Healthy living is more important now than ever. Not only are we fast approaching winter, but we’re stuck inside most the time (rightfully) trying to flatten the curve.
So, aside from those essential home workouts, it’s also essential to eat well to ensure you stay as healthy as possible. But with so much information out there about what you should and shouldn’t be eating to have a healthy living diet, it’s hard to know where to start.
Forget fad diets and what’s trending. We’ve rounded up 15 healthy foods everyone should be eating to live a balanced and healthy life. From fruit and vegetables to grains and legumes, make sure you’re eating these delicious and nutritional foods and quickly notice the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
All leafy greens are great for you, but kale really reigns supreme. Packed full of antioxidants, minerals, fibre and vitamins, kale is a nutrient-dense superfood that is worth eating on a daily basis. Kale is also high in bioactive compounds that have proven to fight cancer in studies.
Kale is delicious cooked or raw, so don’t be afraid to experiment with it beyond salads. From pizza to Panzanella, kale makes a tasty addition to many dishes. Check out some recipe ideas for inspiration.
If you know anything about blueberries (apart from the fact they’re sweet and juicy!), you’ll know that they’re brimming with our friends, antioxidants. Studies show that some of these antioxidants are able to cross the blood-brain barrier and carry out protective effects on your brain! Pretty awesome, right?
And that’s just the beginning when it comes to the benefits of blueberries. Whether it’s the fact they can help maintain brain function or that they may lower blood pressure, there’s no denying the magic of these little balls of health. Scatter them across your muesli, pop them in a smoothie or simply snack on them throughout the day.
High in vitamin C, B1 and B6, calcium, potassium and more, garlic truly is essential to living a healthy life. Garlic is high in beneficial sulfur compounds such as allicin, which has been found to reduce inflammation and other antioxidant benefits.
Several studies reveal that both allicin and garlic may lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease in the future. Raw garlic also has powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties, so if you can stomach it, it’s worth chomping on a raw clove or two from time to time! Otherwise, try grating it on your favourite salad or in one of your favourite winter recipes.
Renowned for its inclusion in Japanese dishes such as sushi, edible seaweed has many surprising health benefits that are supported by science. Some of these are that it’s a great source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as folate, zinc, sodium, calcium and magnesium.
Seaweed is also a fantastic source of omega-3 fats and vitamin B12, both of which are typically found in fish, making them a bit trickier for vegetarians and vegans to get without supplements.
Not a fan of sushi? Try a delicious seaweed salad or a range of other seaweed dishes to get your intake of the nutritional food.
Ahh, avocados. Who doesn’t love to start their weekend with these smashed on sourdough? Avocados are a unique fruit as instead of consisting mainly of carbohydrates, avocado is high in healthy fats. But their benefits don’t end there!
Avocados are an excellent source of antioxidants, contain more potassium than bananas and are full of omega-3 fatty acids.
Aside from being an essential food in a healthy diet, the creamy and buttery flesh of avos is delicious in a range of recipes. From a layered Mexican sweet potato salad to a tandoori pumpkin salad with buttermilk dressing, avocado is an essential ingredient in so many dishes.
If you want a quick and tasty snack that is nutrient-dense, reach for a handful of almonds. Full of fibre, vitamin E and magnesium, almonds are also fantastic sources of protein. Low in carbohydrates but high in healthy fats, almonds can also assist with the control of blood sugar levels.
Another great benefit of almonds is that they increase the feeling of being full, meaning you end up consuming fewer calories. Bonus!
Almonds are delicious to snack on whether they’re raw, roasted or coated with tamari. Almonds are also a fantastic ingredient to add to salads, whether whole or shaved.
The large, hairy seeds of coconut palms, coconuts are grown in tropical climates and known for their tasty white flesh hiding inside. Rich in many vital minerals such as copper and manganese, coconuts might have several other benefits, such as helping your brain, improving your immunity and stabilising your blood sugar.
Coconuts are an enormously popular substitute for dairy in vegan dishes and drinks, because of their cream and milk. Full fat coconut milk is a great alternative to heavy cream in many recipes as it’s high in fat and creates a rich texture in dishes such as curries, ice cream, puddings, sauces and more. Coconuts really are healthy eating at its finest!
Ahh, broccoli. That good ol’ fashioned green veggie that has been a staple in our diets from day dot. Ok, it might not be as ‘hip’ as kale or silverbeet, but don’t underestimate the health benefits of broccoli. A cruciferous vegetable, broccoli is a good source of protein, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium and more.
Whether you eat it cooked or raw, broccoli tastes great and makes you feel good. That said, it’s better to keep broccoli as close to its raw form as possible – different cooking methods are known to alter the nutrient composition of the veggie.
Another dietary staple, bananas are understandably among the world’s most popular fruits. And aside from their sweet and tropical taste, it’s clear to see why bananas are loved around the world. Packed with potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium and more, a banana a day makes the perfect snack.
Much like almonds, bananas are filling so they suppress your appetite – ideal for calorie control and weight loss. They might also support heart health due to their high potassium and magnesium levels.
As we all know, bananas are delicious to be eaten straight from the skin. That said, they’re also great in smoothies, chopped onto porridge and muesli and also used in sweet dishes such as banana bread and banoffee pie. Check out these mouth-watering banana recipes.
10. Oily fish
Oily fish has been linked to many health benefits such as improved mental ability, lower risk of heart disease, cancer, dementia and arthritis. This is because fish oil is rich in healthy fatty acids. There is a range of oily fish that can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet, including salmon, trout, sardines, kippers, tuna, mackerel and more.
There is a range of oily fish recipes to try out, from sardine escabeche to confit trout salad. However you decide to eat them, you can be sure that upping your oily fish intake will do wonders to your overall health.
11. Apple cider vinegar
There are several proven benefits of apple cider vinegar. With the ability to help kill many types of harmful bacteria, apple cider vinegar also significantly lowers blood sugar levels making it ideal for fighting type 2 diabetes.
Studies have suggested that consuming apple cider vinegar may help protect you against cancer. These studies have also shown that different types of vinegar can kill cancer cells and shrink tumours (although all these tests have been done in test tubes or on rats, not humans).
But how do you consume apple cider vinegar? Well, obviously you can douse your salads with the stuff. But it’s also been said that drinking four teaspoons (20 ml) of apple cider vinegar in water right before a high-carb meal can reduce blood sugar spikes.
The taste might take a bit of getting used to, but once you have – apple cider vinegar is definitely worth integrating into your diet!
Quinoa might have been around three to four thousand years when the Incas first realised the seed was fit for human consumption, but today it’s more popular than ever. And rightfully so. Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat, plus, it has almost double the amount of fibre than other grains, which is great for gut health.
Also rich in magnesium and iron, quinoa truly is a nutritional grain that can be used as a base for many dishes. Whether it’s in a kale salad or enchilada casserole, quinoa really is the grain that keeps on giving. Check out these delicious quinoa recipes.
A trusty brekkie staple, oats are a gluten-free whole grain and a fantastic source of vital vitamins, fibre, antioxidants and minerals. Packed full of magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin B1, vitamin B5 and more, you’re getting a whole dose of goodness with your morning porridge.
Rich in a unique group of antioxidants called avenanthramides that have anti-inflammatory and anti-itching effects, oats have even been known to help soothe skin conditions such as eczema.
From throwing them into your morning smoothie to making your own bircher muesli or porridge, oats are a fantastic food to eat to start your day as they release energy slowly. Perfect for combatting those mid-morning hunger pangs!
A highly-nutritional edible seed (although these little guys are also known as ‘pulses’), lentils are made up of over 25% protein, making them an excellent meat substitute. They’re also filled with protein and iron, making them essential for undertaking physical activity.
Lentils can be added to a range of tasty dishes such as salads, vegetarian lasagne and more. Take a look at these lentil recipes for some inspiration.
Last but not least, carrots are an essential veggie to have in your diet. Although made up of at least 88% water, they also manage to be made up of several nutrients that are great for your health. Carrots are a great source of beta carotene, vitamin K1, potassium fibre and antioxidants.
Whether you’re dipping raw carrots into hummus for a tasty, crunchy snack, or adding them to your favourite salad recipe, don’t overlook this classic vegetable and all of its goodness.