Top Health-Boosting Foods
By Leslie Vandever
No matter where you look—the Internet, TV, even your phone—someone is saying that this diet or that diet is best for your health. Or they’re telling you that, suddenly, foods you’ve always eaten are terrible for you, while the ones you’ve always avoided are now the best of all.
It’s confusing, frustrating and not a little aggravating.
So, which foods really are the healthiest? When we’re at the grocery store or in a restaurant, which foods make the top two goals: healthiest and best-tasting? Let’s start by deciding what we mean by “healthiest.”
To reach and maintain optimum health, several factors apply:
- Nutrition—beneficial vitamins, minerals, enzymes and trace elements
- Calories—how many, where they come from, and beneficial or not
- Fat—the good fats (unsaturated, polyunsaturated) or bad fats (saturated or trans-fats)
- Cholesterol—good (HDL—high-density lipoprotein) or bad (LDL—low-density lipoprotein)
- Fiber—how much, what kind (soluble or non-soluble)
- Sugar—what kind and how much
So, now we know what we’re looking for. The healthiest foods for the healthiest you include:
- Almonds—these tasty nuts are high in fiber and Vit. E, rich in calcium and magnesium. The fat in these tasty nuts is monounsaturated, an HDL that helps lower cholesterol. They’re high in calories, so limit helpings to seven almonds once a day.
- Blueberries—a delicious source of fiber and Vit. C, an antioxidant that protects cells from damage, and rich in phytonutriants (plant chemicals that promote health).
- Beans—they’re low in fat and high in protein, phytonutriants and fiber.
- Apples—Rich in Vit. C and packed with soluble fiber, which helps lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
- Oily fish—choose salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, and mackerel. These fish are high protein and low in saturated fat. They’re also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, blood pressure and decrease triglycerides.
- Spinach and kale—Spinach is rich in Vit. C and magnesium. It’s also high in fiber and packed with carotinoids, which help protect against heart disease, some cancers and age-related vision problems like night blindness. Kale is high in fiber, low in calories (like spinach) and is rich in antioxidants and Vit. K.
- Lean meats—these are high in protein, B vitamins, Vit. E, iron, zinc and magnesium. Look for the leanest cuts of beef or trim off fat (to keep saturated fat level low) or boneless, skinless chicken or turkey breasts.
- Broccoli—this veggie is has plenty of fiber and is packed with phytonutriants, Vit. C, Vit. A, and folate. Steam lightly; overcooking leaches the nutrients.
- Sweet potatoes—these orange vegetables are packed with beta-carotine, Vit. C, Vit. B6, and potassium. They’re also fat-free and high in fiber.
- Good oils—choose extra virgin olive oil (EVO). It’s high in monounsaturated fat, which helps to lower cholesterol. Also a good source of Vit. E, antioxidants and oleocanthal, which reduces inflammation. Canola oil is another good choice.
- Low-fat dairy—choose low-fat yogurt, milk and cheeses for plenty of protein, Vit. B12, and protein to help round out your diet.
Eating healthy is easy, really. Eat lots of vegetables and fruit; stick to wholegrain breads, cereal and pasta; lean meats and oily fish; and low-fat dairy foods. Eat them fresh. Nix sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and avoid processed and fast foods whenever you can.
For a helpful nutrition chart, check out this one. And for a great source of information about
health and medical matters, click here.
Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer. She also writes a blog about living well with rheumatoid arthritis called RheumaBlog, under the pen-name “Wren.” In her spare time, Vandever enjoys cooking, reading and working on the Great American Novel.
- Nutrition. (2014, Jan. 17) Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved January 19, 2014 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/nutrition.html
- 10 Great Health Foods. (n.d.) Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 19, 2014 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/health-foods/SLS-20076653
- Healthy Eating Plate and Healthy Eating Pyramid. (n.d.) The Nutrition Source. Harvard School of Public Health. Retrieved on January 19, 2014 from http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/pyramid/
- Phytonutriant FAQs. (2005, Apr. 8) Agriculture Research Service. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved on January 19, 2014 from http://www.ars.usda.gov/aboutus/docs.htm?docid=4142
- Nutrition for Everyone. (2012, Oct. 29) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on January 19, 2014 from http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/index.html