The 5 Healthiest Foods You Should Be Eating

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there has been a dramatic increase in chronic diseases and other health problems worldwide. In fact, WHO projects that by 2020 chronic diseases will account for almost three-quarters of all deaths worldwide. Therefore, a greater emphasis has been placed on practicing healthier lifestyle habits, such as choosing more nutritious foods, getting daily exercise, and managing stress. There are lots of healthy food choices available, but these 5 healthiest foods will get you off to a great start on your health journey.

Vegetables:  You probably remember your parents saying, “eat your veggies!” Well, your parents were right. Vegetables contain a plethora оf vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients аnd dietary fibers, whісh offer numerous health benefits. Experts recommend аt lеаѕt five servings оf vegetables every day to keep our immune system strong, so we can have a better chance at keeping illnesses and diseases at bay. All vegetables are excellent for your health. Spinach, for example, is chock full of calcium, vitamin A аnd C, magnesium, riboflavin, and iron, giving your skin and hair a nice, healthy glow. Steamed broccoli is another nutrient-rich veggie that provides lots of potassium, fiber, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc and so much more. Eating plenty of leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, arugula and collard greens, is especially advantageous because they are nutritional powerhouses filled with chlorophyll, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. They are most nutritious when lightly steamed or raw.

Fruits:  Studies have found thаt people whо eat fruits regularly are less likely to develop diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and heart disease. Amоng thе different types оf fruits, thе two healthiest fruits that you should include in your diet аrе berries аnd citrus fruits. Berries, such as raspberries, strawberries аnd blueberries, аrе high іn disease- fighting antioxidants that help to protect our cells from free radical damage. Berries can help improve memory function, too. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits and limes, provide a rich source of vitamin C, fiber, phytochemicals аnd flavonoids. Consumption оf thеѕе fruits may also lower cholesterol, high blood pressure, improve heart health, аnd may prevent thе development оf colon аnd stomach cancer. You don’t have to stick to just berries аnd citrus fruits either. Othеr fruits like red grapes, apples, apricots, plums, and papaya are also very beneficial to your health.

Whоle Grains:  Whоle grains include foods like oatmeal, millet, quinoa, barley and wild rice. Most whole grain foods are abundant in fiber, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium, to name a few. Regular consumption of whole grains can help reduce your risk of colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The dietary fiber in whole grains will also help you feel full faster and longer, as well as help prevent constipation and aid digestion.

Nuts:  Anоthеr food having аn important place оn thіѕ list іѕ nuts. Nuts, еѕресіаllу almonds аnd walnuts, provide аn excellent source оf protein and omega-3 fatty acids. According to Mayo Clinic, people who eat nuts can lower their bad cholesterol, or LDL’s, thus improve overall heart health.   Thеу аlѕо possess vitamins B аnd E, monounsaturated fats, calcium, potassium аnd fiber. Try a handful of nuts as a between meal snack to help curb your appetite until the next meal.

Yogurt: Yogurt contains healthy bacteria, called probiotics, which can benefit your health by enhancing your digestive and immune system wellness. Yogurt is also rich in calcium and vitamin D, both essential for bone health. And, according to a study published in the January 2005 issue of the “International Journal of Obesity,” yogurt may speed weight loss because of its fat-burning properties and low-calorie content. Therefore, it’s important to choose low-fat, low-sugar yogurt to reap the health benefits without packing on the pounds. Eating yogurt may also help treat certain intestinal infections, irritable bowel syndrome, and diarrhea, especially after receiving antibiotic treatment, according to Mayo Clinic.



Benefits of a High-Fiber Diet

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Dietary fiber has health benefits from weight-loss, to lower cholesterol and cancer prevention. What’s the truth about dietary fiber? Dietary fiber is found in all plant foots and consists of the parts of the food that your body cannot digest. Many people refer to dietary fiber as roughage. The fiber passes through your body intact because it cannot be digested. There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, whereas insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. 
Insoluble fiber travels through your digestive system relatively unchanged and promotes a healthy digestive system by moving waste through your system. Whole grains, such as wheat, oats, bran, nuts and most vegetables contain insoluble fiber. A diet rich in insoluble fiber can help to regulate bowel movements, which prevents constipation. Eating a diet rich in insoluble dietary fiber can also help prevent hemorrhoids and protect the health of the colon. 
Soluble fiber dissolves in water. Dissolved soluble fiber takes on a gel-like consistency in your digestive system. Soluble fiber can help to lower glucose (sugar) levels in the blood and reduce cholesterol. Soluble fiber also helps to lower the blood pressure. Eat oats, beans, apples, carrots, barley and citrus fruits to get natural sources of soluble fiber. The absorption of sugar from the digestive system into the blood is slowed when soluble fiber is included in the diet. 

High-fiber diets may also help you to lose weight and control your weight. When you eat high-fiber foods, you chew longer and eat less. High-fiber foods help you to feel fuller faster, and you stay full longer than eating foods that are low in fiber. Drink plenty of water and enjoy the benefits of a high-fiber diet. 

How to Get More Fruit In Your Diet

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Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet and may even reduce your risk of getting some types of cancer. Fruits are delicious and packed with nutrients. It’s easy to find ways to incorporate more fruits into your daily diet. Fruits are available fresh, frozen, dried and canned. You can use fruits in salads, sandwiches, drinks and desserts. They are great for snacks, too. When you buy fresh fruits, always wash them thoroughly under running water to remove dirt, bacteria and any trace of pesticides before eating or cooking. Keep your fresh fruits stored separately in the refrigerator away from meats and other foods. 
One of the easiest ways to eat more fruit is to keep a bowl of fresh, washed fruit on a table or on the kitchen counter. You and your children are more likely to reach for a fragrant orange or a tasty banana for a snack if they are readily available. Make a delicious fruit salad using fresh, cut up fruits. Add some orange juice and stir. Fresh fruit salad is delicious and does not need extra sugar for sweetening. Cut oranges, apples, grapes, pears, peaches, nectarines, tangerines, pineapple and melon into cubes and stir together with a cup of orange juice. Eat it right away or refrigerate. 
Bananas, prunes, peaches, apricots, melons and oranges are loaded with potassium, an essential nutrient. Try some sliced bananas or fresh peaches in your cold, whole grain breakfast cereal. The natural sweetness of the fruit reduces the need for additional sweeteners or sugar. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, bananas or raisins liven up a hot bowl of oatmeal, too. You can get more fruit into your diet at lunchtime by adding fruit to low-fat yogurt or eating a whole, fresh apple, orange or pear for dessert. Fruits are available packaged for individual servings that are great for a mid-morning or late afternoon snacks at work. Add apple chunks and grapes to chicken salad for a delicious, crunchy lunch sandwich. Keep a box of raisins or other dried fruit, such as apricots, in your desk at work for a quick, tasty snack. Fresh fruit smoothies are another way to get fresh fruit into your diet. Make your own by blending low-fat milk with fresh fruits and ice. 

Are Fruits High In Sugar?

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Sugar is a simple carbohydrate found in many fruits. Sugars are monosaccharides and disaccharides. Monosaccharides are simple sugar molecules like glucose and fructose. Dissacharides are two sugar molecules, such as sucrose. Sucrose is the familiar granulated table sugar. Lactose and dextrose are other types of dissacharide sugars. When several sugar molecules combine, they form a starch, or a complex carbohydrate. Sugar not only makes food taste sweet, it also provides your body with the fuel necessary for energy and body functions. Although sugar provides energy and is relatively low in calories (about 16 calories per teaspoon), it contains no essential vitamins and minerals. Fresh, raw fruits contain the monosaccharide fructose, but they also contain a number of essential vitamins and minerals. The sugar content varies in different fruits, but generally, raw fruit does not contain enough sugar to derail your diet. 
Fruits that are high in natural sugar will taste sweeter than other fruits. Apples, dates, bananas, figs, cherries and grapes contain more natural sugars than watermelon, strawberries, lemons, limes and kiwi fruits. Whole, fresh fruits contain essential vitamins like A, C, E and K. Minerals include potassium, zinc and magnesium. Fruits are also abundant in fiber, which should be an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. 

For more information about sugar content in popular foods, see:
WebMD, Sugar Shockers: Foods Surprisingly High In Sugar, by  Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

Choosing the Best Fruit & Vegetables Juices

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Every person needs to eat several servings of fruits and vegetables every day. The best way to get nutrition from fruits and vegetables is to eat them raw. Steamed vegetables retain more vitamins and minerals than boiled vegetables. Vegetables that have been lightly grilled in olive oil are tasty and retain most of the nutrients your body needs. The alternative to eating raw fruits and berries is to drink fruit juice. Fruit and berry juices that contain most of the natural pulp are better for you than strained juices because the pulp provides necessary fiber and extra vitamins and minerals. Drinking vegetables in a juice mixture that contains flavorful fruits and berries can increase the nutritional value of your juice drink. For example, tomatoes contain lycopene which is important for men’s prostate health, but not everyone likes the taste of plain tomato juice. Vegetable juice mixtures can be made at home using a juicer. Some juices available at the supermarket may contain excess sodium and sugars, so read the nutrition labels carefully. Buy a low-sodium, low-sugar or sugar-free juice when possible.
Cranberry and orange juice are both loaded with Vitamin C, which is an important immune system supporting nutrient. Select an orange juice with some pulp or make your own juice at home. A cranberry juice mixed with blueberry juice and cherry juice makes a delicious, nutritious juice cocktail. Pomegranate juice tastes delicious and is loaded with antioxidant vitamins and minerals, but pomegranate juice is high in sugar. If you are counting calories, drink one 8-ounce of pomegranate juice each day. You can dilute juices that have a high sugar content with water to help reduce the amount of calories and still get most of the benefits of drinking juices. Red grape juice is rich in the antioxidants flavanoids and resveratrol that your cells need to function properly and repair damage. Select a red grape juice that is made from the whole grape, including the seeds and skin. 
When you make juice at home using a juicer, many nutrients are tossed out with the pulp and the skin. Use a juicer that pulverizes the whole fruits and vegetables so that you get the maximum nutritional benefit from fresh juices. Try mixing different fruits, vegetables and berries to create  your own unique juice blends.
For more information about the benefits of juice and juicing, see:
Mayo Clinic, Is juicing healthier than eating whole fruits or vegetables?, Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D., 2010