Over the years, research has shown that healthy dietary patterns can reduce risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
However, there are a few foods that can be singled out for special recognition. These “superfoods” offer some very important nutrients that can power-pack your meals and snacks, and further enhance a healthy eating pattern.
High in fibre, berries are naturally sweet, and their rich colours mean they are high in antioxidants and disease-fighting nutrients. Add strawberries, blueberries, raspberries etc. to yoghurt, cereals, and smoothies, or eat plain for a snack.
Fish can be a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease. Fish with the highest omega-3 content are salmon, tuna steaks, mackerel, herring, trout, anchovies, and sardines.
Dark, leafy greens are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium. They also add fibre to the diet. Try varieties such as spinach, swiss chard, kale, collard greens, or mustard greens. Throw them into salads or sauté them in a little olive oil. You can also add greens to soups and stews.
Nuts are a good source of plant protein. They also contain monounsaturated fats, which may be a factor in reducing the risk of heart disease. Hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans — add a handful to oatmeal or yoghurt, or have as a snack. Nuts are also a great accompaniment to cooked veggies or salads.
Olive oil is a good source of vitamin E and monounsaturated fatty acids, which help reduce the risk of heart disease. Use olive oil in place of butter or margarine in pasta or rice dishes. Drizzle over vegetables, use as a dressing, or when sautéing.
Whole grains contain several B vitamins and minerals and are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fibre. They have been shown to lower cholesterol and protect against heart disease and diabetes. Try having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. Substitute quinoa, wheat berries, or brown rice for your usual baked potato. When buying breads at the supermarket, look to see that the first ingredient is “100% whole wheat flour.”
A good source of calcium and protein, yoghurt also contains live cultures called probiotics. These “good bacteria” can protect the body from other, more harmful bacteria.
Legumes include kidney, black, red, and garbanzo beans, as well as soybeans and peas. They are an excellent source of fibre, folate, and plant-based protein. Studies show they can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Add legumes to salads, soups, and casseroles. Make a chilli or a bean-based spread such as hummus.
Eating all foods in moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle. Including these superfoods in your diet will positively affect your health over time.