1. Nuts

It’s easy to see why people “go nuts with nuts”, as they are super tasty as well as nutritious. While most nuts provide a good amount of protein, fibre and essential fats, in addition, each nut variety brings its own unique set of nutritional qualities such as calcium and vitamin E (almonds), selenium (Brazil nuts) omega 3 fats (walnuts), carbohydrate, iron and zinc (cashews), and healthy mono-unsaturated fat (macadamias). The combination of fats that nuts supply are considered heart-healthy which makes their inclusion into your daily diet a great idea. To ensure a good variety of nutrients for optimal health, make sure you include a good mix of the above nut varieties.

2. Fatty fish

When it comes to nutrient-rich protein sources, you just cannot beat fish, be in fresh, frozen or canned. Research shows that eating fish is very beneficial to our health and that because of this we should eat more of it. Health organisations recommend eating fish (the fattier, the better) at least twice per week. Fish and seafood boast a good amount of omega-3 fats, one of the essential fats and arugably the healthiest fat there is. Omega-3 fats have been shown to be both heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory. Fish also provides the body with iodine and selenium. Iodine plays an important role in regulating our metabolism via our thyroid gland and selenium helps in proteching us from cancer. Fish and shellfish are also excellent sources of other vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, D, zinc and potassium.

3. Yogurt

Yogurt imparts its health benefits in two main ways. Firstly, it’s a nutrient-dense food and is rich in protein, calcium, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, potassium and magnesium. Secondly, it is a unique food as it provides the body with live strains of “good bacteria” called probiotics which can help boost the immune system and promote a healthy digestive track. Probiotics are naturally present in the digestive system, but due to lifestyle factors, our gut bacteria profile changes, with the unhealthy bacteria outnumbering the good sorts. Including yogurt as a daily food option is a good idea to ensure your gut remains healthy. Choose plain, natural and unsweetened full-fat varieties like Greek yogurt, rather than the low-fat varieties with added sugar.

4. Olive oil 

Olive oil, particularly extra virgin olive oil, is undoubtedly the healthiest of all of the vegetables oils by far and could be considered the healthiest fat source on earth. It’s the least processed of all the vegetable oils and provides the best nutritional profile of fats. The main type of fat it contains is the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. This oil forms a substantial part of the Mediterranean diet and is a traditional fat that has been a dietary stable for some of the world’s healthiest populations. Olive oil contains vitamin E and K and is rich in antioxidants that help reduce inflammation.

5. Ginger

Ginger is an aromatic, pungent spice, which adds a unique flavour to Asian stir fries and many fruit and vegetable dishes. Fresh ginger root is available all year round. It is inexpensive and because of its health benefits, should be a prominent feature in everybody’s fridge or pantry. Ginger has a long tradition of being very beneficial for digestion, and in particular for alleviating gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, vomitting and motion sickness. Evidence indicates that ginger possesses several theraputic properties including antioxidant effects (it prevents cell damage and fights off cancers and other diseases), and direct anti-flammatory effects via its compound, ginerols.


The original version of this story was published in SHAPE on 6 Jan, 2017.

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