There are 15 foods out there that everyone should make a regular part of their diet. They taste great, carry lots of nutrients, and can cut your risk of many diseases dramatically! So let us start with the only 'meat' on the list, which is really fish.
Salmon is thought of as a fatty fish, but please understand...this fat is good fat. (Yes there is such a thing!) Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids. These are fats that are extremely good for you, so good in fact, that believe it or not, people with coronary heart disease are encouraged to eat some salmon every day! Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation. The fat in this food can even reduce the inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis. It can be obtained from salmon, but also is found readily in fish oil supplements. For someone with no coronary problems, aim for two servings a week.
The USDA ranks 24 anti-oxidant fruits and vegetables, and blueberries are at the top of the list. Antioxidants inhibit cell damage caused by cancer, heart disease, other chronic illnesses and environmental stressors. Blueberries have been shown to help protect humans against cancer,heart disease, macular degeneration, urinary tract infections and brain damage caused by strokes. Studies are being done to see if blueberry consumption can even help protect the brain against the signs of age. It does not matter if your berries are fresh or frozen, and they are scrumptious tossed onto cereal, ice cream, cottage cheese or pudding.
Second only to blueberries, are strawberries. They have the same antioxidant effects, and additionally may aid in the self-destruction of cancer cells in the body. Strawberries have more vitamin C than oranges ounce for ounce. A cup of strawberries contains a full day's supply. Vitamin C has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease by reducing plaque formation and preventing clots.
Grapes are rich in antioxidants called flavonoids which reduce inflammation. They also fight heart disease and cancer as well. They are most concentrated in the skin of dark red and purple grapes. Grape juices are also high in flavonoids, but carry more sugar and calories than fresh grapes. Grapes are a delicious snack because they are naturally sweet, are juicy and as a bonus, they contain needed fiber.
The debate always exists of whether the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. There is no debate however that they are rich in lycopene. Lycopene is now being credited with an enormous amount of health benefits, including protection against heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis. It also may ward off many types of cancer, including colorectal, prostate, lung, breast,endometrial and pancreatic cancers. Tomatoes are also rich in folic acid, riboflavin and chromium. Chromium promotes normal blood sugar levels in diabetics. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, the lycopene in tomatoes can be better absorbed by the body when in a processed form, such as in ketchup, sauce, paste or juice.
Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable and has been linked, along with high consumption of other cruciferous vegetables, to a decrease in the risk of certain cancers. It is rich in vitamin C, folic acid and fiber. It is also chock full of B vitamins,potassium, manganese and magnesium. Other cruciferous vegetables are cabbage, brussels sprouts, radishes and kale.
Spinach by itself will not make you muscle-bound like Popeye, but this dark green leafy veggie is packed with nutrients such as vitamin A, folic acid, fiber, and lutein, which is a compound thought to reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Many people find spinach to be bitter tasting, but baby spinach is sweeter, and if you saute spinach with some butter, garlic and top with a splash of vinegar, it is a tasty treat. The sweet potato is another good vegetable that is rich in beta-carotene. Beta-carotene stimulates the immune system and also converts to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is necessary for skin and eye health.
Seeds, grains, nuts and beans are rich sources of needed nutrients. Oatmeal is a wonderful food for dieting, heart health and control of blood sugar levels. Oats are great for soluble fiber which helps insulin levels and blood sugar to remain balanced. The blood sugar rises more slowly after eating oatmeal because the stomach digests and empties more slowly. Oatmeal also binds with and removes excess cholesterol.
Flax is another excellent grain that provides omega-3 fatty acids. It is a very rich source of alpha-linolenic acid. The nutrients in flax also protect against cancer. Flax can be purchased as flour, ground seeds or whole seeds, but they must be ground to release the fatty acids. Use in recipes, or toss into salads, smoothies, cereal, or yogurt. Sesame seeds are also versatile in food, and provide a high concentrate of copper, magnesium, zinc, fiber and protein. A tablespoon a day is a great supplement!
Pinto beans are the most valuable legume. They contain 7 grams of protein in a half cup of canned beans, and 7 grams of fiber as well! They are rich in folic acid which helps your heart, potassium which promotes healthy blood pressure, and they are a super source of fiber. Soybeans have enjoyed a skyrocketing popularity as of late, due to their isoflavins. Isoflavins possess anti fungal, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. Soy foods help reduce bad cholesterol, maintain bone density if calcium fortified, and reduce the occurrence of night sweats and hot flashes in menopausal women. Soy does however mimic estrogen in the body and should be avoided in women who have or have had breast cancer. Soy foods include tofu, soy milk, miso, soy burgers and tempeh.
Although nuts are high in fat and calories, they remain a very valuable source of nutrients. They are just full of fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, potassium and zinc. Nuts, although high in calories(one single nut can pack 4 or more calories)are filling and satisfying.
The last powerhouse worth mentioning is garlic. It contains sulfur, which gives it it's strong taste, and it helps your heart. The compounds in garlic help reduce bad cholesterol and total cholesterol as well. Garlic may also effectively reduce blood pressure, inhibit dangerous blood clotting and fight cancer.
Remember that an overall healthy diet is what you need the most. No single food will prevent disease and ailments, nor will it cure them. Diet is such a fundamental part of our well-being though, and so it stands to reason that we should try to include in our diets, foods we know have enormous health benefits.