What are Healthy Foods
Health food is food considered beneficial to health in ways that go beyond a normal healthy diet required for human nutrition. Because there is no precise, authoritative definition from regulatory agencies such as the US Department of Agriculture’s food guide, different dietary practices can be considered healthy depending on context.
Foods marketed as “healthy” may be natural foods, organic foods, whole foods, and sometimes vegetarian or dietary supplements. Such products are sold in health food stores or in the health/organic sections of supermarkets.
The typical American diet is heavy in nutrient-poor processed foods, refined grains, and added sugars—all linked to inflammation and chronic disease. We need to change nutrition from the get go and healthy natural foods should start with infants. Breastfeeding lowers the incidence of obesity and leads to a healthier life all around. We should give infants foods that are natural. If you don’t introduce babies to processed foods, they’ll have no interest in them.
A healthy diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruit may help reduce the risk of some types of cancer. Eating lots of vegetables and fruit regularly may also lower your risk for heart disease. Having at least one vegetable or fruit at every meal and as a snack will help you get the amount of vegetables and fruit you need each day. Explore the variety of colours, tastes and textures this food group offers.
Healthy Food Guide 2)
By following the US Department of Agriculture’s food guide, called ChooseMyPlate 3), you can make healthier food choices. The new US Department of Agriculture’s food guide 2015-2020 4) encourages you to eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy. Using the guide 5), you can learn what type of food you should eat and how much you should eat. You also learn why and how much you should exercise.
There are 5 major food groups that make up a healthy diet:
- Protein foods
You should eat foods from each group every day. How much food you should eat from each group depends on your age, gender, and how active you are.
ChooseMyPlate 6) makes specific recommendations for each type of food group.
1) GRAINS: MAKE AT LEAST HALF OF YOUR GRAINS WHOLE GRAINS
- Whole grains contain the entire grain. Processed grains have had the bran and germ removed. Be sure to read the ingredient list label and look for whole grains first on the list.
- Foods with whole grains have more fiber and protein than food made with processed grains.
- Examples of whole grains are breads and pastas made with whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, bulgur, faro, and cornmeal.
- Examples of processed grains are white flour, white bread, and white rice.
Most children and adults should eat about 5 to 8 servings of grains a day (also called “ounce equivalents”). Children age 8 and younger need about 3 to 5 servings. At least half those servings should be whole grain. An example of one serving of grains includes:
- 1 slice of bread
- Half of a bagel
- 1 cup (30 grams)of cereal
- 1/2 cup (165 grams) cooked rice
- 5 whole-wheat crackers
- 1/2 cup (75 grams) cooked pasta
Eating whole grains can help improve your health by 7):
- Reducing the risk of many chronic diseases.
- Whole grains can help you lose weight. Portion size is still key. Because whole grains have more fiber and protein, they are more filling than refined grains, so you can eat less to get the same feeling of being full. But if you replace vegetables with starches, you’ll gain weight, even if you eat whole grain.
- Whole grains can help you have regular bowel movements.
Ways to eat more whole grains:
- Eat brown rice instead of white rice.
- Use whole-grain pasta instead of regular pasta.
- Replace part of white flour with wheat flour in recipes.
- Replace white bread with whole-wheat bread.
- Use oatmeal in recipes instead of bread crumbs.
- Snack on air-popped popcorn instead of chips or cookies.
2) VEGETABLES: MAKE HALF OF YOUR PLATE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
- Vegetables can be raw, fresh, cooked, canned, frozen, dried, or dehydrated.
- Vegetables are organized into 5 subgroups based on their nutrient content. The groups are dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables.
- Try to include vegetables from each group, try to make sure you aren’t only picking options from the “starchy” group.
Most children and adults should eat between 2 and 3 cups (200 to 300 grams) of vegetables a day. Children age 8 need about 1 to 1 1/2 cups (100 to 150 grams). Examples of a cup include:
- Large ear of corn
- Three 5-inch (13 centimeters) broccoli spears
- 1 cup (100 grams) cooked vegetables
- 2 cups (250 grams) of raw, leafy greens
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) 100% vegetable juice (carrot, tomato)
Eating vegetables can help improve your health in the following ways:
- Lowers your risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes
- Helps protect you against some cancers
- Helps lower blood pressure
- Reduces the risk of kidney stones
- Helps reduce bone loss
Ways to eat more vegetables:
- Keep plenty of frozen vegetables handy in your freezer.
- Buy pre-washed salad and pre-chopped veggies to cut down on prep time.
- Add veggies to soups and stews.
- Add vegetables to spaghetti sauces.
- Try veggie stir-fries.
- Eat raw carrots, broccoli, or bell pepper strips dipped in hummus or ranch dressing as a snack.
3) FRUITS: MAKE HALF OF YOUR PLATE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
- Fruits can be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried.
Most adults need 1 1/2 to 2 cups (200 to 250 grams) of fruit a day. Children age 8 and younger need about 1 to 1 1/2 cups (120 to 200 grams). Examples of a cup include:
- 1 small piece of fruit, such as an apple or pear
- 8 large strawberries
- 1/2 cup (130 grams) dried apricots or other dried fruit
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) 100% fruit juice (orange, apple, grapefruit)
- 1 cup (100 grams) cooked or canned fruit
- 1 cup (250 grams) chopped fruit
Eating fruit can help improve your health, they may help to:
- Lower your risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes
- Protect you against some cancers
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce the risk of kidney stones
- Reduce bone loss
Ways to eat more fruit:
- Put out a fruit bowl and keep it full of fruit.
- Stock up on dried, frozen, or canned fruit, so you always have it available. Choose fruit that is canned in water or juice instead of syrup.
- Buy pre-cut fruit in packages to cut down on prep time.
- Try meat dishes with fruit, such as pork with apricots, lamb with figs, or chicken with mango.
- Grill peaches, apples, or other firm fruit for a healthy, tasty dessert.
- Try a smoothie made with chopped fruit and plain yogurt for breakfast.
- Use dried fruit to add texture to trail mixes.
4) PROTEIN FOODS: CHOOSE LEAN PROTEINS
Protein foods include meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts and nut butters, and seeds. Beans and peas are also part of the vegetable group.
- Choose meats that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol, such as lean cuts of beef and chicken and turkey without skin.
- Most adults need 5 to 6 1/2 servings of protein a day (also called “ounce equivalents”). Children age 8 and younger need about 2 to 4 servings.
Examples of a serving include:
- 1 oz (28 grams) lean meat; like beef, pork, or lamb
- 1 oz (28 grams) poultry; such as turkey or chicken
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) tofu
- 1/2 cup (50 grams) cooked beans or lentils
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) peanut butter
- 1/3 cup (35 grams) nuts
Eating lean protein can help improve your health:
- Seafood high in omega-3 fats, such as salmon, sardines, or trout, can help prevent heart disease.
- Peanuts and other nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and pistachios, when eaten as part of a healthy diet, can help lower the risk of heart disease.
- Lean meats and eggs are a good source of iron
Ways to include more lean protein in your diet:
- Choose lean cuts of beef, which include sirloin, tenderloin, round, chuck, and shoulder or arm roasts and steaks.
- Choose lean pork, which include tenderloin, loin, ham, and Canadian bacon.
- Choose lean lamb, which includes tenderloin, chops, and leg.
- Buy skinless chicken or turkey, or take the skin off.
- Grill, roast, poach, or broil meats, poultry, and seafood instead of frying.
- Trim all visible fat and drain off any fat when cooking.
- Substitute peas, beans, or soy in place of meat at least once a week. Try bean chili, pea or bean soup, stir-fried tofu, rice and beans, or veggie burgers.
- Include 8 ounces (225 grams) of cooked seafood a week
5) DAIRY: CHOOSE LOW-FAT OR FAT-FREE DAIRY FOODS
Most children and adults should get about 3 cups (720 milliliters) of dairy a day. Children age 2 to 8 need about 2 to 2 1/2 cups (480 to 600 milliliters). Examples of a cup include:
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) milk
- 1 regular container of yogurt
- 1 1/2 ounces (45 grams) hard cheese (such as cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, Parmesan)
- 1/3 cup (40 grams) shredded cheese
- 2 cups (450 grams) cottage cheese
- 1 cup (250 grams) pudding made with milk or frozen yogurt
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) calcium-fortified soymilk
Eating dairy food can improve your health:
- Consuming dairy foods is important for improving bone health especially during childhood and adolescence, when bone mass is being built.
- Dairy foods have vital nutrients including calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein.
- The intake of dairy products is linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and lower blood pressure in adults.
- Low-fat or fat-free milk products provide little or no solid fat.
Ways to include low-fat foods from the dairy group in your diet:
- Include milk or calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage) as a beverage at meals. Choose fat-free or low-fat milk.
- Add fat-free or low-fat milk instead of water to oatmeal and hot cereals.
- Use fat-free or low-fat milk when making condensed cream soups (such as cream of tomato).
- Top casseroles, soups, stews, or vegetables with shredded reduced-fat or low-fat cheese.
- Use lactose-free or lower lactose products if you have trouble digesting dairy products. Also, you can get more calcium from non-dairy sources such as fortified juices, canned fish, soy foods, and green leafy vegetables.
6) OILS: EAT SMALL AMOUNTS OF HEART-HEALTHY OILS
- Oils are not a food group. However, they provide important nutrients and should be part of a healthy diet.
- Fats such as butter and shortening are solid at room temperature. They contain high levels of saturated fats or trans fats. Eating a lot of these fats can increase your risk of heart disease.
- Oils are liquid at room temperature. They contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These types of fats are generally good for your heart.
- Children and adults should get about 5 to 7 teaspoons (25 to 35 milliliters) of oil a day. Children age 8 and younger need about 3 to 4 teaspoons (15 to 20 milliliters) a day.
- Choose oils such as olive, canola, sunflower, safflower, soybean, and corn oils.
- Some foods are also high in healthy oils. They include avocados, some fish, olives, and nuts.
7) WEIGHT MANAGEMENT AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
ChooseMyPlate 8) also provides information about how to lose excess weight:
- You can use the online SuperTracker to learn what you currently eat and drink. By writing down what you eat and drink every day, you can see where you can make better choices.
- You can use the Daily Food Plan to learn what to eat and drink. You just enter your height, weight, and age to get a personalized eating plan.
- Use the SuperTracker to track your daily activity and food you eat, plus your weight.
- If you have any specific health concerns, such as heart disease or diabetes, be sure to discuss any dietary changes with your doctor or registered dietitian first.
You also learn how to make better choices, such as:
- Eating the right amount of calories to keep you at a healthy weight
- Not overeating and avoiding big portions
- Eating fewer foods with empty calories. These are foods high in sugar or fat with few vitamins or minerals.
- Eating a balance of healthy foods from all 5 food groups
- Making better choices when eating out at restaurants
- Cooking at home more often, where you can control what goes into the foods you eat
- Exercising 150 minutes a week
- Decreasing your screen time in front of the TV or computer
- Getting tips for increasing your activity level
Health Foods to help Protect your Vision
When it comes to protecting your vision, what you eat may affect what you see. Certain vitamins and minerals found in food may play a role in preventing two common causes of vision problems: cataracts—cloudy areas in the lens of the eye—and age-related macular degeneration (AMD)—a condition that causes vision loss in the macula, the part of the eye that controls central vision. While there is no definite proof, some studies suggest that eating a diet rich in certain nutrients may help 9).
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids found in the retina, and dietary intake of these compounds has been shown to have antioxidant properties and to improve pigment density in the macula. This pigment protects the cells in the macular area by absorbing excess blue and ultraviolet light and neutralizing free radicals. Lutein and zeaxanthin are usually found together in food.
You’ll find lutein and zeaxanthin in most fruits and vegetables, especially yellow and orange varieties and leafy greens. Egg yolks are an even richer source of these nutrients. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in coldwater fish, flaxseed, and walnuts. Good sources of zinc include red meat and shellfish. You’ll find vitamins A, C, and E in many vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
The retina, especially the macula, is thought to be an environment of high oxidative stress, meaning that there is an abundance of free radicals—molecules that damage proteins and DNA within cells. Antioxidants fight free radicals and are thought to help protect the retina from this damage. Some evidence shows that dietary antioxidant vitamins and minerals (A, C, and E, and the mineral zinc) may help prevent the progression of macular degeneration 10).
Dietary intake of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) may be important to retinal health. omega-3 fatty acid DHA is present in high concentrations in the outer segments of retinal photoreceptors. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and there is evidence to suggest that inflammation plays a role in AMD 11).
Research hasn’t proved how much of these nutrients we need in order to help prevent eye problems, but Dr. Kim 12) suggests following a heart-healthy diet with fish at least twice a week and at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Best food sources of eye-healthy nutrients
|Lutein, zeaxanthin||Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, corn, eggs, kale, nectarines, oranges, papayas, romaine lettuce, spinach, squash|
|Omega-3 fatty acids||Flaxseed, flaxseed oil, halibut, salmon, sardines, tuna, walnuts|
|Vitamin A||Apricots, cantaloupe (raw), carrots, mangos, red peppers (raw), ricotta cheese (part-skim), spinach, sweet potatoes|
|Vitamin C||Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, red peppers (raw), strawberries|
|Vitamin E||Almonds, broccoli, peanut butter, spinach, sunflower seeds, wheat germ|
|Zinc||Chickpeas, oysters, pork chops, red meat, yogurt|
Health Foods that can Lower your Cholesterol
Doing this requires a two-pronged strategy: Add foods that lower LDL, the harmful cholesterol-carrying particle that contributes to artery-clogging atherosclerosis. At the same time, cut back on foods that boost LDL 13).
Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways. Some deliver soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation. Some give you polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL. And some contain plant sterols and stanols, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol.
- Oats. An easy first step to improving your cholesterol is having a bowl of oatmeal or cold oat-based cereal like Cheerios for breakfast. It gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber. Add a banana or some strawberries for another half-gram. Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, with at least 5 to 10 grams coming from soluble fiber. (The average American gets about half that amount.)
- Barley and other whole grains. Like oats and oat bran, barley and other whole grains can help lower the risk of heart disease, mainly via the soluble fiber they deliver.
- Beans. Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take awhile for the body to digest, meaning you feel full for longer after a meal. That’s one reason beans are a useful food for folks trying to lose weight. With so many choices — from navy and kidney beans to lentils, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, and beyond — and so many ways to prepare them, beans are a very versatile food.
- Eggplant and okra. These two low-calorie vegetables are good sources of soluble fiber.
- Nuts. A bushel of studies shows that eating almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts is good for the heart. Eating 2 ounces of nuts a day can slightly lower LDL, on the order of 5%. Nuts have additional nutrients that protect the heart in other ways.
- Vegetable oils. Using liquid vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, and others in place of butter, lard, or shortening when cooking or at the table helps lower LDL.
- Apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits. These fruits are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL.
- Foods fortified with sterols and stanols. Sterols and stanols extracted from plants gum up the body’s ability to absorb cholesterol from food. Companies are adding them to foods ranging from margarine and granola bars to orange juice and chocolate. They’re also available as supplements. Getting 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols a day can lower LDL cholesterol by about 10%.
- Soy. Eating soybeans and foods made from them, like tofu and soy milk, was once touted as a powerful way to lower cholesterol. Analyses show that the effect is more modest — consuming 25 grams of soy protein a day (10 ounces of tofu or 2 1/2 cups of soy milk) can lower LDL by 5% to 6%.
- Fatty fish. Eating fish two or three times a week can lower LDL in two ways: by replacing meat, which has LDL-boosting saturated fats, and by delivering LDL-lowering omega-3 fats. Omega-3s reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and also protect the heart by helping prevent the onset of abnormal heart rhythms.
- Fiber supplements. Supplements offer the least appealing way to get soluble fiber. Two teaspoons a day of psyllium, which is found in Metamucil and other bulk-forming laxatives, provide about 4 grams of soluble fiber.
Health Foods to that Boost your Immune System and Fight Inflammation
One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store. Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects 14).
Your immune system attacks anything in your body that it recognizes as foreign—such as an invading microbe, plant pollen, or chemical. The process is called inflammation. Intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders protect your health.
However, sometimes inflammation persists, day in and day out, even when you are not threatened by a foreign invader. That’s when inflammation can become your enemy. Many major diseases that plague us—including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s—have been linked to chronic inflammation.
To reduce levels of inflammation, aim for an overall healthy diet. If you’re looking for an eating plan that closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, consider the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils.
In addition to lowering inflammation, a more natural, less processed diet can have noticeable effects on your physical and emotional health.
Foods that fight inflammation
Include plenty of these anti-inflammatory foods in your diet:
- olive oil
- green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
- nuts like almonds and walnuts
- fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
- fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges
To eat well start by following these easy tips from Healthy Food Guide:
- Eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day.
- Go for dark green vegetables such as broccoli, romaine lettuce, and spinach.
- Go for orange vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.
- Choose vegetables and fruit prepared with little or no added fat, sugar or salt.
- Enjoy vegetables steamed, baked or stir-fried instead of deep fried.
- Have vegetables and fruit more often than juice.
Fruit and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables Fruit and vegetables are rich in vital vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Fruit and vegetables have a high vitamin, mineral and fiber content – these nutrients are vital for your body to function well.
Several studies have proven that a good intake of fruit and vegetables may protect from developing heart disease, diabetes type 2, and cancer.
Most health departments throughout the world recommend that we consume five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. This could include either fresh, frozen or canned, or dried fruit and veggies.
A portion means either one large fruit, such as an apple, mango, or a banana, or three heaped tablespoons of vegetables. It could also include one glass of 100% fruit or vegetable juice.
A fruit/vegetable drink is one portion, no matter how big it is. Beans and pulses can also count as one portion.
We need protein for the building and repairing of tissue in our body. Protein-rich foods also include essential minerals, such as iron, magnesium, zinc, as well as B vitamins. Proteins should make up about 20 to 25 percent of our nutritional intake.
The following foods are good sources of protein:
- Tofu – a good source of protein Tofu, an example of a plant sourced protein.
- Lean meat,
- Soya (includes tofu)
Nutritionists advise that the fat in meat should be trimmed and drained away after cooking. The skin should be removed from poultry.
For people who are not vegetarians, nutritionist advise we consume fish at least twice a week, preferably fish rich in omega-3 oils, such as trout, fresh tuna, sardines, mackerel and salmon.
The canning process of tuna removes the essential oils, hence only fresh tuna is considered as an oily fish.
It is better for your health to grill, roast or microwave meats and fish, rather than frying them.
Vegans, who do not eat any foods from animal sources, may get their protein from nuts, seeds, soya, beans and quorn. Vegans may have to supplement their zinc and B12 vitamin intake as these foods are not rich in them.
Legumes are plants in the pea family that produce pods that slit open naturally along a seam (dehisce), revealing a row of seeds.
A selection of legumes Legumes help improve glycemic control.
The following are the most commonly eaten legumes:
- No Calorie Counting
You won’t need a calculator for this meal plan. Instead of adding up numbers, you swap out bad fats for heart-healthy ones. Go for olive oil instead of butter. Try fish or poultry rather than red meat. Enjoy fresh fruit and skip sugary, fancy desserts.
Eat your fill of flavorful veggies and beans. Nuts are good, but stick to a handful a day. You can have whole-grain bread and wine, but in moderate amounts.
- The Food Is Really Fresh
You won’t need to roam the frozen food aisle or hit a fast-food drive-thru. The focus is on seasonal food that’s made in simple, mouth-watering ways.
- Spices Are Delicious
Bay leaves, cilantro, coriander, rosemary, garlic, pepper, and cinnamon add so much flavor you won’t need to reach for the salt shaker. Some have health benefits, too. Coriander and rosemary, for example, have disease-fighting antioxidants and nutrients.
- Easy to Make
Healthy meals are often small, easy to assemble plates called mezzes. For your own serve-it-cold casual meal, you could put out plates of cheese, olives, and nuts.
- You Won’t Be Hungry
You digest healthy foods slowly so that you feel full longer. Hunger’s not a problem when you can munch on nuts, olives, or bites of low-fat cheese when a craving strikes. Feta and halloumi are lower in fat than cheddar but still rich and tasty.
- You’ll Stay Sharper Longer
The same goodness that protects your heart is also good for your brain. You’re not eating bad fats and processed foods, which can cause inflammation. Instead, antioxidant-rich foods make this eating style a brain-friendly choice.
- You Can Lose Weight
You’d think it would take a miracle to drop some pounds if you eat nuts, cheese, and oils. But healthy foods let you feel full and satisfied. And that helps you stick to a diet. Regular exercise is also an important part of the lifestyle.
References [ + ]
|1, 2, 4, 5.||↵||USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. 8th Edition. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/|
|3, 6, 8.||↵||https://www.choosemyplate.gov/|
|7.||↵||U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. Food guide plate. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002093.htm|
|9, 10, 11, 12.||↵||Harvard University, Harvard Health Publications – Top foods to help protect your vision – http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/top-foods-to-help-protect-your-vision|
|13.||↵||Harvard University, Harvard Health Publications – 11 foods that lower cholesterol – http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/11-foods-that-lower-cholesterol|
|14.||↵||Harvard University, Harvard Health Publications – Foods that fight inflammation – http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation|