Is healthy eating on your to-do list for 2023?
An easy way to get started is by choosing nutrient-dense foods for meals and snacks, says Sarasota Memorial Dietitian Laura McLeroy, RD.
“Foods like fish, beans and colorful vegetables contain powerhouse nutrients that can destroy illness-causing free radicals,” McLeroy explains. “If free radicals are left to build up in your cells, they can lead to aging and chronic health problems like heart disease or cancer.”
To get the most health benefit from your diet, McLeroy advises, you should get 100% of your essential nutrients from eating unprocessed foods rather than relying on vitamins. Below are her top tips for fighting illness with powerhouse foods.
Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries — most berries — prevent carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents, from binding to the cells in your body. Aim for 1 cup per day.
Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit prevent cancer cells from activating. Try to consume 1 serving per day of citrus.
Veggies in the cruciferous family — including broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale, bok choy and cabbage — are packed with gut-healthy fiber, and they help breakdown cancer cells, reduce inflammation, and have antiviral / antibacterial effects. Aim to eat cruciferous veggies at least 3 times a week.
Colorful vegetables are a good source of free radical-fighting, immune system-boosting carotenoids. Sweet potatoes, spinach, squash and pumpkins are all tasty choices. Try for 1 cup of these, at least 2 to 3 times each week.
Along with a healthy dose of calcium and protein, yogurt contains healthy bacteria called “probiotics,” which help your body digest food. Select a yogurt variety with live active cultures, and plan to eat a half-cup serving per day.
Eating fish not only helps you control cholesterol and blood pressure, but the omega-3 fatty acids in fish can also help slow the growth of cancerous tumors. The best fish for a healthy diet are sardines, wild salmon, light canned tuna and Atlantic mackerel. Try to 2 to 3 servings per week, with serving sizes of 3 to 6 ounces; eating more than 12 ounces of fish per week is not recommended.
Tomatoes are an all-around great food for your health. One big benefit is that they’re a good source of lycopene, which helps keep your cells healthy. Eat a half-cup, 4 times per week, to reap their health benefits.
Legumes, or beans, are a great source of protein, fiber and folate, which helps protect against cell damage. Aim to eat a half-cup, 4 to 5 times a week.
Yes, you can drink your nutrients too! Most any variety of tea — black, white, oolong or green — provide flavanoids, another free radical neutralizer. Drink the tea hot or cold, or use it in recipes for salad dressings or meat marinades.
Keep it Colorful
Remember to try for a variety of healthy foods, and keep your meals colorful. Look for ways to include nutrient-rich foods into your daily meal plan.
You’ll find a number of healthy recipes that include these nutrient-dense whole foods in our HealtheRecipes library. Click here to find tasty new ways to fight aging and illness with healthy foods.