When it comes to nutrition-packed foods, Mother Nature has produced them in so much abundance that it gets difficult to pick one and leave out another in the top 5 list. It is, therefore, only more fair to talk of super food categories rather than individual foods. Here are the top 5 nutrition-packed foods that you must include in your daily diet in order to lead a healthy long life:
1) Whole grains
Grains serve as the main source of carbohydrates in our diet, but most of their other nutrients are lost when they are refined and polished to remove their outer skin in order to enhance their taste.
In addition to vitamins B & E and cholesterol-mopping soluble fiber, whole grains (i.e., grains with bran, germ and endosperm intact) contain valuable antioxidants that may not be found even in fruits and vegetables. They also contain minerals like magnesium and iron. The soluble fiber present in whole grains helps reduce cholesterol level, blood pressure and blood coagulation. Their antioxidants have been found to reduce the risks to many types of cancer. Whole grains like wheat, oats, corn and brown rice should be made a part of your routine diet.
2) Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are Nature’s greatest gift to mankind, especially the dark-colored fruits and vegetables. In addition to being fat-free, low-sodium, low-calorie and delicious, they are packed with disease-fighting and health-promoting key nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and flavanoids. These nutrients help fight obesity, hypertension and cholesterol, enhance immunity, and reduce the risk to many types of cancers too because of the presence of a variety of powerful antioxidants. For example, the lycopene in tomatoes is known to help reduce the risk to prostrate cancer.
The high fiber content of fruits and vegetables helps keep your intestines clean, preventing a whole lot of gastrointestinal problems. Make sure to eat 6-8 servings of a variety of differently colored fresh fruits and vegetables like oranges, blueberries, pomegranate, papaya, mangoes, apples, grapefruit, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, carrots – the list seems endless.
3) Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are among the top-five most wholesome and nutrition-packed foods. Besides being rich in plant proteins, heart-friendly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils, and essential fatty acids like omega-3 fatty acids, nuts contain a host of valuable nutrients, such as vitamins A, E and folate, trace minerals like magnesium, selenium, copper, zinc and phosphorus, antioxidants, and a whole lot of fiber. They help fight cardiovascular diseases, and because of their low sugar content are suitable for diabetics too. Their omega-3 fatty acids and other antioxidants make nuts very effective in reducing the risk to age-related degenerative disorders. Consuming a small handful of nuts like almonds, walnuts, peanuts, cashew, etc., at least 3-4 times a week goes a long way in making you live disease-free even in old age.
4) Beans, lentils, legumes and pulses
Kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, black-eyed peas, and pulses like green moong – being low-fat, high-fiber, zero-cholesterol, and high in plant proteins – make ideal vegetarian substitutes for meat products, which are almost invariably high in artery-clogging saturated fats and cholesterol. Their nutritive value, especially their vitamins content, is further enhanced when they are consumed in sprouted form; sprouting also makes them more easily digestible.
5) Probiotic foods
Probiotics refer to dairy products (e.g., yogurt and yogurt-based desserts) cultured with a variety of gut-friendly bacteria that aid digestion, help manufacture fat-metabolizing B vitamins, and reduce gas-producing and ulcer-producing acidic conditions in the stomach. Since digestive disorders can give rise to a whole range of diseases, inclusion of probiotics in your daily diet is considered prudent. These benefits come in addition to the known nutritive benefits of low-fat dairy products.
These are some of the top nutrition-packed foods. Others that fall in the same category of super foods but have not been covered here are green tea, tofu (soy protein), cold-water fish like salmon, and olive oil.