If someone offered you a pill that helped you feel better, lose weight, decrease inflammation, improve your skin, and prevent disease, you’d take it, right? Fortunately, you don’t need to go to your doctor for that kind of prescription. You just need to visit your grocery store and load up on these healthy (and tasty) foods.
1. Berries. These tiny morsels are full of color and packed with the highest level of antioxidants than any fresh fruit. Antioxidants are naturally occuring nutrients that protect everything from your brain to your heart by helping to protect cells from damage. Enjoy fresh or frozen varieties by adding them to your cereal, yogurt or smoothie.
2. Greek Yogurt. All types of yogurt are an excellent source of calcium, potassium, protein, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12. What distinguishes Greek yogurt is its thick, creamy texture that provides twice the amount of protein, along with probiotic cultures and less lactose. Pair your favorite yogurt with fresh fruit and granola for a balanced, energizing breakfast or snack.
3. Oatmeal. What a better way to start off a cold morning than with a bowl of steaming oatmeal!
Oats, oat bran, and oatmeal contain a specific type of fiber known as beta-glucan. For over 50 years, scientists have consistently proven the benefits of soluble fiber on cholesterol levels. Studies show that consuming one bowl of oatmeal, that contains 3 grams of oat fiber, per day can lower total cholesterol by 8-23%. This is significant as a reduction in one's cholesterol of even 1% correlates with a decrease in the risk of developing heart disease.
4. Olive Oil. The main type of fat in olive oil is monounsaturated fat (MUFA). Over the last 50 years,
study after study continues to demonstrate health benefits of this fat prominant in a Mediterranean diet. Benefits include decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases; decreasing inflammation; and, may help decrease depression. It is important to include a variety of fats in your diet, and to be mindful of eating fat in moderation.
5. Salmon. The widely studied benefits of the omega-3 fats in salmon include decreasing and preventing inflammation; improving mood and cognitive function; as well as, protecting joints and eyes from disease. With
almost 50% of the recommended daily intake of omega-3's in one 4-oz portion of salmon, it makes sense to include this in your weekly diet.
6. Broccoli. This is a staple in our house. Not only does it offer great nutritional benefits, but my kids love this veggie. Packed with many important chemicals, broccoli is high in fiber, potassium and calcium; and, offers anti-inflammatory nutrients, antioxidant nutrients, and anti-cancer nutrients to help sustain human health. Whether steamed or added to a stir fry, in less than 10 minutes, you can have a tasty addition to any meal.
7. Oranges. Many fruits and vegetables provide a good supply of vitamin C and fiber. I added oranges to this list, not only because they are in season right now and make for a tasty snack, but one orange provides over 115% of the recommended intake for vitamin C, important for boosting the immune system. They also provide phytonutrients, unique to oranges that have been found to
lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
8. Eggs. The benefits of eggs often get lost in the controversary about cholesterol. Studies have shown that dietary cholesterol in the egg yolk has no effect on blood cholesterol. Most important are several nutrients specific to both the egg yolk and egg white that help promote overall health. The protein in egg whites have been considered the most bio-available protein for the body. Egg yolks are also one of the richest dietary sources of the B-complex vitamin choline, which is associated with improved neurological function. The yolk is also an important source of vitamin D.
9. Spinach. Along with many dark green leafy vegetables, spinach contains numerous health benefits. Many unique compounds found in spinach have been shown to protect individuals against inflammatory problems, oxidative stress-related problems, cardiovascular problems, bone problems, and various cancers.
10. Water! I know, water isn't exactly a food. But it is one of the most essential nutrients in your daily intake. On average, women need 2.7 liters and men 3.4 liters of water each day (not including additional water needed to rehydrate following physical activity). Replacing the loss of fluids from your body due to evaporation, breathing, urine, etc. can help decrease headaches, control caloric intake, and decrease fatigue, improve skin health, and ensure your kidneys are working well. Your kidneys are able to do an amazing job of cleansing and eliminating your body of toxins when your fluid intake is adequate. Add sliced lemons or cucumbers to your water for a new twist. Or, try this - freeze lemon juice in ice cube trays and add a couple frozen lemon cubes to your water for refreshment.
Of course there are a number of foods that have offer important health benefits! There is great value in making sure your kitchen is stocked with a variety of food to offer you balanced nutrition. The foods highlighted here offer simple and tasty solutions (with no gimmicks) to enhance your meal planning.
Val Schonberg is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian who specializes in weight management, sports nutrition, disease