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Top 15 Foods You Should Be Eating

By Jamie Miller, Village Health Clubs and Spas Dietitian

Jicama

While it might not be the most common vegetable to add to your cart, this root vegetable is one to include in your rotation. It’s 90% water, so is only 40 calories per cup but gives you 25% of your daily fiber needs. Jicama is unique in the way it’s a source of inulin fiber, a water-soluble and prebiotic fiber. This prebiotic fiber feeds the good bacteria in your gut to improve digestive health. The flavor of jicama is often described as a mix between an apple and potato, and has a characteristic crunch. To enjoy, it can be simply sliced to snack on raw or as a dip for guacamole or hummus, diced and added to salads or slaws, or roasted as a substitute for potatoes.

Greek Yogurt

The health benefits of greek yogurt are widespread. The live and active cultures help improve digestive health by providing good bacteria to the gut. Yogurt is rich in calcium and b vitamins to help maintain bone health and heart health. Also, greek yogurt can help build lean muscle mass and maintain a healthy weight because of its high protein content. Just one cup of nonfat greek yogurt can provide 23 grams of protein for only 130 calories. Try substituting greek yogurt for sour cream and mayo in recipes to lighten up the fat and calorie content, while also feeding your body well.

Berries

A bowl of fresh berries can taste as delicious as dessert, but they also are powerhouses of nutrition. They are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals that fight off free radicals and inflammation in the body. They are high fiber, but lower in sugar compared to other fruits therefore are a wonderful way to improve blood sugar levels while also feeding the gut with prebiotic fiber. For only 70 calories, 1 cup of mixed berries will provide about 5 grams of fiber. When berries aren’t in season, try frozen berries. They are just as nutritious but can be easily enjoyed in smoothies or mixed into oatmeal or yogurt.

Tomato

Not only are tomatoes a highly versatile produce item, they are also a great source of potassium, vitamin C and lycopene. The antioxidant, lycopene, is connected to improved heart health and cholesterol levels, cancer prevention, immunity, and protection against sunburns. While raw tomatoes are refreshing and delicious, also try to incorporate cooked tomatoes into your diet. Certain antioxidants, such as lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, are more available to be absorbed by the body when a tomato is cooked. 

Sourdough Bread

Not all breads are created equal, especially when it comes to sourdough bread. What sets sourdough apart is that it is made by fermenting flour and water rather than adding yeast to create a leaven. The fermentation process helps make calcium, phosphorus and iron more available to the body, and also provides the digestive tract a supply of prebiotic and probiotic-like properties, which help improve gut health. Those who are sensitive to gluten also benefit from sourdough’s fermentation process which alters the enzymes in the wheat and helps counteract adverse reactions to gluten. And lastly, sourdough bread has a lower glycemic index than both white bread and whole-wheat bread that is not fermented, therefore helping to support a stable blood sugar while eating the carbohydrates.

Olive Oil

There’s good reason to reach for olive oil when prepping your next meal. This oil is loaded with heart healthy monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties therefore making it protective against heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and much more. The type of olive oil is important though- extra virgin olive oil has undergone less processing (is unrefined), contains fewer chemicals, and has more antioxidants and vitamins than “light” olive oil which has been refined.  With a lower smoke point of 405F, olive oil is best for low temperature cooking, drizzling on food, dipping bread, or making dressings and dips. 

Kale

Kale is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, and is a nutrition superstar due to the amounts of vitamins A, B6, C, K, folate, fiber, carotenoids and manganese it contains. This veggie is also versatile in its use from steamed, stir-fried, roasted or eaten raw. Try out the dinosaur kale or tuscan kale variety for a more tender, less bitter version of this leafy green.

Sardines

Instead of reaching for a can of tuna, try out canned sardines. One 3.75 ounce can provides 22 grams of protein, 1300 mg of omega 3 fatty acids, 137% of your daily needs of B12, 89% of selenium, and 69% of vitamin D. With these nutritional stats, sardines help lower cholesterol, are an anti-inflammatory, support healthy bones, and even help prevent mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. They also are budget-friendly, convenient, and a sustainable and low mercury seafood choice. Sardines have a briny, strong fishy taste, but the strong flavor can be toned down by soaking them in buttermilk or yogurt, grilling them, or using them in combination with ingredients like lemon, mayo, tomato sauce, or sauteed onions.

Cauliflower

What cauliflower lacks in bright color, it makes up for in nutrients. This cruciferous vegetable is loaded with fiber, vitamin c, vitamin k, and folate but is only 25 calories per cup. Cauliflower also is rich in certain antioxidants connected to cancer prevention. With its mild flavor, cauliflower is easy to incorporate into your diet either raw, roasted, made into low carb sides like mashed cauliflower and cauliflower rice, or incorporated into casseroles, sauces, pizza crust, and more.

Garlic

Well before it was ever used in cooking, garlic served as medical treatment in ancient Chinese, Egyptian, and Roman cultures. And with good reason. The sulfur compounds in garlic is converted to a compound called allicin which creates health benefits that range from improved immunity, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, prevention of cancer, to a natural antibiotic to fight infections. To maintain as much allicin health benefits as possible in the kitchen, follow the “10 minute rule”. Chop or mince garlic and then keep it away from heat for 10 minutes. This pause will allow the allicin compound to stay intact during heating to maintain the various health benefits of garlic.

Liver

While liver is usually not the most sought after food due to its strong characteristic taste, it would serve us well to reconsider. Liver is higher than any other fruit, vegetable, or meat in most vitamins and minerals. Just one serving of liver provides about 25 grams of protein, 100% daily needs for vitamin A, B12, B2, and copper, and also is rich in iron and choline. If a plate of liver and onions isn’t appealing, try incorporating a small portion of the organ meat into regular ground meat when making meatballs or meatloaf. Or consider incorporating a liver supplement into your daily routine.

Eggs

While historically eggs have gotten a bad wrap for the cholesterol found in their yolk, there is no reason to shy away from these budget friendly, versatile nutritional powerhouses. They are one of the best sources of choline, a crucial nutrient for brain health, along with impressive levels of folate, vitamin D, iodine, B vitamins and high-quality protein. With such a variety of eggs sold, which carton should you pick up? Pasture raised eggs and those fed omega 3 rich diets will have higher omega 3 fatty acids compared to conventional eggs, but brown eggs and cage free eggs are no different nutritionally. 

Dark Chocolate

Good news for those with a sweet tooth- dark chocolate is a highly nourishing and equally delicious choice. It contains powerful antioxidants & phytonutrients including flavonols that fight inflammation and protect against cell damage caused by free radicals. This in turn plays a role in prevention of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart health.The cacao plant also contains a compound called theobromine, which may help reduce inflammation and potentially lower blood pressure. In addition, chocolate is rich in micronutrients such as copper, iron, magnesium, and potassium. But don’t start snacking on just any chocolate bar so fast. The higher the cocoa content, the more beneficial flavonols the chocolate contains. Most of the benefits seen in research are associated with chocolate that has at least a 70% cacao content. 

Sweet Potato

There’s no need to fear carbs, especially when choosing such a nourishing root vegetable like sweet potatoes. These fiber filled tubers are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and zinc. Their high antioxidant content means they are shown to fight inflammation, protect against cancer, improve the immune system, support good eye health and much more. Whether baked, roasted, or mashed, the impressive nutritional stats of sweet potatoes makes them something to regularly incorporate onto the dinner plate.