5. Soy products. Once relegated to the shelves of health-food stores, soy products such as tofu and tempeh have reached the mainstream largely because they’ve been shown to have cardiovascular benefits. But soybeans also protect bones, thanks to compounds called isoflavones and significant amounts of both vitamin E and calcium. Long a staple of Asian diets, soy can also be found in soy milk — a boon for people who want to avoid lactose or cholesterol in regular milk.
Make the most of milk. Use soy milk (now sold in many supermarkets next to cow’s milk) for puddings, baked goods, cereal, shakes — just about anywhere you’d use regular milk. But don’t mix it with coffee or other acidic foods, which tend to make soy milk curdle.
Try them whole. Trust us: Whole soy beans, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper, are delicious. They look like large sweet peas but have an even gentler, milder flavor — nothing at all like the better known but more intimidating products like tofu. Check the freezer aisle for edamame (pronounced “ed-ah-MAH-may”) — they come both in their pods, or shelled. They cook up fast — about five minutes in boiling water and two minutes in the microwave — and can be eaten hot or cold as snacks or appetizers, or tossed into salads, stir-fries, casseroles, or soups.
Give tofu a few more chances. Many people don’t know what to make of tofu. It’s an odd color for a vegetable-derived food (white), an odd texture (smooth and moist), and comes in an odd form (usually, a block). Get past all that. Tofu is easy to work with, extraordinarily healthy, and takes on the flavors around it. Easy ideas: Drop half-inch cubes into most any soup; stir into tomato sauces, breaking it up into small pieces; or just cut into cubes, cover with chopped scallions and soy sauce, and eat at room temperature as is.
6. Sweet potatoes. These tropical root vegetables (which, technically, not related to white baking potatoes) are such a nutritional powerhouse, they once topped a list of vegetables ranked according to nutritional value by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Sweet potatoes are a rich source of vitamin C, folate, vitamin B6, and dietary fiber, among other nutrients.
Buy fresh. Though you’ll benefit from eating sweet potatoes in any form, fresh potatoes are better than canned products, which are packed in a heavy syrup that leaches the vegetable’s most valuable nutrients, including vitamins B and C.
Keep cool, not cold. Store sweet potatoes someplace dark, dry, and cool — preferably between 55 and 60 degrees — but not in the refrigerator: Cold temperatures damage cells, causing the potato to harden and lose some of its nutritional value.
Maximize nutrients. Eat cooked potatoes with their skin — an especially rich source of nutrients and fiber. Handle gently to avoid bruising, then bake or boil, and serve with a touch of fat from butter, oil, or another dish and some salt and pepper.