The best choices at the store.
The foods you consume make a difference, both in how you feel today, and your long-term health. “Our bodies have to be nourished to function properly,” says Susan Borders, registered dietitian.
What foods should you incorporate into your diet? As a general rule, choose a variety of plant-based foods. Eating just a few healthy foods over and over will not provide the same benefit as a varied diet. “Eating a variety of foods ensures that you get the nutritional benefits of all of them,” says Susan.
If you are just starting to add healthy foods into your diet, it’s OK to take it slow. “Small changes we make over time, lead to big changes in our health,” says Chris Boyd, registered dietitian. If you don’t love a new food the first time you try it, commit to trying it again. “Most individuals have to experience a dish at least seven times to incorporate it into their eating pattern,” says Chris.
Ready to get started? Here are three categories of foods you should be eating and ideas on how to incorporate these foods into your daily diet.
Arugula, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Collard greens, Mustard greens, Radishes, Turnips, Watercress.
This large group of vegetables, with a funny sounding name, are some of the most nutritious veggies you can eat. In his book, How Not to Die, Dr. Michael Greger recommends having one serving of cruciferous vegetables a day. They have several health benefits, including helping to prevent certain cancers and detoxifying the body. “Cruciferous vegetables support the body’s natural detoxification pathways,” says Susan. In addition to helping your body rid itself of toxins, they are low in calories, high in fiber, and contain several needed vitamins and minerals. Did you know that broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower contain more vitamin C than an orange?
How to prepare cruciferous vegetables: Try roasting or sauteing to get the best flavor. People often boil these vegetables which can result in loss of nutrients and taste. “Leafy vegetables start to lose their nutrients after three minutes in boiling water,” says Chris. Buying cruciferous veggies fresh and in-season is ideal, but don’t shy away from pre-cut or frozen. “If preparing fresh is a challenge due to time or physical limitations, using a washed ready-to-use version is an excellent option. And frozen veggies are always good to have on hand,” says Susan.
Black, Black-eyed peas, Cannellini, Chickpeas (Garbanzo), Fava, Great Northern, Kidney, Lentils, Lima, Mung, Navy, Peas, Pinto, Soybeans.
Beans pack a nutritional punch. They are low in fat, high in fiber, and as a plant-based food have no cholesterol or saturated fat. “Beans are an inexpensive source of protein, and are shelf stable so they can be kept in your pantry for a long time,” says Susan. Beans are known for their gas producing side effects. “Slow and low is the way to incorporate beans into your diet,” advises Chris. Start off eating beans a few times a week and gradually increase your intake.
How to add more beans into your diet: Incorporate them into foods you already enjoy. Susan suggests adding beans into soups and stews. Consider making your own refried beans by cooking down beans and mashing them. Mashed beans are a great substitute for meat in Mexican dishes, like tacos.
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Cashews, Chia Seeds, Flax Seeds, Hazel Nuts, Hemp Seeds, Macadamia Nuts, Peanut (technically a legume but often included in the nut category), Pecans, Pistachios, Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Walnuts.
Adding one serving a day of nuts and seeds, which are high in fiber and packed with healthy fats, provides health benefits such as improving your heart health, lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation. “This is a large category, not every nut or seed will have the same nutrients,” says Chris. To gain the maximum health benefit from nuts and seeds, make sure you eat several different types.
There is a downside to nuts and seeds — they are high in calories and people can be allergic. While nutrient dense, nuts are also calorically dense. “Measure out a quarter cup serving if you are going to have a snack. Don’t mindlessly eat out of the container,” advises Susan. While people can have nut and seed allergies, the good news is that all of the nutrients in them can also be found in other foods. Consult an allergist or nutritionist if you need substitutes.
How to eat more nuts and seeds: Nuts are a great topping to add to yogurt, salads, or stir-fry. Both can be incorporated into batters, like pancakes or muffins. Or, create a trail mix for snacking that contains multiple nuts and seeds. If you eat flaxseed, make sure it is ground. “If flaxseeds are not ground, the body can’t break them down,” says Susan.
By Tami Pyles