Ordinary foods that keep you healthy

Dear Dr. Mo: Which foods should I always include in my diet to improve my health and why?

Dear reader: It goes without saying that good dietary habits are good for our health – but what is not often emphasized enough is just how good that is.
It has been widely recognized by medical community that by simply increasing your daily consumption of fruits and vegetables you are lowering your risk of heart disease and diabetes – and when I say lowering I mean really lowering it by 50 to even 70%!

Bananas are a nutrient powerhouse

There are of course other benefits too: an antioxidant called Lycopene in tomatoes, watermelon and red grapefruit is linked to protection against breast and prostate cancers, chances of developing kidney cancer are greatly diminished by frequent consumption of fruits and vegetables and fiber rich foods keep your intestines work properly preventing constipation, intestinal illness and help control your weight by keeping you fuller for longer.
We all have different appetites, habits and tastes but vegetables and fruits should be an integral part of our daily diet and many adults need roughly two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables per day.

Here is my selection of some ordinary foods, which I consider rich in all the nutrients you need to turn your daily diet into a health promoting and health protecting habit.

Oranges

What a great source of vitamin C – one orange contains all the vitamin C you’ll need the whole day.  Vitamin C is vital in collagen production which keeps your tissues firm and elastic and it increases the amount of infection-fighting antibodies being produced.

Oranges contain lots of fiber and folate and folates are important for women planning to conceive or pregnant.

Bananas

This is one of the best fruit sources of potassium – good levels of this electrolyte helps in blood pressure regulation, normal heart function and it is good for the bone health as it indirectly helps calcium from being lost into urine. Banana is also a source of B6 and C vitamins and has no fat or sodium.
Bananas are very good for the digestive tract in upset stomach and for both constipation and diarrhea.

Sweet potatoes

This very nutritious vegetable abounds with alpha and beta carotene, which are converted in our bodies into active vitamin A. This vitamin is important for our eyes, bones and immunity. It also contains Lutein to add to our eye’s health, potassium, manganese, vitamin C and B6.

Nuts

Rich in unsaturated fats, which are the heart-healthy kind of fats.
In balancing your cholesterol (keeping the good HDL at a healthy level while lowering the bad LDL), Walnuts are the best with their high mono- and poly-unsaturated fats content. Walnuts also abound with one of the Omega-3-fatty acids called Alpha-Linoleic Acid (ALA), which improves your mood and helps your heart stay healthy.

Berries

Great sources of fiber important for a healthy digestive system – help promote weight reduction.
Top 3 I recommend are Raspberries, Blueberries and Strawberries to give you plenty of fiber, antioxidants and vitamin C.

Beans

Good source of Iron but since this Iron from plants is harder to absorb than from meet, add some vitamin C-rich food to boost absorption – fresh paprika, lemon, sweet potatoes.
Rich in soluble fibers (similar to oat meals) that are good for keeping the cholesterol levels in check.
Beans are also a good source of Zink – a mineral important for the strength and production of white blood cells. Zink is also important for Prostate health so men should particularly try to eat Zink rich foods (other sources of Zink are oysters, turkey, crab, sunflower seeds and fortified cereals).

Spinach

Growing up, we had been told that if we ate spinach, we’d be strong as Popeye the Sailor. That in fact was true, not so much for its Iron content as this Iron is hard to absorb by our body but for A, B, C, E and K vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium and folates. This rich composition makes spinach a must-have food choice for future moms.

Broccoli

My favorite green vegetable is full with vitamins A, C, E and K and also with Folate.
There is a chemical in Broccoli called sulforaphane that is believed to fight cancer by stimulating our bodies’ detoxifying enzyme system, but even without this perk, Broccoli are just superb in what they deliver – on par with sweet potatoes.

Tea

Of course, as a functional food (of which I wrote in my post on The All-Mighty Green Tea) teas help fight off cancers, viruses, bacteria, Alzheimer’s and diabetes and in addition they improve our oral health, bone health, skin health etc. The most potent of them all is Green tea but these benefits, to a degree, exist in other teas as well (black, white, dark and orange).
Whatever your tea-type preference, add some freshly squeezed lemon juice to it to preserve its flavonoids and boost their absorption.

These foods are but a few out of many out there so keep exploring and discovering the ones to appeal to your taste but keep in mind that our diets are among the most powerful tools we have to stay healthy – no doctor and no drug can do it in such a good and enjoyable way.

Yours in health,

Dr. Mo