Many people believe that the crux of a healthy diet is the exclusion of unhealthy foods. However, a good diet should also incorporate an increased intake of nutritious, health-boosting foods. Here are 10 of the best foods for healthy eaters to stock up on.
Nuts are also a great source of protein and are packed with fibre antioxidants, fatty acids and vitamins and minerals. Nuts are also packed with calories - so enjoy in moderation. However, you should be aware that those calories come mainly from high levels of monounsaturated fats – which are extremely good for you. Eating foods rich in these fats can help lower bad cholesterol and cut your risk of heart disease and a stroke. We’re not just talking peanuts here – look for Brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, pecans and pistachios.
Oily fish - such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and trout - are renowned for their health benefits. Again this is when eaten in moderation. The ideal amount is between two and four portions a week. Not only are they a great source of vitamins and minerals - including immune-boosting vitamins A and D - but they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These super healthy unsaturated fatty acids have many health benefits, and have been linked to a lowered risk of heart disease, brain damage, stroke, dementia and prostate cancer. Research also suggests omega-3 fatty acids can benefit eye health by halting the progress of age-related macular degeneration.
Beetroot is one of the most recent vegetables to be hailed as a ‘superfood’. Studies have suggested that drinking beetroot juice can improve stamina when exercising, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, boost heart health and liver function, reduce the risk of dementia and fight against cancer. This versatile vegetable is also a good source of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, which is important for tissue growth and repair. It also provides folate, which is great for pregnant women as it helps to reduce the risk of birth defects in unborn babies, as well as helping to prevent anaemia.
Well, we’re not just talking onions here – the wider food family includes garlic, leeks and chives. All can do wonders for our health. Studies have suggested that both onions and garlic can help reduce cholesterol, while findings published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that onions could help lower blood pressure. Onions and garlic also have antiviral and antibacterial properties, so can help to fight against bacteria and illness in the body. Another study by researchers at the Kings College London and the University of East Anglia found that eating foods from the onion family could help prevent hip osteoarthritis.
Dark Leafy Greens
We’ve all been told to ‘eat our greens’ as children. And it seems our parents were right. Dark, leafy greens such as spinach, watercress and kale are bursting with nutrients including iron, calcium, potassium and vitamin C, and packed with health-boosting phytonutrients. Some of the reputed health benefits of eating your greens include a lower blood pressure, improved eye health and a reduced risk of cognitive decline.
Quinoa is a recent discovery for many, but has become widely available and is must on any healthy eater’s shopping list. Mostly treated as a grain (although it is actually a seed) it can be used in the place of pasta, wheat or oats for an extremely nutritious meal. Quinoa, like most grains, is high in fibre, making it great for the digestive system. However, perhaps its best attribute is that it is one of the few plant sources of high quality protein containing all eight essential amino acids. On top of this, it is a great source of nutrients including magnesium, manganese, iron, calcium, potassium and several B vitamins.
Acai berry, blueberry, goji berry, blackberry... there almost seems to be too many berries to choose from. Luckily, you generally can't go wrong with any commercially available berry. These super healthy fruits are extremely high in antioxidants. Many different berries have individual health benefits, including the ability to help prevent dementia (blackcurrants and boysenberries), fight off colon cancer (blueberries), improve vision (bilberries) and ward off urinary tract infections (cranberries).
Oats are a key part of a healthy diet as they provide slow release energy, meaning that they will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Grains are notoriously good for your health and the closer they are to their natural state when eaten the better their benefits. This means that whole oats are a particularly good choice. Oats contain many minerals, including zinc, iron and calcium and are a good source of B vitamins, which are great for the nervous system. They also have many other health benefits. These include helping to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and benefit the digestive system.
Many people’s diets rely on the humble bean, either in its dry, canned or baked form - and the great news is that beans are good for our health too. Studies have found that beans are a great source of antioxidants, protein and nutrients (such as iron, manganese and B vitamins). Beans are also high in soluble fibre, which can help to reduce cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar and improve the digestive system.
Basic salad ingredients, such as the tomato, are often overlooked for their health-giving properties. But scientists have recently revealed that eating a diet rich in tomatoes may help to reduce the risk of conditions such as prostate and lung cancer. Some other benefits attributed to eating the tomato include a strengthened immune system, better heart health and the prevention of blood clots.