One of my goals at Running on Real Food is to help people understand that it’s actually quite simple to eat a healthy, balanced diet. To support that goal I thought I’d start sharing some more basic nutrition posts on the blog. There is just so much conflicting information out there, I know it can be overwhelming, especially if you’re just starting out on your health journey.
Today I’d like to talk about healthy foods to eat every day. In my research and personal experience these foods are nutritionally dense and each provide excellent health benefits if eaten daily. They’re also fairly common, inexpensive and easy to use in the kitchen.
Dr. Joel Furhman, the author of Eat to Live, The End to Diabetes and Super Immunity, suggests the diet should be made of of 90% nutrient-rich plant-foods: first green and other non-starchy vegetables, followed by fresh fruits, beans and legumes, raw nuts, seeds, and avocados, and finally starchy vegetables and whole grains.
These colourful plant foods contain a myriad of protective compounds than can help to prevent diseases that are now prevalent in our society, namely heart disease and diabetes. Sadly, the suggested “Standard American Diet” is rooted in low-nutrient eating and can lead to obesity and other nutritionally-related diseased. Furhman recommends keeping these low nutrient foods to a minimum and to promote health and prevent disease, 90% of the calories you consume each day should come from unrefined plant foods.
So, what are some of these wonderful, health-promoting foods? Well, they’re quite common and with just a little thought and care, they’re easy to get on the daily.
1. Dark leafy greens.
Think spinach, kale, swiss chard, arugula or any other leafy green. The darker the better! If you can eat some or most of them raw, fantastic!
I’d recommend two simple ways to sneak more leafy greens in to your diet: one, add a handful of spinach or kale to your morning smoothie and two, eat at least one raw salad every day. I like to eat a small, raw salad while I’m cooking dinner each night. It’s a great time to sneak in those greens you need every day and will prevent you from snacking on higher calorie foods right before dinner.
It’s not too hard to include berries in your diet, now is it? They’re so good! Frozen berries will do the trick but fresh is great if you can get your hands on them.
These are easy to get in to your diet every day, usually breakfast is the simplest way to get them in. Throw a handful in your smoothie, add them to oatmeal or chia pudding or when you do have fresh berries on hand, they make a great snack anytime of day. For a delicious, healthy snack, I love bowlful of blueberries or raspberries with a small handful of nuts. When fresh berries are abundant, I’d recommend stocking up your freezer so you have access to them well into the fall and winter.
3. Raw nuts and seeds.
Raw nuts and seeds are often ignored in the Standard American Diet but they’re such a wonderful, nutrient-dense food that are typically rich in omega-3’s, which many people don’t get enough of. Again, one really easy way to get them in is to add them to your morning smoothie but they’re great just as is, added to a salad, eaten raw or mixed into all sorts of recipes. Nuts and seeds provide protein, fibre and plenty of vitamins and minerals and have been shown to be a key preventative when it comes to heart disease.
Think pumpkin seeds, ground flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, cashews and almonds for the best nutritional bang for your buck!
4. Onions and garlic.
For the best-smelling, freshest breath, you’ll want eat lots of onion and garlic, morning, noon and night. Just kidding. But these two antioxidant, flavourful super foods are some of the best for disease prevention. They’re very easy to get, very easy to use, both raw and cooked and they can add lots of flavour to your dishes without the need for excess salt or oil.
I like to use them raw in homemade salad dressings and I they’re the base of almost every soup, stew, chili or stirfry I’ve ever made. Oh, and they’re SO good added to smoothies. Okay, kidding there again. I probably wouldn’t recommend adding these two to your next smoothie, unless you’re looking for that fresh breath I was talking about.
5. Beans and lentils.
Some of you may disagree with eating beans every day they’re an ideal starchy food that can add a lot of nutritional value to your diet. They’re high in fibre, minerals and protein, help you feel fuller longer to prevent food cravings and can help to prevent diabetes and weight gain.
Numerous studies have also shown a decreased risk of colon caner in those who ate beans and other legumes regularly. There is so much you can do with beans, they’re very inexpensive and if you get creative you can even use them in desserts! Try starting with 1 cup of beans, lentils or split peas added to your diet each day. They can be roasted, mashed, added to soups, stews and chilis, made into dips like hummus and there are countless other options for cooking with beans.
I recently just started cooking dried beans in my slow cooker rather than using canned beans. This is very economical, low sodium and really easy to do. If you are using canned beans, which are a great option as far as convenience goes, look for no-salt added varieties that are packaged in a BPA-free can.
Other foods that would be beneficial to eat every day are mushrooms, fermented foods, avocado, citrus fruits like orange and lemon, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, dark chocolate, green tea and just plenty of non-starchy vegetables. Eating these foods every day will prevent disease, improve energy, can help you lose weight if needed and they’ll allow those indulgences that we’re all going to still enjoy from time to time!
All that being said, every day means most days. Don’t worry if you miss a few days, it’s what we consistently do in the long term that makes all the difference!
So, what foods do you try to every day?? What’s your favourite way to incorporate them in to your diet?