When it comes to healthy foods, there are a lot of claims out there. There’s a lot of talk about foods referred to as “superfoods,” but it’s important to have an idea of which foods truly offer an exceptionally high amount of nutrition compared to their caloric content.
Many people want to increase their intake of important nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals, while not exceeding their caloric needs, which, when done repeatedly over time, can cause problems such as weight gain.
Let’s explore some of the best nutrient-dense foods that are all-around beneficial to add to your diet, no matter your health goals.
5 Nutritious Foods That Give You the Best Bang for Your Buck
Leafy greens are some of the healthiest foods out there. An overwhelming body of scientific evidence demonstrates the benefits greens have to the heart, kidneys, liver, gut microbiome, intestines, and more.
A study published in 2018 found that eating at least ten cups (or 120 grams) of leafy greens per day has the greatest cardiovascular benefit. With heart issues being one of the leading causes of death for both men and women in the United States, prevention is key.
Even if you already have heart problems, your heart will still benefit greatly from greens.
Kale is rich in calcium, which, in addition to being important for proper bone formation, also helps your nervous system function optimally. It’s also high in vitamin A, which supports healthy skin, eyes, and a robust immune system.
Kale also has vitamins C and K. Vitamin C is important for healthy immune system function and collagen formation, which maintains your skin’s elasticity. Vitamin K helps keep bones healthy and is important for helping wounds heal.
There are many different varieties of kale, and while their nutrient profiles may differ slightly, choose the one that you like the taste of most. Many people trying kale for the first time like baby kale because it has a milder flavor while offering similar benefits to its fully-grown counterpart. You can typically find curly kale and Tuscan kale in your local supermarket as well.
A good way to begin trying kale is to add it into smoothies, soups, or salads. Roasted kale, or kale chips, are a popular way to enjoy this leafy green, too.
Chia and Flax Seeds
These tiny but mighty nutrition powerhouses pack an incredible amount of nutrients into a miniscule package.
They may not look like much, but chia and flax seeds are full of plant-based protein to keep you full longer, fiber to support gut health, and omega-3 fatty acids that are important for heart health and optimal brain function, especially as we age.
It’s best to grind your flax seeds just before using them, or you can purchase ground flaxseeds – also called flaxseed meal. These can be added to healthy muffins, oatmeal, or smoothies.
Chia Seed Pudding
The result is a thick, pudding-like snack. You can add any toppings you like: fresh berries, walnuts, almonds, dark chocolate chips, etc.
You may be excited to find chocolate on this list, and if so, you aren’t alone. Many chocolate lovers are thrilled to know that chocolate has health benefits.
There are two primary health benefits to dark chocolate. The first is flavonols and the second is magnesium. Flavonols may improve brain function and help combat cognitive decline as we age. Many people suffer from memory loss as they age, so adding high-quality dark chocolate to your diet in moderation can be beneficial.
One serving of dark chocolate (86% cacao) has 21% of your daily requirement of magnesium. Magnesium is involved in a wide variety of the body’s processes. From nerve function to blood pressure regulation to preventing muscle cramps and promoting more restful sleep, getting enough magnesium is a key factor in preventing many common ailments.
There’s increasing amounts of research about the gut-brain connection and its effects on issues with the brain. Cognitive issues are associated with disruptions to this critical connection between the healthy bacteria in your gut and your brain. Greek yogurt is a good source of probiotics, which may benefit your gut by adding good bacteria that your intestinal tract needs to stay healthy.
Although there are conflicting opinions about the benefits probiotics may provide, some studies have demonstrated that probiotics, like those found in yogurt and other fermented foods, can keep your gut and brain happy. The long-term benefit of having a healthy and diverse gut microbiome could be a reduced risk of cognitive problems.
Greek yogurt is also a great source of protein. It has much higher amounts than regular yogurt, which is why it’s preferable in this regard. Many people don’t get enough protein at breakfast. Adding Greek yogurt to your morning meal can help you feel more satisfied and prevent you from overeating later in the day.
Another great benefit of Greek yogurt is its calcium content. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise since standard yogurt is made from cow’s milk, but it’s still worth mentioning since calcium is involved in much more than giving you strong bones. Calcium also is important for proper function of the nervous system, muscles, hormones, and enzymes. It’s needed for virtually every major bodily process.
Try buying plain nonfat Greek yogurt and sweetening it with a bit of honey or stevia. Add fresh fruit, chia or ground flax seeds, and nuts to make a healthy snack or side to your breakfast.
Realistic Health Goals
Eating healthy can be a daunting task, especially if you’re new to it.
When you’re searching for foods that will provide a lot of nutrition, look no further than hearty leafy greens like kale, chia, and flax seeds packed with healthy fats, and Greek yogurt with probiotics.
You can even enjoy some dark chocolate, too, and be confident that it’s moving you closer to a healthy lifestyle. Just remember to start implementing changes in a way that’s realistic for you and understand that changing your diet isn’t a linear process.
There will be days you check all your “health goal” boxes and days where you’re just doing what you can to get by, and that’s okay! The best way to create a habit that lasts is to anticipate the ebbs and flows that inevitably come with behavior change.
Enjoy the benefits of healthy eating!
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
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