In the pursuit of good health, we spend hours on the internet everyday looking for foods and items that should be included in our daily diet. While we go about town buying the must-have products, we often ignore some everyday foods that are always present in our kitchen. They are packed with antioxidants, minerals and all the important vitamins that your body needs to maintain its vigor and vitality. This World Health Day, here are 6 superfoods that should be your diet essentials.
Your prepacked portable health snack, bananas are loaded with fiber, potassium and B vitamins that improve muscle function and provide sustained energy. They make a good pre- and post-workout snack. Fructooligosaccharides, a chemical abundant in banana, increases fecal bolus that reduces constipation.(1) Banana flakes can be a safe, cost-effective treatment for diarrhea.(2) The high potassium content in bananas helps lower blood pressure.(3)
How To Eat It: Have a banana with a glass of low-fat milk or a cup of yogurt for breakfast everyday. You can even make a banana smoothie or add it to your fruit salad. Check out some recipes here.
Almonds give you that much-needed energy to keep going through the day. Full of magnesium and B vitamins, almonds help in converting food into energy. People with low magnesium levels get tired quickly. Deficiency of B vitamins can lead to irritability, fatigue and poor concentration. Almonds are also rich in alpha tocopherol, an antioxidant known to reduce the risk of heart disease.(4)
How To Eat It: Make it a habit to eat two to three almonds everyday with your breakfast. Or you can add them as toppings to your ice cream or smoothie. (Related recipes: Gluten-Free Almond Cookies, How To Add More Almondy Goodness To Your Diet)
Kale is rich in the amino acid L-tyrosine that improves mental health. It is packed with antioxidants and fiber that keep you full and help regulate blood sugar levels. Nutrients that give kale its dark green color, lutein and zeaxanthin, protect against cataracts and macular degeneration of the eyes. (5)
How To Eat It: Kale could be used as a side dish, tossed into pastas or chopped into soups. Here are some salad recipes with kale that you can try.
An essential brain food, salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which improve the memory and reduce depression. Salmon’s high protein content helps in the repair and building of muscles.(6)
How To Eat It: The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish such as salmon twice a week. (Related recipes: Teriyaki Salmon With Bok Choy, Cinnamon Roasted Salmon)
Full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), protein and fiber, pistachios make a nutritious snack as they are rich in proteins. Also, unlike other nuts, 25 pistachios have only 100 calories! Pistachios also have gamma tocopherol (a form of vitamin E), lutein, zeaxanthin and beta carotene (carotenoids) that lower bad cholesterol.(7)
How To Eat It: Have five to six pistachios with breakfast everyday, or sprinkle some over a bowl of oatmeal. (Related article: Nutty & Nutritious: How To Make The Most Of Pistachio)
6. Dark Chocolate
Flavanols present in dark chocolate stimulate the endothelium (the lining of the arteries) to produce nitric oxide that causes the arteries to relax, lowers resistance to blood flow and reduces blood pressure.(8) Dark chocolate is full of polyphenols, flavanols and catechins that increases good cholesterol. (9,10,11)
How To Eat It: Do you ever need a reason to have chocolate? Have it plain, bake a dark chocolate cake or try some new dark chocolate recipes here and here.
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2. Emery EA, Ahmad S, Koethe JD, Skipper A, Perlmutter S, Paskin DL. Banana flakes control diarrhea in enterally fed patients. Nutr Clin Pract. 1997 Apr;12(2):72-5. PubMed PMID: 9155405.
3. Blanch N, Clifton PM, Keogh JB. Postprandial effects of potassium supplementation on vascular function and blood pressure: a randomized cross-over study.Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2014 Feb;24(2):148-54
4. Wagner K.H., Kamal-Eldin A., Elmadfa I.U. Gamma-tocopherol – An underestimated vitamin? Ann. Nutr. Metab. 2004;48:169–188. doi: 10.1159/000079555.
5. Johnson EJ, Hammond BR, Yeum KJ et al. (June 2000). “Relation among serum and tissue concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin and macular pigment density”. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 71 (6): 1555–62.
6. Kaur N, Chugh V, Gupta AK. Essential fatty acids as functional components of foods – a review. J Food Sci Techno. 2014 Oct;51(10):2289-303.
7. Kay CD, Gebauer SK, West SG, Kris-Etherton PM. Pistachios increase serum antioxidants and lower serum oxidized-LDL in hypercholesterolemic adults. Journal of Nutrition. 2010 Jun;140(6):1093-8. doi: 10.3945/jn.109.117366. Epub 2010 Mar 31. PubMed PMID: 20357077; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3140215
8. Schewe T, Steffen Y, Sies H. How do dietary flavanols improve vascular function? A position paper. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2008 Aug 15;476(2):102-6. doi: 10.1016/j.abb.2008.03.004. Epub 2008 Mar 10. PubMed PMID: 18358827.
9. Naomi Osakabe, Seigo Baba, Akiko Yasuda, Tamami Iwamoto, Masumi Kamiyama, Toshio Takizawa, Hiroshige Itakura, Kazuo Kondo. Daily cocoa intake reduces the susceptibility of low-density lipoprotein to oxidation as demonstrated in healthy human volunteers. Free Radical Research 2001 34:1 , 93-99
10. Wan Y, Vinson JA, Etherton TD, Proch J, Lazarus SA, Kris-Etherton PM. Effects of cocoa powder and dark chocolate on LDL oxidative susceptibility and prostaglandin concentrations in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Nov;74(5):596-602. PubMed PMID: 11684527.
11. Dietrich Rein, Silvina Lotito, Roberta R. Holt, Carl L. Keen, Harold H. Schmitz, and Cesar G. Fraga. Epicatechin in Human Plasma: In Vivo Determination and Effect of Chocolate Consumption on Plasma Oxidation Status J. Nutr. 2000 130: 8 2109S-2114S