Every health advocate has their own favorite top ten list, but what are the ones that you can realistically use to fortify your diet on a day-to-day basis?
In browsing the web, you might find that many nutritionists omit the factors of proportion and availability when compiling their list. Some foods are very high in micronutrients but fall short in protein, carbs and essential fats, etc. A complete top ten list should address all that. It must also contain foods you could actually see yourself eating. In other words, the exotic ones like kelp and chlorophyll may deliver remarkable health benefits, but when was the last time you came across a chlorophyll casarole recipe? How about a Kelp salad?
So in the interest of pragmatism and actually making something good happen in your diet, here is my own list of foods you want to try to include – all things considered.
- Broccoli. Theres no disputing it, this food is the gold standard for disease prevention, and including it to your plate is the surest way to cover all the bases. High in the spectrum of essential vitamins, (it has twice the vitamin C of citrus fruit by weight) it is also a good source of calcium which is sometimes difficult to get if you don’t consume dairy products regularly. In the area of disease fighting phytonutrients such as sulphorophane, Indole 3 carbinol, and D-glucarate, etc. it has no equal. Broccoli also ups the production of that most crucial antioxidant glutathione. Try adding a bit to the corner of that plate as often as you can. Here’s a good source for ideas on preparation.
- Blueberries. The evidence for the benefits of consuming blueberries just keeps growing daily. They have remarkable protective properties for the brain, for immunity and in energy generation. They contain the polyphenols resveratrol and pterostilbene which can increase insulin sensitivity, inhibit inflammation, reduce glycation, and have shown to mimic drastic calorie restrictive diets – and the resultant increases in longevity shown in many species. Not a bad list. Why not substitute frozen blueberries/strawberries for ice cream or cake at dessert? A small partially thawed dish is mighty tasty.
- Fish. Fish is a great source of protein, minerals and vitamins. The eskimos subsisted on a diet of almost exclusively fish (and a few other game selections.); raw fish enables the absorbtion of otherwise unavailable nutrients. The importance of the omega 3 contained in cold water fish is also very well established. One sad thing to note, however. I would have rated fish number one if not for the fact that it is not recommended to eat it more than once or twice a week because of the mercury and other heavy metals it is contaminated with. What Irony! Luckily you can receive equal benefit from omega 3 supplementation. To limit the exposure to toxic metals, opt for wild salmon or sardines. Tuna unfortunately is fairly high in the contamination, especially the dark tuna (which has the most omega 3!) 😦
- Whey Protein. As a source of essential amino acids (proteins) whey ranks at the top of the list. It can counter many of the debilitating effects of aging: weight gain, muscle loss (through enhanced protein synthesis), diminished immunity, even possibly rising blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. More good news for the lactose intolerant: Whey is usually far better tolerated than milk, as most of the aggravating constituents are removed in the process of mfg. Its disease fighting potential is a benefit no one wants to miss out on. Give it a try this winter season!
- Collard Greens. Similar to broccoli in its cancer-fighting potential, it is also a good source or calcium, vit k and other important nutrients.
- Green Peas. Green peas cover the broad spectrum of necessary vitamins better than any vegetable I’ve researched. They also are high in fiber, and pea protein is one of your best choices. Green peas are very versatile, they go great in stir fry and many other dishes. Get em fresh, not in the can.
- Pomegranate. Pomegranate consistently rates among the leaders in antioxidant activity. It inhibits pro-inflammatory NF-KB (Nuclear Factor KappaB) leading to favorable genetic expression and the reduction of deadly cancers. It also increases PON-1 (Paraoxonase-1) an enzyme necessary for the function of HDL – good cholesterol. Studies have shown that pomegranate can actually reverse areterial plaque buildup. (see “studies” page above). I drink a pomegranate/tart cherry/selzer combination every night. It complements the other components of a healthy meal instead of inhibiting them.
- Sweet potatoes. “I yam what I yam” – that would be a wise choice. These are loaded with vitamins A, C and beta-carotene, and are one of the best tickets for fiber in the diet. Like berries they are also high in anthocyanins. They contain as much potassium as do potatoes, why not substitute them for the spuds? An easy choice for health.
- Coffee. Coffee ranks higher in antioxidant content than any food tested to date. It can lower the risk of many cancers, and can be a great aid to losing weight and fighting diabetes. One study showed that drinking 5 cups of coffee per day reduced the risk of stroke by 36%. (Diabetologia 2006 Nov;49(11):2618-26) I rarely find it hard to include this beverage in my diet. 🙂
- _______________ I left this one blank because there are so many contenders. What are your own suggestions? Some possible choices: Avocados, kale, walnuts, spinach, Brussels sprouts …..
Try to crowd out the unhealthy items on your plate with a few of these daily. If you can make it a habit over time you will soon be basking in the glow of your smart choices!
To your health –