Growing up, I was always considered super-skinny (insert picture of Olive, Popeye's wife here). I could eat just about anything, without gaining a single pound. So much for my fast metabolism. With this, came many misconceptions.
I thought that because there was no weight gain, it meant that my body was free from all medical afflictions; this couldn't be further away from the truth-"You are what you eat." My goal was to adopt a more wholesome approach to healthy living, by gradually eliminating certain foods. With the help of online resources, and apps like "Fooducate," I channeled my inner Sherlock Holmes by scanning every food label for harmful ingredients. Revamping my diet meant making critical changes for which my entire being would be eternally grateful. Candy was out, fruits were in. I swapped sugary drinks and soda for water. My body cheered with delight and thanked me even more. The likes of MacDonald's, Burger King, KFC and Popeye's soon became a thing of the past.
Thus began my quest for healthier and more wholesome foods. I was faced with buzz words like "sugar-free," "fat-free," "low-carb," and "no-carb," which continue to inundate food labels, our television screens and just about every nook and cranny where food is displayed. With so many choices presented to us, how do we navigate this conundrum to ensure wise selections, and that we are not falling victims to false advertisements or unsubstantiated claims?
It's really not difficult if we were to take it back to the basics. Let's go back to the days when food was natural and unadulterated. My search for healthier living, ironically led me to simplicity. There are many foods, sans additives, trans-fats and preservatives, which when eaten will endow your body with perpetual bliss. What's great about this is that these foods are accessible, affordable, and beneficial all at the same time. Are they on your plate?
Touted as nature's butter, it's unique essence and creamy texture infuses just the right amount of zest to any dish. They are also power-houses of vital nutrients. Avocados are rich in carotenoids such as lutein, beta-carotene and alpha-carotene. Carotenoids are compounds that contribute to the pigmentation in most fruits and vegetables. They help to protect the cells against the damaging effect of free radicals, enhance immune system functioning, and are a good source of Vitamin A. Oleic acid is a monounsaturated acid found in avocado in high amounts that helps to lower the risk of heart disease. Not only is avocado rich in heart healthy fats, it is a source of 18 essential amino acids making it an excellent protein choice for non-consumers of animal protein. The unique combination of nutrients found in this creamy goodness also endows powerful ant-inflammatory properties.
Cashews, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and pecans... Nuts can never be too much for me. Perhaps I have some amount of squirrel DNA, but I can eat unlimited quantities. Eat them raw or roasted, salted or unsalted. Another power-food containing high amounts of heart-healthy fats and are a good protein source. They contain antioxidants such as carotenes, resveratrol, and lutein which help to protect against cancer and heart disease. Other notable properties are the presence of Vitamin E and Vitamin B. Vitamin E is a fat soluble antioxidant that protects the cells against the harmful effect of free radicals, and Vitamin B is essential for cellular processes. Finally it is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids stupendously reduce triglyceride levels and boost heart health. Awesome taste, great benefits, another win-win.
As a child, we were forced to eat them. We cried because we couldn't bear the taste, and surreptitiously tossed them out when no one was watching. I'm referring to the "green stuff"- vegetables. My idea of vegetables were lettuce, carrots, or cabbage, which also have their share of health benefits. However, these days if you're not toting a bottle of thick green hulk-like liquid, then you're so 2012. Kale is a vegetable; it is great in salads and is also a fixture in many green smoothies you see now. The main benefit lies in its powerful antioxidant properties. It packs flavonoids such as beta carotene, lutein and zaexanthin. (By now you'll be able to recite the definition of "antioxidant" in your sleep.) The fiber found in this veggie supports our digestive health, yet another reason to make room on your plate. But it doesn't stop here. This super food is rich in Vitamins and Minerals. There's Vitamin A for vision support, healthy mucus membranes, and skin. It contains Vitamin C, which boosts the immune system, and Vitamin K for bone health. You'll also add some minerals to your body when you consume this veggie: iron, calcium, and potassium. Potassium is an important component of cells and body fluids. It also controls hear rate and blood pressure. You'll never have to force me to eat my veggies anymore.
I grew up eating fruits and my love has only intensified. Eat as is, no special preparation required. That is as good as it gets. Berries are rich in fiber, minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins such as Vitamin A and C. Vitamin C boosts the immune system and helps to prevent heart disease and stroke. Vitamin A is essential for your vision. Another vital function is that berries help to fight urinary tract infection... drink up your cranberry juice. Anthocyanidins are phytochemicals found in berries that enhance brain function and boost memory.
Packed with heart healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids, this power-food decreases the risk of cardiovascular related problems such as high blood pressure and stroke. It is also believed to lower the risk for certain cancers like breast cancer, colorectal cancer and prostate cancer. Other benefits include a decreased risk of eye disorders like macular degeneration. Salmon also has selenium which lowers the risk of joint inflammation. It is high in protein for those concerned with achieving those coveted muscles. A 4 oz serving of salmon is enough to satisfy a full day's Vitamin D requirement.
These are just some of the many power-foods that are affordable, accessible, and exceptionally beneficial. Make room on your plate for them. Why go for "processed" when you can enjoy the awesome benefits of natural foods? Nature loved us and blessed us with these delectable goodies. Let's show our gratitude by enjoying these gifts that Mother Earth bestowed.