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Top 10 Healthy Foods

Written by Adam Whitby

If you ask this question of 10 healthy eating experts you’ll get at least 11 different answers. In other words, there are so many different opinions and beliefs about this subject that confusion rather than health is the more likely outcome. But working on the old saying that if you can’t beat them join them, I am not only going to give you 11 healthy foods, but I will go one better and give you a top twelve.

Whilst many articles on healthy foods will tell you to stock up on exotic items such as goji berries and cacao nibs, my list takes into account the practicalities of family life – the shopping, the affordability, the preparation, and the serving of regular meals for the whole family from grandparents to children. It’s more of a list of types of food rather than of individual items, which gives you a wider choice at mealtimes. 

1. Vegetables – contain essential vitamins. When chosing vegetables think in terms of colour and try to choose a variety. Choose dark green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, red such as red pepper and beetroot, and orange such as butternut squash and sweet potato. Amongst other benefits, vegetables have been shown to boost immunity. They are also an important source of fibre which is crucial for healthy digestion, and bulk out our meals which helps us feel full.

2. Fruit – such as bananas, apples, tomatoes and blueberries for vitamin C (but best not to have too many sugary fruits - even fruit sugar can be a problem in excess).

3. Fish – choose oily fishes rich in omega-3 such as mackerel, salmon, tuna, herring, trout, sardines and halibut.  Smoked salmon makes for a special treat, whilst mackarel and cream cheese is a delicious home made pate. 

4. Grains – opt for brown for over white! This applies to pasta, rice and bread. Brown grains are a good source of fibre but they also do not convert into sugar as quickly as white grains do, so are better for your energy levels and hormones. Try oatmeal or wholegrain crackers etc for fibre. Brown rice has a lovely nutty flavour, and if you want to try something very different buy some quinoa which is also a source of protein.

5. Nuts – particularly try sourcing brazil nuts and almonds, both high in protein. These make a fantastic easy and healthy snack.

6. Beans – these along with peas and lentils are further good sources of fibre as well. Buying them tinned is also ok for speed and ease.

7. Dark chocolate – cocoa powder is rich in flavonoids and antioxidants. Dark chocolate is a great swap for a biscuit or pudding, but watch the fat and sugar content which can be quite high in some brands. Go organic if you can.

8. Olive oil – lowers bad cholesterol and is high in antioxidants; drizzle it on salads, grains and pulses. 

9. Yoghurt - plain low-fat live yogurt is high in calcium and a natural source of probiotics. 

10. Poultry – chicken and turkey are good high protein foods; go organic if you can afford to. 

And you won't find my extra two in many other lists:

11. Herbs and spices – cook with basil, oregano, parsley, tarragon, and ginger, cayenne, garlic, turmeric, cardamom for extra vitamins, fibre and antioxidants... and not to mention flavour!

12. Just water! – too often we quench our thirst with fizzy drinks, sugar rich energy drinks and alcohol, but our body depends upon water, and its particularly beneficial to our digestion. Tap water is fine, or filtered or bottled water if you prefer, but aim to drink at around 2 litres a day.

All the above are aimed at physical health, but we should never forget our other needs – the mind and the spirit, or soul. The mind, body and soul are inseparable, and a holistic approach will complete a sense of fitness and wellness.

There are foods designed for the brain, so while being physically healthy, we can also be mentally sharp. Foods to stimulate the brain include oily fish such as mackerel; vegetables such as broccoli, spinach or lentils; and berries such as blueberries and raspberries.

'Feeding your soul' is important as this raises the spirits. This may be eating your favourite dish from childhood, treating yourself to something you particulary like (remember, puddings in moderation), or eating with the family rather than in front of the tv, enjoying food as something to share. Feeding your soul could also be being mindful, meditating, or going for a walk. Something that gives you joy and you feel spiritually nourished by. Feeling calm and happy is one of the best things for a healthy digestion too. Read more about stress, anxiety and gut health.

Have I missed out any key healthy foods?  Feel free to comment below and add your suggestions if so! 

Also have a look at my new healthy infographic

About Adam Whitby

Adam has been involved in health and medicine for over thirty years, mostly reviewing clinical studies for general practitioners, writing patient information leaflets and producing medical video programmes.

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