In the fast and ever-changing world we live in, food means different things to us. To some it is seen as just a necessary evil but to others it is something that should be carefully planned and enjoyed to the max! So many of us need to watch what we eat and choose foods that form a balanced diet.
One of the keys to healthy eating is understanding a little more about what we eat and the role each food plays in our diets. While some foods are well known for their health benefits, there are other foods that many are surprised to learn can form a part of a healthy diet. Read on to learn about ten of them.
Coffee has so often been seen as the bad boy of the caffeinated world that the truth about coffee may surprise you. We are not talking about the cheap coffee machine offerings that so many offices seem to depend on. No, we are talking about the delights of freshly ground coffee beans that are packed full of flavour and, according to modern experts, help our bodies and brains in the long term.
So, if you drink a good espresso or a cappuccino, you may be thwarting the risk of contracting Parkinson’s or even Alzheimer’s. This is according to a certain Dr Frank Hu, a Harvard Professor from the Department of Public health. According to many scientific reports, a shot of your favourite arabica or ground Italian can also decrease Type 2 diabetes, which can’t be a bad. The truth is that coffee is not all about caffeine but it also contains antioxidants and substances that will reduce internal inflammation in the body and this way help protect against disease. It is also known to have a protective effect on your liver too!
Many of us would agree that horseradish sauce is the perfect condiment to accompany roast beef and cold meats. However, have you ever considered this peppery delight to be a health boost too? Horseradish contains a lot of nutrients that benefit our health and can offer some surprisingly healthy advantages for our bodies. It is naturally an antibacterial as it contains assyl isothiocyanate, which is known to eliminate unwanted bacteria and other microbial substances from the body. The root of the horseradish also contains zinc, calcium, vitamin c, fibre, potassium, manganese and magnesium. One great thing to try is a spoon of horseradish when you have a cold and blocked nose as the high sulphur levels are proven to help reduce the levels of mucus building up in the sinuses.
In recent years, duck has become a trendy restaurant main and it is often showcased on cookery programmes in mouth-watering ways. Better yet, according to recent studies, duck fat is one of the healthiest of all the different meat types. Even though it contains saturated fats, it actually contains 63% unsaturated fats, which is far better than beef or similar meats. The monounsaturated fat is known to reduce cholesterol levels, and many suggest that it also reduces blood glucose levels. It contains linoleic acid, which is associated with reducing heart failure and Type 2 diabetes.
Potatoes are another surprise when we study the nutritional data as they are low in calories and contain high carbohydrates, which burns fat. The red type of potato is known to only contain about 80 calories. One theory by nutritionist Cynthia Sass, author of a New York Times best-selling diet book entitled 'SASS Yourself Slim!' explains that if you cook and cool potatoes, resistant starch is formed, which is very filling and promotes the burning of fats in the body. However, we must all realise that it is not french-fries or mayonnaise salads we must turn to for a healthy nutritious diet!
This excellent yellow crop is actually full of health benefits, even if delicious smothered in butter, which may detract slightly! It is full of fibre, which greatly benefits the digestive system. The wonderful thing about corn is that because of the high fibre content it really fills you up and so staves off hunger. The great benefit of fibre is that it can significantly reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol, which is good news for the heart! Sweetcorn is also high in vitamin c, which we know is vital in a healthy mixed diet. It has also been proven to contain antioxidants that protect your body from cell damage. Some research also suggests that a high concentration of B1 vitamin can benefit healthy brain function and reduce the risk of memory loss.
6. Red Wine
Yes, as you can imagine this suggestion is all about moderation, but red wine has been proven to have many health benefits. The main advantage to our health is that red wine can raise the levels of good cholesterol (HDL), which has been proven to reduce blood clots and clean our arteries. The crushed dark skins are known to contain resveratrol which is an antioxidant. It is also known to have an anti-inflammatory effect on our bodies and lipid regulating effects. The obvious thing to say here is that we are talking about one glass being beneficial but knocking back too many bottles of Sauvignon will clearly obliviate all the positive tendencies!
Yes, pork has put up with lots of negative press over the years, but it has been a source of great nutrition for centuries. Obviously, one of the pitfalls of modern eating is that we eat too many fast-food meals and pork is still a relatively cheap cut. The benefit of pork is that it is a great natural source of protein and has a high level of amino acid, which are essentials for a healthy body. Pork contains nine of the essential amino acids which aid growth and help build muscle tissue. This can particularly benefit older people as muscle wasting can be an issue and eating pork can help to reduce this. In terms of vitamins and minerals, pork contains iron, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, zinc and niacin.
8. Cheddar Cheese
Great news if you love cheddar cheese as it is not only delicious but can also reduce tooth decay! Yes, it sounds strange, but because cheddar produces a high level of saliva, this neutralises any damaging acids in your mouth that are known to attack the enamel on your teeth. Just like full fat milk, a portion of cheddar cheese can provide a high quantity of the calcium your body needs every day. With its high zinc content, this can also boost our immunity system and is excellent not only for healthy teeth but also maintains your skin and strengthens bones.
9. Peanut Butter
This classic American staple is another - knock me down with a feather food shocker! Not only is it tasty, but it contains vitamin E, iron, magnesium, selenium and vitamin B6. One of the great things about peanut butter is that it can be eaten in many ways and is a highly nutritious snack. The general health news is that people who eat nuts, including peanut butter, reduce the effects of hunger for hours during the day. This is mainly because of peptide YY which is a hormone that makes us feel full. This effect is then associated with successful diets as nut eater are more likely to have a better BMI (body mass index) than folk who don’t! Peanuts are a great source of unsaturated fats, which helps lower cholesterol.
10. Dark Chocolate
One of the great joys in life has to be chocolate, but even beyond that emotion is the realisation that chocolate is good for you! Hold that thought, not all chocolate has nutritional benefits, but if you eat a reasonable quality dark chocolate, then there are definite benefits besides all those taste sensations. Dark chocolate is packed full of fibre, iron, magnesium, potassium and selenium. The only downside is that you need to eat the high cocoa content types that can be quite bitter. This is the natural balance of the universe in bar format, that you can not have everything that easy. It is a very widely accepted source of antioxidants due to the high success in ORAC tests, the oxygen radical absorbance capacity.
11. Flapjacks (Healthy Flapjacks!)
Our final offering is one of those gifts from culinary heaven, the flapjack! This delicious treat is on our list due to the fact that they are packed full of oats, and that’s good news for nutritionists. Oats are full of minerals, fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. But be warned, most commercial flapjacks contain too many sweeteners and sugar content. Obviously, oats are one of the greatest of additives to foods that equates to high fibre and slow burning carbohydrates. They are the perfect source of energy, and if you choose to make homemade flapjacks you can really reduce the sugar content and aim for the high calories instead. So, the truth about flapjacks is that it just depends on how they are made, so always best to check the ingredients list!