At a Glance
- Our bodies need a whole range of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals on a regular basis for optimum functioning
- Each food source contains a number of different compounds which each provide their own health benefits
- When it comes to health, the best recommendation is to include a plentiful variety of nutrient dense foods in our diet
When it comes to nutrients, not all foods are created equal. Some foods are full to the brim of beneficial nutrients whereas others, no matter how tasty they might be, provide a pretty low nutritional value.
Since grandmas everywhere told us all to eat our greens, it’s clear that the health benefits of some foods have been widely known throughout history. Others are have been mostly overlooked for one reason or another.
Science tells us that there are some foods that should simply not be missed when it comes to providing our body with quality nourishment that really makes a difference to our health.
It’s not all about fruit and vegetables, either – some of the foods on this list might surprise you!
#1 – Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes not only taste great, they’re also packed full of vitamins A, C, D, many B vitamins and a whole range of minerals and phytochemicals including natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
In terms of health benefits, sweet potatoes are high in fiber which regulates digestion and prevents constipation. The nutrients in sweet potatoes have been shown to help control blood sugar levels and blood clotting, promote good eye health, assist in the production of red blood cells and improve brain and nervous system and immune system function.
The plant compounds in sweet potatoes have also been linked with a reduced risk of diabetes, healthy bones, teeth and skin, healthy kidney function and reduced risk of cancer. (source)
#2 – Oily Fish
Oily varieties of fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel are fantastic sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential in the body for optimal brain function, growth, development and cell repair and may decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke and dementia.
In addition to omega-3s, oily fish is also a great source of protein, B vitamins and vitamin A as well as minerals selenium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, magnesium, iron and zinc. (source)
It is recommended to include oily fish in your diet once or twice a week. (source)
#3 – Almonds
Unlike other nuts which are acidic, almonds are alkaline and help to dispose of toxins and boost the immune system. Almonds are a rich source of natural protein which we need for cell growth and repair.
The protein in almonds also helps maintain healthy skin and nails – the vitamin E content in almonds assists with this, as well as being a strong antioxidant and natural anti-inflammatory.
The calcium and phosphorus found in almonds helps to build strong bones and teeth. Almonds also contain magnesium, copper, potassium, iron, antioxidants and B vitamins, all of which support the development of healthy hair, skin and nails. It’s best to choose raw organic almonds for maximum results.
#4 – Garlic
Adding great flavor to a wide range of dishes, garlic is another nutritional powerhouse. It contains vitamin B6 plus numerous minerals and phytochemicals, and comes with some impressive proven health benefits.
Garlic can reduce blood pressure and bad cholesterol, promoting a healthy heart and reducing the risk of stroke. It has been shown to inhibit cancerous growth, is a natural antibiotic and antifungal agent, can help control blood sugar and reduces the risk of diabetes.
Garlic also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and promotes good liver function. (source)
#5 – Chocolate
Surprised? Thought so! Good quality dark chocolate has strong antioxidant properties, outranking or equaling all other foods that have been tested so far.
So chocolate gets the green light, but a high cocoa content is the key, so choose chocolate that has a minimum of 70 percent cocoa. (source)
#6 – Greens
Back down to earth after the chocolate revelation – we’re going green! Leafy green vegetables are loaded with essential nutrients.
Kale tops the bill with 100g providing more vitamin C, A and K than you’ll need for the day, plus B6, potassium, magnesium, calcium, copper and manganese for healthy bones, blood, teeth and skin and nerves; kale pretty much has it all covered.
Then there’s the low calorie content, high fiber and protein, and the research that indicates the plant compounds in kale and other leafy greens – including broccoli and Brussels sprouts – are able to fight isolated cancer cells. So you can see why it’s high on our list. (source)
#7 – Eggs
Eggs aren’t the bad guys as once thought when it comes to cholesterol; they don’t increase the amount of bad cholesterol in the body. In fact, we now know that as well as being high in protein, eggs are packed with nutrients.
The compounds in eggs help protect the eyes from conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts and improve brain function, assist in weight loss and aid cell growth and repair thanks to their omega-3 content. (source)
#8 – Liver
The liver is an amazing organ with numerous different functions, including the storage of nutrients; this makes liver a food source which is incredibly rich in nutrients.
As well as being a source of good quality protein a 100 gram portion of beef liver provides us with more vitamin A, B2, B12 and copper than we need in a day, half our daily requirement of vitamins B5 and B6 and around one third of our iron, zinc, selenium and phosphorus. (source)
#9 – Tomatoes
Tomatoes are high in taste but great for hydration and contain twelve of the thirteen vitamins, twelve different minerals and a whole host of other plant compounds, including lycopene, a powerful antioxidant.
The compounds in tomatoes are incredible. They can help boost the immune system, brain function and eye health, reduce pain and help keep teeth, bones, skin and soft tissues healthy.
Tomato plant compounds also help to protect and help regulate the digestive system and control blood pressure and blood clotting. They have been linked reduced signs of aging and lower risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and birth defects. (source)
#10 – Oats
An inexpensive and widely available food, oats are a great source of fiber, protein, B vitamins, magnesium and potassium. They possess natural anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants which absorb harmful free radical chemicals in the body.
For such an underrated food, oats have a wide array of health benefits. As well as being naturally gluten free they help with cell growth and repair, keep the digestive system moving and prevent gastrointestinal problems like constipation, which in turn decreases toxin uptake and reabsorption.
Oats are well known for their positive effects on the skin, hair and nails, and have been noted for their effects on skin conditions such as eczema. They also help to keep us feeling full and so can aid weight loss. (source)
#11 – Blueberries
These beautiful, succulent little fruits are well deserving of the title “superfood”. They supply ten of the thirteen vitamins we need, plus manganese, copper, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.
In addition, they are rich in phytochemicals and have a huge amount of antioxidant power – more than any other common fruit or vegetable.
The compounds which naturally occur in blueberries have been proven to boost the immune system, brain function and memory, reduce inflammation, bad cholesterol and blood pressure, risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer, decrease insulin resistance and may be beneficial in avoiding urinary tract infections. (source)
#12 – Nori
A type of seaweed which features regularly in sushi, nori is a very valuable food in terms of nutrients. It contains vitamins E and K plus many B vitamins, manganese, zinc, copper, selenium, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium.
Like most seaweeds, nori is a valuable source of iodine, which is important for healthy thyroid function.
Nori is a great source of protein, is low in fat, and has been indicated to help prevent gallstones and gastric ulcers, lower bad cholesterol, help regulate blood clotting and has shown antitumor activity in research. (source)
#13 – Potatoes
Having given sweet potatoes their five minutes of fame, it’s hard to neglect this good old pantry staple which shouldn’t be underestimated. One decently sized potato can provide us with a generous amount of vitamin C, most of the B vitamins plus magnesium, potassium, iron, copper and manganese.
Carbohydrates may not be popular with everyone, but potatoes are a great source of slow release energy, and when eaten cold they form a substance called resistant starch, a dietary fiber which as a prebiotic food benefits colon health without sending blood sugar and cholesterol sky high, as is a problem with other carbs. (source)
#14 – Avocados
Avocados may be high in calories compared to other fruit, but this is because they provide energy in the form of fat rather than carbs. Not just any old fat, either: over three-quarters of the fat in avocados is healthy unsaturated fat.
These luscious, creamy fruits pack an impressive range of different vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. One average sized avocado can provide more than half of our daily vitamin K, 40 percent of our B9 (folate), over a third of our vitamin C, around a quarter of the vitamins E, B5, B6, potassium and copper we need.
We’re not done yet; avocados also contain all of the other B vitamins except B12, some vitamin A, calcium, iron magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, and selenium.
Avocados can help to decrease bad cholesterol and block the action of substances which damage arteries. They also contain glutathione, a substance which helps the liver to dispose of toxic chemicals, and has been linked to reduced risk of cancer.
Studies have also shown that avocado and avocado oil multiply the antioxidants absorbed from other foods by up to 15 times. (source) Truly a superfood worthy of the name!
#15 – Clams
There probably aren’t many people who can say that they regularly include these underwater gems in their diet, but there are a whole host of reasons why it’s a good idea to start.
Clams are one of the richest sources of vitamin B12 which, according to Harvard Health, helps to lower the risk of heart disease, assists the production of chemicals essential for healthy brain and nerve function and growth, and helps produce red blood cells and DNA. (source)
Clams are also high in iron, vitamin C, copper, selenium, manganese and phosphorus; they contain all of the other B vitamins plus some vitamin A, D and E, calcium and zinc. Clams are low in fat and high in protein.
The nutrients in clams have been shown to reduce the absorption of cholesterol, boost immune system and nervous system function, help to regulate the storage and release of insulin, help heal wounds and produce red blood cells. The antioxidants in clams can absorb harmful free radical chemicals in the body. (source)
In short, there aren’t many reasons why we shouldn’t eat clams!
So Grandma was right about eating your greens, but there’s a whole host of foods out there that can enrich our diet and provide the nutrients we need for good health.
There isn’t any one food source that has it all. A truly healthy diet is one which is made up of a wide variety of foods that each contribute a little of what we need to help our bodies function at an optimum level.
So with all this information you can soup up your diet – clam chowder for me please – and get nutrient rich!