Health Foods For a Healthy Life
Everyone wants to be fit and healthy, but unfortunately with the fast paced, on the go lifestyle most of us are caught in, eating right often becomes and after thought. If you want to change your lifestyle, there is no other way other than to act on it and start putting the right foods in your body. Today, we eat far to many processed foods which our bodies are not designed to handle. Most of us need to cut down on things like sugar, salt, saturated fats, and high cholesterol foods which can lead directly to obesity and heart disease if not taken in moderation.
Here are some recommendations on natural, healthy foods to incorporate into your diet which will help to improve the way you feel and help you to lose those extra pounds around your waist. Of course, to really lose weight, both diet and exercise are critical parts of the equation.
Legumes are cheap and easy to cook, which makes them a staple in many people’s diets. They’re also high in protein, making them a popular meat substitute among vegetarians, and they’re packed with fiber, so they help you stay full and energized. Black beans even have a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which boost heart health. “Black beans are high in the powerful phytochemical anthocyanins — the same ones found in blueberries. Studies indicate the darker the bean, the higher it may be in antioxidants,” says Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian and the author of The Plant-Powered Diet.
Kale is a member of the cancer-fighting cruciferous family of vegetables and is full of fiber and antioxidants. It’s also rich in vitamin K, which aids in blood clotting and cell growth. Its textured leaves make it a tasty addition to any salad.
Salmon, especially wild salmon, is rich in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, which will protect your heart. Research has found that omega-3s may also be associated with protecting against premature brain aging and memory loss.
Nuts tend to be high in calories and fat, but the monosaturated fat in nuts is healthier than the saturated fat in meat and dairy products. And their high omega-3-fatty-acid levels make them a go-to for heart health. A recent study also found that walnuts carry some of the highest antioxidant content among all nuts.
Pumpkin is a low-calorie vegetable that’s high in fiber and vitamin A. “Its orange color is a dead giveaway of its high amount of beta carotene, which helps prevent heart disease,” says Brill. “It’s also so versatile for cooking.”
Apples are high in fiber, specifically a soluble fiber called pectin, which targets and clears away LDL, the bad cholesterol. Many of apples’ beneficial compounds are contained in the skin, including high levels of phytochemicals, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They’re “the perfect diet food too,” says Janet Brill, a registered dietitian and author of several books on nutrition. “They’re very portable, and my personal favorite, Fuji applies, are sweet enough to satisfy a sweet tooth.”
Berries’ vibrant, deep colors mean they’re high in antioxidant compounds. Blueberries are especially high in heart-protective carotenoids and flavonoids, and they encourage heart, memory and urinary-tract health. They also contain high levels of vitamins C and E.
Bananas are high in potassium, which aids blood pressure and is critical for the proper function of the muscular and digestive systems. They’re also high in fiber, which means they’ll keep you fuller for longer.
Broccoli is a member of the cabbage family of vegetables, often referred to as cruciferous, which is associated with anticancer benefits as well as reduced inflammation and higher immunity. Broccoli is also high in fiber, and a high-fiber diet can help keep blood pressure down and reduce heart-disease risk.
Spinach is chock-full of nutrients, including iron, calcium and vitamin A, which keeps the eyes and skin healthy. Spinach also packs folate, which helps the body form healthy red blood cells and prevents birth defects during pregnancy.
Not only are they tasty, but sweet potatoes also pack high levels of potassium that help lower your blood pressure and reduce stroke risk. If you eat the skin, you get a filling dose of fiber too.
Loaded with potassium and magnesium, kidney beans help keep blood pressure in check, while their high fiber content helps reduce bad LDL cholesterol, fighting off heart disease. Kidney beans are also rich in iron and protein, making them a great meat substitute for vegetarians. “So named for their resemblance to the shape of our organs, the red color of this type of bean is indicative of their high concentration of disease-fighting antioxidants,” says Janet Bond Brill.
Even if you’re not a bean fan, give lentils a try. They’re easy to make, require no soaking and appear in a slew of colors. They also don’t have sulfur, the gas-producing component in other legumes. Lentils may be small, but they’re full of iron, fiber and protein.
Beets are a go-to source for folate, which helps metabolize amino acids and is important for pregnant women. Also, their red pigments fight cancer and lower the risk of heart disease.
“It may be an unglamorous food, but eggplant is packed with fiber and contains the whole gamut of B vitamins, which give you all the energy you need,” says registered dietitian Gloria Tsang, founding editor of HealthCastle.com. Its deep purple color is evidence that it has powerful antioxidants to protect brain cells and control lipid levels.
As a cruciferous veggie, this pungent vegetable contains sulfur compounds called glucosinolates that not only give them their aroma but also help lower the risks of prostate, lung, stomach and breast cancers.
This familiar fruit has a long list of nutrients, including vitamins A, C and K. Its deep red color comes courtesy of the antioxidant lycopene, which helps lower inflammation and cholesterol and is linked to better heart health.
The government’s dietary guidelines recommend that at least half the grains you eat be whole. This means intact grains that contain the entire grain kernel: the bran, germ and endosperm. Refined grains (which are used in white bread and white rice), in contrast, are milled, meaning the bran and germ have been removed to give the grains a soft, finer texture; this process also strips the grains of dietary fiber, iron and several B vitamins.
The reason you want whole grains in your diet: their high dietary fiber and nutrients are linked to lower risks of heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and obesity; plus, they help lower cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure. Switching from white to whole-wheat bread is one good way to up your whole-grain intake.
Not only is quinoa considered a whole grain; it’s also a complete protein, containing all the amino acids necessary for building muscle and upping metabolism.
Oatmeal is high in the fiber beta-glucan, which lowers levels of bad LDL cholesterol. Nutritionists recommend steel-cut oats because they’re minimally processed, without additives. “Oatmeal is the best way to start your day,” says Brill. “It’s a whole grain and a great heart-healthy food. It has antioxidants that are unique to oats too.” Oatmeal’s an ideal postworkout food as well, since it contains energy-producing B vitamins and carbohydrates that replenish your muscles.
Bulgur is one of several lesser-known whole grains that pack a wealth of fiber and B vitamins. The low-glycemic-index food, which is good for your insulin levels and blood glucose, is a Middle Eastern favorite made from wheat kernels that have been boiled, dried and cracked; it’s sometimes referred to as cracked wheat. Other less familiar yet tasty whole grains include millet, buckwheat, farro, barley and amaranth.
Meat is high in protein, B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium. But it’s important to differentiate between lean meats and those high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts and turkey cutlets are your leanest poultry choices; as for beef, round steaks and roasts, top loin, top sirloin, chuck shoulder and arm roasts are the leanest cuts. If you’re craving a burger, make your patties with the leanest ground beef available, labeled at least “90% lean.” For lunch meats, check labels to make sure they’re low in fat and sodium.
Seeds are good sources of plant protein; flaxseeds are also high in the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid called ALA and are very heart-healthy. Just be sure to grind them up before eating.
Like flaxseeds, chia seeds are a good source of the plant omega-3 fatty acid ALA and protect against inflammation, arthritis and heart disease. Unlike flax, chia seeds don’t need to be ground or refrigerated.
Like other tree nuts, almonds are a rich source of protein. They’re also high in calcium and monounsaturated fat (the heart-healthy kind found in olive oil). A daily handful could help lower your bad LDL cholesterol and risk of heart disease.
Tuna is high in protein, vitamin B, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. Pregnant women and small children should limit their intake of it, however, because tuna is also high in the neurotoxin methylmercury. For everyone else, tuna — including canned — is a good sandwich and salad staple.
Dairy products are a primary source of calcium for Americans, and they also contain vitamin D, both of which contribute to bone health. Eating low-fat or nonfat dairy has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes and with lower blood pressure in adults. And chocolate milk is a great way to replenish after a workout.
Fat-Free Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt counts toward your daily dairy intake, and it packs plenty of protein to keep you full for longer.
If you want to treat yourself, dark chocolate is the way to go. It’s better than milk chocolate because of its high concentration of cocoa, which is packed with disease-fighting antioxidant plant chemicals called flavonol; milk chocolate contains only modest amounts. Those antioxidants can help reduce the risk of blood clots and lower blood pressure and inflammation as well as improve insulin resistance. A recent study even found that those who indulged in a little bit of chocolate five times a week were slimmer than those who didn’t. “I tell all my patients that a little can go a long way,” says Janet Bond Brill. “Eat chocolate by the piece and not by the pound.”
If you can drink responsibly and moderately — up to two glasses a day for men, one for women — red wine is another good-for-you treat. A compound in red wine called resveratrol has been linked to longevity and lower risk of diabetes and heart disease. According to Janet Bond Brill, wines made from grapes grown in cooler regions, like pinot noir from Oregon, contain the highest concentration of resveratrol.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil is a staple in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. It’s high in monounsaturated fats that can help lower cholesterol. Health experts recommend cutting the amount of saturated fats in your diet and incorporating more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in order to decrease your risk of heart disease.
Extra-virgin olive oils are a better option than other olive oils, since they’re less refined. Extra-virgin olive oil contains antioxidant compounds as well as vitamin E and oleocanthal, which can reduce inflammation.