By Holly Pellham Davis
When it comes to food, my motto is, “You are what your food eats.” A healthy diet isn’t about deprivation, rather it hinges on eating the right things. After all, food is our best medicine, and food that’s been grown free of toxins and chemicals is essential. With that in mind, I wanted to share a list of my top 15 favorite foods for helping you and your family achieve optimal health.
1. Avocados – A perfect source of essential fatty acids and unsaturated fats, a great source of folate, with more potassium than bananas, avocados are a nutrient dense food, high in phytochemicals, carotenoid, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin B-6, fiber, and glutathione. Studies show salads and salsa eaten with avocados increase carotenoid absorption. Served with eggs, salsa, and black beans in the morning, tossed in a fresh green salad for lunch, or chopped into quinoa for dinner with a squeeze of lemon, it’s a fruit that compliments just about anything.
2. Kale – A rock star in food circles and rightfully so. Kale is high in antioxidants and vitamins including Vitamins K (1,020%!), Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B-6, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. It’s also a great source of minerals including: calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. As if that wasnʼt enough, kale also contains the phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin (fights macular degeneration) and polyphenols (awesome free radical killers). Oh and it’s good for your bones, reduces cancer risk, and helps about every single bodily function. How can you top that? It’s best prepared raw by massaging the leaves to tenderize or slightly cooked.
3. Raw Organic Cacao Nibs – Scoring a 621 on the ORAC scale of antioxidant power (blueberries have a score of 65), cacao is a key to health. As the magical bean that begets chocolate, cacao nibs (at least 70% cacao) can be added to protein shakes, baked goods, topped on organic plain non-fat yogurt, or mixed with nuts and seeds for a mid-day snack. Note: This nutritional value information does not apply to chocolate candy or candy bars. (Darn.)
4. Mushrooms – Used for thousands of years in medicines, mushrooms are a powerhouse immunity builder, cancer cell killer, and healer of cardiovascular and liver problems. Mushrooms are high in Vitamin B and naturally possess anti- inflammatory and anti-viral properties. Cooking enhances their potency in most varieties, so sauté with fresh minced garlic and dig in!
5. Salmon – Salmon is natureʼs ultimate source of omega 3 fatty acids, DHA, and astaxanthin. But only Wild Alaskan/Pacific Coho, Russian River, or Sockeye, please. And be sure to purchase from a responsible source and do your part to conserve.
6. Flaxseeds – With a shift in focus within the health community on more Omega-3 fatty acids and less Omega-6s, freshly consuming ground flax seeds is an easy way to balance the ratio. (The research is especially promising for Omega 3ʼs ability to block hormone-related cancers.) Flaxseeds are proven to reduce LDL cholesterol and lower average blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The best source is organic, freshly ground. Use within 20 minutes of grinding. Ground flaxseeds and flaxseed oil with DHA are also a wonderful alternative to fish oil.
7. Seeds & Nuts – From almonds and walnuts t0 pumpkin and sesame, seeds are bursting with nutrients as they are ready to sprout new life. Rich in omega 3 fatty acids, zinc, amino acids, iron, phosphorus, vitamins, and protein, they are seriously good for you. Almonds and walnuts offer awesome health benefits with omega 3s, and the filling unsaturated fat makes them a great snack food that provides protein and antioxidant power.
8. Quinoa – A perfect seed (not grain) , quinoa is easy to cook, high in fiber, and a good source of non-animal protein (11 grams per half cup!) It’s super versatile and perfect for on the go, add kale and your set.
9. Broccoli – This green veggie is one of the best cancer blockers around, as it modifies natural estrogens into less damaging forms and increases enzymes that fight free radicals and carcinogens. It’s high in Vitamins C, K, Folate, and Choline; minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium; and powerful phytochemicals that stimulate the bodies immune system. Eat at least 3-4 servings per week, and never over cook (mushy broccoli is not just less health, it’s a bummer).
10. Green Tea & Matcha– Studies have shown the antioxidant power in one cup of green tea, especially polyphenol-rich Matcha, to be superior in improving immunity, aiding digestion, and fighting the signs of aging. There’s also evidence that the high antioxidant levels of green tea are associated with reduced cancer risk. (I drink a cup every night!) Caution regarding your source. Choose only organic, Japanese green teas that have been tested for radiation and heavy metals such as lead and aluminum.
11. Garlic & Onions – High in Sulfur compounds and antioxidants, these bad breath boys will blow out your arteries (in a good way), assisting in the reduction of blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. Consuming them can also help treat hair loss (allicin) and help fight cancer. Garlic is a natural anti-bacterial and antibiotic that is 100 times more effective than two commonly prescribed antibiotic drugs. Stinky garlic is also an anti-inflammatory.
12. Turmeric – An excellent anti-inflammatory, liver cleansing, anti-cancer food, turmeric has received lots of well deserved recognition of late. I eat turmeric daily, fresh in my morning protein shake. Ginger is fellow root star with common properties and digestive enzymes to boost its power pack.
13. Wheatgrass – Weighing in with twenty times more density than other veggies, and containing 103 vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, wheat grass is seriously nutrient rich. It’s especially high in Vitamins A, B Complex, C, E, and K; beta-carotene; and chlorophyll which helps to detoxify the body and build immunity. Wheatgrass is best taken as a freshly juiced shot (I add mine to my daily protein shake), but be sure to ease into it, as drinking too much too soon can hit you with a hard and fast release of toxins.
14. Lentils – A great substitute for animal protein with 9 grams of protein per half cup, plus heart healthy folate, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, lentils are a seriously healthy, easy to cook go-to food. Toss in soups and salads or eat alone as a side dish. They cook, start to finish, in about 20 minutes! This is one of my pantry staples… you canʼt go wrong.
15. Purified Water – Yes, I know it seems obvious, but you can not cook, live, or be truly well without clean, purified water. Use it in your teas, coffees, soups, to wash your vegetables and fruits, boil your pasta, steam your veggies, and soak your beans. It is the single most important ingredient to our health.
Hereʼs to using our fork for our health!
Holly Pellham Davis is the founder of Clean Fresh Living, Inc., a service focused on educating consumers and families on the importance of healthy, organic, sustainable living for life and generations to come. You can hear more from Holly on her Clean Fresh Living blog, twitter, and Facebook.