Just what is a healthy diet? According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a healthy diet as one that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. It includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. It is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
Personally, I disagree with the dairy, as there is plentiful research that shows dairy foods are not particularly good for you. But on to the rest of the article …
Choosing to consume healthy foods is one of the very basic skills for living a health life. Do you have an idea of which minerals and nutrients are vital to our health and well-being? Below is some nutrient-dense foods to include in your healthy eating plan when you’re seeking improvement in your vitamin and mineral intake.
Important for eye health and optimal functioning of the immune system. Cod liver oil, dairy products, sweet potatoes and dark green leafy vegetables are all great natural food sources of vitamin A.
B1 is also known as thiamin, and is imperative to the body’s ability to process carbohydrates. Whole grain breads, cereals and pastas have high amounts of thiamin.
B2 is also known as Riboflavin It is found in almonds, asparagus, eggs and meat. It’s used in many bodily functions, including converting food into energy and the production of red blood cells.
B3 is also known as Niacin. This vitamin is present is decent quantities in lean chicken, tuna, salmon, turkey and peanuts. Niacin aids in digestion and also plays a key role in converting food into energy.
B6 can be found in fortified cereals, fortified soy-based meat substitutes, baked potatoes with skin, bananas, light-meat chicken and turkey, eggs, and spinach. It’s vital for a healthy nervous system, and helps break down proteins and stored sugars.
B12 is needed for creating red blood cells, and can be found in beef, clams, mussels, crabs, salmon, poultry, and soybeans.
Found in citrus fruits, red berries, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, red and green bell peppers, cabbage and spinach. These foods are all high with vitamin C, which is vital to promoting a healthy immune system, and making chemical messengers in the brain.
Vitamin D can be found in dairy foods such as fortified milk, cheese. It is in cereals, egg yolks and salmon. Most importantly and naturally it is made inside the body from sunlight exposure. Vitamin D is required to process calcium and to maintain the health of bones and teeth.
This vitamin functions as an antioxidant and is essential to your skin’s good health. Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables, almonds, hazelnuts, and vegetable oils such as sunflower to consume this vital nutrient.
Folic acid is contained in grain products such as lima, lentil and garbanzo beans. It is high in dark leafy vegetables such as spinach. Folic acid is vital for cell development. It prevents birth defects, promotes heart health and helps red blood cells form. Pregnant women need to take special care to ensure they are getting plenty of Folic acid for both their own health and that of the developing baby.
Dairy products, broccoli, dark leafy greens like spinach and rhubarb, and fortified products, such as orange juice, soy milk, and tofu are all loaded with calcium. Like vitamin D, it’s very important in helping to build and maintain strong bones and teeth.
Organ meats, oysters, clams, crabs, cashews, sunflower seeds, wheat bran cereals, whole-grain products, and cocoa products are all high in copper, which aids in metabolism of iron and red cell formation. It also assists in the production of energy for cells.
Iron is present in leafy green vegetables, beans, shellfish, red meat, poultry, soy foods and some fortified foods. It’s needed to transport oxygen to all parts of the body via the red blood cells.
Potassium can be found in foods like Broccoli, potatoes (with the skins on), prune juice, orange juice, leafy green vegetables, bananas, raisins, and tomatoes. It aids in nervous system and muscle function and also helps maintain a healthy balance of water in the blood and body tissues.
Red meat, fortified cereals, oysters, almonds, peanuts, chickpeas, soy foods, and dairy products are great dietary sources of zinc. Zinc supports the body’s immune function, reproduction capabilities, and the nervous systems.
Protein is the main component of muscles, organs, and glands. Every living cell and all body fluids, except bile and urine, contain protein. The cells of muscles, tendons, and ligaments are maintained with protein. Children and adolescents require protein for growth and development, and adults need it to maintain cell integrity. It can be found in foods like beans, milk and meat.
The primary function of carbohydrates is to provide energy for the body, especially the brain and the nervous system. Complex carbohydrates are the best choice for a stable blood sugar level. Whole grain breads and cereals, legumes, and starchy vegetables are all good complex carbohydrate sources.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFOs):
Essential fatty acids play a part in many metabolic processes, and there is evidence to suggest that low levels of essential fatty acids, or the wrong balance of types among the essential fatty acids, may be a factor in a number of illnesses. Good sources of essential fatty acids are fish and shellfish, flaxseed, canola oil, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, leafy vegetables, and walnuts.
Though this list is far from complete, it gives a good base of knowledge of nutritional information for eating healthy foods to keep you strong and well.