In previous articles, I've written about healthy but unfamiliar foods and foods that are disgusting but nutritious. I’ve consistently tried to open your eyes to foods that are foreign to you in an effort to get you to eat better by adding variety to your diet.
In this article, however, I'm going to be describing the healthy foods that you know very well — in fact you probably have many of these items in your kitchen already. The five foods I'll be presenting here are ones that you should be eating everyday.
Loaded with essential vitamins and nutrients, these "super " foods provide the body with everything it needs to thrive.
Main vitamin or nutrient: Lycopene
If you don’t have them growing in your back yard, chances are, you have them in your fridge. Tomatoes are a simple staple that many generations across many different cultures have and continue to use widely. It is estimated that the average person eats around 80 pounds of tomatoes per year. These red bulbs make a perfect accent to a wide variety of foods. They are available year round, canned or fresh, and they are relatively inexpensive. But the best part about tomatoes is that they are one of the healthiest foods you can give to your body.Tomatoes are composed of lycopene, a carotenoid that gives them their ruby red color.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant with cancer fighting properties that has shown to be effective in preventing both prostate and breast cancer. Like other antioxidants, lycopene destroys free radicals in the body that may otherwise damage cells and they slow down the aging process. Tomatoes are also relatively high in vitamins A and C, which are great for fighting colds, and they have small amounts of fiber, potassium, niacin, and other trace minerals as well.
Main vitamin or nutrient: Live, active bacterial cultures and calcium
Yogurt is a staple in most households. Your mom probably fed it to you as a kid, and she was a smart lady in doing so because yogurt is not only very high in calcium, which keeps your bones and teeth strong and healthy, but it is rich in live bactierial cultures. These active cultures usually refer to Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermaophilus, which are two organisms that convert pasteurized milk into yogurt during the fermentation process. Never thought living organisms in your food could be good for you? The live microbes found in yogurt encourage the right type of bacteria to flourish in your digestive system, which allows you to process food and absorb nutrients better.
Furthermore, these organisms are helpful in building a strong immune system and they have the potential to lower cholesterol. Studies are being conducted to prove their effect on fighting certain types of gastrointestinal illness, certain infections and cancer as well.Yogurt is also loaded with protein and has solid amounts of vitamin B12, riboflavin and potassium in it. Plus, it comes in a variety of flavors, which means that you can mix it up everyday without getting tired of it.
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Main vitamin or nutrient: Potassium and glutathione
It’s time to take guacamole off of your "do not eat" list. Long considered a threat to the waistline because of its high fat content, avocados now top the list of healthy foods you should eat everyday. Avocados are extremely high in potassium and are a great source of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that destroys free radicals in the body. Free radicals are responsible for promoting disease and accelerating aging in the body.In addition to the high levels of glutathione that avocados contain, they also have a high monounsaturated fat content, which means they have the ability to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol in the body.
These benefits have been shown to improve the heart health of those living with high blood pressure and diabetes. Avocados are also high in vitamin E, which is another antioxidant that protects the cells and helps regulate cholesterol levels.Although avocados provide the body with many critical nutrients, don’t overdo it. They are high in fat, so eating them in excess can add inches to your gut over time.
Dark, leafy greens
Main vitamin or nutrient: Calcium
Dairy products are not the only way to ensure you’re getting enough calcium. Believe it or not, dark, leafy greens including spinach, kale, arugula, and Swiss chard are great ways to ensure you’re giving your bones what they need.Calcium is integral in building and maintaining healthy bones and teeth and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Added to that, calcium is important in regulating the heart’s rhythm, the transmission of nerve impulses and blood clotting functions in the body.
Dark, leafy greens are also loaded with vitamin A, C and fiber, which are other essential vitamins the body needs everyday. To take advantage of all of these healthy benefits, make sure you order the salad on the side of your main dish instead of French fries.
Main vitamin or nutrient: Omega-3 fatty acids
We know, it’s hard to eat fish everyday, but after you read this next section, you might want to reconsider.Salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, a group of essential polyunsaturated fats. These fats are considered essential because the body cannot create them, they can only be obtained through food. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve heart health, protect against degenerative disease and reduce inflammation in people who consume regular amounts in their diet. Additionally, these healthy fats are thought to improve cognitive and behavioral functions and, in some cases, can effectively reduce symptoms caused from certain psychological disorders, including depression.In addition to the high omega-3 content, salmon is also a great source of protein and is lower in fat than other types of meat. It is rich in niacin, vitamin B12, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin B6.
Although healthy, salmon and other types of oily fish can occasionally contain trace amounts of heavy metals such as mercury and other toxins. These toxic levels are not as high as those found in other types of fish, and most of the health risks are typically associated with pregnant women or children, but it is important to read labels and try to purchase wild salmon whenever possible.
Eat Them Daily, Feel Good Forever
There you have it — our first list of healthy foods that you should be eating everyday if you want to improve and maintain your health. Even if you exercise, you need to supply your insides with the good stuff to keep a healthy body. Eating the foods listed above everyday will ensure that your body gets what it needs to function properly. So go on, grab your grocery list and make sure you add these five items to it. You'll thank me when you hit 60 and you're feeling better than you did at 20.