One of the best things you can do for your overall health and well-being is to maintain a healthy diet. When you consume locally grown, organic, whole foods it optimizes your health and provides your body with the foundation it needs to heal from illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune disorders.
To put it simply, our bodies can be healed with proper nutrition and healthy eating habits.
Eating healthy foods regularly, being mindful of portion size and the timing of meals, and combining foods for efficient digestion will help you to heal your body and optimize your health.
Many of us consider eating healthy to be a no-brainer. We know that eating our veggies and limiting desserts is a good idea, but we don’t always know what foods to eat to optimize our health, so I’m sharing some foods that pack a nutritional punch and are well-known for their ability to heal the body.
Top 10 Foods Dr. Judy Recommends for Overall Health
Avocados are a nutrient-dense fruit that contains at least 20 vitamins and minerals. They are also composed of seventy percent monounsaturated fatty acids, a type of healthy fat that promotes heart health by blocking the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). In addition, high levels of fiber, beta-sitosterol compounds, magnesium, and potassium have been shown to reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure in multiple human studies (1). All of these nutrients are plentiful in avocados.
Berries, specifically blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries, are nutritional powerhouses and consuming them has been shown to decrease the risk of inflammation, heart disease, and cancer. This is due in part to the following three compounds:
- Antioxidants: substances that inhibit oxidation and deterioration; they protect cells from damage and disease.
- Flavonoids: powerful antioxidants that help boost the immune system and reduce internal inflammation.
- Resveratrol: an antioxidant that has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain and support healthy brain function.
Onions and Garlic
Onions and garlic are best known as flavor agents. They can take a simple dish from boring and bland to flavorful and delicious. That’s not all they are good for, however. The antioxidants in onions can help reduce the risk of colon, ovarian, and mouth cancers, and their sulfur compounds have been shown to prevent the growth of tumors by protecting cells from mutation (2).
Similarly, a study of 345 breast cancer patients found that increasing garlic consumption, along with onion and fiber, could reduce the risk of breast cancer (3). Eating onions several times a week and consuming a clove of raw garlic each day is the best way to reap the rewards of these anti-inflammatory foods on a consistent basis.
Eggs have gotten a bad rap over the years due to their high cholesterol content, but eggs are not bad for your health or your heart. Studies have shown that eggs help regulate cholesterol absorption and inflammation in the bloodstream, which balances the ratio of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) to low-density lipoproteins (LDLs). This balancing act helps to reduce the risk of heart disease (4). To get the most nutrition from this protein-packed food, choose the cage-free variety.
The health benefits of coconut oil have been questioned as of late, but like eggs, it is a health supportive food. Studies have shown that increasing your intake of saturated fats like coconut oil can boost your body’s HDL, or good cholesterol, levels. Since your brain, spinal cord, and nerves are made up of twenty-five percent cholesterol, consuming coconut oil may help improve neurological health (5).
Green Leafy Vegetables
Arguably, the greatest property of green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, and swiss chard is their anti-inflammatory potency. They are also loaded with antioxidants, like vitamins A, C, and K which can protect your brain from oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
Wild caught salmon is one of the most nutritious foods available. It’s rich in Omega-3 fatty acids as well as several vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and Selenium. Its rich nutritional profile has been shown to increase lifespan, and prevent illnesses, like heart disease and cancer.
Sweet potatoes are a rich source of several vital nutrients, including fiber, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, and beta-carotene. They have also been shown to stabilize blood sugar.
A study published in Metabolism journal showed that treating diabetic patients with Caiapo, a type of white sweet potato, improved insulin sensitivity. Insulin is the hormone responsible for transporting sugar from the blood to the tissues where it is used for energy. An improvement in insulin sensitivity allows this process to occur more efficiently, enabling the body to maintain normal blood sugar levels (6).
Flaxseeds have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help manage diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. They are also a great source of plant-based protein, fiber, and minerals like thiamine and magnesium.
Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussel sprouts, are low in calories and packed with nutrients. Their individual nutrition profiles vary, but they are all high in dietary fiber as well as vitamins A, C, and K. In addition, cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates – sulfur compounds with cancer-fighting properties (7).
Each of these foods packs a nutritional punch and can help to improve your overall health. However, it’s not enough to simply consider the nutrition content of foods, we must also consider the way in which we are eating. How we eat is just as important as what we eat.
Here are a few guidelines that will help you to make the most of these nutritious foods:
- Fill 60-70% of your plate with a variety of vegetables.
- Incorporate 20 grams of animal-based or plant-based protein into each meal.
- Consume healthy fats at each meal, like avocados, coconut, olives, nuts, and seeds. Fat consumption should be 15-20% of each meal.
- Gluten-free grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats should be limited to 2-3 servings each week.
- Limit fruit consumption to 2 servings per day. If possible, choose berries as they have a low glycemic index.
- Keep refined sugar consumption to a minimum, no more than 25 grams daily.
- Avoid processed and hydrogenated oils (margarine, canola oil, soy, and cottonseed oil), as well as preservatives, food additives, and dyes.
- When consuming animal products, choose grass-fed, free-range, and wild caught varieties.
- Avoid genetically modified foods, like corn, soy, beets, and papayas.
- Choose organic and locally grown foods as much as possible.
The most important guideline of all is: listen to your body! While all of these foods and guidelines can be beneficial, they may not all work for your unique body and needs. Remember, there is no one size fits all diet, so choose the foods and ways of eating that are supportive of your health goals and make you feel your best.