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Super Healthy Foods to Eat

healthy foods

What makes food healthy?

There are super healthy foods to eat, and there are foods that we eat that challenge our health too.

First, let’s define food…food is any nutritious substance that we consume (eat or drink) that helps us to grow and maintain life (1). A nutritious substance provides the body with nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, as well as plant compounds that support the body.

An essential nutrient is one that we must consume in our daily diet because the body can not produce it in amounts that it requires, or at all as is the case for nutrients like vitamin C (2).

There are many foods today that are healthy and taste good, but there are also foods that taste good but do not provide the essential nutrients that the body requires each day. When food has been processed and lacks the nutrients we need, that food uses our stored nutrients to process it for energy. And, as we continue to consume nutrient-deficient foods over time, the body can become deficient in essential nutrients which can lead to dysfunction and disease (2).

Super healthy foods to eat

Eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, lean meats, and legumes will help to support the overall health of the body.

Here are some healthy foods and a few reasons you will want to include them in your meal plans.

Spinach: This leafy green is a nutrient-dense veggie that contains vitamins and minerals like vitamins A, C, K1, and B9, as well as iron and calcium, and is also versatile, as it can be used raw in salads or cooked in soups and stir fry (3).

As an excellent source of vitamin C, spinach helps the body absorb iron in the gut for oxygen transport to body tissues, facilitates the conversion of cholesterol into bile acids which not only lowers blood cholesterol levels but also aids in detoxification, and helps to protect the body from damage that can occur from oxidation, as vitamin C is a potent antioxidant (4). To gain the vitamin C benefits of spinach, it’s best consumed raw, as vitamin C is easily destroyed by high temperature, alkali, and oxygen (4).

Kale: This dark leafy green is another low-calorie, nutrient-dense food that provides vitamins A, B1, C, and K, as well as manganese and calcium (5).

This cruciferous vegetable provides powerful antioxidant properties through various polyphenols like kaempferol and quercetin which scavenge free radicals and protect our cells from damage that could lead to conditions like cancer (6). Additionally, quercetin is an effective antibacterial agent that can destroy E. coli infections (6).

Avocado: Often eaten as a vegetable, the avocado is a fruit with a large seed. These highly nutritious fruits are a rich source of many essential nutrients that Americans tend to lack in their diet, like magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamins C and E, as well as folate (7).

Potassium is another common nutrient deficiency in America today, and avocado is a rich source of this nutrient which we need each day for proper fluid balance, nerve signaling, muscle contraction, and normal blood pressure (8) (9).

Apples: This common fruit comes in many varieties and provides key nutrients that we need each day like vitamin C, water, and fiber. Apples contain both soluble and insoluble fibers, of which pectin is one, which helps us to feel full longer, improves bowel function, reduces glucose and cholesterol absorption, and improves the intestinal barrier that protects our cells from damage and helps us avoid chronic conditions like allergies, Alzheimer's, and certain cancers (10).

You’ll find more health benefits from consuming apples here.

Chia seeds: Just one ounce, or two tablespoons, of chia seeds contains over 20% magnesium, making it an excellent source of this nutrient that many Americans are low or deficient in today (11). Magnesium deficiency leads to inflammation in immune cells which can lead to diseases like congestive heart failure, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes (12).

Chia seeds are also high in protein, fiber, and antioxidants which can help reduce appetite and prevent weight gain as well as reduce oxidative stress to protect against diseases like hypertension, and cancer (13).

Eggs: Providing many essential vitamins, minerals, and healthy fat that we need each day, eggs are a nutrient-dense food that helps us build and repair body structure for proper function. Eggs also provide protein with the highest biological value of any food, meaning that every bit of the protein in eggs is used to grow and maintain our body tissue (14).

As an excellent source of choline, eggs support the building blocks for cell membranes, provide choline for neurotransmitters like acetylcholine, important for memory, mood, and muscle control, and aid early brain development, lipid transport, and metabolism (15).

Lentils: These edible seeds from the legume family come in many colors like red, green, yellow, and brown. Lentils are a great source of plant-based protein and are also high in fiber (16).

Lentils are an excellent source of many essential nutrients, including B vitamins like folate, magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc which are important for energy production, detoxification, fluid balance, oxygenation of tissues, and immune system function (16).

Choose to eat for health

When we choose to consume a diet rich in nutrient-dense whole foods like these, we reduce our risk for disease because they provide the building blocks (nutrients) to build and maintain healthy body structure that functions well.

However, when we frequently consume nutrient-deficient foods, like deli meats, fast food, chips, white bread, chicken nuggets, and breakfast cereal, it leads to lower levels of nutrients which can lead to dysfunction and then disease over time.

You can read more about foods that lead to disease here.

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