We are all familiar with many of the basic foods to eat for superior health such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. But there are actually some other foods that do not typically come to mind when you think of health foods. You might be surprised to learn that the following five can be beneficial to include in your diet due to the powerful nutrition and disease fighting properties they contain.
More commonly known as cocoa or chocolate, cacao is the bean that is used to make chocolate. According to Jonny Bowden who wrote The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, flavanols in the cacao bean help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system by preventing fat-like substances in the blood from clogging the arteries. Typical chocolate bars and candies are loaded with sugar and dairy and are not helpful with disease prevention. Instead, look for dark chocolate made with at least 70% cocoa content. Dr. Bowden recommends having an ounce or two of dark chocolate a few times a week.
The process of fermentation creates healthy microorganisms known as probiotics. These "friendly bacteria" help promote both a healthy immune system and a healthy digestive system. They also play a role in controlling inflammation, which is an element of many chronic degenerative diseases. Dr. Bowden suggests kimchee (fermented cabbage and other vegetables), sauerkraut (nonpasteurized), fermented soy (tempeh and miso), and apple cider vinegar (raw, unpasteurized).
Rich in minerals, potential cancer fighting properties, and compounds that may protect against radiation and environmental pollutants, sea vegetables earned a star in Dr. Bowdens book due to their superb nutrient content. Highlights of their nutrient composition include iodine, iron, and calcium. Sea vegetables are often found in Japanese foods, most notably sushi. Varieties of seaweeds to try include arame, hijiki, kelp, kombu, nori, and wakame.
Herbs and Spices
Not only do these add tasty flavors to food, they also provide powerful phytochemicals and antioxidants that offer major health benefits. Use a wide variety in your meals and combine them because research has shown that they work synergistically. In his book, Dr. Bowden mentions quite a few: cinnamon to help reduce blood sugar, cumin and ginger for improved digestion, garlic as a cholesterol lowering agent and cancer inhibitor, oregano with its antifungal, antibacterial, and antiparasitic properties, and turmeric to ease arthritis and joint inflammation.
Coffee and Tea
Coffee is in fact a great source of antioxidants and can improve mental and physical performance. However, if you are prone to anxiety or insomnia then it may be wise to avoid this caffeinated beverage. Containing less caffeine is tea (black, green, and white), which contains potent antioxidants called polyphenols. Many of these have been shown to have cancer fighting effects. Black tea in particular helps to support healthy blood vessels and lower cholesterol. Green tea has been associated with preventing several types of cancer, lowering the risk of coronary artery disease, and weight loss. It also contains theanine which contributes to relaxation and an enhanced mood.
These five health-promoting foods are a few possibilities to consider incorporating into your diet in order to boost your body's disease-fighting capabilities. For more information and ideas check out The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Jonny Bowden. Nature provides us with an incredible assortment of foods that contain countless nutrients, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that our bodies need to maintain health. Keeping the focus on an abundance of wholesome plant foods leaves less room for those highly processed, empty calorie foods.
Corinne Goff is a Registered Dietitian who is absolutely passionate about food, health, and nutrition. Corinne has a BA in Psychology from Salve Regina University and a BS in Nutrition from the University of Rhode Island. As a nutritionist, her objective is to help people reach their health goals by offering a personalized holistic approach to wellness that incorporates natural foods and lifestyle changes. She works together with her clients to develop daily improvements that they feel comfortable with and that are realistic. She believes that the focus on wholesome, nutrient-rich, real food, is the greatest possible way to become healthier, have more energy, decrease chances of chronic disease, and feel your best.