The World’s Healthiest Foods and What They’re Good For
You are what you eat, so do your body a favour and eat healthy foods. Diet is a key factor in overall health and wellness – a factor you have absolute control over. You can significantly improve your health by including power-packed foods in your diet.
The World’s Healthiest Foods
There’s a bounty of healthy foods to choose from, but some foods deliver a nutritional punch better than others. From heart-healthy fats to disease-fighting phytochemicals, here’s a list of some of the world’s healthiest foods and the benefits they offer.
The many health benefits of spinach can be attributed to its wealth of vitamins and minerals. Low in fat and cholesterol, spinach is packed with iron, niacin, zinc, folate, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and vitamins A, C, E and K – basically, everything that’s good for you.
Plentiful flavonoids (plant pigments) in spinach have antioxidant properties that protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Folate in spinach promotes heart health, and magnesium lowers high blood pressure. Research also shows spinach promotes vigorous cognitive function.
First cultivated over 5,000 years ago, this ancient grain is rich in fibre and has a high protein to carbohydrate ratio compared to other grains. Quinoa is known to be a complete protein as it contains all essential amino acids. It is a source of iron, manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, folate, vitamin E and B-vitamins.
Antioxidants in quinoa have anti-inflammatory properties. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free but still a complex carbohydrate with a low glycemic index, making it great for weight loss. It also contains heart healthy fatty acids. The riboflavin content improves energy metabolism in the brain and muscle cells, which reduces the occurrence of migraines.
Kale is unarguably one of the best sources of cancer-fighting antioxidants. Studies show phytochemicals in kale may aid DNA cell repair and inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
An excellent source of vitamins A and C, kale promotes eye and skin health, and also boosts the immune system. It is packed with heart-healthy fibre and omega-fatty acids.
A great source of inexpensive, high-quality protein, eggs are powerhouses that rarely get the credit they deserve. Eggs are a rich source of vitamins A, B2, B6, B12, riboflavin, folate, selenium and phosphorus. Egg whites contain over half the egg’s protein content. Egg yolks contain more calories and fat, but offer vitamins A, D, E and K.
Eggs are known to promote cardiovascular and metabolic health, and boost memory and cognitive function.
Avocado is hailed as the king of superfoods due to its high nutritional content. Rich in dietary fibre and healthy monounsaturated fats, avocados promote better vascular function.
They contain more than twice the amount of potassium found in bananas, and provide other nutrients such as folic acid and vitamins C, K, E and B-vitamins.
They may be tiny, but chia seeds are one of the most nutritious foods available to us today. Grown organically, chia seeds are wholesome and gluten-free.
They are rich in fibre, protein, omega-3 fats, vitamins A, B, E and D, and minerals such as sulphur, iron, iodine, magnesium, manganese, niacin and thiamine. With such a wide range of nutrients, it’s safe to say chia seeds benefit overall health.
Used to add flavor to food in many cuisines around the world, garlic is also used as a supplement because of its potent medical properties. Garlic is rich in calcium, selenium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins B6 and C.
Allicin, the sulphur-containing compound which gives garlic its distinct smell, offers a host of health benefits.
Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties, which helps lower the risk of osteoarthritis and other inflammation-related diseases. Garlic boosts immune function and can help prevent colds and flus. It also has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and antiparasitic properties.
Research shows garlic is beneficial to the respiratory and circulatory system. It’s also known to help treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease.
There’s also evidence to suggest the active ingredient in garlic may be effective against drug-resistant pathogenic bacteria.
From heart health to muscle and tissue development, wild-caught salmon has a lot of benefits to offer. Salmon is a rich source of high-quality protein, phosphorus, selenium, vitamins B12 and D, but the omega-3 fatty acid content is what makes salmon so nutritious.
The most beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), are naturally present in oily fish such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel. These fatty acids boost brain and heart function, and improve overall health.
The human body cannot synthesise omega-3 fatty acids on its own, so they can only be obtained from foods. Three servings of oily fish a week can provide an adequate dose of EPA and DHA to your body.
For a good source of antioxidants, look no further. Antioxidants in blueberries and other dark-coloured fruits and vegetables neutralize free radicals known to cause cancer, heart disease and other health conditions. Anthocyanin, pterostilbene and resveratrol are just some of the antioxidants present in blueberries.
Blueberries are also rich in manganese, folate, vitamins B6 and C. Compared to other fruits, blueberries are particularly low in sugar and fat, and packed with fibre to keep you feeling fuller longer. One serving of blueberries can fulfill your daily fibre requirement.
Yellow, green, brown or red – lentils are a versatile and inexpensive way to add dietary fibre, protein, copper, phosphorus and manganese to your diet. A member of the legume family, lentils are incredibly healthy and easy to prepare. A cup of cooked lentils contains 18 grams of protein and 16 grams of dietary fibre. Lentils are also a great source of iron and folate.
Your parents didn’t compel you to eat broccoli for no reason. Apart from delivering a host of nutrients to your body, extensive research shows broccoli offers protective effects against cancer. Sulforaphane, a compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, has powerful chemopreventive properties. Research shows consuming two servings of cruciferous vegetables a day can slash the risk of certain types of cancers by 50 per cent.
Tomatoes are the best known source of lycopene, a carotenoid antioxidant that may significantly lower the risk of stroke and cancer. Lycopene is a pigment that gives tomatoes and watermelons its distinct colour. Studies show, as an antioxidant, lycopene may prevent prostate, lung and stomach cancers.
Tomatoes are also an excellent source of phosphorus, potassium, folate, biotin and vitamins A, C, E and B-vitamins.
Walnuts are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. These fats lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and raise the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol in the body. Vitamin E, folate, melatonin, omega-3 fats and antioxidants in walnuts have protective effects on the brain. Studies show walnuts can boost cognitive function in young and older adults.
Walnuts are also a good source of l-arginine, an amino acid that improves heart health, lowers inflammation, and fights the effects of ageing.
Mushrooms disprove the myth that light-coloured foods lack essential nutrients. Mushrooms are packed with beneficial vitamins and minerals, and known to lower the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Like tomatoes, carrots and peppers, mushrooms contain powerful antioxidants that offer protection against free radical damage. Selenium, vitamin D and folate in mushrooms are particularly effective at preventing diseases.
Mushrooms are low in calories, but act as a “bulking agent” to keep hunger pangs at bay.
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