What is the healthiest food?
Healthy foods are those that are nutritionally dense, thanks to the large amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other powerful substances they contain. Because of their strong nutritional profiles, they bring with them lots of health benefits.
It is difficult to crown a single food as being the healthiest. This is because lots of foods have their own unique advantages for our health. There may be numerous pros of eating a certain food, but it still might be missing the benefits brought about by other foods.
Good health is brought about by eating a varied diet that consists of lots of different nutritious foods.
That being said, there are certain foods that I consider to be the most beneficial to our health, and eating them regularly is highly recommended. In this article I will list out these foods and briefly mention the health benefits of eating them.
If you have read about nutrition in the past, you probably know that kale is often considered to be the healthiest food on the planet.
A one cup serving of raw kale provides you with 684% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin K, 206% DV vitamin A and 134% DV vitamin C.
It also has smaller amounts of important minerals such as calcium, manganese, potassium and magnesium. All of this for just 33 calories, making it one of the most nutrient dense foods known to man.
Kale is a leafy vegetable and a member of the cabbage family. Most people are familiar with green kale but it can also be purple in colour.
It is rich in antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol, which help to reduce damage caused by free radicals in the body, lower blood pressure, and fight off cancer.
Studies have also found that kale may be able to lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease and improve eye health. And thanks to its low calorie and high fiber content, it is a very weight loss friendly food.
Kale can be eaten in many different ways. It can be used as the base ingredient in salads, added to smoothies & soups or steamed and eaten as a side. Other leafy greens like spinach, Swiss chard and collard greens also have similar health benefits and can be eaten in place of kale.
Like kale, blueberries have also been touted as being the healthiest food you can eat. This is probably because they are thought to have the highest antioxidant capacity when compared to other commonly consumed vegetables and fruits. For this reason, they are often referred to as being a superfood, and are very good for you.
Various studies have investigated the antioxidant benefits of blueberries. This study found that drinking a mixture of blueberry and apple juice reduced free radical damage to DNA by 20%. Another study found that obese men and women who ate a 50 g serving of blueberries daily had a decrease in LDL cholesterol oxidation by 27%.
Other studies have found that blueberries can help improve memory and maintain brain function, have anti-diabetic effects and are beneficial for heart health.
Blueberries are naturally sweet and can be eaten on their own, added to yogurt or baked in desserts. Fresh blueberries are the best kind but the frozen type can work equally as well. In place of blueberries you can also eat strawberries, blackberries or raspberries.
Eggs contain all of the nutrients that are required to obtain a baby chicken from a single cell. This gives you an idea of just how much nutrients they hold. Indeed, eggs contain vitamins A, D, E, the B vitamins, phosphorus, iron, zinc, selenium and calcium.
They are also a complete protein source because they provide us with all 9 essential amino acids. A large (50 g) egg has 6 g of high quality protein. Because of this, they are very filling and are the ideal breakfast food to eat when trying to lose weight or build muscle.
Eggs have been a controversial subject in the past because of their high cholesterol levels, all of which is found in the yolk. In fact, a single egg provides more than half the recommended daily intake of cholesterol.
However new studies seem to suggest that eggs don’t adversely affect blood cholesterol in most people and eating up to 3 whole eggs per day is fine. But like with many things in nutrition, there is no one rule that fits all. Your best option is to speak to your doctor so that he or she can advise you on how many eggs you should be eating per week.
Because of their versatility, eggs can be cooked in a number of healthy ways.
Despite its taste and texture, the avocado is a fruit and not a vegetable. However unlike most fruits, it is rich in fat, which is what gives it its thick creamy consistency.
Some people tend to associate all fat rich foods with bad health, but this is far from the truth. This is because not all fat is created equal and the type of fat that a food contains makes all the difference. Much of the fat found in avocados is a monounsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid, which is heart healthy and has been linked to reduced inflammation.
Avocados also contain large amounts of dietary fiber; a 200 g avocado provides you with roughly half of your daily value. Fiber helps to fill you up and also feeds the friendly bacteria found in your intestines.
Studies have shown that avocados may help prevent cancer, lower triglyceride levels and assist with the absorption of certain nutrients from plant based foods.
I had always thought that avocados just have a lot of fat, and nothing else, so the first time I had a look at their nutritional profile, I was extremely shocked.
The truth is avocados are bursting with significant amounts of a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. In fact, if I had to personally choose the healthiest food on Earth, it would be a tie between eggs and avocados.
Avocados can be eaten whether you are trying to lose or gain weight. One of their most common uses is to prepare guacamole, a delicious Mexican dip.
This brown coloured seed of the almond tree is native to the Middle East and is enjoyed worldwide. A general trend that can be seen between the foods in this article is that they are rich sources of numerous nutrients, and almonds are no different.
Almonds contain large amounts of protein, fiber and fat. A 1 ounce (28 g) serving provides you with 6 g of protein, 3 g of fiber and 14 g of fat. Because of their high fat content, almonds have more calories than other types of food.
The skins of almonds are rich in antioxidants, which as you know by now reduce oxidative stress and free radical damage. One study found that 84 g of almonds per day reduced oxidative stress biomarkers by 23 – 34% in male smokers.
Almonds are also high in vitamin E, which protects cell membranes from damage. Out of all of the foods found in our healthy food finder tool, almonds have the second largest amount of vitamin E when compared weight for weight.
Some other notable nutrients that they have are manganese and magnesium.
Almonds may be able to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduce hunger and can assist with blood sugar control.
Just like almonds, there are other nuts and seeds that are equally as healthy. These include Brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. Eating an assortment of nuts and seeds is therefore recommended.
6. Ginger & garlic
Ginger and garlic go hand in hand. Both have been eaten for centuries, thanks to their many medicinal properties. Ginger contains gingerol, whereas garlic contains allicin, a compound that gives it its distinct smell.
Ginger can be used to treat nausea and may drastically lower blood sugar levels. It is also used to treat indigestion, menstrual pain and certain types of infections.
As for garlic, studies have found that supplementing with it boosts immune system function and may drastically reduce the number of colds that a person suffers from.
Other studies have found that both ginger and garlic can improve cholesterol levels, may help prevent brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, can increase athletic performance and could even improve bone health.
Ginger and garlic produce a mouth watering aroma when cooked that quickly spreads around the house. You should try and incorporate them when preparing soups, stir fry’s, sauces and salad dressings. Ginger tea can also be prepared by brewing the root in boiling water.
7. Dark chocolate
Who would have ever thought of chocolate as being healthy? Well it’s true, dark chocolate is not only delicious, but brings with it various health benefits.
An important point to note is that we are talking about high quality dark chocolate here and not milk or white chocolate. This kind of dark chocolate is high in cacao solids and has very little sugar added, giving it a slightly bitter taste.
A 100 g bar of dark chocolate contains 67% of the recommended daily amount of iron, 98% manganese, 89% copper and 58% magnesium. It also has biologically active compounds such as polyphenols and flavanols that function as antioxidants. A study showed that dark chocolate contains even more antioxidant activity than blueberries.
Dark chocolate may improve blood flow, raise HDL (good) cholesterol, lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, protect your skin from the sun and improve brain function.
Some people don’t like the taste of dark chocolate, whereas others have built up a taste and actually prefer it over other types of chocolate. Because it is high in calories and can be very addictive, eating small amounts is advised in order to reap the health benefits that it has to offer.
Most types of fish are good for you because they provide certain nutrients, such as iodine, that a lot of people don’t get enough of.
Additionally, fish is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are needed for overall good health. Because of the over-consumption of foods like vegetable oils, modern diets tend to have an imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which brings about a wide range of health problems. Eating fish more often can help to restore this balance.
Fish is the best dietary source of vitamin D. This vitamin is needed for bone, teeth and muscle health. Being deficient in it can lead to pain and tenderness of the bones.
Studies have found that eating fish might help prevent & treat depression, reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases, protect vision and improve brain health.
It is important to eat high quality fish. Whenever possible, opt for fish that is wild-caught instead of farmed. Some notable types of fish are salmon, trout and tuna.
If you are pregnant, it is very important to discuss the types of fish that you can eat with your doctor.
This list is by no means exhaustive and only provides an indication of some very nutritious foods that you should add to your diet. Our list of 100+ healthy foods provides an even more comprehensive overview, so give it a quick read if you want to discover some healthy foods that you may not have heard of.