BY HIV Plus Editors
November 14 2008 1:00 AM ET
Want to lower your cholesterol levels, reduce your risks of heart disease and cancers, regulate your blood sugar, and help boost your health in countless other ways? Don't reach for a pill bottle. Instead, try adding so-called 'super foods' to your diet that pack enormous nutritional and disease-fighting punches. Many also can help you lose weight by boosting your metabolism and burning fat and calories.
Here are eight super foods that the website Hungry-Girl.com recommends adding to your diet today to improve your health and help you stay trim.
1) Lean protein. The body burns more calories while digesting protein than it does digesting fats or carbohydrates. But make smart choices, like lean meats and especially fish. Beans are also an important source of healthy protein.
2) Whole grains. Not only do whole grains provide needed carbohydrates and fiber but they have been shown to reduce risks of stroke, heart disease, and type II diabetes, as well as helping reduce the buildup of belly fat.
3) Grapefruit. This citrus fruit is low in calories but packed with vitamin C and antioxidants that help burn fat and keep your immune system healthy.
4) Green tea. In addition to being very low in calories and reducing rates of heart disease and cancer, this super food also has been shown to raise the body's metabolism, which helps burn fat.
5) Spicy foods. Not only do spicy foods increase your heart rate and metabolism, which helps burn fat, but they also have been shown to reduce arthritis pain, high blood pressure, cold and flu symptoms, and even migraines. Most hot sauces, as well as cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes, are very low in calories.
6) Light dairy products. Low-fat or fat-free dairy foods provide calcium and protein without the additional fat. Among the health benefits of dairy products are reduced risks for osteoporosis, reduction of high blood pressure, and a reduced risk of dental cavities.
7) Cinnamon. Studies have shown that cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar levels in the body, lowering risks for diabetes and weight gain. It also has been shown to have antimicrobial activity, particularly with regard to slowing the growth of the problematic yeast Candida.
8) Apples. Packed with natural soluble fiber, apples also contain pectin, which limits how much fat your cells can absorb. A type of pigment in apples called flavenoids also has been shown to help prevent heart disease.