According to the Abs Diet by David Zinczenko, there are 12 "Power Foods" that everyone should eat because they fulfill your core nutritional needs and help you build a lean body while losing fat. These foods include:
Almonds and other raw nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.)
Beans and legumes
Spinach and other green vegetables
Dairy (raw milk, organic cottage cheese, yogurt and cheese)
Instant oatmeal (I recommend real oatmeal that is unsweetened)
Eggs (eat the whole egg!!!)
Turkey and other lean meats
Peanut butter (ingredients should be: peanuts and salt)
Whole-grain breads (buy breads without high-fructose corn syrup like Nature's Own)
Extra protein powder (whey and casein mix: low-carb Metabolic Drive)
Raspberries and other berries
In addition to eating the above foods through various combinations (giving you hundreds of food options), the Abs Diet recommends eating 4-6 meals per day, drinking smoothies (for convenience), no longer counting calories (causes you to lose focus and motivation), drinking plenty of water and having one cheat meal per week.
For the most part, I agree with the food choices and recommendations. However, I would suggest a few small changes (some of which I already noted above).
Rather than eating any type of peanut butter, I would highly recommend only eating all-natural peanut butter. The ingredients listed should be: Peanuts and salt. If your peanut butter has hydrogenated oils, sugar and other additives (even some of the new "healthier" peanut butter mixes they are trying to sell), get rid of them and find some all-natural peanut butter.
The oils and sugar in most peanut butters are bad for you. They add evil things to your diet like trans fats, sugar and even high-fructose corn syrup. Some of the newer "healthier" versions of peanut butter contain flax seed, egg whites and other ingredients. These are not any better!
Whenever there are extremes in life, the middle is usually the place to be. This is important to remember when it comes to training and nutrition. It's easy to be swayed one way or the other, but the middle ground is usually where the truth is found.
Stick with all-natural peanut butter. I prefer the Publix old-fashioned peanut butter. It is affordable and contains only peanuts and salt. Sure, you have to spend some time mixing it up when you first open it, but all that oil is good for you! So don't discard it. Just be sure to mix well when first opening and then place your peanut butter in the refrigerator to keep it from separating again.
If you're not used to eating real peanut butter, then it may take a few weeks to adjust to the taste (since it's no longer loaded with sugar). However, after a few weeks, you will love the taste of real peanut butter and never go back to the fake stuff.
Just be careful of your portion sizes, as peanut butter (and other nuts) are calorically dense. This means that a small serving packs a healthy punch of calories and healthy fats. If you stick with a serving size (two tablespoons = 200 calories), you'll be just fine and also notice that it helps keep you fuller longer.
Although the Abs Diet recommends no-fat dairy products, I try to shy away from no-fat products and instead opt for whole fat versions depending on the food. The reason I recommend this is because the fat in dairy products is actually important for the absorption of the protein and nutrients.
A recent study found that non-fat and even low-fat milk reacted differently than whole milk when it came to absorption. The fat in milk is needed in order to allow the body to absorb and use protein and Vitamin D. This is why many of the "non-fat" foods available are not always the best choice. Remember what I said in two earlier blogs? The body needs FAT!
Choose the most natural food when shopping. Although I'm not a huge proponent of commercialized store-bought milk due to its lack of nutrients, sugar content and how it affects the insulin levels (possibly leading to fat gain), I know that others may enjoy milk and not want to give it up. That's okay, you don't have to give it up, but I would recommend that you limit consumption to 1-2 8oz glasses each day and try to purchase only organic or raw milk.
As for cheese and yogurt, try to stick with the whole-fat versions even if some of the recent research says low-fat options have not been shown to have the same issue as milk when discussing absorption of protein, vitamins and other nutrients. However, I don't recommend non-fat cheeses. Stick with low-fat (and regular) cheese and yogurt.
The other recommendation I would make regarding the "Power Foods" is to choose a whey and casein protein mix for your supplement. Whey tends to digest quickly and will not help keep you full. It is more useful in the morning (after "fasting" all night) or immediately post-workout (when you want to digest protein and carbs quickly).
However, for most people who supplement with a protein powder, a mix of whey and casein will give you the best of both worlds. One protein will digest quickly while the other (casein) digests more slowly, helping you to continue to feel full and satisfied while also supplying a steady stream of amino acids to your body and muscles. A brand I recommend and use is Low-Carb Metabolic Drive by Biotest. The taste, quality and price makes it well worth adding to your daily eating plan.
Overall, I agree with the recommendations of the Abs Diet as it is based on eating whole, nutritious foods that everyone should be eating regardless of whether they are trying to gain muscle or lose fat. These foods are natural, not man-made or processed. That's the key to making healthy nutritional changes. Always choose the whole, fresh, natural food over something in a box, bag or from a fast-food restuarant or other highly-processed source.
How many of the foods above do you currently eat? Find ways to include them in your daily and weekly meals. Be sure to eat a variety of different foods listed under each category and don't forget to include protein with each meal from varied sources (lean meats, eggs, protein powders, cottage cheese, etc.).
For more information about the Abs Diet (for women), read this article at Men's Health.
Thanks to Becky for providing the link and for finding the Nature's Own bread.