10 foods you should be eating for optimal health

by Naïby Jacques

Did you know that foods have a direct impact on your health and longevity? Foods have the power to heal, but they also have the power to destroy. Today, cancer, diabetes and heart disease are the leading causes of death. Many degenerative diseases are mainly the result of our diet. But unfortunately, many are unaware of it and are rather looking for pleasure or ease.

If you do too, it's not your fault. Life runs at a thousand miles an hour. And the food industry and restaurants are constantly finding ways to seduce you and excite your taste buds to make you addicted to their prepared products.

And why are they so tasty, huh? How can we resist them?

It’s not so simple and the answer often lies in the desire and motivation to achieve ideal weight, strong immunity and total well-being. If that's what you want, you've come to the right place. I put together a general list of foods that are beneficial to health. Let's take a look...

10 types of powerful foods

There is a wide array of foods that are conducive to achieving optimal health. But the ones listed below are the richest in nutrients, including micronutrients (vitamins, trace elements, antioxidants/phytonutrients), and fiber. They could greatly protect you against several degenerative diseases.

 

1. Leafy greens

These are the richest and most nutrient-dense foods. They are rich in folates (natural form of folic acid) and calcium and contain small amounts of omega 3. They are full of powerful antioxidants, such as carotenoids, known to improve vision. Leafy greens specifically contain glucosinolates. These compounds would have anticancer effects [1].

The nutrients in leafy vegetables help protect you against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases and cancer [2]. Ex.: kale, collard leaves, mustard leaves, spinach, lettuce, bok choy ...

Kale, apple and BBQ tempeh saladKale, apple and BBQ tempeh salad

2. Cruciferous vegetables

These vegetables belong to the Brassicaceae family. They contain phytonutrients that modify hormones, detoxify compounds and prevent toxins from deteriorating your cells [3]. It’s believed that this would be due to sulforaphane, a substance almost exclusively found in this family. Ex.: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, radishes ...

3. Berries

They support heart health, improve blood glucose levels and reduce inflammation [4]. They would also help to fight cancer, cognitive impairment and oxidative stress. Ex: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, Concord grapes, blackberries, cherries and other varieties.

4. Legumes

Filling and versatile, they contain a large amount of soluble and insoluble fibers, as well as resistant starches, which resist the digestion process (they are not decomposed into sugars during digestion) and pass through the intestine. This helps to promote weight loss, reduce hypertension and improve cholesterol levels [5].

Some can be sprouted to increase their nutritional density (lentils, adzuki beans, chickpeas) or simply cooked.

5. Mushrooms

They would reduce the risk of respiratory infections [6]. and the same for breast cancer[7]. This is due to aromatase inhibitors, which are responsible for reducing estrogen production [8]. Ex.: Portobello, shiitake, oyster mushrooms and other varieties.

Mushroom and miso risottoMushroom and miso risotto

6. Onions (especially red and green), leek, shallots, chives, chives, and garlic

These foods belong to the allium family and possess antioxidants that fight infections and viruses. They would protect you against cancer and inflammation [9].

7. Nuts and seeds

Walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, almonds and other varieties are rich in compounds that reduce "bad" cholesterol[10]. Several seeds are very rich in omega 3 (flaxseed, chia, hemp) and contain anticancer lignans [11], These regulate hormonal levels (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin seeds).

8. Tomatoes

Elevated in lycopene (a carotenoid), they possess potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that would help protect against cancer [12] and cardiovascular diseases [13].

Heirloom tomato salad with pistachiosHeirloom tomato salad with pistachios

9. Pomegranate

This fruit has anti-inflammatory effects that would protect against chronic diseases and cancer [14] and phytonutrients that reduce the risk of heart disease [15], cognitive disorders [16] and oxidative stress [17].

10. Turmeric

With curcumin, a powerful antioxidant, this spice, fights inflammatory diseases, slows the development of colon cancer and speeds up the healing process..

Eat better and live better

Healthy eating helps you maintain a healthy weight, gives you energy and helps your immune system fight infections. And it must include lots and lots of fresh and natural whole plants (more than 70-75%). That’s because they are the richest and the densest in micronutrients (vitamins, trace elements, antioxidants), and fiber.
 
When it comes to other kinds of foods, for example fried or heavily transformed food, or food that's rich in sugar or sodium, they might cause inflammation. Consider using them sparingly or avoiding them. Of course, everything is a matter of moderation.
 
So the next time you put food in your mouth, ask yourself if it can really help you fight something in your body. Ask yourself if it's really worth it. And remember this: in the long run, you are the one that’s worth it.

 

Sources
[1] Higdon JV, Delage B, Williams DE, Dashwood RH. Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis. Pharmacol Res. 2007 Mar;55(3):224-36. Epub 2007 Jan 25.
[2] Hung HC, Joshipura KJ, Jiang R, Hu FB, Hunter D, Smith-Warner SA, Colditz GA, Rosner B, Spiegelman D, Willett WC. Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of major chronic disease. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004 Nov 3;96(21):1577-84.
[3] Topè AM, Rogers PF. Evaluation of protective effects of sulforaphane on DNA damage caused by exposure to low levels of pesticide mixture using comet assay. J Environ Sci Health B. 2009 Sep;44(7):657-62. doi: 10.1080/03601230903163624.
[4] Arpita Basu, Michael Rhone, and Timothy J Lyons. Berries: emerging impact on cardiovascular health. Nutr Rev. 2010 Mar; 68(3): 168–177. doi:  10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00273.x
[5] Papanikolaou Y, Fulgoni VL 3rd. Bean consumption is associated with greater nutrient intake, reduced systolic blood pressure, lower body weight, and a smaller waist circumference in adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2002. J Am Coll Nutr. 2008 Oct;27(5):569-76.
[6] Jeong SC, Koyyalamudi SR, Pang G. Dietary intake of Agaricus bisporus white button mushroom accelerates salivary immunoglobulin A secretion in healthy volunteers. Nutrition. 2012 May;28(5):527-31. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2011.08.005. Epub 2011 Nov 23.
[7] Li J, Zou L, Chen W, Zhu B, Shen N, Ke J, Lou J, Song R, Zhong R, Miao X. Dietary mushroom intake may reduce the risk of breast cancer: evidence from a meta-analysis of observational studies. PLoS One. 2014 Apr 1;9(4):e93437. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093437. eCollection 2014.
[8] C J Fabian. The what, why and how of aromatase inhibitors: hormonal agents for treatment and prevention of breast cancer. Int J Clin Pract. 2007 Dec; 61(12): 2051–2063.
[9] Nicastro HL, Ross SA, Milner JA. Garlic and onions: their cancer prevention properties. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2015 Mar;8(3):181-9. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-14-0172. Epub 2015 Jan 13.
[10] Emilio Ros. Health Benefits of Nut Consumption. Nutrients. 2010 Jul; 2(7): 652–682.
[11] Levi F, Pasche C, Lucchini F, La Vecchia C. Dietary fibre and the risk of colorectal cancer. Eur J Cancer. 2001 Nov;37(16):2091-6.
[12] Van Breemen RB, Pajkovic N. Multitargeted therapy of cancer by lycopene. Cancer Lett. 2008;269:339–51.
[13] Karppi J, Laukkanen JA, Mäkikallio TH, et al. Low serum lycopene and ß-carotene increase risk of acute myocardial infarction in men. Eur J Public Health. 2012 Dec;22(6):835–40.
[14] Eleonora Turrini, Lorenzo Ferruzzi, and Carmela Fimognari. Potential Effects of Pomegranate Polyphenols in Cancer Prevention and Therapy. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2015; 2015: 938475.
[15] Aviram M, Dornfeld L. Pomegranate juice consumption inhibits serum angiotensin converting enzyme activity and reduces systolic blood pressure. Atherosclerosis. 2001;158:195–98.
[16] Bookheimer SY, Renner BA, Ekstrom A, Li Z, Henning SM, Brown JA, Jones M, Moody T, Small GW. Pomegranate juice augments memory and FMRI activity in middle-aged and older adults with mild memory complaints. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:946298. doi: 10.1155/2013/946298. Epub 2013 Jul 22.
[17] Aviram M, Dornfeld L, Rosenblat M, Volkova N, Kaplan M, Coleman R, Hayek T, Presser D, Fuhrman B. Pomegranate juice consumption reduces oxidative stress, atherogenic modifications to LDL, and platelet aggregation: studies in humans and in atherosclerotic apolipoprotein E-deficient mice. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 May;71(5):1062-76.

Naïby Jacques
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Naïby Jacques

Passionate about holistic health, Naïby Jacques is on a mission to help people add more plant foods to their diet by giving clever life hacks with simple and mouthwatering recipes. Get her free e-cookbook 14 recettes crues, simples et satisfaisantes qui séduiront votre entourage (French only) on her blog De Bon Cru.

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