Good health starts with a good diet of healthy foods. However, we rarely think of each bite as a decision about our health. Did you realize that what you put into your body can influence whether or not you develop heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, or a host of other health problems?
Eating a whole, natural-foods diet is truly a way of life that can have an immensely positive impact on your health. Every meal is an opportunity to improve your health.
Eat Your Way to Optimal Health
Healthy eating is actually very simple. There are thousands of diet books, online programs, and fancy products out there. Each promises to reveal the secret to following a healthy diet, achieving your ideal weight, and obtaining optimal health.
It can certainly be confusing when you are faced with the dilemma of choosing one, or worse, trying several of them without luck. Paleo, Atkins, Zone, South Beach, Raw, Vegan, Low fat, Low Carb – the list goes on and on, but which one is right?
Depending on who you are, how you live, and your current health status, any one of them could be. Few of us have the time, energy, resources, and ambition to learn every program out there.
So what can you do?
Behind all the smoke and mirrors, each one of these programs share a few very basic principles.
- Eat only fresh, whole foods in their most natural states.
- Eat a variety of foods including those that contain protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates.
- Choose organic vegetables and fruits in a variety of colors.
- When selecting animal products, steer towards grass-fed, free range, wild, and organic.
- Avoid processed foods, artificial ingredients, genetically modified foodsand pesticides.
- Avoid foods that create inflammation, allergies, sensitivities or reactions in your body. Foods in this category will differ from person to person and can change within the same person overtime.
A healthy, whole food diet is the foundation for good health. Eat a varied diet based on quality proteins, healthy fats, and an abundance of fruits and vegetables. That will ensure that you have the foundation to build a lifetime of vitality.
15 Healthy Foods You Should Be Eating
1. Fermented Vegetables
Fermented vegetables are some of the healthiest foods you can eat. Not only are they easier to digest than raw foods, but they also provide a wide range of enzymes and probiotics. This helps build immunity and improve digestion and nutrient absorption, helping to boost your overall health. Fermented foods are beneficial unless you have an existing condition. The probiotics in fermented foods may help digestion, immune function, nutrient absorption and more in most people. But eating them can exacerbate certain conditions, so be sure to listen to your body.
Coconut is one of the most naturally hydrating foods on the planet. The natural electrolyte composition of coconut water is better at re-hydrating the body than any other sport/nutrition drink and is the best match to what your body already produces. Coconuts and coconut products such as coconut oil, milk, and butter are also packed with healthy fats that help lower cholesterol, fuel your brain and improve your heart function. Coconut oil is a great choice for cooking as it does not degrade under heat. Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar, so it is an excellent natural sugar alternative.
As the growth process begins during sprouting, food enzymes are activated, nutrient levels increase, and new vitamins and minerals become available. In fact, per calorie sprouts are said to provide more vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and proteins than any other food. Sprouts are also high in phytonutrients and chlorophyll, which play an antioxidant role in your body. Sprouting also allowes for easier digestion and assimilation. Sprouted nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains can be a nice addition to add variety and nutrition to a healthy, whole foods diet. However, since they do contain anti-nutrients and poly unsaturated fatty acids, consumption should be occasional for healthy individuals and should be avoided by anyone who has digestive issues.
Up your nutrition game by selecting baked goods made from sprouted grains, or try sprouting your own raw nuts, seeds, and beans in mason jars right on your kitchen counter. You can learn more here!
The avocado is a rather unique fruit. While most fruits contain primarily carbohydrates, the avocado is high in healthy fats. In recent years, the avocado has become incredibly popular among health-conscious individuals and rightly so. The avocado seems to have it all: a high nutrient value, rich texture and decadent flavor.
One of the most referenced benefits of avocado is its amount of the healthy fat oleic acid. This monounsaturated fatty acid has been linked to reduced inflammation and has been shown to have beneficial effects on the genes linked to cancer. Avocados are also loaded with fiber, which keeps you feeling fuller longer, reduces blood sugar spikes and can help contribute to weight loss.
Enjoy avocados in salads, blend into smoothies or enjoy them the in the most popular preparation – as guacamole.
5. Leafy Greens
Greens are as good as your mom said they were. It’s almost impossible to get enough greens so eat them often. Branch out and enjoy a wide variety of dark leafy greens like kale, arugula, radicchio, chard, beet greens, collards and spinach. These are all high in chlorophyll (a powerful antioxidant), vitamins C and E, fiber, enzymes, and amino acids. Eating leafy greens raw, preserves their utmost nutritional concentration and makes for a more filling meal. Toss them into salads, blend them into your shake, add them to eggs, soups or try simmering them in some organic chicken stock. Any way that you enjoy them, you’ll get major nutrition for minimal calories.
Tearing leafy greens by hand initiates the release of antioxidants, providing additional nutrition when you consume them.
6. Sea Vegetables
Seeweeds such as kelp, nori, wakame and aramehave an estimated 10-20 times the average nutrients in land plants and are one of the richest sources of chlorophyll available. Seaweeds are extremely high in minerals and are said to be one of the most easily assimilated sources of minerals for the human bloodstream. The minerals in sea vegetables exist in a chelated, colloidal form that makes them readily ‘bioavailable’ for use in crucial bodily functions. They are also a good plant-based source of iron, calcium and iodine.
Seaweeds should be consumed in moderate amounts on a regular basis to provide a balanced supply of minerals. However, some people with sensitive thyroids can experience a negative reaction to excess iodine, in which case, consumption should be limited.
If you are looking to add some sea vegetables to your diet, a simple option is to use kelp flakes as a substitute for salt when seasoning your foods. You can also add nori, kelp and other sea vegetables easily into soups and stir-fry’s.
has been a staple of vegetarians for several years now, but has been catching on more in the mainstream as a tasty and filling way to complement a meal. This versatile seed can be used in a salad, cereal or pudding. Quinoa is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids. Since it is actually a seed and not a grain, quinoa is a great (and filling) substitute for rice, wheat and other grains in a gluten-free diet. The high fiber content in quinoa (twice as much as most other grains) keeps digestion moving, helps to lower cholesterol and keeps blood glucose from spiking. Just remember, since it is a seed, you will want to soak it overnight before cooking.
This well known fish has become a health food staple. But what makes this fish so special that it stands apart from all the others? It’s the omega-3 content. It also has the benefit of being high in protein. Stick to Alaskan wild salmon, rather than the farm-raised variety,to get the full amount of benefits. Salmon provides the perfect combination of nutrients to support your muscle tissue, heart and circulatory system while also benefiting your memory and cognitive function – reducing the likelihood of developing degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’
Berries have more antioxidants than any other fruit, quite a bit of heart healthy fiber and are a natural brain food. They are a lower glycemic fruit, yet still wonderfully sweet. Berries are easy to add to your diet.They are versatile and ready to eat as a snack and are easy to add to a smoothie. Your immune system gets a dose of support when you eat a serving of berries. Berries are naturally high in antioxidants and also fight inflammation, which is at the root of many chronic ailments.
10. Grass Fed and Free Range Animal Products.
Meat, eggs and butter (for those without allergies) from pastured animals are ideal for your health. Compared with their commercial counterparts, they offer you more “good” fats and fewer “bad” fats. They are richer in antioxidants including vitamins E and C and beta-carotene. Furthermore, they do not contain traces of added hormones, antibiotics or other drugs. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, grass fed and pastured animals produce foods that are high in vitamins such as B and D, minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, and higher in CLA, which has been linked to many health benefits including cancer.
Grass fed meats, butter and free range eggs are a bit pricier than their conventionally raised counterparts, but the health benefits make it well worth it. If cost is a concern, consider making meals with smaller portions of meat and eggs and fill in the gaps with more cost-effective foods like vegetables and sweet potatoes.
11. Sweet potatoes
As a side dish, sweet potatoes used to only make it to the dinner table once a year, during the holidays, smothered with marshmallows and looking more like a dessert that a source of great nutrition. The sweet potato’s reputation has since undergone an overhaul. No longer flying under the radar, they have emerged as a healthy choice.
Sweet potatoes are high in vitamins A, B5, B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and, due to their orange color, are high in carotenoids. Plus, they’re fat-free, relatively low in sodium, and have fewer calories than white potatoes — although they do have more sugar. These potatoes are easy to cook. Bake them, mash them, steam them or cut them into fries. Plus they will fill you up, and they are loaded with vitamins and fiber which helps with digestion. Add them to any meal.
Broccoli has been a longtime staple of healthy diets, often referred to as a “nutrition powerhouse” of the vegetable world. That is because it is incredibly good for you. Broccoli is one of the most nutrient rich vegetables, adding to your diet a good portion of the daily recommended intake of protein, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, soluble fiber, non-soluble fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, foliate, potassium and manganese.
One serving of broccoli fills your entire daily requirement of immune boosting vitamin C, is an excellent non-dairy source of calcium, fuels your metabolism with significant levels of vitamin B6 and can keep your digestion moving smoothing with some healthy fiber. You can enjoy broccoli raw or lightly steam it to bring out the flavor and retain most of the nutrition.
13. Chia Seeds
These little sees are gluten/grain free and one tablespoon of it has more calcium than a glass of milk, more Omega-3s than salmon, and more antioxidants than blueberries. Those little seeds are really packed with nutrition – essential fatty acids, alpha-linolenic and linoleic acid, protein, Vitamins A, B, D and E, and minerals including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, iron, iodine, copper, zinc, sodium, magnesium, manganese, niacin, thiamine, silicon and anti-oxidants.
Chia seeds are versatile and easy to use. They can be used as a thickener for soups and stews (in place of corn starch), as an egg substitute in baking and as a gluten-free swap for breadcrumbs when making meatballs. You can also quickly make your own appetite-suppressing, energy drink by stirring some chia seeds into your favorite! Those on blood thinning medications should be careful with Chia consumption however as it can have a mild blood thinning effect.
In ancient times, asparagus was renowned as an aphrodisiac, but today we understand that this succulent, savory vegetable does far more for your body than simply “put you in the mood.” High in vitamin K and folate, asparagus is extremely well-balanced, even among nutrient-rich vegetables. Asparagus is high in anti-inflammatory nutrients as well as provides a wide variety of antioxidant nutrients, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate and the minerals zinc, manganese and selenium, making it an extremely balanced vegetable.
Furthermore, the vegetable contains the amino acid asparagine (which helps flush the body of excess salt), as well as chromium, a trace mineral that helps insulin do its job transporting glucose. It’s also especially rich in glutathione, a detoxifying compound that can help destroy carcinogens. For this reason, asparagus may help fight or protect against certain cancers. Lastly, asparagus has excellent anti-inflammatory effects and high levels of antioxidants, both of which may help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. Asparagus is extremely low in calories at about 20 per serving (five spears), has no fat, and is low in sodium. It can be steamed, baked or even grilled.
15. Bone Broth
This is the one of the most nutrient rich, healing foods that you can add to your diet. It is an inexpensive, versatile and highly nutrient-dense food that is easy to make. Bone broth is an excellent source of minerals and is known to boost the immune system and improve digestion.
This type of broth is a powerful health food. Well prepared broth has high levels of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus content making it great for bone health. Bone broth also supports joints, hair, skin and nails – keeping you looking young due to its high collagen content.
Bone broth can be made fairly simply at home in big batches and frozen so that you can use as needed. Just be sure to start with high quality bones from grass-fed and pastured animals.
Upgrade your Diet
This is just a small sampling when it comes to the healthiest foods out there. You can give your diet an instant upgrade by adding one or more of those foods into your meal plan each week. But take it slow, incorporating new foods into your diet slowly, one at a time and taking note of how they make you feel. This is a great way to catch any food sensitivities or adverse reactions that even the healthiest foods can cause.
Remember, food is our best medicine and the best way to eat is by giving your body what it needs from several different sources, making your meals more interesting while still hitting all of the most important vitamins and minerals.