As you may have heard, it’s recommended that you get your nutrients from whole foods rather than supplements. Eat a wide variety of delicious fresh foods in a rainbow of colors to get the maximum antioxidants and other disease-fighting nutrients. A few foods are true standouts, packing in exceptional amounts of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, including plant compounds called phytochemicals that can help to lower your risk of numerous ailments, including cancer and heart disease. Here are some top nutrient-packed foods to incorporate into your meal plans.
1. Tomatoes: Studies show that eating tomato products may reduce prostate cancer risk, and the US Food and Drug Administration now allows tomatoes and tomato-based products, like tomato sauce, to carry that health claim. The key ingredient: a powerful antioxidant called lycopene, also found in pink and red grapefruit and guava.
2. Spinach and other dark leafy greens: Research shows that eating dark leafy greens, like spinach, kale and Swiss chard (which are technically cruciferous vegetables), may help maintain good health by reducing one’s risk of heart disease and stroke, some cancers and several other illnesses. Dark leafy greens are rich in beta-carotene, folate, and vitamins C, E, and K, which help protect against free radicals (unstable molecules that can damage cells). Regularly eating dark leafy greens may help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and promote normal eyesight.
3. Walnuts: Like all nuts, walnuts are a great source of protein, fiber and healthy fats. Unlike other nuts, however, walnuts are high in heart-healthy omega-3 oils, which have been shown to have antioxidant properties. Enjoy up to 15 walnuts a day as part of your nut/seed allotment. Other sources of omega-3s include flaxseed and, of course, oily fish, like salmon and sardines.
4. Blueberries: Studies show that a number of compounds in blueberries, including pigment-producing anthocyanins, are powerful in helping prevent cancer. Anthocyanins may also protect against hypertension (high blood pressure). In addition, blueberries may help prevent cataracts and the short-term memory loss associated with aging. Other berries have antioxidants in smaller quantities.
5. Pomegranates: These fruits are high in flavonoids, which are antioxidants also found in red wine and cocoa. Recent studies show that pomegranate juice may help protect against heart disease.
6. Sweet potatoes: An outstanding source of carotenoids (including beta-carotene), as well as vitamin C, calcium and potassium, sweet potatoes can help reduce LDL cholesterol, lower high blood pressure, fight cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, and boost your resistance to colds and infections. Other good sources of beta-carotene are carrots and apricots.