Ever wonder what foods are best for you? Pondering which foods will keep you healthy and well can be a daunting task. A trip to the typical American grocery store can be a bit overwhelming between the competing ads, food labels and health claims. Your best option for choosing health foods is to trusts the appearance of food. Usually, “real foods” are found around the perimeter of the grocery store. In the middle of the store, you will find aisles and freezer cases filled with mostly processed foods aka “fake foods”. Your goal is to look for fruits and vegetables preferably that are rich in color and preferably organic. Powerful disease-fighting antioxidants give food its color, so the more vibrant the items in your shopping basket and on your plate, the higher the nutritional content, and the wider the variety, the greater the likelihood you’ll get what you need. The best shopping tip I can give you… Fill your grocery cart with all the bright wonderful colors that Mother Nature has to offer. Red, blue, green, orange, yellow, purple, and white fruits and vegetables provide different nutrients and all uniquely benefit to the body.
Check out these 11 Healing Foods and what benefits they offer:
In the centuries since Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden, apples have lost their power to tempt. That’s too bad, because apples are one of the earth’s healthiest foods, which we do not eat frequently enough. Available year-round, unpeeled apples are a great source of fiber. They’re also a source of the phytochemical quercetin–a compound widely recognized for its ability to fight heart disease and cancer.
“Apples are one of the best sources of flavonoids–as long as you leave on the peel,” Kristine Napier, RD, writes in Eat to Heal. “Their complement of phytochemicals helps them fight heart disease, stroke, cancer, infections, inflammation and colitis.” Because of the combination of fiber and fructose, apples help maintain blood sugar levels, which is key in fighting that afternoon blood sugar low.
This native of the tropics, which wasn’t grown in the United States until the 1830s, is rich in potassium, beta carotene and “good” fat, the mono-unsaturated sort that’s found in olive oil and has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels. Avocados are a rich source of the essential fatty acid (EFA) omega-9, necessary for optimal nutrition. Omega-9 also helps promote hormone regulation, the transportation of fat through the body and the breakup of cholesterol. Because avocados are higher in calories than other fruits–two-thirds of an avocado has about 150 calories–you might not want to serve the so-called “alligator pear” at every meal. Instead, add a slice to your favorite sandwich or enjoy some guacamole at your next fiesta. The two varieties–Florida and California–have slightly different nutritional value. The Florida variety is lower in calories and fat, but both are rich in vitamin C and riboflavin.
Studies at Tufts University in 1999 and at Clemson University in 2001 have shown that these colorful little morsels provide more of the powerful phytochemical anthocyanin–the compound that gives the fruit its rich color–than any other fruit or vegetable. Anthocyanins play a key role in fighting heart disease and cancer and boost memory as well. The tiny berry is giving its cranberry cousin a run for its money in fighting urinary tract infections. By preventing the E. coli bacteria from adhering to the wall of the bladder, the fruit wards off bladder infections. Blueberries are also a source of soluble fiber, thanks to the pectin, as well as vitamin C and potassium–vital in maintaining blood pressure. They can be refrigerated, in a moisture-proof container, for three days without losing flavor or nutritional value.
Italian for “cabbage sprout,” broccoli helps protect us from a variety of diseases, including cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration. A veritable cornucopia of nutrients, it’s rich in folate, fiber, vitamin C, beta carotene, iron, calcium and the phytochemical sulforophane, which protects against heart disease. This kinsman of the cabbage has also been shown to contain indoles, believed to prevent breast cancer by converting estrogen into a less potent form. Those who don’t enjoy the taste of this increasingly popular member of the cruciferous family can sprinkle broccoli sprouts over salads or on sandwiches. It can be refrigerated, unwashed and in an airtight bag, for four days.
Also known as garbanzo beans, this legume is the easiest to digest and is a great source of complex carbohydrates, which means it helps your body break down food more slowly and fills you up for a longer period of time. Used in couscous and hummus, chickpeas are a great source of vegetarian protein and contain more vitamin C and almost twice the amount of iron than other legumes, which are all good for the heart. A 2000 study by Tulane University found that people who ate legumes at least four times a week had almost a 20 percent reduced risk of heart disease, compared to those who only ate one serving a week. Add chickpeas to salads, mash them into a hummus or toss into a saute.
These tiny brown versions of sesame seeds are rich in fiber, which fights heart disease by lowering cholesterol. They also contain lignans, a phytochemical that may protect against cancer. “Flaxseed is a virtual powerhouse of lignans,” Napier says. “This grain-like food has 100 times as many precursor lignans than any other plant food.” The oil found in flaxseeds is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help ease inflammation associated with arthritis and also protect against heart disease. Gary Null, author of The Ultimate Lifetime, says the fat found in flaxseeds helps send a message of satiety to the brain, reducing the desire to eat. Do not eat flaxseeds whole, however, because the hull is so strong the seeds may pass through you undigested. Instead, grind small amounts in a coffee grinder before eating. Sprinkle a teaspoon on breakfast cereal for a morning boost. Ground seeds go rancid quickly, so grind only as much as you need and store leftover seeds in the refrigerator
Fed to strengthen the Egyptian slaves who built the Pyramids, this member of the lily family helps ward off heart disease and cancer. The sulfur compounds found in “the stinking rose” are responsible for its cancer fighting properties; its saponons help to lower cholesterol and promote circulation. The best way to get the maximum benefit from garlic is to eat it raw, but the oils in garlic permeate the lungs, which can render social interaction hazardous for days. Unfortunately, modern science has been able to do little to alleviate this unpleasantness, so many garlic lovers seek alternatives. Add chopped garlic to recipes at the end of cooking, to preserve health benefits while slightly reducing the potency–and pungency–of this herb.
Cultivated for 2,000 years, kale is a great source of the trio of potent cancer-fighting antioxidants–vitamins C and E and beta carotene. A study conducted in 2000 at the Tufts University Nutrition Center found kale to be a richer source of antioxidants than any other vegetable. Kale also contains bone-building calcium and magnesium as well as lutein–a nutrient important for eye health–and indoles, which help prevent cancer.Kale can be stored in the coldest areas of your refrigerator for up to three days.
Samuel Johnson called oats a “grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.”Lucky Scots. Whether in granola, oat bran or oatmeal, this hearty grain is rich in soluble fiber, which helps to rid the body of cholesterol. Oats are also full of cholesterol-fighting phytochemical saponins. Researchers believe that these compounds boost the immune system and help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Grown in China for thousands of years, soybeans were not brought to Europe until the 1600s. Now that its nutritional value has been established, the soybean is growing in popularity. Even the cautious Food and Drug Administration allows soy products to carry the health claim that 25 grams of soy protein “as a part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Soy’s health benefits go beyond reducing your risk of heart disease, however. Low in carbohydrates and high in protein, soy has also been shown to reduce the risk of breast, prostate and colon cancers and osteoporosis, as well as alleviate the symptoms of menopause. “Researchers believe that soy’s phytoestrogens–genestin, lignans, isoflavones and diadzein–are some of the most important disease-fighting compounds that you can get from food,” says Elizabeth Hiser, RD, author of The Other Diabetes: Living and Eating Well with Type 2 Diabetes.
Native to South America and brought home to Europe by Spanish explorers, tomatoes are a leading source of vitamin C and lycopene, which is the most powerful antioxidant in the carotenoid family. A diet rich in lycopene has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of heart disease, macular degeneration and breast and prostate cancer. In 1995, a six-year study of 48,000 men by the Harvard University Cancer Center found that those who ate at least 10 servings of tomato products–including pizza and pasta sauces–reduced their risk of prostate cancer by 45 percent. One medium-sized tomato contains as much fiber as a slice of whole-wheat bread–and only 35 calories. Tomatoes lose flavor and nutritional value quickly if refrigerated. Whether or not the “love apple” has aphrodisiac properties is open to conjecture.