If you think that your physique and fitness are all made in the gym, then you are pretty far from the truth. While exercise is important to build strength and maintain fitness, it is what you eat which ensures not only your overall health but also long-term well-being.
We have all sorts of healthy items and superfoods at our disposable for optimum fitness, but there is a need to plan our meals and snacks on a daily basis. This will ensure that our body gets all the essential nutrients and vitamins that it needs.
Berries, nuts, fish, chicken and leafy green vegetables are some of the items that help in maintaining robust health. Here is a list of the healthiest foods there are:
Kale or leaf cabbage is extremely beneficial in maintaining eye health. This is because it is the highest natural source of lutein, which along with other carotenoid anti-oxidants prevents diseases such as age-related macular degeneration. It is rich in Vitamin C due to which it keeps the skin healthy and improves immunity. Being an extremely low calorie and filling food, Kale also aids weight loss. A study by researchers from Georgetown University had also showed that consuming kale could reduce the number of menopausal symptoms.
Blueberries have often been called superfoods due to the various health benefits they offer.
“They are a very rich source of vitamin C, which helps protect cells against damage and aid in the absorption of iron. Their soluble fibre content slows down the rate at which sugar is released into the bloodstream and keeps the digestive system healthy. The phytochemicals present in them help release antioxidants and protect against various diseases,” says Nitin Khattar, a Delhi-based nutritionist at The Gym Health Planet.
Avocadoes are powerhouses of various nutrients and minerals such as vitamin K, B5, B6, B3, E, and C; and potassium, folate, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc and phosphorous. Being loaded with fibre, they not only aid digestion but also make you feel full for a long time. They are rich sources of beta-carotene and antioxidants and therefore, beneficial for eyes.
Leafy green veggies
Dark green leafy vegetables are the most concentrated source of nutrition and rich in minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. They also contain most essential vitamins such as vitamin K, C, E, and many B vitamins. Not only are they low in carbohydrates but also contain reasonable amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids. They also help regulate cholesterol levels and keep the heart healthy.
“Eggs are an excellent source of high-quality protein. Egg white is rich in selenium, vitamin D, B6, B12 and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper. These are essential for various vital metabolic processes in the body as also normal cell function, growth, and energy production. The iron found in egg yolk can be easily assimilated and digested by the body,” says Khattar.
Chicken is rich in selenium which contains antioxidants. These help in controlling free radicals and thereby builds immunity. It is also a great source of protein, which is essential for the growth and development of various organs. Protein also helps in maintaining weight and therefore chicken is ideal for those aiming at weight loss. It is also rich in niacin, and helps guard the body against diseases such as cancer.
Almonds are one of the most popular and incredible nuts. This delicately flavoured and versatile nut is extremely healthy and nutritious, used as a tasty addition to both sweet and savoury dishes.
Just like apple, even a handful of almonds ‘a day keeps diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s away’. Do you know having almonds daily delivers massive amount of essential nutrients required for smooth functioning- protein, vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, copper, vitamin B2, phosphorus and healthy fats.
“The brown skin of almonds is also loaded with antioxidants that protects cells from oxidative damage preventing ageing and other diseases such as cancer. Being low in carbohydrates, high on fiber and protein, almonds are a perfect daily snack as it reduces hunger and increases satiety hence you end lowering your overall calorie intake. It is also incredibly effective for digestion and weight loss. Almonds truly are super foods, can be consumed raw and soaked, but one should avoid salted and roasted ones,” advises Priyannka Aashu Singh, a nutritionist at Portea Medical, which provides home healthcare services in Bangalore.
Lentils are a tasty staple commonly found in Indian kitchens. As compared to their counterparts dried beans, they are relatively quick and easy to prepare. These mighty members of the legume family are nutty and earthy in flavor, packed with essential nutrients carbohydrates, folate and magnesium, iron, insoluble dietary fiber and the third highest levels of protein make them perfect for vegetarians.
Singh says that lentils have various benefits, a solid reason for incorporating them in our daily diet – insoluble fiber prevents risk of heart disease and stroke by reducing blood cholesterol, promotes good digestive health, stabilizes blood sugar levels, iron carries oxygen throughout the body hence increases energy production and metabolism, is low in calories and high in protein makes lentils perfect super food for weight loss. Lentils are usually cooked only in one way by Indians but it can also be eaten in the form of summer salad, spreads, paranthas, idlis and much more.
Oats are among the healthiest whole grains discovered in recent times. Oats are one of the most nutrient dense food on earth being gluten free, rich in soluble fiber, high in complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat, and loaded with important vitamins , minerals and antioxidants plan compounds. They also help in reducing cholesterol and aid weight loss.
“Eating oats regularly helps prevent cardiovascular diseases, reduces blood sugar and insulin response, increases growth of healthy bacteria in digestive tract, promotes weight loss, may decrease risk of asthma in kids, and reduces the chances of hormone-related cancers like breast, prostate and ovarian cancer. Not just internally, oats are incredibly good for your skin too. One can enjoy oats in several ways, apart from oatmeal porridge; oats can be included in baked goods, bread, muesli, granola bars, roti flour and idli and dosa,” explains Singh.
This green vegetable belongs to the cabbage family, and is suitable for all age groups. It is rich in both calcium and vitamin K, and thus aids bone health and prevents osteoporosis. The high amount of vitamin C in this vegetable helps build and improve immunity and keep many infections at bay. It also has significant amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, making it a great anti-inflammatory agent. Those suffering from arthritis can benefit from this vegetable. This is because the chemical sulforaphane blocks enzymes that cause joint destruction and inflammation.
Broccoli is great for detoxification, promotes weight loss, good for skin care, has anti ageing properties and is great for eye health too. Nutrient rich broccoli should be consumed daily recommended intake is 1-1/2 cups, and to enhance the health promoting benefits one should always quick steam it just for four minutes.
A study had found that broccoli can be beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes and helps them manage their blood sugar. The research was conducted by the Lund University in Sweden.
Apples are a rich source of various antioxidants, flavanoids and fiber. They are packed with immune-boosting vitamin C. It has been found that these help in reducing the risk of cancer, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Pectin fibrin in apples reduces the absorption of excess dietary fats and also makes you feel full for a longer time.
Apples have also been found to improve the production of acetylcholine which is essential for stronger communication between nerve cells and brain. This further reduces the chances of developing Alzheimer’s. Fitness freaks should eat apples by default before workout as it boosts exercise endurance. Apple lovers should not be restrict themselves to eating apple just as a fruit; the versatile fruit can also be eaten in the form of kheer, pie, muffins, porridge, desserts and pancakes.
Fish is undoubtedly among the healthiest foods on earth. Fish is an extremely rich source of protein and is low in fat. Oily fish, in particular, are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids or the good fats. This helps in maintaining heart health and lowering cholesterol levels. It is also rich in calcium and phosphorus as also other minerals such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium.
Fish protects from age related deterioration, helps prevent and treats depression, helps prevent asthma in kids, good for old age vision issues, improves sleep quality.
Fish is delicious and easy to prepare, recommended intake is 1-2 times per week, wild fish have more omega 3s then fish reared in ponds which may be contaminated with pollutants.