Image: Whole Foods Market
What makes one food better than another? That question may be easy to answer when comparing an apple with a Twinkie, but what about an apple versus an orange? Or a carrot? Fruits and vegetables contain an amazing abundance of nutrients that can be more beneficial than others depending on our nutritional needs. But, generally speaking, there are quite a few worthy of working into your diet rotation as regularly as you can.
I’ve already gone on record as calling kale “the new beef” for its vast array of nutrients, including protein, fiber, essential vitamins (A, C, E & K), minerals and antioxidants. When in doubt what vegetable to eat, go to leafy greens like kale (spinach, chard, and collards are excellent choices, too). Green foods help to alkalize our bodies like no other foods can. This can neutralize all the coffee, alcohol and sugar we consume. If you’re not already eating leafy greens daily, try working them now. They sauté and stir fry easily and can be added to just about anything.
Like leafy greens are a great go-to for vegetable options, berries are one of the best choices in the fruit department. They’re less sweet than most other hybridized fruits like bananas or grapes; and they’re a terrific opportunity to up your intake of essential vitamins like beta carotene and vitamin C, as well as powerful antioxidants that have been shown to decrease the risk for certain types of cancer. That’s berry delicious!
A cousin of kale (both are members of the brassicus cabbage family), broccoli has some of the many benefits found in kale. Vitamins and minerals along with plant compounds that can boost immune function and prevent free radical damage, broccoli is a top food choice. Not only is broccoli healthy, but it’s fun to eat (like little trees!) and incredibly versatile. Try it steamed, sautéed or pureed into a creamy soup (go vegan for the healthiest “creamy” version).
4. Sweet Potatoes
While we typically only gorge ourselves on these gorge-worthy tubers during the holiday season, you can find sweet potatoesavailable year-round. And they’re absolutely worth every bite: sweet potatoes contain large amounts of beta-carotene, which is excellent for your skin (and can help boost immune function). They’re a great source of soluble fiber, protein, vitamin C, calcium and iron, too.
Whether you eat spinach raw or cooked (or somewhere in between), you’re doing yourself a huge favor. This delicate leafy green is quite the powerhouse. It’s a wonderful source of daily iron, bone-strengthening vitamin K, B vitamins including folate, and it’s also an excellent source of plant-based omega fatty acids, which play a crucial role in managing inflammation, healthy brain function and gorgeous, glowing skin.
Olives are fruit! And while we don’t eat them fresh off the tree, we can eat them pickled, or include them in our diets in their most common form: oil. The olive is a stupendous source of healthy monounsaturated fat, which can help us to maintain a healthy weight (yes, a fat can do that!). Olives are also loaded with minerals, like magnesium, that can also help to protect our hearts and cardio functions. You’re also getting a wide range of powerful plant polyphenols found in olives that may reduce your risk for certain types of cancer.