Eat Well to Be Well: Five foods for fabulous health

All foods can be part of a healthy diet. Just about any dietitian will tell you this unless you have a medical condition or food allergy that prohibits you from eating certain foods. It’s also important to eat a variety of foods each day to increase the likelihood of obtaining adequate nutrients. But are there certain foods that are particularly nutritious? Yes!

The following five foods are standouts when it comes to being packed with healthy nutrients that may keep your eyesight sharp, help you lose weight and protect you from conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Of course, there are many other nutrient rich foods to include in your diet and that’s why variety is key. Including these five foods along with other nutrient rich foods increases your chances of optimal health.

1. Blueberries – Bursting with healthy nutrients, this fruit is one not to skip. Eat one cup and you’ll consume 4 grams of fiber and plenty of vitamin C. Blueberries also contain the antioxidant ellagic acid which may protect against cancer along with boosting your brain health and vision.

2. Broccoli – If you’ve never liked broccoli, you may want to give it a second try. This dark green vegetable is one of the richest sources of vitamin A you’ll find in the produce aisle and contains about 3.8 grams of fiber per serving. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, broccoli has more vitamin C than an orange (51 mg in an orange; 132 mg in 1 cup broccoli), and is a good source of calcium at 70 mg in 1 cup. Scientists at John Hopkins University of Medicine have discovered that broccoli is rich in substances called isothiocyanates, chemicals shown to stimulate the body’s production of its own cancer-fighting substances.

3. Edamame – Such a funny name for a superstar food! Edamame is a fancy name for boiled green soybeans. If you’ve ever been to a Japanese restaurant you may have had this legume as an appetizer. One half cup of this unique tasting bean provides an impressive 9 grams of fiber, 11 grams of protein, and 10 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin C and iron. It’s also known to help lower “bad” cholesterol, protect against colon cancer and strengthen bones. It makes a great snack food or can be added into recipes. Edamame is in the frozen food aisle either shelled or unshelled.

4. Quinoa – Pronounced “Keen-wah”, this seed was first eaten by the Incas over 3,000 years ago. Called “the gold of the Incas”, they believed it increased the stamina of their warriors. It’s now called “the supergrain of the future” due to its multiple health benefits. In a one-half cup serving, quinoa provides 11 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Fiber helps to lower cholesterol, lowers the risk of developing hemorrhoids and aids in weight loss. It also contains ample magnesium, zinc, riboflavin and has more iron than true grains. Its mild flavor can easily be substituted for rice.

5. Salmon – If you feel like you’re swimming upstream in lowering your cholesterol, triglycerides or high blood pressure, adding salmon a couple of times a week may be the answer. This fatty fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) which are important in combating heart disease. Studies have also shown that eating salmon may protect against age-related macular degeneration. A very recent study reported in the British Medical Journal showed that eating just one to two portions a week of salmon or other fatty fish rich in marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids is associated with a 14 percent reduced risk of breast cancer in later life. Salmon also is one of the best natural sources of vitamin D providing 320 IU (International Units) per 3-ounce serving. In addition, it’s also low in sodium and is a very good source of protein, vitamin B12 and selenium.

Even if you currently don’t eat any of the above foods, make a goal to add one each week until they are a regular part of your diet. Here is a recipe from Eating Well magazine that uses one of the five foods. I’ve made this recipe numerous times and it always gets great compliments. You could substitute the wheat berries with quinoa.

Black Bean, Edamame and Wheat Berry Salad

  • 4 cups water
  • ½ cup dry wheat berries (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand)
  • 1 15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen, shelled edamame, thawed
  • ½ finely chopped red onion
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Combine water and wheat berries in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 55 minutes or until wheat berries are tender. Place in a fine mesh strainer, run under cold water to cool quickly, drain. Combine the wheat berries with the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 8 hours in advance.


Cheryl_Mussatto_pictureCheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian who works as an adjunct professor at Allen Community College, where she teaches a course called Basic Nutrition. She is also a certified health and wellness coach. She writes Eat Well to Be Well, a column about health and nutrition, and may be contacted at [email protected].

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