Our health depends on a variety of factors, primarily our physical and emotional well-being. These two forms of our health are largely influenced by the foods we eat, the movement we get, the relationships we have, and the environments we’re exposed to. Our previous health histories and genetics of course play a part, but we have a powerful ability to optimize our health with each and every action we take. While that can feel intimidating, it’s better to let it empower you. Exercise and emotional health are two incredibly important factors of our health, but those two things will do nothing for your health without a proper diet. Food sends a message to our brains, digestive systems, our blood, our heart, our immune system, and every single cell in our bodies.
What we put in is ultimately what we get out.
There are a variety of healthy foods out there that will benefit your health. Not one set or combination will work the same for everyone, however, when it comes to choices we can all bet on, there are some “power foods” that everyone can add to maximize their health—even change their health—in a very short amount of time.
This leafy green enhances eye health, mood health, and creates a positive pH in the body. Spinach contains lutein to help us see better and prevent cataracts, it creates youthful skin through vitamin E content, contains B vitamins, magnesium and protein to boost our neurotransmitter function, and it’s one of the most alkaline green foods out there to reduce inflammation. Spinach also packs in more vitamin C than many fruits and contains a nice dose of iron and folate to keep you energized. Swap out iceberg for spinach to improve your health in just a few bites!
Raw almonds can benefit your weight, mood, heart, bone, nervous system, and digestive health. They’re a great source of easy-to-digest protein with 7 grams per 1/4 cup and they contain B vitamins, magnesium and potassium to benefit your mood and blood sugar levels. Almonds also contain calcium to boost bone health and biotin to keep your hair, skin and nails healthy. Their mono-unsaturated fats are also some of the best to promote a satiated belly and a lean body naturally.
This white veggie is finally taking the reigns once again on all the many benefits it holds. Sure, broccoli, we still love you, but cauliflower boasts some especially powerful mood benefits. (Maybe that’s why everyone loves it so much these days!) Cauliflower is one of the highest sources of B vitamins of all vegetables, which are crucial to optimal mood health. It’s also high in vitamin C and antioxidants that reduce the effects of cancer and improve immune health.
Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, protein, mono-unsaturated fats, they are low in carbohydrates and contain no starch, and they’re a good source of manganese. Walnuts are also a terrific replacement to meat in dishes like tacos, or they can be used in breakfast bars. Walnuts have been linked to a reduced rate of Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and diabetes. Not to mention, they’re also helpful for satisfying you in a small serving to prevent sugar cravings from taking over.
Coconut contains some of the most unique saturated fatty acids out there. We should not be avoiding these! Saturated fats from coconuts are some of the best fats for the brain, muscles, and have not been shown to raise cholesterol levels. Coconut also contains amino acids (protein) and a whopping dose of fiber to lower blood sugar. If you crave sugar, have a tablespoon of raw coconut butter and see how much better you feel. The fats change the way your brain functions and lower cravings for unhealthy foods. Best of all, coconut contains anti-bacterial properties that fight yeast and fungi to promote a healthy digestive and immune system function.
Kale is life-changing for many people, and there’s a reason why. Kale packs in magnesium, iron, B vitamins, chlorophyll, and it’s one of the best ways to intoduce yourself to the world of leafy green vegetables. Most people that grew up hating greens finally try massaged kale, akale smoothie, or sauteed kale and can’t believe what they’ve been missing. Kale is much like spinach, though a little lower in protein and some vitamins. It does have more antioxidants, however, more fiber, and is a great anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory green to add to your regimen.
7. Chia Seeds
These seeds are not just a superfood … they’re one of our best sources of dairy-free calcium,plant-based iron and protein (a complete source), and crucial metabolism-boosting and brain-boosting B vitamins. Chia seeds can help keep you full, eliminate toxins from the body, keep you energized, promote a lean body, and they reduce heart disease thanks to their mono-unsaturated fats and high dose of fiber.
Blackberries don’t get enough stardom most of the time. These berries pack more antioxidants, fiber, and nutrients than blueberries, not to mention their seeds are actually rich sources of omega-3 fats. They’re also lower in sugar and lower in calories. While blueberries are powerful little berries (as all berries are), blackberries belong in your menus a little more often than they might be appearing. Add a cup of blackberries to your next smoothie and see how awesome they make you feel!
Onions contain cancer-reducing antioxidants, one of which is known as quercetin that also reduces allergies. Onions also contain prebiotics to nourish good bacteria in the digestive tract, enhance liver health, and they contain potassium to lower your blood pressure and eliminate excess water weight. Best of all, onions are very flavorful so they can be added to a dish to up the taste factor without the need for salt, sugar, and additives. Try using onions in more of your cooked dishes in place of salty seasonings and unhealthy add-ins. Onions’ astringent flavor can also reduce sugar cravings and their B vitamins improve brain and metabolic health.
10. Sweet Potatoes and Winter Squash
These two go side by side in their benefits for your health in mood. They both serve as a healthy source of easy-to-digest carbohydrates, and both of these veggies come with mood benefits. Winter squash (and their seeds) such as acorn, butternut, pumpkin, spaghetti, and delicata to name some of the most popular, all contain omega-3 fatty acids, iron, B vitamins, vitamin C, and potassium. Sweet potatoes contain B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin C, protein (!), and help lower your blood sugar. Implement these for white potatoes and white rice, andyour blood sugar will decrease, your skin will improve, you’ll be more satisfied, and your sweet tooth will be satisfied in a healthier way than processed sweets and refined starches.
Add these 10 foods to your day, along with many other healthy plant-based pieces of produce, healthy fats, and sources of fiber, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier you (and a happier, more satisfied you) in truly no time.
Food can change your life and doesn’t have to rule your life by taking up time to prepare. Keep things simple, just eat plants.