What is the secret to a long and healthy life? While the answer can and is a bit complicated, I know without a shadow of a doubt that one component is in the food that we eat.
And as you well know, all “food” is not created equal.
Choosing and eating the right foods may help increase your life expectancy as well as the quality of your life — it just takes knowing where to start.
Since 2004 I’ve taken the road of better food choices and sometimes that means going back to some of the foods that I did not like AT ALL when growing up. Now I find different ways to use them or a better recipe.
Here are my top power packed foods designed to provide energy, vitality and all around good health!
1. Beans – Beans of all kinds (kidney, navy, lentils, chickpeas, Northern) are high in protein. This is plant protein so it contains very little fat, carbs and calories. If fiber is a problem in your diet, eating a healthy portion of beans each day can keep your digestive system healthy.
I’m going to share a recipes that was one of my firsts as I stepped out onto the whole foods path. I chose it cause I love all of the ingredients except, well – the beans. Just because something is good for you doesn’t mean that you (or your kids) are going to like it. Knowing that beans are important in a healthy diet, I had to give it a try despite my dislike. I make this a couple of times a year, usually when the veggies are at their best. The link will take you to the site where I found the recipe — I highly recommend bookmarking and signing up for their newsletter. Minted Garbanzo Bean Salad
2. Oatmeal – Oatmeal is populare for lowering blood cholesterol. You can make it yourself with rolled oats or eat the instant kind if you are in a hurry. Oatmeal is a filling grain that also provides much needed fiber to keep hunger at bay and your blood sugar constant. I myself have yet to venture off into the steel cut oats realm, but I am hearing great things about them – I hear that they take a bit more time too cook. Most times for us, the oatmeal is too hot to eat right away and I’ve learned that instead of adding more milk = calories to instead add frozen fruit = more nutrients. :) Our favorite right now is blueberries.
3. Fruits – Fruits are filled with antioxidants such as Vitamin C and A — fighting free radical damage in the body and reduce the risk of cancer. Berries have the high levels of antioxidants. Be sure to choose an array of fruits in a wide variety of colors for maximum health. The antioxidants in fruit boost the immune system to fight the effects of aging in the body. Be sure to eat your fruit and not drink it – an exception would be if you just juiced it yourself with your own juicer.
4. Allium foods– This class of foods includes garlic, onions, leeks and shallots. Allium vegetables help guard the body against the risk of cancer and many other ailments, help lower blood pressure and prevent blood clots. Eating these power packed vegetables in their natural state especially garlic increases their health benefits. Garlic is known for lowering cholesterol.
5. Fish – Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk of heart disease and other conditions like atherosclerosis. Wild salmon is a fatty fish but it contains good fats that has been proven to improve health in children and adults. Salmon is rich in protein which is of great use after an exercise session to build muscle tissue.
6. Flax seed – Like fish it contains omega-3 fatty acids. These seeds also contain omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids. You get a lot of power to fight high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes with this seed. Ground flax seed can be added to fruit smoothies, sprinkled in yogurt, eaten with cereal or added to pancake mix to name a few. You can even substitute milled flaxseed for eggs in some baking recipes. I pretty much put it in anything as no one can really detect that it’s there. I also like to have Wheat Germ available and here’s a good post to give you details on the difference between the two. :)
7. Peppers– Peppers are colorful. They contain antioxidants like beta-carotene and Vitamin C. Ranging from mild and sweet to so hot you’ll be calling the fire department; all peppers contain a substance called capsaicin. Capsaicin has the properties of an anti-inflammatory, a pain reliever, lowers cancer risk and heart disease. They are good in salads, salsa and all sorts of dishes. We like ’em best raw because they are so fun to crunch!
8. Nuts and Seeds– Nuts are high in fat but those fats are the good kind. Peanuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts and pistachios are all providers of good fats and protein. Because I love nuts soooooo much, I have to take control of my portion sizes before I’m ready to dive in. To do this, I take snack size plastic bags, divide up the whole lot of nuts and put in only one serving worth per bag. This way I can grab my snack know I won’t over do it. I use this trick for many other snacks that need to remain under portion control.
9. Greek Yogurt– I choose the plain, fat free variety and add frozen berries or my fave –> frozen pitted cherries. I opt for the plain, fat free variety to keep sugar levels down and compesate for the bland taste by adding the frozen fruit. If you don’t drink milk, yogurt is an alternative to get your calcium in to build strong bones and teeth. Live yogurt also contains friendly bacteria to help promote a healthy digestive system.
Building a better healthier body begins with what you eat. Try these power packed basics to get started on the right foot. Come over to my house for a visit and you will find each of these staples in my pantry, freezer, fridge or on the counter.
How about you? What staples do you use most to promote healthier eating? Fortunately for me and my family, we do not have food allergies and as I look over my list, I see many foods here that are common triggers for large portions of our population. I’m always looking for ways to better health, so any suggestions, substitutions or corrections you have to share are always welcome.