If a colorful diet is a healthy one, it's easy to see why the right salad is a potential lifesaver. Sure, Centrum is fine in a pinch, but the best way to get your essential vitamins and antioxidants is straight from the source.
A recent study conducted by the Louisiana State University School of Public Health found that men who eat a salad a day are more likely to get their recommended daily intake of many essential nutrients. What's more, the study authors note that men who eat more than 60 grams of vegetables a day increase their life span by 2 years.
Try this nutrient-filled smorgasbord. It's not only great for you, but it will also leave you feeling as if you've eaten a real meal.
Nutritional Information: 618 calories, 41 grams (g) protein, 35 g carbohydrates, 37 g fat (6 g saturated), 14 g fiber, 178 milligrams sodium
Red Leaf Lettuce
Four leaves of red-leaf lettuce contain 1,213 mcg of antioxidants, 96 mcg of vitamin K (which has been shown to maintain bone mass), and 1,172 mcg of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. The National Institutes of Health found that lutein and zeaxanthin can decrease your risk of developing macular degeneration by 43 percent.
Other nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate, and potassium
Disease-fighting power: osteoporosis, macular degeneration, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, Alzheimer’s, and weight gain
Chunk Light Tuna
Tuna, one of the best sources of protein, contains no trans fat, and a three-ounce serving of chunk light contains 11 mg of heart-healthy niacin, which has been shown to help lower cholesterol and help your body process fat. University of Rochester researchers determined that niacin raises HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and lowers triglycerides more than most statins alone.
Other nutrients: protein, selenium, and vitamin B12
Disease-fighting power: heart disease and diabetes
Four cherry tomatoes will give you 1,748 mcg of lycopene. A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that increasing dietary lycopene intake to 30 mg reduces oxidative DNA damage to prostate tissues and decreases PSA levels.
Other nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber, and potassium
Disease-fighting power: cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and hypertension
One tablespoon of almonds provides 2.2 grams of alpha-tocopherol, a type of vitamin E, which reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, according to a National Institute on Aging study. Another study showed that people who were clinically depressed had lower levels of alpha-tocopherol than their happy peers. Vitamin E also fights free-radical damage.
Other nutrients: monounsaturated fat, protein, and fiber
Disease-fighting power: Alzheimer’s, depression, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes
Sunflower Seeds and Flaxseeds
One tablespoon of sunflower seeds provides 8.35 mcg of selenium. Harvard researchers discovered that men with high levels of selenium have a 49 percent lower incidence of advanced prostate cancer than those with the lowest levels. One tablespoon of flaxseeds will give you 2.3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to reduced risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and depression. They have also been shown to inhibit cancer-cell growth.
Other nutrients: vitamin E and fiber
Disease-fighting power: heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, depression, and diabetes
EVOO and Balsamic Vinegar
One tablespoon of olive oil delivers 10 grams of monounsaturated fat. Research shows that men with diets high in monounsaturated fat have higher testosterone levels than those who don’t. Antioxidant-rich balsamic vinegar can improve vascular function when ingested with a high-fat food like olive oil, which contributes to a reduction in the risk of heart disease.
Disease-fighting power: Adding olive oil to red, green, orange, or yellow fruits and vegetables increases the amount of heart-saving, cancer-fighting, vision-boosting, immune-repairing, bone-strengthening vitamins such as A, E, and K, as well as carotenoids.
Carrots are one of the richest sources of pro–vitamin A carotenoids, plant compounds that provide color and function as antioxidants. Just a quarter cup of shredded carrots provides 2,279 mcg of beta-carotene and 4,623 IU of vitamin A. According to a study in the journal Thorax, beta-carotene can slow the age-related decline of lung power. Vitamin A has also been shown to improve vision, bone growth, and cell division; help regulate the immune system; and decrease the risk of lung cancer.
Other nutrients: vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber, and potassium
Disease-fighting power: cancer, osteoporosis, weight gain, and hypertension
Four cubes of Swiss cheese provide 476 mg of calcium and 26 IU of vitamin D. In a 20-year study, British researchers determined that men who consume more than 67 IU of vitamin D and 190 mg of calcium a day have half the risk of stroke of men who consume less. Vitamin D has also been associated with a decrease in the risk of pancreatic, prostate, and testicular cancers. A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that men with higher blood levels of vitamin D had a 17 percent reduction in total cancer incidence and a 29 percent reduction in total cancer deaths.
Other nutrients: protein and vitamin B12
Disease-fighting power: osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and stroke
Yellow Bell Peppers
Four strips of yellow bell pepper provide 48 mg of free-radical-fighting vitamin C (free radicals are rogue molecules that can damage cells and lead to cancer). According to a study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, levels of C-reactive protein—a blood marker for inflammation linked to heart disease—can be decreased by 24 percent if you consume 500 mg of vitamin C a day. Plus, nutrition researchers from Arizona State University reported that vitamin C can help with weight loss by assisting in fat oxidation, or the body’s ability to burn fat.
Other nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin B6, folate, and potassium
Disease-fighting power: heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, weight gain, and hypertension
Red Kidney Beans
A quarter cup of red kidney beans gives you 6,630 disease-fighting antioxidants, plus a full 3 grams of fiber. According to the American Dietetic Association, dietary fiber lowers blood cholesterol levels and helps normalize blood glucose and insulin levels, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.
Other nutrients: protein and folate
Disease-fighting power: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s