I have a friend whose father has cancer, and she asked me how to help him gain weight and strength. Not really my area, since I generally help people lose weight in order to live healthier lives.
But the part about “healthier lives” struck a nerve. I realized that whether you're gaining or losing weight, many of the health issues are similar.
So I decided to look at foods that are healthy even though they pack a calorie punch! You should eat them, but if you're watching your weight, keep portions small.
Why: Nuts are a great source of protein and fat. The Nurses' Health Study followed 86,016 nurses over 14 years and found that those who ate 5 ounces or more of nuts per week reduced their risk of death from heart attack by 35 percent and were on average thinner than those who did not eat nuts. Those who ate nuts five times per week or more showed a greater than 50 percent risk reduction.
Nutritional Information: Almonds: 3 ounces (72 nuts), 480 calories, 45 g fat, 18 g carbohydrates, 18 g protein. Brazil nuts: 3 ounces (21 nuts), 510 calories, 42 g fat, 24 g carbohydrates, 15 g protein. Cashews: 3 ounces (60 nuts), 510 calories, 42 g fat, 24 g carbohydrates, 15 g protein. Walnuts: 3 ounces (42 halves), 540 calories, 51 g fat, 15 g carbohydrates, 12 g protein. Pistachios, shelled: 3 ounces (141 nuts), 510 calories, 45 g fat, 6 g carbohydrates, 12 g protein. Pecans: 3 ounces (60 halves), 570 calories, 60 g fat, 15 g carbohydrates, 9 g protein. Macadamia: 3 ounces (33 nuts), 600 calories, 63 g fat, 12 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein.
Peanuts and peanut butter
Why: Peanuts, which are legumes, not nuts, provide a nutrient powerhouse with more than 30 essential nutrients and phytonutrients. They are a good source of vitamin E (known to have antioxidant properties and to boost immune function) and folate (known for reducing the risk of certain serious birth defects, such as spina bifida). They also contain niacin, which helps reduce cholesterol, as well as magnesium, which increases metabolism. Plus, they're naturally cholesterol- and trans fat-free.
Just 2 tablespoons of peanut butter have 7 grams of protein. Protein helps keep you feeling full longer. Peanut butter also contains high amounts of arginine (an amino acid that can improve blood flow) and flavonoids (an antioxidant that reduces inflammation and protects against cell damage). Make sure to get peanut butter that is just ground peanuts, nothing else. Also, you might want to try almond butter, which is 180 calories for 2 tablespoons.
Nutrient Information: 2 tablespoons: 200 calories, 16 g fat, 6 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 7 g protein.
Why: They're nutrient-dense and packed with antioxidants, vitamins B6, C and E, as well as folate and potassium (60 percent more potassium per ounce than bananas), and they're a great source of monounsaturated fat, which studies have shown to reduce serum cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated fats.
Nutritional Information: 1 avocado, 201 grams or 7 ounces: 322 calories, 29.5 g fat, 17.15 g carbs, 13.5 g fiber.
Why: In terms of the antioxidants, research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition reported that dried figs and dried plums (prunes) have the best nutrient score. Additionally, the researchers concluded, “Dried fruits have a greater nutrient density, greater fiber content, increased shelf life, and significantly greater phenol antioxidant content compared to fresh fruits. The quality of the antioxidants in the processed dried fruit is the same as in the corresponding fresh fruit.” However, vitamin C, which is present in many fresh fruits, is destroyed by the drying process.
Dried fruit is high in fiber and carbohydrates and low in fat. It has significant antioxidant value; however, its nutrients are very concentrated, and so are its calories.
Nutritional Information: Apples, fresh, raw: (1 medium), 72 calories, 3.3 g fiber. Apples, dried: (25 slices/ 1/3 cup), 110 calories, 3 g fiber. Apricots, fresh, raw: (3 apricots), 50 calories, 2.1 g fiber. Apricots, dried: (6 pieces), 90 calories, 3 g fiber.
Fresh, raw: (1 medium), 105 calories, 3.1 g fiber. Banana chips: (1 ounce/22 chips), 147 calories, 2.2 g fiber
Fresh, raw: (75 berries), 58 calories, 2.4 g fiber. Dried blueberries: (sweetened), 1/4 cup (75 berries), 150 calories, 4 g fiber
Fresh, raw: (27 cherries), 116 calories, 3.9 g fiber. Dried: ( 1/3 cup/27 cherries), 160 calories, 1.5 g fiber.
Fresh, raw: (1 cup), 62 calories, 0.8 g fiber. Dried raisins: (1 small box/1.5 ounces), 129 calories, 1.6 g fiber.
Fresh, raw: (1 cup sliced), 107 calories, 3 g fiber. Dried, unsweetened: (6 slices), 106 calories, 1 g fiber.
Fresh, raw: (1 large), 148 calories, 6.8 g fiber. Dried: (2 spears/1.5 ounces), 140 calories, 1 g fiber.
Fresh, raw: (1 medium), 58 calories, 2.2 g fiber. Dried: (1 ounce), 140 calories, 1 g fiber.
Fresh, raw: ( 1/2 -inch-thick slice/ring), 40 calories, 1.2 g fiber. Dried: (1 ring), 70 calories, 1 g fiber.
Why: The Food and Drug Administration has granted olive oil a qualified health claim. Manufacturers are now allowed to state that: “Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil.”
The allowable claim goes on to say that: “To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.” Why? Because oil has about 120 calories per tablespoon.
Nutritional Information: 1 tablespoon: 119 calories, 0 g carbs, 13.5 g fat, 0 g protein.