A lot of people into health and fitness might have great bodies on the outside; low body fat levels and rippling muscles, but on the inside their bodies are a mess. A diet of protein shakes, skinless chicken breasts and rice might give you a great body, but it sure as heck won’t make you healthy on the inside. What’s the point of looking good on the outside if you’re setting yourself up for sickness and ill health in the future?
Whilst this is by no means a definitive list, here is my top 10 foods you ought to be including in your diet to stay healthy and perform better.
If you think spinach is going to give you bulging muscles like popeye, think again. This reputation probably stems from a mistake in early research, which erroneously reported the iron content as being ten times higher than it actually is. Nevertheless, there is still a good amount of iron in spinach as well as many other nutrients and phytonutrients.
Spinach contains very high levels of potassium and folate. It also contains the antioxidants CoQ10 and glutathione and contains significant amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids. It has been reported to lower homocysteine levels (related to coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.), reduce the risk of degenerative eye disease and many, if not all, types of cancer.
It should be eaten both raw and cooked, as cooking it makes some of the nutrients more bioavailable, but degrades others at the same time.
What better way to get your Omega-3 fatty acids than from the fish itself, instead of relying on salmon oil capsules to get your quota? Fish is also a great source of high quality protein.
There has been quite a bit of negative press over farmed fish recently. Studies have shown that farmed salmon contain 10 times more PCB’s (toxic industrial compounds) than wild salmon. Also, the farm raised fish are fed a diet that is based on corn and grain so the fatty acid profiles of the fish aren’t that much different from other animal meat sources. Basically, they are lacking in the Omega-3 fatty acid that guarantee their entry into this list in the first place! For these reason, I recommend that you choose wild salmon wherever possible.
If you want to read all about the benefits of Omega 3’s derived from salmon, you can brush up by reading What Everybody Ought to Know About Salmon Oil
As tasty as they are, this is not an excuse to eat blueberry muffins, even if you can actually find more than a couple of berries in your average muffin!
Blueberries are great because of the high levels of anti-oxidants they contain. Anti-oxidants are free radical scavengers and free-radicals are known to be a cause of cancer. Also, blueberries contain a lot of fibre and are low on the glycemic index, making them ideal to eat at any time.
The humble blueberry
Try buying frozen blueberries as they have don’t loose their mojo when frozen and you don’t have to worry about them going bad. Some brands have added sugar, so watch out and read your labels. I add them to my yoghurt and to my oatmeal to spice things up a bit.
Ground Flax Seeds
Also called Linseed, these little gems are the best source of plant based Omega 3’s. Why do I keep banging on about Omega 3’s? Well, the modern western diet has a serious deficiency of Omega 3 fatty acid, so we need to include as many sources as possible to balance out our fatty acid profiles.
They also contain a large dose of fibre, considerable amounts of protein, are high in magnesium and also contain high levels of phyto-estrogens. For you guys out there worried about consuming estrogens from flax, don’t be. A small amount of these phyto-estrogens is actually very good for you and won’t lead to prostate cancer or the dreaded man boobs that many people claim.
You can usually find them in supermarkets pre-ground. If you want a cheaper option, you can buy the seeds and grind them yourself in a food blender of better yet, a coffee grinder. Once ground, they need to be kept refrigerated. You can add them to shakes, sprinkle on salads or add them to your oatmeal.
The Mediterranean’s have long been aware of the power of olive oil in a healthy diet. Over seventy percent of the fats from olive oil come from monounsaturated fats, another type of fat that the average person is deficient in on a western diet. Including olive oil in the diet will again help to balance out your fatty acid profile.
Photo credit: Xavier Cazin
Olive oil also includes polyphenols, a potent anti-oxidant. It provides protection against heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol levels (the bad) and raising HDL cholesterol levels (the good). There is also evidence that olive oil helps in the fight against colon cancer.
Despite all the benefits, olive oil also tastes great and can be drizzled on almost anything. Just remember not to overdo it – Olive oil is still a fat and very caloric dense. Even though it’s a good fat, it still contains 9 calories per gram and this can add up quickly, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
Tomorrow, I follow up this post with the remaining 5 super foods. Until then, try to eat at least a couple of foods from this list.
Looking for the best nutritional system on the web to get in shape fast? Why not check out Dr John Berardi’s Precision Nutrition.