Leading a healthy lifestyle is all the rage right now (but isn’t it always?) and we constantly struggle to keep up with changing health and diet information. Often it seems that eating a balanced diet has been pushed to the wayside to make space for hipper alternatives to healthy eating. We know that figuring out how to keep a balanced diet can be difficult, but there are myriad benefits by simply including certain things in your day-to-day diet—many of these things can have a profoundly positive effect on your health. So if you are already mindful of cutting out the junk, also be intentional about adding in the good.
Nutritionists affectionately refer to this group of good foods as “super foods” as each is packed with nutritional benefits (and bonus: naturally low in calories!). With a wide variety of super foods available, we know you can find at least a few you’ll enjoy. Was one of you resolutions this year to eat better or be healthier? Here’s where to start!
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a balanced diet, but you already knew that! Here’s what you might not know:
An excellent source of vitamin C and fiber, which can help you keep a lean physique and are delicious additions to smoothies and cereal. Blueberries also contain a compound called pterostilbene, which has been shown to reduce tumor growth. Eat as a healthy snack (fresh or frozen).
Kale contains more iron than beef and more vitamin C than oranges. It has high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, which help to alleviate arthritis and autoimmune disorders. Most nutritionists have determined kale to be one of the most nutritionally-rich green vegetables.
Pumpkin seeds are high in potassium which is good for your heart. It’s also rich in beta-carotene which is converted into Vitamin A in the body. We need this essential nutrient to achieve strong immune systems. They also strengthen the immune system through a large amount of iron, help prevent diseases, and are good for your eyesight.
Widely considered one of the healthiest foods in the world. Avocado is chock full of beneficial nutrients for your cardiovascular health. Such as:
- Vitamin E content helps prevent cholesterol oxidation
- Folate helps keep homocysteine levels in the blood at bay
- Phytosterols help reduce cholesterol absorption
- Potassium aids in blood pressure regulation
- Fiber helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels
Aside from being heart healthy, eating avocado is known to have wonderful aesthetic benefits. The Omega-9 fats are great for repairing damaged skin cells. Its antioxidants help prevent wrinkling of the skin and the vitamin C aids the production and retention of collagen and elastin, which are the primary factors in skin elasticity and firmness. This means that daily avocado treatment can even complement a traditional skincare regimen. (And avocado toast is basically the greatest thing ever.)
Cauliflower is a bit unique in that it aids in proper fetal development. It has a high variety of nutrients that will help your liver neutralize toxic substances, it’s a good source of Vitamin C, and since it’s so low in calories, it’s a great staple in your everyday diet. And don’t knock it until you’ve tried cauliflower “rice” or roasted cauliflower.
Spinach is the king of super vegetables. Just one cup of spinach can help strengthen the immune system and fight infection. Most people eat cooked or raw spinach, but the healthiest way to consume it is juiced. Cooked spinach comes in second in terms of nutrition and raw is next.
Grains and Seeds
Whole grain has long held its reign as one of the simplest, healthiest, and most affordable food decisions we make.
Quinoa is a healthier and heartier alternative to rice. It is a gluten free grain that is rich in protein and contains good supplies of iron and magnesium (which can help with migraines). It is also high in fiber and contains every essential amino acid we need.
Steel Cut Oats
Steel cut oats contain more fiber and protein than regular rolled oats. Like most foods high in good fibers, regular consumption of steel cut oats may be beneficial for your cardiovascular health. Additionally, steel cut oats are good for preventing diabetes and controlling your blood pressure. Since they have a very low glycemic index, they are a great low-impact source of nutrients.
One tablespoon of chia seeds has more calcium than a glass of milk, and you don’t have to worry about the added fats or hormones in cows’ milk. Chia seeds also contain more Omega-3 than salmon and more antioxidants than blueberries. Just call them super seeds!
Another great source of fiber, Flaxseed helps stabilize blood sugar and lowers cholesterol. They also contain more “lignans” than any other plant which are great for hormone regulation and immune system health. Flaxseed must be ground prior to consumption in order to reap the benefits.
A Few More Great Super Foods!
The foods we highlighted above aren’t the only super foods out there! Here are a few more highlights:
Salmon contains Omega-3 which reduces the risk of heart disease. It’s also an antoxidant and has high levels of B vitamins which are essential for a healthy metabolism and good mental health. The perfect portion to aid in fitness recovery.
It’s rich in protein and is packed with probiotics that aid digestive health and an average 6-ounce cup can provide roughly 20-30% of your daily calcium intake. Greek yogurt also goes great with the aforementioned chia and flax seeds: just drop some in your Greek yogurt portion for an extra healthy breakfast!
A healthier alternative to butter and other oils; it is a great source of fat. It moisturizes skin and hair, increases energy, can improve blood cholesterol levels, and is the perfect oil for popping homemade popcorn. The benefits and uses are endless. (Bonus: It’s been used as a remedy for hair loss and damage, as well as a conditioner and anti-dandruff applicant.)
Contains endorphins and helps to lower blood pressure, and helps your body consume magnesium and copper, among many other benefits. Be sure to stick with cocoa that’s as pure as possible (85% or higher). Dark chocolate in particular is great for the body, particularly because of the anti-inflammatory elements in our body.
Offers a hefty serving of vitamin A, antioxidants, vitamin B6, fiber, vitamin D, and iron. They’re also a good source of magnesium which reduces stress. Swap in sweet potato fries for the regulars, ladies!
Improves bone mineralization which helps fight osteoporosis, lowers your LDL cholesterol, and lowers your risk of heart disease. Olive oil also improves bone mineralization which helps fight osteoporosis.
Help prevent heart disease, lower LDL cholesterol, improves blood flow, and are great for overall brain health. Did you know that men who eat walnuts have a reduced susceptibility to prostate cancer? They’re also full of amino acids and antioxidants.
Super foods are a great way to add variety into your diet. Through delicious and healthy choices you can improve your overall health without enormous changes to your daily diet.