Everyone knows about the food pyramid. To be healthy means to maintain a good balance between those dreaded veggies and the sweet indulgences. However, some foods are better at doing their job than others, and are packed with more of those vitamins and minerals that you need. This is not a list of the absolute best foods ever, but rather it is a well-rounded assortment of choices that you could really benefit from by adding into your meals. Ultimately, these foods are the best way for you to provide your body with essential nutrients, without the excess saturated fat or carbohydrates. It's no secret, but once you learn about these power-packed foods, you will never leave them out of your daily diet.
Blueberries are great because not only are they high in antioxidants, but also contain a high amount of Flavonoids, which serve to preserve your brain's memory function. In addition, its naturally high water content is good for healthy skin. Whether you mix them into a yogurt parfait, eat them as a snack, or include them in your dessert, blueberries are a versatile fruit that provide many health benefits.
Kale, a cousin of cabbage, comes with green or purple leaves, but regardless of which one you prefer, this "Queen of Greens" is bursting with nutrients. First, much like any robust leafy green, it is high in fiber and low in calories and fat. In addition, kale contains many essential amino acids that promote cardiovascular support. Finally, it is high in multiple vitamins and crucial minerals such as iron and magnesium
Salmon is so great because it is one of the best examples of a high protein food with healthy fat. The omega-3 fatty acids serve a number of functions including lubricating joints, lower risk for heart disease, and even potentially help prevent memory loss. The good news is that you don't have to get sick of eating just salmon because there are other similar types of fatty fish; sardines, herring, and mackerel are all great as well.
Let's be honest for a second: starchy foods taste delicious and are almost essential to making any meal complete. However, the downside is that they are almost always loaded with way too many carbohydrates. Although it is not technically a grain, quinoa is a great substitute for white rice or potatoes. It is loaded with protein and essential amino acids for building muscle. In addition, it is easy to cook and incorporate in a number of different ways. Other great substitutes that fall within the same category are couscous, lentils, and brown rice.
Before we go any further, this disclaimer is necessary for this one superfood: Keep in mind, everything is great in moderation. Dark chocolate – more specifically 70% cacao – surprisingly has many benefits. The antioxidants found in cacao have shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and improve overall heart health. Like blueberries, dark chocolate is rich in Flavonoids, and although there is no scientific backing, it has shown to boost your mood. (Probably because you're eating, well, chocolate).
The emphasis on "raw" is very important to this superfood. Many packaged nuts come roasted and salted, but be aware. Although they are "plain," the roasting process that some manufacturers use produces nuts that are high in salts, fats, and even sugars. Raw almonds, however, are rich in protein and fiber. They contain phytochemicals, which are plant components that promote heart and vascular health. Get some freeze-dried fruit and mix it in with some dark chocolate nibs to make a healthy home-made trail mix.
Ideally eggs should be consumed raw for optimum nutrient absorption, but not all of us are like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. Not only are they an eggcellent (excuse the terrible pun) source of protein, but eggs also contain choline which helps block fat absorption. Many people recommend eating egg whites only because the yolk is high in cholesterol, but as long as you don't eat more than 4 eggs a day you will be fine. Once again the key word here is moderation.
Before you run to the grocery store and buy all kinds of flavors, realize that not all of your favorite brands are necessarily healthy. Some yogurt brands are actually just a sugary snack. However, plain yogurt provides you with more than 20% of your daily calcium needs, and is good for those who are lactose intolerant because the bacteria cultures are easier to digest. In addition, probiotics help with intestinal health and regular digestion.
Out of all the possible fat sources from various foods, avocado is one of the very few (along with salmon) foods that is a healthy source of raw fat. This means that this rich and delicious superfood is great for daily caloric intake without the excess grain carbohydrates or saturated fat. In addition, avocados are packed with high amounts of fiber, Potassium, Vitamin E, B-Vitamins, and Folic Acid.
For some, oats may already be an integral part of your diet. If not, start incorporating them now! Besides your typical breakfast oatmeal, oats can be incorporated many different ways in your diet. This fiber-rich superfood provides you with enough of your daily value in one serving. In addition, oats are a resistant starch, which is a healthy carbohydrate that boosts metabolism and burns fat.
All of these superfoods taste great and are easy to integrate into your daily diet. In addition, most of these ingredients are not expensive to buy in stores! Eat these foods as a snack by itself or find creative ways to mix them into your meals. Regardless of how you do it, make sure you are getting a healthy serving of all of these foods; your body will thank you for it.