Don’t be fooled by all the diet plans and weight loss milkshakes on the market: Healthy eating is much easier than you might think. All it takes to stay stay fit, energized, and healthy is a basic understanding of the vitamins and nutrients that help our bodies perform at peak levels. You might be surprised at how many standard eats are among the world’s healthiest foods.
Read on to learn about some of them best sources of vitamins and nutrients, and how to make them a part of your diet.
When it comes to your health, it’s hard to go wrong in the leafy green family, and kale is one of the best in the bunch. Time reports that this veggie is chock-full of cancer-fighting antioxidants and clot-preventing vitamin K. Although spinach and kale are neck-and-neck when it comes to health benefits, The Huffington Post Canada concludes that kale’s vast range of essential vitamins and minerals gives it the edge.
You can make kale a part of your diet with a quick and simple sauté treatment. If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, try this easy recipe for tahini-coated kale chips from The Pancake Princess.
Data from the USDA shows that quinoa offers an incredible 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per cooked cup — that’s even more fiber than other whole grains! Forbes adds that quinoa’s high iron content increases brain function and boosts red blood cell growth. This handy chart from Prevention helps illustrate the nutritional edge that quinoa has over grains like brown rice when it comes to calcium, magnesium, and more.
Quinoa is a great (gluten-free) rice substitute and can be used to make vegetarian-friendly burgers. Try these spiced quinoa patties from Soup Addict, or incorporate the grain into any of your favorite casseroles or salads; we’re fans of this Thai quinoa salad from Eat Good 4 Life.
Time to bone up on your almond knowledge: Did you know these nuts offer high levels of bone-strengthening calcium? USDA data also show that 1 ounce of almonds contains 6 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber. To top it all off, they’re packed with monounsaturated fat, which helps to lower LDL cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Try eating almonds on their own as a snack, or add a bit of an Asian twist to them with Fountain Avenue Kitchen’s recipe for tamari-glazed almonds.
4. Fat-free Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt is one of the best nutritional choices you can make in your kitchen. WebMD notes that although many yogurts are great sources of calcium, potassium, protein, zinc, and B vitamins, Greek yogurt’s thicker, creamier texture offers twice the protein count of standard yogurts.
FitDay highlights Greek yogurt’s versatility when it comes to snacking and meal time: It’s wonderful with fresh fruit or honey, or it can be incorporated into sauces such as Tide and Thyme’s dip-able recipe for tzatziki — the perfect complement to veggies, pitas, and more.
5. Olive oil
A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which help temper cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. CNN reports the polyphenol antioxidants found in olive oil can also help prevent cell damage.
A 2013 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found, among subjects at elevated cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil helped reduce incidence of “major cardiovascular events.” Additionally, a 2012 study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry linked a diet high in extra-virgin olive oil with increased cognition.
Olive oil may be rife with health benefits, but it is highly caloric and is best consumed in moderation. Use it to sauté your favorite veggies, or try Bourbon and Honey’s recipe for sautéed baby bok choy with garlic.
Savory lentils are a satisfying addition to any meal, containing 15.6 grams of dietary fiber and 17.9 grams of protein per boiled cup. Livestrong adds the high protein count in lentils aids in new cell growth. These members of the legume family are also packed with iron, boosting your red blood cell count while maximizing your energy stores.
You can enjoy lentils in a warming soup such as Veggie Belly’s Arabic lentil stew or in Pinch of Yum’s irresistibly-spiced red lentil curry. If you’re looking for a cooler way to indulge in your legumes, try A Family Feast’s lentil salad with brown rice and feta.
Turns out there’s more truth to the “apple a day” adage than we might have thought. USDA data shows one large-size apple contains 116 calories and 5.4 grams of fiber. Time adds that the fruit specifically contains a soluble fiber called pectin, which helps eradicate bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers the risk of heart disease. Apple skin contains high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
Apples are a wonderful snack on their own or with protein-rich peanut butter. If you’d like to try snacking with style, try munching on these spiced cinnamon apple chips from Sally’s Baking Addiction.