Eat, drink and be (very) healthy: The best bets for eating well

If you could eat readily available foods that were tasty, calorie-friendly, nutritious and helped reduce your risk of disease, what more could you want?

Mark Glen, a registered dietitian at the Mayo Clinic offered his top picks of health foods. All of his choices met at least three of the following requirements:

– A good source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

– High in phytonutrients and antioxidant compounds, such as vitamins A and E and beta-carotene.

– May help treduce the risk of heart disease and other health conditions

– Low in calorie density, meaning you get a larger portion size with a lower number of calories.

– Readily available.

Of course, “Best Foods” lists seem to appear everywhere these days and they’re all different — which makes it hard to know which “Best” list is actually the best. But most health experts agree you can’t go wrong with the Mayo Clinic. Here, in alphabetical order, are the top 10 picks for healthy foods:

Apples: Apples are a good source of pctin, a fiber that can lower cholesterol and glucose levels. They are also a good source of vitamin C — an antioxidant that protects your body’s cells. Vitamin C also keeps your blood vessels healthy and aids in the absorption of iron and folate.

Almonds: These nutrient-packed nuts contain fiber, riboflavin, magnesium, iron, calcium and vitamin E, a natural antioxidant. They’re also good for your heart. Most of the fat in almonds is monounsaturated fat, which can help lower cholesterol levels when substituted for other fats. And most almonds are considered low sodium, with less than 140 milligrams of sodium an ounce.

Broccoli: Besides providing calcium, potassium, folate and fiber, broccoli contains phytonutrients — compounds that may help prevent diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Broccoli contains the antioxidant beta-carotene and is also an excellent source of vitamin C.

Blueberries: Blueberries are a rich, low-calorie source of fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Regular intake of blueberries may improve short-term memory and reduce the cellular damage associated with aging.

Red beans: Small red, pinto and dark red kidney beans are an excellent low-fat source of antioxidants, protein, dietary fiber and copper. They’re also a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and thiamin.

Salmon: This fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to provide heart benefits. Salmon is also low in saturated fat and cholesterol and is a good source of protein. If possible, choose wild salmon, which is less likely to contain unwanted chemicals such as mercury.

Spinach: This leafy green is high in vitamin A and is a good source of calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, riboflavin and vitamins B6 and C. The plant compounds in spinach may also boost your immune system and help prevent certain types of cancer.

Sweet potatoes: The deep orange-yellow colour of sweet potatoes indicates that they’re high in beta-carotene. Sweet potatoes are also high in vitamin C and a good source of fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium. And they’re fat-free and relatively low in calories.

Vegetable juice: This beverage is an easy way to include vegetables in your diet since it contains most of the same vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Tomato juice, and vegetable juices which include tomatoes, are good sources of lycopene, an antioxidant that may reduce the risk of heart attack and certain types of cancer. Be sure to select the low-sodium varieties.

Wheat germ: The germ at the center of the wheat seed is a concentrated source of nutrients. Two tablespoons provide a good source of thiamin, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. Sprinkle over cereals, yogurt and salads, or use it in muffins, cookies and pancakes.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Photo © Michael Valdez

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