Eating healthy food is a crucial part of protecting your overall health, but with thousands of options out there, it can be difficult to make the right choices. At times, it is hard to pinpoint precisely what makes a food healthy and sustainable vs. unhealthy but it generally comes down to nutrient density, calorie content, and the type of fat it contains. Most of you may already know a number of healthy foods. However, there are certain foods that have recently pinned the ‘healthy food’ badge! Let’s take a look at them.
List of Healthiest Foods
When it comes to categorizing foods as healthy, nutrients play a huge part. Moreover, with a rise in capturing your food before eating it has given a huge boost to foods that also make dishes look beautiful and colorful. Food today does more than filling you up. More and more people are relating their food choices with their personality. That being said, there are foods that are universally healthy.
Research suggests that apple demonstrates antioxidant, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-cancer activities. Moreover, it is the second most-consumed fruit in the world, after bananas. Apples help to keep your weight in check, boost mental health, delay aging, prevent heart diseases, and keep respiratory issues at bay. In short, the old-age saying that ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away,’ is true and valid.
Bananas are a staple in many countries like India. They are rich in potassium and antioxidants. Adding them to your breakfast cereal can make for a filling meal and provide you with a much-needed boost!
The high levels of fiber, B vitamins, vitamin C and unique antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein, give avocados a major edge in the health food world and their use in meals is also versatile.
Citrus fruits have very high levels of vitamin C, which not only helps the immune system but also helps in preventing chronic disease and improving healing and repair throughout the body. So add oranges, limes, sweet limes, tangerines, and lemons to your cocktails or salads regularly!
Asparagus is an easy-to-cook and nutritious vegetable. It is used for its remarkable antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antihepatotoxic properties that help protect you from oxidative stress and liver damage.
Fiber is a critical part of a healthy diet and the vast majority of beans (particularly those darker in color) can help improve digestive health, protect the heart from high cholesterol levels and reduce oxidative stress.
With significant levels of vitamin C, vitamin K, and other phytochemicals and antioxidants, broccoli is one of the best vegetables for improving heart health, boosting the immune system and increasing bone mineral density.
Among cruciferous vegetables, spinach is often recommended due to its high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, along with vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and magnesium. This can help reduce oxidative stress, improve digestion, lower the risk of cancer and protect the heart.
Onions are a staple food in many parts of the world because of their long shelflife. But it’s not just that, onions are a good source of compounds that help to lower your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
Cabbage helps to keep your digestion in check. It also helps lower inflammation in your body and improves your nutrient intake.
Beans are a good source of polyphenols that help to keep you protected from many chronic diseases. Adding beans to your salads can keep you full for longer so that you do not snack on junk foods.
Peanuts are a powerhouse of compounds like resveratrol, phenolic acids, flavonoids, and phytosterols. These compounds help to lower your cholesterol levels. Having boiled peanuts is a great way to include them in your diet.
Boasting higher levels of iodine than almost every other food, seaweed can be critically important in regulating thyroid hormone production, which affects hundreds of different metabolic processes around the body.
This fatty fish is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are the “good” fats that our body needs to re-balance cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease, while also improving cognition and lowering your chances of developing depression and other neurodegenerative diseases.
From vitamin E and vitamin B to selenium, zinc, iron, and calcium, oysters are a low-calorie, low-fat burst of energy, not to mention protein, which can help build strong bones, improve fertility, heal the skin, and protect the immune system.
Mussels are low in calories and high in protein and omega 3s. They also qualify as an entry in the list of sustainable foods. So if you are able to get fresh batches of mussels, make sure to buy and cook them!
Dried Fruit, Nuts, and Seeds
Possessing more omega-3 fatty acids than any other nut, these tasty snacks will lower your cholesterol levels, improve mood, boost energy and even help to regulate your sleep cycle and hormonal balance.
One of the easier snacks to keep with you on the go, it typically contains raisins, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, all of which possess varying levels of fiber, good fats, minerals, and antioxidants, making this an ideal healthy treat. Only a small amount is needed, however, as there are high levels of calories and sugar in some of those foods as well.
Meat helps to increase your protein intake and build muscle mass. However, make sure to eat it in moderation.
Fats and Oils
Being rich in monounsaturated fats, olive oil is one of the healthiest choices for cooking oil. Although many people think of oils as being inherently unhealthy, olive oil can help to lower inflammation, reduce symptoms of depression, prevent dementia and aid in weight-loss efforts.
The benefits of coconut oil are not glorified at all. It helps from losing weight to delaying the progression of diseases like Alzheimer’s. It contains healthy compounds that improve your cholesterol levels and help you keep your digestion regular.
Herbs and Spices
With an incredible amount of vitamin C, as well as potassium, folic acid, and various other antioxidants, chili peppers may not be the easiest food to work into your diet but they can boost your heart health, stimulate cognition and act as a powerful shield for your immune system.
Packed with sulfuric compounds and antioxidants, as well as various anti-fungal and antibacterial compounds, garlic is a versatile spice that can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as reduce your risk of chronic disease and cancer.
Tea and Coffee
The most widely consumed beverages, tea and coffee, are a healthy addition until you watch your intake. Both help to boost cognition, keep your energy levels up, and decrease the risk of many chronic diseases.
Alcohol is rarely praised as being a healthy food, but red wine contains resveratrol and quercetin, two active ingredients that have been directly linked to protecting the heart. This grape-derived beverage can also aid with weight loss and control cholesterol levels.
The active ingredients in cocoa have a number of positive effects on our health, such as improving cognitive function, lowering oxidative stress and blood pressure, helping to prevent cancer and reducing diabetes risk.
Guide for Healthy Food
The basic rules for eating healthy food are quite easy to follow:
- Eat Breakfast – As an important meal of the day, breakfast should be filled with healthy foods, ranging from dense protein like eggs to high-fiber dishes and vitamin-rich fruits. Without a stable start to the day, you are more likely to experience hunger and snack on unhealthy food.
- Listen to Your Body – When you are hungry, you should eat something, and when you begin to feel full, you should stop. Healthy foods that are rich in fiber can help reduce overall calorie intake in situations like this, as they can help you feel full. Overeating, even when it is “healthy food”, will put a strain on your metabolism and digestive system.
- Less Sugar and Fat – Although some good fats and natural sugars are found in healthy foods, as a general rule of thumb, your food should be low in sugar and should not contain saturated fats or trans fats. Processed foods and fast food should be avoided, as they are very high in these fats.
- More Fruits and Vegetables – The key to any healthy diet is regular intake of fruits and vegetables. High in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients, while typically being low in calories, these are the epitome of healthy foods.
- Stay Hydrated – Drinking enough water will allow your body to properly digest and absorb the nutrients in your healthy food, while also keeping your cognition up and maintaining good water balance in the body.
- Eat Real Food – Try to avoid foods that have long lists of preservatives, as these compounds and chemicals can have unexpected side effects on the body. Organic, raw and all-natural foods will generally be healthier than anything packaged and sealed by a food distributor.
- Don’t Skip Meals – While reducing your caloric intake may be easier if you simply skip a meal, it is important to have at least 3 square meals filled with healthy food. If anything, you should be eating 5-6 meals per day, albeit of smaller sizes, to optimize your overall health.
- Live a Little – There is nothing wrong with occasional indulgence if you have only been eating healthy food. Allowing yourself a sweet treat or a splurge meal doesn’t mean your health will be compromised. Your body is well equipped to handle infrequent bursts of “unhealthy” food.