All superfoods have one thing in common: they can’t work without each other. Not even milk, a super healthy food in itself, can be perfect without supplementary sources to go along with it. Healthy eating simply boils down to a balanced choice of super foods and a strict control of calorie intake.
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The acclaimed Mediterranean diet, for instance, capitalizes on eating traditional regional foods by portions: consuming vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains daily, and eating fish weekly. This diet is often associated with reducing cancer, cardiac disease and diabetes.
But worry not if you are not able to follow the strict Mediterranean diet. The following super foods will suffice.
Water is the quintessential healthy food. According to the US Geological Survey, water constitutes 60% of a male adult’s body weight and 55% of body weight in women. Vital for hydration, well-being and good mood, water is a necessity of life. Drinking water also maintains your normal temperature, flushes out urea waste via urination and helps cool the body through sweat.
For healthy eating purposes, nutritionists recommend an intake of 8 to 12 cups of water daily. If the 2 -liter daily intake proves unmanageable, you can supplement fluid water with that derived from food. For instance, people who eat watermelon get 91 percent water from the fruit and those who consume eggs obtain 76% water.
2. Leafy green vegetables
Nutritionists recommend an intake of green curly veggies thrice a week at the minimum. This is because leafy greens are vital for boosting immunity given their lush Vitamins A, C and E content.
Key sources of Vitamin C and calcium include spinach, kale, collard and mustard greens. Again, a healthy combination of these superfoods is the key to deriving maximum health benefits: eat them in soup, mix them with stews or saute them in olive oil.
Fish is a relatively expensive source of protein compared to beans but it is super healthy. Seafood contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acids are essential to the body for hormonal functions and in the prevention of cardiac disease. The human body can only make these fats from outside sources such as fish, flaxseed and animal fat. On average, you should eat fish 1 to 2 times a week.
The 5 biggest seafood sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Salmon: 4,504 mg of omega per serving
- Anchovies: 1200 mg of omega 3 per serving
- Swordfish: 868 mg of omega 3 per serving
- Halibut: 740 mg of omega 3 per serving
- Tuna (albacore): 733 mg of omega 3 per serving
4. Whole grains: especially oats
It is no secret that the bulk of the world’s traditional food is composed of whole grains. Cereals are the world’s most essential food staple as they provide wholesome starch and energy. 48% of all food calories in people come from grains such as oats, wheat, maize and rice.
Oats, quinoa, rye flour and amaranth grains are some of the healthiest grain-based foods. They are not only rich sources of food energy but offer fiber and protein, too. With 26.35 grams of fiber per cup, oats, especially, surpass the recommended minimum of 21 to 38 grams of fiber per day.
5. Nuts and Berries
While they can’t beat avocado in protein content, kiwis provide 2 grams a cup, while blackberries and raspberries provide 1.5 to 2 grams a cup. Nuts, however, are not only sweeter but pack a higher fruit protein than berries; apricots serve you with 2.3 grams a cup.
Like all healthy foods, nuts and berries go well with raw salads and yogurt, a mixture that provides a well-balanced diet. While berries offer gut health with their fiber, nuts fight heart disease due to their monounsaturated fats. Eat them, however, in moderate levels as their sweet pectin content may increase calorie intake.
Whereas lentils provide 31% protein content per cup, beans offer 20 to 25% protein. They are therefore some of the most important plant-based sources of protein outside fish and lean meat.
Nutritionists recommend a weekly intake of legumes such as lentils or beans for muscle development and cell repair. You can make them more tasty by mixing them with stew, broth and salads or even consume them baked.
A product of fermenting whole milk with live bacteria cultures, yogurt leaves a tangy aroma in the mouth, but it is a good alternative to milk. This is because its lactose component is easier to digest than that in fresh milk.
Yogurt contains bacteria known as probiotics that help the body fight against ‘bad’ bacteria. Besides, yogurt also contains low fat and hence promotes low cholesterol.
8. Cruciferous vegetables
Other than leafy greens, the body needs the input of the antioxidant- and vitamin C-rich cruciferous veggies. These include cabbage (60% vitamin C), broccoli (148% vitamin C), carrots, turnips and Brussels sprouts.
Eating vegetables three or four times a week helps keep diseases like cancer away because they contain antioxidants and phytochemicals that fight free radicals. Mixing cruciferous vegetables with less healthy dishes such as pasta can help improve diet for those of us who love snacks.
9. Soybeans and Soy protein
Whether consumed whole, as oil or as soy milk protein, soy is one of the richest sources of protein in legumes. Health experts recommend eating 25 grams of soy protein daily to fight high cholesterol.
Each soybean or soy milk serving provides 36 grams of protein and many more nutrients (10% vitamin C, 70% magnesium and 36% dietary fiber of the daily value). If you are currently dieting, nothing beats the low-fat tofu milk mixed with soybean meal as a weight loss superfood.
10. Olive Oil
Olive oil is considered extremely healthy because it has only 14% saturated fats, and 11% polyunsaturated fats. Unlike most other equally healthy vegetable oils, oil from olives can reach 77% monounsaturated level when it is pressed extra-virgin.
Olive oil is rich in Vitamin E for cell stabilization and low in saturated fat for a healthy heart. Therefore, eating food cooked with olive oil adds less fat to the body than that derived from animal fats.
Emerging super healthy foods
With the ever-growing health consciousness in the 21st century, the following are gradually emerging as super healthy foods.
- Moringa leaves: a potent source of A and C vitamins, it has been an Ayurvedic medicine staple for centuries. In Ethiopia and south-east Asia cuisine, the leaves serve as curry ingredients.
- Fonio, a drought-resilient West African grain, is gluten-free and rich in protein and amino acids. Like corn, it is easy to cook and more so, it has a nutty taste.
- Wakame, a seaweed from Japan that makes sumptuous sushi dishes, is rich in iodine, omega 3 and dietary fiber. It is one of those nutritious foods that were so essential in ancient Japan, that even people used them to pay tax!