Make eating clean easier and tastier this year by adding a variety of new proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats to your meal plan. The 10 foods below are packed with disease-fighting nutrients and unique flavors from around the world. Add one or two of these foods to your shopping cart each time you hit the market to make this year your healthiest ever.
- Chia Seeds: These tiny black seeds, cultivated by the Aztecs, are slowly working their way into the American markets. Similar to flax seeds, these seeds are rich in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, fiber, phosphorus and manganese. Sprinkle them on cereal, oatmeal, yogurt or salad for some crunch. You can even add them to your water to help improve your satiety level.
- Lentils: Lentils are an excellent source of iron, zinc, and other nutrients. They are a fiber powerhouse. It’s a great choice for vegetarians to get their protein needs. Lentils have been shown to reduce heart disease and help control blood sure. Add lentils to soups or salads.
- Walnuts: These nuts have more antioxidants than almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, and many other nuts. They’re also high in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Sprinkle walnuts into yogurts, salads or eat them raw for a healthy snack.
- Ginger: Is a pungent, flavorful root. It is often used to alleviate motion and morning sickness. It is packed with anti-inflammatory compounds linked to increase immunity and a decreased risk of colorectal cancer and joint pain. Mix ginger into a stir fry, or steep a couple of slices in hot water for ginger tea.
- Brussels Sprouts: These little cabbage-like vegetables are packed with fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A and vitamin B as well as omega-3 fatty acids. They supply a variety of antioxidants that are associated with cancer prevention, increased cardiovascular healthy and helps to lower cholesterol. Steam them, grill them, or shred them into soups, salads and sauces.
- Pumpkin: This vegetable is packed with carotenoids, which have been linked to improved night vision, eye healthy and joint protection. Pumpkin is also low calorie; at only 50 calories per cup. Roast, grill or mash pumpkin as an alternative to potatoes.
- Edamame: Considered a soybean, these have a nutty flavor and usually used in Asian cooking. Edamame is one of the few plant based foods that contains all essential amino acids. It is high in fiber, protein, potassium as well as vitamin B and vitamin K. Research has suggested edamame can reduce risk of cancer and promote heart health. Eat them as a snack or toss them into a salad.
- Kale: May be considered the best kept secret and one of the healthiest vegetables you can and should include in your diet. It is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K. It also contains calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and fiber. If that wasn’t enough, it contains only 35 calories for one cup. In addition, research has shown that Kale has antioxidant, anti cancer and anti-inflammatory properties to help fight against numerous diseases. Consider baking Kale for 15 minutes at 350 degrees for a crispy low calorie snack.
- Pomegranate: This colorful, sweet fruit is rich in fiber, vitamin C and K, and is naturally low in calories. Pomegranates are also packed with antioxidants linked to a healthier heart and decreased inflammation. Eat the seeds for a healthy snack or sip on 100% pomegranate juice in the morning.
- Cherries: A single cup of cherries has just 90 calories and is packed with fiber and vitamin C. Cherries have been show to help alleviate inflammation, joint pain, and gout, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and enhance post-exercise muscle recovery. Top off yogurt, cereal, and desserts with fresh or frozen cherries or mix them in your post workout shake.
Laurie Taunton MS R.D.