With so many different types of diets, it can be hard to know where to start. What foods really are the healthiest, and what foods should you avoid entirely? If you want to make some healthy changes in the way you eat, look for foods high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
It’s time to learn about how you can turn weekly meal planning into a regular healthy eating routine with new foods.
The Benefits of Eating Healthy
The goal of making diet plans should ideally be to get healthier and consume vitamins and minerals your body has been missing. Enjoy the following benefits of eating healthy and sustainable foods:
Enhanced Heart Health
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), nearly half of all U.S. adults have cardiovascular disease of some severity. With the right lifestyle changes, you can prevent premature heart disease and complications, such as stroke and heart attack. If you practice healthy dining with foods that can lower your blood pressure, you can keep your heart healthy.
Dietary choices that can have a positive effect on your heart include:
- Consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Selecting low-fat foods, especially among meats and dairy products.
- Increasing your fiber intake.
- Increasing your intake of minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium.
- Limiting your sodium intake.
- Avoiding added sugars.
- Avoiding certain types of fat, such as trans fat and saturated fats.
Reduced Risk of Cancer
The high amounts of free radicals present in many unhealthy foods increase your risk of cancer. Eating foods high in antioxidants can protect your body from cellular damage caused by free radicals, reducing your risk of developing cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, antioxidants counteract the negative effects of free radicals.
Common antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, lycopene and others. You can find antioxidants in:
- Nuts, legumes and seeds
- Fruits, especially berries
- Vegetables, particularly leafy greens and carrots
Your diet may affect your mental health, and it’s possible that a poor diet could cause you to feel fatigued or worsen symptoms of mental illness. In particular, you could suffer from poor mental health if you consume a diet with a high glycemic index, which is a measure of how high the foods you eat raise your blood glucose.
Foods with refined carbohydrates and high glycemic loads that you should avoid eating include:
- Soft drinks
- White bread
Foods with low glycemic loads include:
- Whole grains
Improved Gut Health
The bacteria inside your gut help regulate your digestion and metabolism. Some strains of beneficial bacteria also produce nutrients like vitamins K and B. If your diet is low in fiber and high in unhealthy foods with a lot of sugars and fats, your gut microbiome will begin to suffer.
A poor diet can lead to inflammation in your gut, digestive issues and many other problems. Make sure you consume plenty of these foods with probiotics and prebiotics that can benefit the bacteria living in your colon:
- Vegetables, like sauerkraut
- Whole grains
- Miso (fermented soybeans)
The right diet may also help enhance your memory and overall brain health. Studies have shown that consuming a high amount of certain nutrients in food can protect you from cognitive decline. Some of the most beneficial nutrients for brain health include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamins K
- Flavonoids and polyphenols
Easier Weight Loss
With a diet low in fat and carbohydrates and high in beneficial nutrients, you can lose weight more easily. Instead of cutting back on your meals, use healthy ingredients that are naturally lower in calories. If you struggle with your weight, eating nutritious foods can reduce your risk factors for chronic health issues such as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
10 of the Best Foods for Your Health
What are the healthiest foods you can eat? Narrowing down the best possible options is a challenge that everyone handles a little differently. Since we all have varying allergies and dietary needs, make sure you do it your way. If you believe you have developed an allergy to a specific type of food, stop snacking and consult with your doctor.
Changing your diet starts with making a commitment to eating healthy kinds of food. The below list covers some of the healthiest foods available:
1. Raw Nuts
Even unsalted nuts can be high in calories, but they are also filling contain many beneficial nutrients, including:
- Unsaturated fat, or the healthy type of fat that you need to maintain your blood cholesterol.
- Several important vitamins and minerals you may be lacking in your diet like potassium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin E.
- Plenty of soluble fiber, which may help lower your risk of heart disease.
Select fresh nuts to use in recipes or eat as a snack instead of nut mixes fried in oil and seasoned with salt. Preparing nuts as a snack takes little time, making them easy to add to your lunch or sprinkle on top of pastas and salads.
Another important thing to know before you buy your favorites is that the composition of nutrients depends on the type of nut. Some healthy options are unsalted walnuts, cashews, pistachios and hazelnuts. Macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts and pecans are higher in grams of saturated fat, and peanuts are also a less ideal snack option.
Almonds are a great choice. They are lean, versatile in recipes and loaded with the most beneficial nutrients. Some studies have supported their ability to help with weight loss and improve your overall metabolic health.
Know that eating a diet high in seafood may increase your exposure to methylmercury or organic mercury, which fish consume in their natural habitats. But if you eat fish in moderation, the benefits include:
- High levels of iodine, which you might get too little of in your diet.
- An unrivaled amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Vitamins A, D and B2.
- Good levels of calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium.
Some examples of healthy fish are salmon, trout, herring and mackerel. Fish oil has been linked to health benefits related to the heart and nervous system. According to some studies, the fatty acids found in fish may help ease the symptoms of certain inflammatory conditions.
The benefits of avocados are more extensive than being able to turn them into a delicious dip. Avocados are low in sugars, high in fiber and packed with vitamins and minerals. They are also high in calories and monounsaturated fat, which helps you feel satisfied after eating.
Avocados have lutein, beta-carotene and omega-3 fatty acids. Their natural beta-sitosterol may help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
You can spread softened avocado on toast or use it as a healthy filling with your Mexican cuisine. Prepare some guacamole to go with thin whole-wheat crackers for a healthy snack that has high nutritional value. You can also remove the pit and bake avocado halves with your favorite filling.
A member of the onion family, garlic is often used as a seasoning for its unique flavor. Its allicin content is responsible for its taste and most of its health benefits. Garlic also contains:
- Fairly high levels of calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus and B1.
- Some levels of manganese and selenium.
- Some levels of vitamin B6 and C.
Among other benefits, consuming garlic regularly may help lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease and combat Alzheimer’s. Garlic has been used historically as an herbal remedy, and you might have heard of ingesting it to fight the common cold or flu.
As a flavoring ingredient, garlic is fairly universal, and you can get your fill of it in many soups, marinades and cuisines. Use garlic and sliced raw onion to season meats and other main courses.
5. Sweet Potatoes
The sweet potato is a root vegetable sometimes mistaken for a white potato, only it has significantly higher nutritional value. These potatoes also have:
- A lower glycemic index when boiled than the distantly related white potato tuber vegetable.
- A high concentration of vitamin A, with a single sweet potato providing over the daily amount.
- Moderate levels of potassium, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin B6.
- A small amount of protein.
- Carotenoid antioxidants, which is why they look orange.
Sweet potatoes have been called a superfood. Consuming sweet potatoes may help keep your cholesterol levels low and your immune system strong. They also help keep your skin healthy and have anti-cancer properties.
Replace your French fries with fresh sweet potato fries. You can eat them with ketchup, and although they will taste a little different, they are better for you. Try cooking some gluten-free recipes using boiled sweet potato as your carbohydrate replacement.
Berries can be high in natural sugars but also have high levels of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, which can help repair cellular damage. Good options are strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, but blueberries specifically have a noticeably high level of antioxidants.
The nutrients available in most berries include:
- Naturally high levels of vitamins C, D, E and B6.
- Magnesium, iron and potassium.
- A good amount of fiber.
Berries may help prevent degenerative diseases of the brain and promote mental clarity. They also help control your weight and keep your blood pressure low.
Eat berries in moderation or to replace sweets and other sugary snacks. Add them to yogurt or oatmeal for a very healthy snack or breakfast. You can also freeze berries to use for blending nutritious smoothies, or look for freeze-dried fruits at your local supermarket.
Oatmeal has many benefits to offer and contains:
- High levels of complex carbohydrates, the most nutritious kind.
- High levels of soluble fiber.
- A good amount of potassium and folate.
- Fairly high protein, especially when compared to other grains.
Foods with rolled oats or oat bran may help promote cardiovascular health as part of a diet low in fat. Oatmeal can help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Oatmeal may also stabilize your blood sugar, and all of that fiber helps slow and regulate your digestion.
Avoid buying oatmeal with added sugars and sweeteners. You can make your own from ground or rolled oats, which often contain more fiber than instant oatmeal. Flavor the oatmeal with your favorite fresh fruits. You can also use oatmeal as a replacement for flour in some gluten-free recipes.
8. Wheat Germ
Although all parts of a whole-grain product can benefit you, the germ is a special part of the wheat plant where the embryo of the seed grows. Wheat germ contains several vitamins and minerals, along with many other beneficial nutrients. The wheat germ has:
- High levels of fiber.
- Essential fatty acids and fatty alcohols.
- A good amount of folate and thiamin.
- High levels of magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.
- A small amount of protein.
The germ and bran are usually removed from refined breakfast cereals. Whole-grain foods contain the germ and bran, making them a great well-rounded option. If you live a more active lifestyle, products with wheat germ provide more energy than white bread, and they will help you keep your carbohydrates up for periods of rigorous exercise.
The beet is a colorful type of vegetable with medicinal properties. All parts of the beet contain folate, which can help boost heart health. Studies have shown that regularly eating beets can help lower your blood pressure and improve endurance exercise through the content of dietary nitrates converting into nitric oxide.
Cooked beets can make a good replacement for dessert. You can also use them in sandwiches, soups, salads and gourmet cuisines. Raw beets offer the most health benefits over thoroughly cooked or processed varieties. You can even make your own beet juice and use it as a natural food coloring.
10. Leafy Green Vegetables
Consuming leafy green vegetables can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Many green veggies are high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, especially when raw or lightly cooked. For example, spinach is high in iron and packed with minerals such as manganese, potassium, phosphorus and zinc.
You can prepare green vegetables many different ways. Buy fresh or frozen veggies instead of canned to get the highest quality. Oven bake them or eat them raw in salads or blended in a smoothie. When you boil veggies, some of the nutrients leak out into the water, so they will lose part of their nutritional value.
Explore Healthy Eating Options With American Dining Creations
Making the time to eat healthy can be hard when you have a busy schedule, especially at work or school. American Dining Creations is a boutique hospitality partner that provides high-quality meal options your group gets to customize based on your dining preferences. Stop spending money on fast food with low nutritional value, and get to work on creating a more fulfilling lifestyle.
We focus on nutrition because we understand its importance. With our healthy meal options, you and your staff, students or coworkers can eat smarter. Contact American Dining Creations to learn more or to request our services.