The world is full of heart healthy, disease fighting, digestive aiding superfoods. The supermarket shelves are stacked with poor choices; choose wisely and live long. Adding a few low calorie, nutrient rich super foods while simultaneously removing calorie heavy, nutrient lacking choices can transform health. This list is not exhaustive nor should it replace personalized direction from a physician or dietician.
One may wonder why a psychology website is writing about nutrition. However, nutrition is intricately connected to mental health. Ines Gaspar explains, “the human brain uses a substantial portion of the body’s total energy and nutrient intake, and there is a strong influence on brain structure and function by the ingested nutrients, as well as affecting neurodevelopment and neurotrophic functions” (2019).
Michael A. Tompkins explains that “with good nutrition, you’ll protect yourself from excessive fluctuations in your blood sugar level that can intensify your anxious response and worsen your mood” (2013). Basically, nutrition matters for physical health and mental health.
Here are ten super foods to infuse your mind and body with health.
Broccoli routinely is listed on super foods lists. Broccoli is available year around, simple to cook and a rich source of vitamins. It is loaded with vitamin A (beta-carotene), vitamin C and vitamin K. Broccoli has plenty of fiber to keep you feeling full longer. Broccoli also contains disease fighting phytochemicals.
Salmon has high contents of omega-3 fatty acid. Omega -3 fatty acids encourage better heart heath. Salmon is low in calories, high in protein, a good source of iron, and low in saturated fats. Salmon also provides vitamin D and selenium for healthy hair, skin, nails and bones. A few other nutrient dense fish include herring, sardines and mackerel.
“A healthy diet is a solution to many of our health-care problems. It’s the most important solution.”~John Mackey
Beans are an anti-aging, disease fighting superhero. They provide high amounts of vegetable protein and fiber to keep you feeling full longer. Beans can stabilize blood sugar levels which in turn can stabilize mood swings. Beans also contain phytochemicals which offer disease preventive benefits. They are low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates. Beans are beneficial in anti-diabetes diets. They rank low on the glycemic scale.
Low or non-fat plain yogurt offers a variety of healthy benefits. Yogurt has a healthy source of protein, calcium, vitamin B-2, vitamin B-12, magnesium and potassium. It is often enriched with probiotics (friendly bacteria) for a healthy gut. Several studies suggest that yogurt may help with certain gastrointestinal conditions such as: Lactose intolerance, constipation, colon cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Nuts have a healthy mix of protein, fiber, and unsaturated fat. Research has shown that nuts lower total LDL cholesterol levels. Nuts also are a healthy source of omega-3s. Because of the higher calorie content, portion control is advisable.
Berries pack a lot into a sweet little super foods package. They are a great source of antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber. They help control blood sugar levels. Berries are simple to add to a diet. You can add them to salads, yogurt, and oatmeal. Berries are a staple for many heart healthy smoothies. Blueberries, acai berries, and cranberries top the list.
This odd little grain is now available in most supermarkets. It competes with the healthiest whole grains. Quinoa is quick to cook, high in protein, fiber and a natural source of iron. They are also packed full of zinc, vitamin E, and selenium to control weight and lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Other healthy options for whole grain are barley, oats, buckwheat, wild rice and millet.
“There is really no room in any healthy diet for trans fat, artificial sweeteners, and artificial colors in food.”~Jillian Michaels
Try swapping your regular baked potato for a sweet potato. The sweet potato is in the dark orange vegetable family. They provide a large dose of vitamin A, while also adding vitamin C, calcium, and potassium. The natural sweetness provides enough flavor that it is easy to cut back on the fatty toppings. Sweet potatoes are also rich in beta carotenes and heart healthy antioxidants. Other healthy vegetables in this family of super foods include pumpkin, carrots, butternut squash, and orange bell peppers.
Spinach is loaded with tons of nutrients in a low calorie package—Antioxidants, iron, vitamin K. Dark leafy greens are important for skin, hair and bone health. Spinach is also a great source of dietary potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and thiamine. Studies indicate eating spinach improves blood glucose control in diabetics, lowers the risk of cancer, lowers blood pressure, improves bone health, and lowers the risk of developing asthma. You can throw spinach into a smoothie, add them to omelets or used them as a base for a heart healthy salad.
During the cholesterol bashing era, eggs got a bad rap. Studies show that people who eat eggs for breakfast, typically eat less calories throughout the day. The yolk of the egg contains the bulk of the nutrients. Besides high quality protein and egg also contains calcium and magnesium and vitamins A,D,E, and B12. Studies show that an egg a day does not change your cholesterol levels.
Gaspar, Ines (2019). Anxiety and Healthy Eating. Journal of Yoga and Physiotherapy.
Tompkins, Michael A. (2013). Anxiety and Avoidance: A Universal Treatment for Anxiety, Panic, and Fear. New Harbinger Publications; 1st edition.