Looking to improve your health through diet? Here are five foods you should eat more of in 2016:
- Free-Range Organic Eggs
One of the most wholesome foods you can eat is an egg in its whole form. Eggs are a great way to start the day, providing the body with a nice balance of protein and fat to fuel you until lunchtime. As a complete protein, eggs contain all nine essential amino acids that we must obtain through our diet as our bodies can not make them. Eggs are extremely easy to incorporate into your diet as they are easy and quick to make in the morning scrambled into an omelet or simply poached on toast – hard boiled eggs also make a good protein rich snack for on the go. If you don’t have much time in the mornings, try making up ahead of time a frittata or egg cups for a grab and go breakfast you can enjoy throughout the week.
For those of you on the egg white bandwagon.. stop throwing out those yolks! The yolk is the tastiest part when enjoyed over-easy or poached and is the nutrition powerhouse of the egg. Separating the egg yolk from the egg white disrupts the synergy of the egg and removes all of the healthy fat (which is satiating and curbs your appetite) and lots of other nutrients.
Many people avoid egg yolks and other sources of fat due to the former belief that fat = high cholesterol; we now know this isn’t true. Though dietary cholesterol shouldn’t be ignored, it is important to note that much of our cholesterol is produced by the liver which is why those on plant-based diets may still have issues with managing their cholesterol. Unless you are eating copious amount of eggs every day, enjoying the yolk is not something to stress over. Bottom line – don’t mess with nature and eat your yolk!
2. Leafy Greens
Many people believe that we need to eat meat to get iron and drink milk for calcium but we should be paying more attention to our leafy greens which are great sources of both these important minerals. Green veggies are also great for detoxification as they are rich in fibre which not only helps to rid your body of toxins but also aids in weight management by keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
Even if you aren’t one for having a raw salad every day (which actually isn’t beneficial in Vancouver’s winter season), leafy greens are still very easy to incorporate into your diet. Add your favourite greens to your morning smoothie in the summertime or roast up some seasonal squash, root veggies and top with sautéed greens for a hearty winter salad. You can play it safe by sticking to common greens like lettuce, romaine, spinach or kale or get adventurous with mustard greens, endive and radicchio. I strongly recommend to buy your greens organic as most conventional alternatives are heavily sprayed with pesticides.
Right now my favourite way to enjoy greens is sautéing black kale in my cast iron pan (added benefit for those who need a boost in iron) along with fresh crushed garlic and lemon juice and topped with fresh avocado and sea salt.
3. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are another source of complete protein but are vegan friendly. Though small in size, chia seeds pack a punch and are high in healthy fat and fibre. Chia seeds have 10 grams of fibre per two tablespoons, with most of it being soluble fibre. When mixed with water it forms a gel-like substance, similar to ‘flax eggs’, and this is why it is very important to drink lots of water when eating foods high in soluble fibre.
Chia seeds are highly concentrated with the omega-3 Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) which is important to combat the high amounts of omega 6 we see in westernized diets. While both types of omega fats are essential in our diet, it is the ratio (and quality) of our omegas that we need to pay attention to. Omega-6 is found in high amounts in processed seed and vegetable oils and so it is best to avoid these whenever possible. Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory while omega-3 is anti-inflammatory. Sources vary but most agree that having a ratio of 4:1 omega 6: omega 3. Those eating a westernized diet are having much more omega 6 with a ratio as high as 25:1 or even 40:1. When you understand the health implications of chronic inflammation, it is no surprise that we are seeing exponentially more cases of inflammatory conditions from GI disturbances, such as IBD, Crohn’s Disease to asthma, arthritis and even cancer.
Again, rather than relying on dairy products that are often heavily processed and hard for many of us to properly digest, look to chia seeds to help you meet your calcium requirement – a two tablespoon serving offers 15% of your daily need. This along with chia’s high phosphorous content contribute to optimal bone and oral health.
Due to their size and neutral flavour, chia seeds can be easily incorporated to any meal. Sprinkle them on your salad, in with your homemade granola or smoothie, as a binding agent replacement for eggs in baked goods, or make a chia seed pudding by blending with almond milk, honey and top with berries for a grab and go breakfast.
4. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is all the rage these days and it is no surprise why when you look at all the benefits this superfood has to offer. Coconut oil is a healthy saturated fat that is both practical and flavourful. Coconut oil is primarily made up of medium-chain triglycerides which makes it an easy fat to digest and gives it many of its favourable properties. Coconut oil is a thermogenic food which means it helps to boost and support our metabolism while acting as an instant energy source by helping to burn fat for energy. For these reasons, coconut oil is big in the fitness world. With high amounts of lauric acid, coconut oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and when ingested can help support our immune systems by fighting off the bad bacteria and keeping our gut health in line. It’s high smoke point makes coconut oil ideal for cooking in comparison to olive oil which has a low smoke point and is better suited for salad dressings as it easily turns rancid when exposed to heat.
On top of it’s internal benefits coconut oil has many external uses. Enjoy it as a natural body moisturizer or as hair serum to tame dry ends. If you really want to get creative and take control of your personal care products, coconut oil can be used to make homemade products like toothpaste and deodorant. Some sources say that to reap all the benefits of coconut oil it is best to consume about three tablespoons per day of organic cold-pressed oil.
Whether you get on board with the trend of bulletproofing your coffee or simply stir a tablespoon of coconut oil into your morning bowl of oats, make sure you’re taking advantage of this tasty superfood that’s at our fingertips.
If you’re like me, avocados added to just about anything can add insta-enjoyment to just about any dish. Enjoy it on the side of your morning omelette, for lunch sliced into your sandwich or soup, for dinner on top of your salad or even for dessert made into a decadent avocado chocolate mousse (trust me on this one). Not only is avocado rich in healthy fat, it is high in fibre and water – both critical in keeping our digestive systems moving, Vitamin B5 which is important for energy production, and Vitamin K which supports bone health and blood clotting.
While I enjoy fish and choose to have them as a regular part of my diet, this recommendation may be seen as controversial due to the problems that can arise from fish farming and overfishing. The choices we make can have a big impact on marine life. For guidance on healthier options, look for the Ocean Wise symbol or click here (http://www.oceanwise.ca/seafood) for a list of sustainable choices.