Marta Montenegro: Six Foods You Should Be Eating

Lack of diversity is one of the most common pitfalls in the quest to maintain a healthy diet. However, nowadays there are many options that can satisfy almost any request, from aiding to control appetite and blood sugar swings to decrease inflammation while protecting the heart. All these benefits come without sacrificing flavor and versatility when cooking these foods.

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Lose weight by eating pork. Choose the loin (pork roast or pork chop) and this meat can take chicken’s place as one of the best sources to provide lean protein, iron, zinc, and selenium and B vitamins. Lauren O’Connor, MS, RD, suggests lean pork as part of a well-balanced dietary plan may also help control blood sugar levels and other heart disease risk factors in type 2 diabetics.

Pork has Conjugated Linoleic Acid, (CLA) which has been linked to reduce body fat and increase lean mass. O’Connor also says that CLA may be beneficial for heart health as well as cancer prevention.

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The benefits of pork extend to the point that they can help you to cheer you up. Lisa Roberts-Lehan, MPHL, CHHC, explains that pork is a mood-boosting food that contains tryptophan, a food-derived amino acid that helps supply your brain with serotonin, one of our happy hormones. “Feeling sluggish or in a bad mood often results in greater food cravings, therefore, jeopardizing weight loss,” she says.

Hemp seeds take over animal protein: Don’t be fooled by these tiny seeds. They are nutritional rock stars. They are nearly a complete protein close to meat, poultry and soy, says O’Connor.

They offer the benefits of a perfect balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fats ratio of 3:1 in our diets, including improved cardiovascular health, strengthened immune system, and reduced risk of certain types of cancer, according to Roberts-Lehan. Her tip: Toast them lightly and enjoy them as a snack as they taste like peanuts.

Kefir a great contender for Greek Yogurt: O’ Connor explains that kefir is a great source of calcium (30 percent of your daily needs). Because this milk is also cultured (fermented), it provides beneficial probiotics – good bacteria that among other benefits support a healthy immune system – as well. In fact, more good bacteria than the same amount of yogurt.

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Kefir’s lactase content – the enzyme missing in those who are lactose intolerance- may benefit those with lactose intolerance, easing digestion, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Kale is the new green: It is one of the dark leafy green vegetable family’s power star. One cup is only 36 calories. Dark, leafy greens are nutrient-packed with vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and vitamins A, C, E, and K.  They are also low in calories, naturally cholesterol-free, and a rich source of fiber, folic acid and chlorophyll, says Roberts-Lehan.

Cut kale chips bit pieces. Add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and  place them in the oven at 350 F until they’re crispy – around 10 minutes.

From coconut water to coconut oil: Not all saturated fats are equal. This is the case of coconut oil, which has been linked to aiding in weight control. Roberts-Lehan says that the bodily quickly converts coconut oil to energy.  It also contains naturally occurring lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid which kills viruses and bacteria and is only found naturally in one other place: breast milk.

This oil can withstand high heat. One of Roberts-Lehan favorite recipes is to cook pop-corn with coconut oil. She says that it can enhance the flavor of your food and replace butter and other oils in cooking and baking.

Natural red beets give anti-inflammatory benefits: It’s not just olive oil and salmon that have shown some anti-inflammatory properties. Red beets provide benefits to fitness/sports aficionados by fighting oxidative stress due to its lipoic acid content. This fatty acid has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. It’s also high in vitamin C, folate, and good source of vitamin K and potassium, says O’Connor.

Also, studies show that beet juice may increase endurance due to its nitrate content which turns to nitric oxide that relax the arteries, thus facilitating oxygen uptake.

Salsa Verde Salmon with Roasted Carrots

Mo’s Beet and Hemp Seed Salad

Recipe by Maura Knowles, a.k.a Mo the MORSELIST,


3 cups organic mixed greens

2 beets sliced & diced

1-2 medium carrots sliced or diced

1 avocado diced

1/2 cup fresh parsley

1-2 tbsp toasted hemp seeds

Mo’s Dressing:

2 tbsp coconut oil

1/4 cup apple cider or balsamic vinegar

Pepper to taste

Juice of 1/2 lemon

A dash of cayenne

Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning coach and master trainer, who teaches as an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website,, combines fitness, nutrition and health tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.

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