4. Roasted Chestnuts
In comparison to other calorie- and fat-dense nuts, chestnuts contain less than one gram of fat per ounce while providing a hefty dose of fiber, vitamin C and folic acid, nutrients important for immune function, formation of collagen and reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. Chestnuts are tasty in stuffing, pilaf, vegetable side dishes and soups. Or try them as a snack by themselves.
A one-cup serving and a mere 80 calories later, you get 20 grams of energy-enhancing carbohydrates, four grams of appetite-curbing fiber as well as a significant amount of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that keeps the immune system revved. Blueberries have the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score of any fresh fruit, which means they can destroy free radicals in the body before they cause damage to healthy cells.
In addition, the dye that makes blueberries "blue" has been shown to improve memory, balance and coordination. Blueberries are a tasty addition to cereals, salads and smoothies. In the colder months when fresh blueberries are less prevalent, opt for the frozen variety.
6. Low-fat Plain Yogurt
Yogurt has always been touted as a nutritional powerhouse, partly because it's loaded with calcium, a critical nutrient considering osteoporosis affects 20 million women each year. Rich in vitamin B-12, yogurt also helps prevent fatigue. And plain yogurt just may be the perfect recovery food for athletes, as it promotes glycogen replenishment and muscle recovery.
Give yourself an energy boost after your next workout by slicing a ripe banana into a cup of plain yogurt. Make sure your yogurt contains active cultures called probiotics, hugely beneficial to immune function.
7. Rice Bran
The USDA reports more people are eating refined white bread, which lacks quality nutrients due to processed flours. Rice bran boasts superior nutritional credentials, with five grams of carbohydrates and more than two grams of fiber in a mere two tablespoons.
Furthermore, it provides 23 percent of the RDA for magnesium, a nutrient directly responsible (along with calcium) for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), for energy during metabolism, as well as conversion of glycogen to glucose for use as the body's fuel during exercise.
Rice bran can replace up to half the flour in any quick bread or muffin recipe and be added to recipes for meatloaf and casseroles. If you don't plan on baking in the near future, try sprinkling rice bran on cereal, salad or yogurt.
8. Whole Wheat Pasta
Despite some concerns about the glycemic response of large portions of pasta, this common carbo-loading meal can be a healthful addition to your diet. Whole wheat pasta provides nearly 40 grams of energy-rich carbohydrates per one cup (cooked) serving. In addition, whole wheat pasta provides five grams of dietary fiber, most of it insoluble fiber, shown to reduce risk for breast cancer.
To ensure you are buying the healthiest whole wheat pasta, look for at least four grams of dietary fiber and five grams of protein per two ounces dry (or one cup cooked) serving. Be sure to watch portions and try to add a protein (chicken, ground sirloin) to your plate to avoid craving that second pasta portion. And, of course, add some veggies for color, fiber and an array of health-enhancing nutrients.
9. Sweet Potatoes
Despite this vegetable's impressive nutritional profile and appealingly "sweet" flavor, consumption of sweet potatoes is on the decline. A look at the facts might change your mind about this nutrient-dense veggie: A four-ounce sweet potato contains a mere 143 calories with a whopping 28 grams of carbohydrates and more than 100 percent of your daily requirement for beta-carotene.