It’s true. You really are what you eat. And that’s why some days you end up feeling more like a cream-filled Twinkie than the lean cut of beef you aspire to.
But you probably already know that. That’s why, like all of us, you’re most likely trying to clean up your act and start eating healthy. But the truth is, that’s just not enough. Because if you’re gorging yourself on apples, bananas, and salads made with iceberg lettuce, you may be eating healthy-but you’re not eating smart.
In order to build the body you want (the thunderous arms and the rock-hard abs, the lightning-quick brain and the unquenchable libido) you need to make every bite of food you put in your mouth count. That means building your diet around the most potent, nutrient-dense, disease-fighting, muscle-growing foods around.
But where do you start? And what foods are the absolute fittest? To find out, we decided to put some of the nation’s top nutritionists to the test.
First, we polled 40 of the country’s most respected food experts-registered dietitians, college nutrition professors, and authors-asking them each: What are the 10 most important foods every guy should include in his diet for maximum fitness? Then, as the results rolled in, we ranked our experts’ recommendations.
We not only tell you which foods made the list, but how much of each you should eat on a weekly basis. So read on to see how you can make your diet more fit.
20) Turkey Breast
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, zinc (a known booster of sperm production), and the cancer fighter selenium. “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.”
19) Olive Oil
119 calories per tbsp
Eat 2 tbsp per day
Olive oil is rich in good monounsaturated fat, making it an ideal food for heart health. 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. But that’s not the only reason to eat it. A study in the journal Nature reports that olive oil also has potent anti-inflammatory properties, 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.
318 calories per half cup
Eat 2-3 servings per week
Chances are you may not be familiar with this exotic whole grain grown in the Andes mountains. But you should be. It has a light, mild flavor-making it ideal for guys who hate other whole grains. Even better, it’s higher in protein than any other grain around, 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.
17) Black Beans
227 calories per cup
Eat 2 servings per week
Tiny as they are, beans can help you feel energized and fuller longer than almost anything else you can eat. The reason is twofold: They’re incredibly high in fiber, which swells in your stomach and promotes a feeling of fullness. And, they’re stuffed with a highly complex form of carbohydrate that can take your body a long while to convert into energy. 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’d our experts pick the black variety? Easy. Ounce for ounce, they have more fiber per serving than any other member of the legume family.
16) Green Tea
2 calories per cup
Drink 1-3 cups per day
From cancer prevention to weight loss to potentially slowing the development of Alzheimer’s, green tea has been shown to help fight almost every major medical ill. “Hot or cold, there’s almost nothing better you can drink,” says Mohr. Not the teabagging type? Try buying a liquid extract. Drop a bit in water and voila! Instant tea.