There are literally hundreds of healthy food items that should be part of your diet. However, certain foods offer more nutritional bang for their buck. While I am always wary of news reports that claim a specific food is a “cure all”, there is no denying that specific nutrient-dense foods are higher in antioxidants (which help neutralize free radicals that cause disease), minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals.
As a whole, the diet should be filled with an abundant amount of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and essential fats. However, if I were to name 5 of the foods that ranked high on the nutritional superstar scale, the following would be my choices:
– Kefir is a creamy rich dairy product similar to yogurt. Kefir is low in calories (one cup has only 87 calories) and rich in protein, calcium, magnesium and vitamin B12. Kefir also offers a rich amount of “good bacteria” called probiotics that are helpful for people with digestive complaints. Kefir can be used in your morning smoothie, used to marinate your favorite meat or fish or added to a cream or vegetable puree soup. While kefir can be purchased in most health food and grocery stores in Canada, it is best to avoid flavored kefir (i.e. fruit flavored) as it is higher in sugar.
•Substitute kefir for the called-for amount of yogurt in this delicious Curried Lentil Burgers with Coriander Yogurt recipe.
– Walnuts have the highest amount of omega-3 essential fat in comparison to any other nut. They are also rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins, anti-oxidants and vitamin E. The research on walnuts and their associated heath benefits is incredibly strong and convincing. Scientific studies show that including walnuts in the diet helps to reduce the risk of heart disease (by improving blood flow and elasticity of the vessels) and aids in lowering LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol). The only caveat – similar to other nuts, walnuts are higher in calories. Thus, 1.5 ounces or 20 walnut halves per day is recommended.
• Walnuts for dinner? This recipe for Linguine with Walnuts and Garlic Oil is a great way to add the nutrition of nuts to your dinner plate.
Blueberries – All fruits are known for their health benefits; however, blueberries appear to be topping the charts. According to the US Department of Agriculture Analyses, blueberries have 40 per cent more antioxidant capacity than strawberries. Blueberries are high in vitamin C and can help strengthen the immune system. This delicious berry has also shown other health benefits such as improving eyesight and circulation, acting as a natural diuretic, enhancing blood flow and helping to alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Blueberries can be frozen for future use, but do not wash them before freezing. Use blueberries in a morning smoothie, in salads, yogurt or muffins or alone as a sweet, scrumptious snack.
• Try Blueberry Oatmeal Squares for a delicious snack.
Whole grains – The benefits of whole grains vs. refined grains is immense. Whole grains remain intact and contain all three parts of the grains which are;
1) The Bran – The bran is the outer shell of the grain that is rich in fiber, b vitamins and trace minerals.
2) The Germ – The germ is the inner part of the grain that is also rich in b vitamins, vitamin E, unsaturated fat and phytochemicals (plant chemicals that prevent disease)
3) The Endosperm – The endosperm contains carbohydrates, some protein and b vitamins.
Examples of whole grains are sprouted grains, quinoa, bulgur, brown rice, whole wheat flour, oatmeal and millet. Repeated studies have shown whole grains to reduce the risk of stroke, Type II diabetes, heart disease and assist with weight maintenance.
• Fill your family up with good-for-you fibre. Try Whole Grain Couscous as a simple side dish.
Wild salmon – Wild salmon is an excellent source of highly digestible, high quality protein. This delicious fish is rich in nutrients, containing Vitamins D, B6 and B12. Salmon is also a good source of vitamin E which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Salmon is an oily fish rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids (specifically EPA & DHA). Omega-3 fats have been shown to reduce inflammation, improve brain function, decrease cholesterol levels and they also help alleviate and heal bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and colitis. Salmon also contains far less saturated fat than other protein sources such as chicken and red meat. Poached, baked or on the BBQ – wild salmon is a wonderful addition to the diet.
• This Grilled Salmon with Ginger Green Onion Relish recipe is a family favourite, and is also great for nights when company’s coming.
In addition to the list above, other “nutritional superstars” that should make it into your grocery cart include:
• Omega-3 eggs
• Hemp seeds
• Green leafy vegetables
• Bright orange vegetables
• High quality yogurt
• Ground flaxseeds
• Red and kidney beans
• Broccoli and spinach (to name just a few!)
Bon appetit to health!
Dr. Joey Shulman DC, registered nutritionist is the author of the best selling book The Last 15 – A Weight Loss Breakthrough. For more information or to book a free weight loss assessment, please visit www.drjoey.com