Eating a ‘super diet’
The truth is, no single food contains superpowers to optimize your health. Rather than running out to buy the latest “superfood” you just read about — really there is none — it’s best to focus on keeping a variety of healthy foods in your kitchen and creating a “super diet.”
A well-stocked kitchen helps to create the foundation for a healthy diet. Keeping a variety of healthy foods around helps us establish a nutritious eating pattern composed mostly of balanced meals and snacks. Eating a more nutritious diet filled with a variety of healthy foods is a simple way to optimize our health and prevent chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
While everyone — including me — loves to indulge on occasion, eating well most of the time is the key to staying healthy. And surrounding ourselves with nutritious foods certainly helps us to make healthy food choices. My motto is “make the healthy choice the easy choice.”
Here are 10 healthy foods to keep in your kitchen. I’ve provided an assortment of foods from various food groups because I believe that all foods fit in a healthy diet.
These 10 foods are rich in a variety of nutrients and promote immune health, heart health and gut health. They can even help you drop a few pounds if that’s your goal. Including these tasty, satisfying staples can supercharge your health.
These tasty blue gems are among the healthiest fruits. Not only do they taste great, they’re packed with nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber and manganese. These berries are also relatively low in calories. Blueberries contain one of the highest sources of antioxidants of all fruits and are rich in flavonoids, in particular anthocyanins, which contribute to many of this berry’s beneficial health properties.
Studies indicate that blueberries may protect against aging and cancer by neutralizing free radicals that can damage our cells. They may also help prevent heart disease, diabetes and help to maintain brain function while delaying a decline in cognitive function.
Because they’re tasty and colorful, I love to add blueberries to yogurt, smoothies and salads. You can enjoy fresh and frozen varieties. While I’m a blueberry superfan, all berries are healthy. Blackberries, strawberries and raspberries are rich in nutrients and antioxidants and can also be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet.
Oats are a good source of soluble fiber and contain beta-glucans, which helps lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. They also contain insoluble fiber, which prevents constipation, promotes regular bowel movements and may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Oats are also a gluten-free whole grain, perfect for those with digestive issues. They are rich in potassium, magnesium, manganese and several B vitamins.
Oats are very versatile and can be eaten in a variety of ways. One of the most popular way to eat oats are for breakfast as oatmeal, made by boiling oats in water or milk. Oatmeal is a more nutritious breakfast option than granola and many other breakfast cereals, which tend to be higher in added sugar.
Another popular breakfast option with oats is overnight oats. This is a no-cook method of soaking oats overnight with liquid (milk or water) and mix-ins like nuts, seeds and fruit. When you wake up, you have a pudding-like porridge, perfect for an easy grab-and-go breakfast.
Here’s a favorite overnight oats recipe from my book “Finally Full, Finally Slim.” To make my peanut butter berry overnight oats, add the following ingredients to a mason jar and soak overnight:
— 1 cup of blueberries or strawberries.
— 1 teaspoon ground flaxseeds.
— ½ cup whole-grain oats.
— ¾ cup fat-free milk or unsweetened vanilla almond milk.
— 2 teaspoons peanut butter.
— ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
— Cinnamon to taste.
No need to fear gaining weight from oats and other whole grains. Studies indicate that whole grains may help you lose weight by making you feel fuller and reducing your appetite.
Pistachios, like other nuts, are nutritious and satisfying thanks to combination of healthy unsaturated fat, fiber and protein content. In addition to being delicious, pistachios come with a slew of health benefits. These little green nuts may promote a healthy gut, lower cholesterol levels and be protective against Type 2 diabetes.
The key to enjoying nuts healthfully is practicing portion control. The recommended 1-ounce serving of nuts is approximately 1/4 cup. Pistachios are one of the lower calorie nuts, containing 160 calories per serving.
One advantage of pistachio nuts is that you can buy them in their shells, a perfect way to practice portion control and eat mindfully. While nuts are high in fat, research links nut eaters to having to a lower risk of obesity because they help keep you full.
Enjoy pistachio nuts, along with other nuts, as a healthy snack or add them to yogurt, hot cereal or salads.
I always keep Greek yogurt in my refrigerator. It’s creamy and delicious and high in protein, which helps keep you full for hours. It contains the mineral calcium, necessary for bone health and for preventing high blood pressure. It also contains probiotics — good bacteria with a multitude of health benefits, among them promoting immune health and aiding in digestion.
I urge you to read food labels, as many yogurts are sweetened with lots of added sugar. If you’re like me and don’t enjoy the tart flavor of plain yogurt, adding a drizzle of honey gives it a sweet taste and you can control how much you add; aim for a teaspoon or less.
Greek yogurt makes a quick and nutritious breakfast or snack option and the sky is the limit as far as healthy toppings go: Adding ground flax, hemp or chia seeds, mixed nuts and mixed berries gives Greek yogurt a huge nutrition boost.
This Chinese cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable and member of the brassica family, along with broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale. It’s high in the antioxidant vitamins A and C, and contains potassium, iron and folate. It’s a nutrition superstar and may help to reduce your risk for chronic diseases. It is also perfect for weight loss due its fiber content and low-calorie count with just 20 calories per one cup cooked.
Bok choy is one of the healthiest foods for your bones as it is rich in vitamin K, calcium, phosphorous and magnesium — all nutrients that are essential for maintaining bone health. It may also reduce your risk for cancer. This study found that eating cruciferous vegetables regularly was associated with a lower risk of several cancers, as compared with rarely eating these vegetables.
Bok choy makes a great side dish, is easy to cook and tastes great in a stir fry with a drizzle of olive oil or toasted sesame oil.
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are an excellent protein alternative to meat, making these legumes perfect for vegetarians and those looking to reduce their intake of animal products. Their high fiber and protein content make them a filling food, which will keep you satiated throughout the day. A nutrition superstar, chickpeas are also rich in potassium and magnesium, which are good for lowering blood pressure.
Chickpeas have numerous health benefits, including improving digestion and reducing the risk of chronic diseases, and even possibly helping with weight management. Chickpeas contain several properties that can also help manage blood sugar levels; Their high protein and soluble fiber content help to stabilize blood sugar.
I stock my pantry with both dry chickpeas and canned chickpeas (rinse before using to get rid of some of the sodium), and I always keep hummus in the fridge. Chickpeas are super versatile and can be added to salads or whole grains for a boost of protein and nutrients. I love to oven roast them when I’m in the mood for a crunchy snack.
Salmon and other fatty fish, including sardines, arctic char and tuna, are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, essential fats which support heart and brain health and should be obtained from the diet. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower triglycerides, reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of plaque in the arteries.
While grilled salmon is my favorite option, canned salmon is an inexpensive and nutritious choice as well and is also a good source of calcium. I enjoy grilled salmon drizzled with olive oil, lemon and a dash of salt as a main dish. Other ways to add more salmon to your diet is to add it to pasta, make salmon burgers or top your favorite salad with either grilled or canned salmon.
Olive oil, especially extra virgin (aka EVOO), contains high levels of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties and offers up many health benefits. One of the key ingredients of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil helps to prevent against heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes. This healthy oil has also been shown to control cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels.
While olive oil is high in fat and calories, consuming olive oil in moderation doesn’t appear to increase the likelihood of weight gain. Aim for 1 to 2 tablespoons (a shot glass worth) as a serving on a salad, for instance. I always keep a bottle of extra virgin olive oil handy — in a cool dry place — to toss on salads, drizzle on fish and add zest and flavor when sauteing or roasting my favorite vegetables.
Carrots are the perfect snack or side dish. They are crunchy, sweet and rich in nutrients, including the vitamin A antioxidant beta-carotene, lutein, vitamin K, biotin and potassium. Antioxidants protect our body from destruction from free radicals and have been linked to improved immune function and a reduced incidence of chronic diseases. Indeed, eating carrots may decrease your risk for heart disease and certain cancers, including breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
Carrots’ combination of nutrients has been linked to improved eye health. Its lutein content can help reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration and cataracts. Carrots are also a weight-loss friendly food as they are low in calories and full of fiber. And no, you do not need to worry about this veggie’s “sugar” intake, something I’ve heard quite often from clients I’ve counseled.
The many health benefits of carrots along with their satisfying taste is a great reason to start crunching. Roasted carrots are also a delicious side dish.
To roast carrots, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, toss the carrots with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. If you want, you can drizzle with honey and coriander. Spread the carrots onto a baking sheet and roast for approximately 20 minutes.
Despite its name, buckwheat is neither wheat nor grain. It’s technically a seed, like quinoa and millet, but is classified as a pseudo-cereal and often considered a grain. It’s also gluten free. Buckwheat is packed with iron and copper and nutrients that may protect the heart, including potassium and magnesium.
It contains healthy carbs, protein and a good dose of fiber, which helps keep blood sugar steady — helpful for people with diabetes. It also contains flavanols and phenolic acids, which contain anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Add buckwheat to stir-fries or serve as a side dish. It pairs well with fish and vegetables, and I enjoy it regularly. To make it, mix the buckwheat with beaten egg, then fry over a medium heat (with onions optional) for a few minutes. Then add hot water or vegetable broth with olive oil to the frying pan, cover the pan and finish cooking. It will have a brown rice or quinoa texture. It freezes really well too.
10 healthy foods for a well-stocked kitchen
— Greek yogurt.
— Bok choy.
— Olive oil.
— Buckwheat or kasha.
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