Guest post by Lauren Burke
It goes without saying that the top food for health is green, leafy vegetables. These should be on everyone’s menu everyday, at least once a day and should accompany meals where possible.
It is because of this that I haven’t included green leafy vegetables on this list, because everyone knows exactly how great they are and should be eating them without even thinking about it! Every. Single. Day.
The problem for most people is the other 95% of the food they eat. Grabbing quick ‘on the go’ foods set you up for disaster, because – let’s face it – nothing good can come from a quick, sugary, nutritionally-void, processed slab (some people call this ‘food’, I definitely do not!)
So here are my top 5 foods that I personally try to eat every day, or as regularly as possible. I love them because they are nutrient dense, fill my body with vitamins and minerals and as such protect it from viruses and illnesses, give me loads of energy and are very tasty!
Note: please by certified organic wherever possible.
• QUINOA: often misrepresented as a grain, quinoa is in fact a seed. It cooks like rice, but in half the time (really, this is every busy mum’s best friend!) and has a distinct ‘nutty’ flavour and crunchy texture.
The real benefits of quinoa come from its nutritional profile: rich in protein (it contains the full spectrum of amino acids, and is therefore a complete protein), complex carbohydrates, fibre, folate, magnesium (essential for a healthy heart) and bone building copper and calcium.
Quinoa can be eaten in savoury meals; such is in soups or salads, or sweet as an alternative to porridge oats or rice as a pudding.
• CHIA SEEDS: bursting with protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, iron and calcium – chia seeds are natures super food! Chia seeds have a very mild taste, and can therefore be added to just about any meal to boost its nutritional content.
Sprinkle over salads, stir in yogurt or add to smoothies – there is no way that chia cannot be enjoyed!
Another great benefit of chia is that when added to liquid it swells to create a gel-like consistency, which helps to keep you feeling full! Add one tablespoon of chia to your water to create an ultra-hydrating and filling drink to power your day!
• COCONUT: Having been avoided by fat fearing dieters for years, new research is showing that good fats are essential for great skin and hair, reducing joint inflammation, supporting cell function and turning your body into a fat-burning machine!
That’s right: eating good quality fats actually burn fat!
Good fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, olives and olive oil are fundamental to a healthy diet, and joining them in this praise is coconut! Coconut can be enjoyed a number of ways: young coconut water can be drunk straight from the source, or if you cannot quite master this, from a bottle. (Note: always check ingredients, if it is anything other than 100% coconut water, do not drink it!)
This is really nature’s energy drink: brimming with potassium, calcium, magnesium and electrolytes to power you through your day!
Cooking with coconut oil is another great way to enjoy coconut: it is stable at high temperatures (such as cooking over a hot flame) and does not break down and become rancid (turning the good fats into bad fats) – it is also anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, relieves joint pain, and boosts your metabolism!
• BLUEBERRIES: low in calories and high in nutrients, blueberries are a great snack or addition to meals any time of day!
Loaded with antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, and zinc, blueberries are a tasty, low-sugar way to satisfy your sweet tooth! The vitamins and minerals present in blueberries have also been shown to decrease belly fat, fight cancer cells by mopping up free radicals in the body and boost your immunity!
Throw them into smoothies, stir through yogurt, add to salads for a sweet bite or just eat them by the handful to reap the benefits!
• WILD SALMON: proteins are the building blocks of all cells in our body, and it is important that we consume enough protein to give us energy throughout the day and help to build lean muscle mass. That being said, the source of protein is very important in determining its functioning within the body.
Having, say, processed luncheon meats, hot dogs or fatty cuts of red meat while containing protein will not be utilised by the body in the same way that a clean protein source will, as the digestive system has to fight through the (bad) fats and processed sugars to get to the good stuff.
Wild Salmon is a rich source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which, we have discussed, is essential for a body to be functioning at its optimum level.
Eating grilled, steamed or baked salmon 2-3 times a week is a great way to give your body the clean, muscle building protein it needs, and keeps your joints lubricated and skin glowing!
Note: avoid farmed salmon where possible, due to the presence of toxins in the fish.
Which foods do you include regularly in your diet?
Do they help or hinder your health goals?
Adding foods like leafy greens, quinoa, chia seeds, coconut, blueberries and wild salmon may seem scary at first, but your body and your mind with thank you! Ultimately, the choice to be healthy or not is entirely in your control!