According to the folks over at Eat This Not That, there are certain nutrients you should try to eat every day for optimum health. In case you needed a few more reasons to cut back on overly processed and animal based foods, all of the nutrients just happen to be found in natural plant based sources. Not only will you be helping your body by following these guidelines, but by choosing to eat a diet rich in plant based foods, you’ll be lowing your carbon footprint and saving the environment at the same time. It doesn’t get much better then that. Here’s a list of my top 5 of the recommended plant based foods, along with the nutrients they provide for your body and easy ways to start incorporating them into your diet today.
Dark Leafy Greens: These amazing plant foods provide an incredible nutritional punch. They are high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E and K. They are crammed with fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll and many other micronutrients and phyto-chemicals. Try spinach, kale, bok choy, arugula or romaine as your salad greens or throw together a quick stir-fry with your favorite colorful veggies, some garlic and a dash sesame oil or soy sauce.
Tomatoes: Red tomatoes and other red colored foods like watermelon and pink grapefruits all contain Lycopene. Lycopene-rich foods help to reduce the risk of prostate and breast cancer, macular degeneration and cardiovascular disease. Throw 8 red cherry tomatoes onto your salad for your daily dose of lycopene or you can make a fresh salsa. Since cooking tomatoes makes the lycopene easier for your body to absorb, throw together an easy home-made pasta sauce. You can always start your day with a fruit salad that includes grapefruit and watermelon as well.
Beans: All beans are good for your heart, are high in protein and fiber, low in calories and saturated fat. Black beans in particular, according to Eat This, Not That, contain anthocyanins, antioxidant compounds that have been shown to improve brain function. You can also try peas, lentils, kidney beans and fava beans to name a few heart healthy legumes. Throw a ½ cup serving of beans into your salad for some added protein, make a quick chili with any combination of beans, some lycopene rich tomatoes, onions and your favorite spices, or grab some black bean hummus and veggies for a healthy snack on the go.
Walnuts: This super-food of all nuts provides you with a whopping dose of Omega 3’s for heart and brain health, protein to help rebuild your muscles, making them a perfect post workout snack, and they are anti-inflammatory as well! Try sprinkling a serving size of 7 walnuts on your salads, into a homemade trail mix, or in your morning oatmeal. You can also try throwing some almonds, hazelnuts or macadamia nuts on all of the above as another option. Watch your serving sizes with all nuts as it’s very easy to over do it and pack on added unwanted calories.
Blueberries: Blueberries and other blue/purple colored foods like eggplant, raisins or plums are high in antioxidants, slow the early signs of aging and support heart health. Blueberries in particular having one the highest amount of antioxidants helping to prevent cancer and age related memory loss. Try a quick blueberry smoothie with frozen berries and a frozen banana, some soymilk and a dash of agave for a sweet treat. Add dried blueberries and raisins to your salads or trial mix or of course, when in season simply rinse and eat about 1 cup full for your daily-recommended dose.
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