The World Health Organization reports healthy diets must consist of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. They also say that you should be getting a serving of 400g of fruit and vegetables per day since these are dense in nutrients and have a host of health benefits. Classified as “nutritional powerhouses,” the above foods are known to reduce the risks of chronic illnesses.
Though there’s a lack of definition for the term, nutritional powerhouses are strongly associated with fruits and vegetables (green leafy, yellow/orange, citrus, and cruciferous items). Of course, a healthy diet is important for maintaining good health and a healthy weight. WeightWatchers identifies that all effective weight loss programs should include fruits, veggies, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats because they are vital nutritional powerhouses. These food groups, while injecting bulk and flavor into your meals, are also incredibly rich in nutrients.
Our bodies thrive on the foods we consume, which is why there’s a need to integrate nutritional powerhouses into our diet. Here are five you need to know about:
Fruits provide key nutrients that help maintain our bodies. These are not only low in calories, fat, and sodium, but they also contain antioxidants that protect our bodies against free radicals. Meanwhile, fruits that are high in both fiber and water content can promote a healthier digestive system. Our article ‘Does Drinking Water While Eating Affect Digestion?’ even explains how fluids not only boost your body’s hydration but also support nutrient absorption. For fruits that are dense in nutrients and water, we recommend peaches, which have nearly 90% of water content. Since peaches are filling, you can easily incorporate them into your smoothies or yogurt bowls for a satisfying snack.
Veggies are categorized according to their nutrient content: dark green, red and orange, beans, peas, lentils, starchy, and other vegetables. While green leafy vegetables such as kale and collard greens are well-known for their antioxidants, there are other underrecognized veggies that deserve our praise as well. For instance, pumpkins are an excellent source of lipids and proteins. In a Plants-Basel study on the benefits of pumpkins, pumpkin seeds are even said to be full of magnesium, potassium, and selenium. These nutrients help combat illnesses like arthritis, inflammation, and prostate cancer. If you want to incorporate pumpkins into your diet, you have quite a few options. You can add them to baked goods or steam them alongside other vegetables for a healthy meal.
Lean protein pertains to any meat, poultry, or seafood that contains less than 10 g of total fat, around 4.5 g of saturated fat, and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per 100 grams. Excessive dietary fat from animals can have adverse health effects, which is why it’s important to limit your saturated fat intake. Fortunately, lean proteins do just that — while also providing you with the right dose of zinc and B vitamins. Of course, you still have to practice moderation. For chicken breast, beef or pork, one serving should only be about the size of your palm. Plant-based proteins are great alternatives, too. You can consume a cup of beans or lentils if you wish to cut back on animal consumption.
Whole grains are an incredible source of B vitamins, fiber, folate, iron, and potassium. The fiber in whole grains supports healthy digestion, but more notably, the key vitamins found in these foods help manage health problems. Chia seeds, for example, contain high levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids that help prevent heart disease. As with several whole grains, chia seeds shouldn’t be eaten straight. In a New York Times article, Dr. Lisa Ganjhu advises soaking them in plant-based milk instead until they have a gelatinous texture. You can also opt to ground chia seeds and add them to baked goods, puddings, or smoothies.
Healthy fats in foods are essential to lower bad cholesterol and manage risks for heart disease. One example is avocados, which provide high levels of healthy fats, vitamin E, potassium, and folate. Consuming healthy fats delays the breakdown of carbohydrates and helps maintain stable blood sugar levels. One caveat is that foods that are high in healthy fats still have high-calorie counts, which is why you should eat them in controlled portions. For reference, a 2 tbsp serving of avocados contains about 50 calories and 3 gm of unsaturated fat. It’s best to toss them in salads or on toast to maintain a healthy serving.
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