm water.

IN A WEEK: Get more sleep. Your skin rejuvenates and repairs itself while you sleep, so aim to get eight hours a night.

IN A MONTH: Ease stress with yoga. When you're stressed, your body releases hormones that cause skin problems, including acne and premature wrinkles. A regular yoga practice induces deep relaxation so your body releases fewer stress hormones.


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