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FitDay's Top Ten Healthiest Foods

Stories about the latest trendy "health" foods are constantly being shown around the news circuit. It's important to remember, however, that there isn't any one perfect diet. There is a plethora of healthy food on this planet and there are many differences among cuisines of varying cultures.

Here are ten types of foods that really stand out for their abilities to provide health benefits above and beyond just supplying your body with macronutrients.

  1. Fatty Fish
    Fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fats, meaning they're necessary for human health but aren't produced by the body and must be obtained through food. Fatty fish have been associated with lower rates of depression, heart disease and cancer. We've all heard that salmon is good for us, but there are other fish that provide a generous dose of omega-3 fatty acids. If you don't like salmon, try albacore tuna, mackerel, herring, rainbow trout, halibut or sardines. In fact, fatty fish is so important to human health that The American Heart Association recommends that we eat it at least twice a week.

  2. Berries 
    Berries are one of the most potent sources of disease-squelching antioxidants on the planet. Their phytochemicals, including anthocyanins, catechins, ellagic acid, flavonoids, gallic acid, quercetin, rutin and vitamin C may prevent some cancers, urinary tract infections, heart disease and memory loss.

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  4. Nuts 
    Much of the fat in nuts is monounsaturated fat, a heart-healthy fat that can help reduce cholesterol and the risk of diabetes and obesity.

  5. Beans 
    Beans are quite the nutrient powerhouse--they're loaded with protein, fiber, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc. Consumption of beans has been linked with a lower risk of heart disease and breast cancer.

  6. Cruciferous Vegetables 
    Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts and bok choy are all examples of cruciferous veggies. Not only are they packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, they may also lower your risk of cancer. They also contain powerful phytochemicals called sulforaphane, indole 3-carbinol and crambene, which deactivate cancer-causing compounds.

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  8. Tea 
    Research suggests the polyphenols (antioxidants) in tea may help prevent cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It's also thought to help with weight loss through increased fat metabolism, and it also lowers cholesterol. A quick tip: squeeze a little lemon into your tea. Research has found that citrus helps your body absorb about 80% more of the antioxidants in tea.

  9. Apples
    Apples contain pectin, which has been shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Apples also provide vitamin C.

  10. Alliums 
    Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, scallions, chives, ramps and scapes help amp up the flavor in our dishes, but did you know they're powerful disease-fighters too? Studies have shown that these pungent vegetables may reduce your risk of getting breast and colon cancer, thanks to their sulfur compounds called organosulfides. They're also a good source of quercetin and kaempferol, other disease-fighting phytochemicals. Vegetables in the allium family are also thought to reduce LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.

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  12. Leafy Greens
    Leafy greens are the most concentrated source of nutrients you can find. They're rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and also supply lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for cell and eye health. They provide protection from heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
  13. Low-Fat Dairy
    Studies have shown that low-fat dairy products can aid in weight loss, particularly fat loss in the abdominal area. Additionally, low-fat dairy provides calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A, D and B12, niacin and riboflavin.

Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.




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