When I started this list yesterday of my favorite healthy foods to include, I didn’t realize how hard it would be to narrow it down to just a handful in each category! There are a ton of foods out there that are loaded to the max with nutritional value, that I don’t believe there could ever be an “all inclusive” list. I challenge you to not only try to add in some of the foods I have recommended, but to find a new food each month to add into your diet (and let me know which ones you choose and what you thought!)
Continuing on my list of favorites:
Avocado- OK, ok , so technically this is still a fruit, but it’s packed with a lot of healthy fats and that’s what people tend to think of it as, so that’s where it fell on my list. Avocados are full of monounsaturated fats, which actually help to lower cholesterol levels! Avocados also contain beta-sitosterol which is a compound that additionally lowers cholesterol and is protective of the prostate. It’s time to get over our fear of fats, especially the good ones. Aside from cholesterol, monounsaturated fats also help prevent against cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Also containing the highest amount of luteinamong fruits, these guys are great for your eyes and skin. Not only are avocados full of heart healthy fats, but they also pack a good punch of fiber (almost 17g per fruit!).
Coconut Oil- Coconut oil may be the most “in” food right now. You can use it for everything! Let’s focus on the benefits of eating it though! Although the media and recent studies have shown time and time again how good coconut oil is for you, I still here “but it’s full of saturated fats!” Ok people, let me explain why this is a SUPER food! You see, simply put fats are made up of chains of fatty acids. Coconut oil, unlike the saturated fats found in your French fries (which are long chains), coconut had medium length chains. Medium length chains are easier for the body to metabolize, use preferentially for energy rather than storage, and have antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Coconut oil is over 50% lauric acid which is essentially a “bug killer”. Studies also show a LOWER incidence of heart disease in those who include coconut oil into their diets.
Chia seeds-Ch ch ch chia! Ok, ok, I’m NOT talking about chia pets, but about the seed that you eat and your body thanks you for it. Chia seeds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, in fact they are probably the highest source of Omega-3’s from a plant. We all know the anti-inflammatory and heart benefits of adding omega-3s in to your diet so here’s another source to sneak it in. These little seeds also help to increase HDL or your good cholesterol, while regulating insulin and reducing insulin resistance. Chia seeds are also high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Plus there’s 10g of fiber in 2 tablespoons! Unlike flax seeds, chia can be digested whole.
Almonds and Almond Butter- Like Avocados, almonds are full of healthy monounsaturated fats which help your heart and lower your cholesterol. Almonds also add about 6g of protein and 3g of fiber per ounce! Lucky for me and my other “nut butter addicts” natural almond butter has the same heart healthy benefits. It’s important to choose almonds that don’t have added salt or honey as this alters the caloric content and potential health benefits.
Brazil Nuts- Not many people would probably choose a brazil nut or even know what one looks like if they saw it. In America, the land of thyroid disorders, Brazil nuts may make all of the difference. These nuts contain a certain trace element, selenium, which protects your cells, boosts immunity, helps fight cancer, and helps to prevent heart disease. Brazil nuts have the highest selenium content of any single food, and if you aren’t eating them then you are relying on fish and plants to get selenium. Although a deficiency is rare, depending on where you live, and the soil that is used for your vegetables you buy, you are probably not taking in enough selenium to get these benefits. Low levels of selenium are linked to increased rates of prostate, lung, gastric, and skin cancers. For those with thyroid issues, selenium is a big deal. Selenium is part of the enzyme that converts T4 into the active thyroid hormone T3. Many people with thyroid issues are put on Synthroid, a synthetic T4, and therefore need selenium to help convert it to the active hormone!
Oatmeal- Who doesn’t love oatmeal, seriously? And we love it for good reasons! Not only is oatmeal packed with protein and fiber, it contains beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is a string of glucose molecules that helps to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Beta-glucan can also help boost your immune system and quicken the time it takes your body to respond to bacterial infections, by activating macrophages. Beta-glucan also helps stabilize blood sugar, which makes it a good carbohydrate source for those with diabetes. Additionally, oats contain an antioxidant avenanthramide, which has anti-inflammatory properties (oatmeal baths anyone?).
Quinoa- Quinoa is actually not a grain, it’s a seed, but when push comes to shove we will call it a grain. What drew me to quinoa many years ago was that it is a complete protein source, and this girl loves her protein! What I know now keeps me eating it almost daily. It is high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, magnesium, and iron. It can also be used as a breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert recipe.
Amaranth- Here I go tricking you again. Amaranth, like quinoa, is also not a grain. Here we have another powerhouse seed used more like a grain. Like quinoa, amaranth is high in anti-inflammatory properties such as lunasin, which makes it an anti-cancer candidate. Amaranth is also known for its cholesterol fighting properties and ability to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. To add to its similarity to quinoa it is also a complete protein and is naturally gluten free for those who can’t tolerate gluten! It is full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and can be cooked similar to quinoa. Try it as a breakfast option one day!
Millet- Millet is packed full of Magnesium, which has been shown to reduce the severity if asthma, migraine headaches, and lower blood pressure. Millet is also naturally gluten free, high in protein, and full of fiber. What millet does that other seeds and grains don’t is it acts as a prebiotic and feeds the healthy microflora in your gut, improving digestion.
Buckwheat- Yet another seed, buckwheat gives us another fight against cardiovascular disease. Buckwheat also contains a flavonoid, rutin, which extends the action of vitamin C working as an antioxidant. Buckwheat is also a complete protein, full of magnesium, and packed with fiber. It can be eaten in a stir fry, like rice, or ground into your favorite pancake recipe.
Other top foods on my list:
Eggs- I love eggs, yolk and all, and here’s why. First, eggs score highest based on the quality of their protein. The protein in an egg is the most biological available and what we use to compare other protein sources. The yolk of the egg is where all of the good stuff is, so stop with the egg whites and add in a yolk every day. The yolk is full of vitamins and minerals like, choline. Choline is necessary for cardiovascular and brain function. Choline forms betaine which helps lower risk factors for heart disease, and it synthesizes acetylcholine which is predominant neurotransmitter critical to memory. Most people avoid eggs because they are worried about the cholesterol. It turns out that the choline in eggs is a part of an essential phospholipid that prevents fat and cholesterol build up in the liver. So eggs actually help PREVENT the buildup of cholesterol! Eggs are also a great source of lutein and provide many benefits to the eyes. Studies have even suggested that those who eat more eggs are at a significant decreased risk of developing breast cancer!
Kimchi- Kimchi is a Korean dish made with fermented cabbage and chile peppers that is filled with nutritional benefits. Because Kimchi is fermented, it contains the healthy bacteria lactobacilli, a potent probiotic. This bacteria supports immunity, controls inflammation, and helps with digestive issues. Plus because it contains garlic, cabbage, and onions, it is a powerhouse in its anticancer properties. In Korea they say “Kimchiiii” instead of “cheese” so smile and try this dish!
Raw Honey- We are not talking about the little plastic teddy bear filled honey here. We are talking about the good, raw, unfiltered honey that you would find straight out of the bee hive! The difference is in the pasteurization and heating process that destroys all of the phytonutrients and enzymes found in the raw stuff, the stuff that makes it so healthy. Honey is full of flavonoids, often the same ones found in vegetables that provide the antioxidant effects. Raw honey may also help the body to produce antibodies during immune responses and get rid of that illness faster.
So again, I challenge you to add some of these power foods into your diet and even find some new ones.
Readers: What tops your list of health foods? Pick one super food and let me know how you include it into your diet.