You've loaded up on apples and lettuce, and eaten more than your weight in carrots. Your efforts are noble, but you might be missing out on some of the biggest nutritional heavy hitters out there.
In order to build the body you want, you need to make every bite of food you put in your mouth count. That means building your diet around the most nutrient-dense foods possible. But where do you start? Don't worry, we have you covered.
We polled 40 of the country's most respected food experts—registered dietitians, college nutrition professors and authors—asking each of them: What are the 10 most important foods for men to include in their daily diets for ultimate health? Then, as the results rolled in, we ranked our experts' recommendations.
To make getting lean, fit and healthy as easy as possible, here's the top 10 along with recommendations on how much of each you should eat on a weekly basis:
72 calories per 3-oz serving
Eat 3 servings per week
Buy it skinless and you get seven grams of muscle-building protein per ounce. Turkey is high in B vitamins, cancer-fighting selenium and zinc (a known booster of sperm production). "It's also got a ton of amino acids, and there are little or no saturated fats," says Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D., a nutritionist in Reading, Mass. "Plus, it's one of the most versatile cuts of meat around, so you can easily eat it throughout the week and never have the same thing twice."
318 calories per half cup
Eat 2-3 servings per week
You may or may not be familiar with this trendy ancient grain. But you should be. It has a light, mild flavor, making it ideal for guys who hate other whole grains. It gets better: quinoa is higher in protein than any other grain, and packs a hefty dose of heart-healthy, unsaturated fats. "Quinoa is also a great source of fiber and B vitamins," says Christopher Mohr, Ph.D., R.D. a professor of nutrition at the University of Louisville. For ideas on how to prepare it, check out these 10 Quinoa Recipes for Weight Loss!
119 calories per tbsp
Eat 2 tbsp per day
Olive oil is an ideal food for heart health because it's rich in good monounsaturated fat. In fact, studies show that replacing two tablespoons of saturated fat (found in butter and lard) with monounsaturated fat may reduce the risk of heart disease. Olive oil also has potent anti-inflammatory properties according to a study in the journal Nature, meaning it can help reduce pain and swelling just like a dose of ibuprofen. In addition to cooking with olive oil and using it as a dressing for your salad, you can get even more in your diet by mixing a tablespoon or two into your daily protein shake. It's just one of the 8 Best Fats for Weight Loss!
2 calories per cup
Drink 1-3 cups per day
Green tea has been shown to help fight almost every major medical ill from cancer to the development of Alzheimer's. It also boosts weight loss, especially if sipped before a workout. "Hot or cold, there's almost nothing better you can drink," says Mohr.
227 calories per cup
Eat 2 servings per week
Beans can help you feel energized and fuller longer than almost anything else because of their high-fiber content and complex carbohydrates. The fiber swells in your stomach and promotes a feeling of fullness and the complex carbs take your body a long while to convert into energy, keeping your blood sugar levels even keel. Like meat, they're also packed with protein. But unlike meat, they've got no saturated fats. "Beans of all types are always high on most nutritionists' lists," says Chicago-based nutritionist Jennifer R. Bathgate, R.D. So why black beans specifically? Ounce for ounce, they have more fiber per serving than any other member of the legume family.
74 calories per large egg
Eat 3-7 eggs per week
"An egg a day is A-OK," says Ward. Here's why: Eggs contain a heavy-hitting 4 grams of amino acids inside every shell, in addition to boasting some of the highest naturally available doses of a metabolism-boosting nutrient called choline, which is thought to help enhance memory. "They're the gold standard in terms of providing all the right nutrients for muscle growth," says Ward.
118 calories per cup
Get 3 servings of dairy per day
When you're not getting enough dairy, your body releases hormones that cause your cells to retain calcium and fat, says Michael Zemel, Ph.D., director of The Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee. Calories still count, so you should drink your milk by the glass rather than the gallon. It's worth striking a good balance, though. "There are components in dairy that help turn on your body's fat-burning system and slow down the storage of fat," says Zemel.
163 calories per 3-oz serving
Eat 3-4 servings per week
Do we really have to convince you to eat beef? Probably not, but you might not be aware of all the amazing health benefits you'll get from just three ounces. It's high in muscle-building amino acids, and a powerhouse of iron and zinc, which aid circulatory health. A three-ounce serving supplies more than 10 percent of your recommended daily intake protein, B6 and B12, selenium, phosphorus, niacin and riboflavin. Don't worry about the fat, either. According to USDA data, today's beef is up to 20 percent leaner than it was a decade ago. To keep the meat you're buying lean as well as tender and flavorful, opt for cuts with the words round or top in the name-things like eye round roast, top round, or top sirloin steak.
300 calories per cup
Eat 2 servings per week
If tough Navy SEALs eat soybeans, you can, too. Dietitian Wendy Jo Peterson, of Virginia Beach, who's married to a SEAL, serves him and his Navy buddies edamame. "They think they don't like it until I make them try it, and afterward, I tell them it's soybeans." Peterson calls soy a "perfect food" because it has the protein of meat, the fiber of a whole grain and the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals of the best fruits and vegetables. You don't have to eat tofu to reap the benefits, either. Soy protein can be used in protein shakes, and you can find it in some protein bars.
82 calories per 1/2-oz serving
Eat 3 servings per week
Almonds are great for your heart, digestive system and skin because of their powerful combination of protein, fiber and vitamin E. Don't be scared off by their high fat count, either. Gary Fraser, Ph.D., a professor of medicine at Loma Linda University in California, studied folks who added two ounces of almonds to their diet on a regular basis. Turns out they had no significant weight change. "Since nuts are such a hard food, it appears that a significant amount of their calories are never absorbed into the body," he says. Try keeping a bag of dry-roasted or lightly seasoned almonds in your desk drawer at work so you can snack on a handful rather than hitting the less-than-healthy foods in the vending machine.
Courtesy of Men's Fitness