One of the hardest parts about trying to adopt a healthier diet is letting go of some of our favourite foods, because of their shortcomings when it comes to their nutritional profile and effects on our health.
What makes it easier, though, is replacing them with more nutritious options that taste just as good.
Read on to get a list of six foods that hit the spot while being great for our health!
#1: Dark Chocolate
Cocoa’s medicinal properties have been acknowledged since a long time – which includes the ancient Mayan and Aztec eras.
Today, we know that these health benefits come from the antioxidants that are present in cocoa, largely from a group called flavonoids.
Antioxidants help almost every part of the body. For instance, the flavonoids found in cocoa are known to reduce the pressure on blood vessel walls, thereby preventing hypertension. They also neutralise free radicals, which interact with LDL (bad cholesterol) in a manner that’s believed to precede heart diseases like atherosclerosis.1
The antioxidant capacity of cocoa has been proven to be far stronger than those present in red wine, green tea, black tea, and even blueberries.2,3 Even the caffeine present in cocoa contribute their own benefits like improving our energy levels, physical performance and brain function.
A dark chocolate (with over 70% or higher cocoa) packs all of this goodness into fewer calories, whilst maintaining the scrumptious taste of chocolate. As long as it isn’t consumed it excess amounts, it’s a perfectly viable option for some healthy snacking.
Half a cup of cheese isn’t just nutritionally acceptable; it’s an especially great source of nutrients.
The ample presence of calcium and vitamin K2 in cheese helps improve our bones, with each micronutrient being essential for bone health.4,5 Cheese also has a fair amount of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and protein, both of which have numerous health benefits when it comes to our metabolism, and can also promote fat loss, when consumed in reasonable portions.6,7
About half a cup in a meal is sufficient enough for the nutrients we need, depending on the types of cheeses. To be more cheese-specific, that amount would give us:
– Ricotta cheese: 14 grams of protein and 1/4th of our daily calcium needs
– Parmesan cheese: 10 grams of protein with about ½ of our daily calcium needs
– Cottage cheese (low-fat milk): 13 grams of protein with a good amount of the calcium, phosphorous, selenium, vitamin B12 and B2 in just 100 calories.
Refreshing (coconut water) and scrumptious (coconut flesh), coconuts in almost every form are very healthy in numerous ways.
Even the admittedly high content of saturated fat in coconuts isn’t a cause for concern, because most of it comes from lauric acid, which offers a range of health benefits: it has anti-microbial properties, can boost our immunity and also reduces the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in our blood, cutting down the risk of heart disease.8,9 It’s even been proven to reduce our appetite (preventing overeating) and boost our metabolism, for improved fat burning. 10-13 In fact, the presence of saturated fat makes coconut oil ideal for cooking, because it can consequently withstand high temperatures without turning rancid.
Coconut water is individually notable as well, for its high vitamin C and iron content, with its electrolytes being excellent for rehydrating – all in just 50-60 calories!
A certain level of caution must, nevertheless, be exercised when it comes to the quantity of coconut milk and oil we use in our foods – they don’t come without their calories.
Creamy, tasty and loaded with healthy fats – essentially, the description of an avocado.
The omega 3 fatty acids found in avocados help build the structures of the cells in our body, improve brain function and aid with fat loss, while reducing undue inflammation.14 They even help maintain our skin’s health by sealing in water and keeping it hydrated.
If that weren’t enough, avocados are also high in fibre, potassium and vitamin C, contributing to our daily dose of required micronutrients.
Whether you scoop ripe avodaco flesh straight out of its peel or make a delectable dip with it, it’s always going to be an excellent low-calorie, delicious food.
#5: Homemade Popcorn
Completely whole-grain, popcorn is one of the most gratifying snacks you can munch on, without any ensuing guilt.
100 grams of popcorn would have 11 g of protein and 14.5 g of fibre, making a bowlful especially helpful for those who are trying to lose weight.15 This is especially beneficial, given that most people find it hard to get the recommended amount of both nutrients (especially fibre) on a daily basis.
Keep in mind, though, that the store bought varieties tend to be really high in calories, so it’s best to make it at home with minimal amounts of butter, seasoned as per taste.
#6: Homemade Nut Butters
As with popcorn, the health quotient of any nut butter is contingent on it being prepared at home.
The packaged variety has gained itself an infamous reputation for good reason: its artificial trans-fat content, which increases the risk of heart disease and chronic inflammation. However, a store-bought product that doesn’t contain any trans-fats or the words “hydrogenated oils” can be considererd a suitable option as well.16
When they’re healthy, nut butters pack a considerable amount of vitamins and minerals. For instance, peanut butter has vitamin E, B-vitamins and a bunch of minerals like magnesium, copper, manganese, iron, potassium, zinc and selenium. To top it all, 16% of the calories present in peanut butter are from protein!
Although clearly nutritious, it’s important to reiterate that nut butters – and the other foods listed in this article – do need to be eaten in reasonable amounts, for them to still fall under the category of ‘healthy foods’. As long as one doesn’t overdo it, there’s no reason not to add any of them to the day’s meals and enjoy the tastier side of healthy living.
If there are any foods that you beileve are conspicuously missing from this list in spite of being highly nutritious and flavourful, we’d love to hear about them and update the article! Write to us either at email@example.com or on Facebook with your suggestions. ?
1. Hutfless SM, et al. 2006.
2. Lee KW, et al. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2003, 51(25): 7292-7295.
3. Crozier SJ, et al. Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products Superfruits:(Top 20 Fruits Packed with Nutrients and Phytochemicals, Best Ways to Eat Fruits for Maximum Nutrition, and 75 Simple and Delicious Recipes for Overall Wellness), vol. 5. McGraw-Hill: New York, 2011.
4. Beulens JW, et al. Br J Nutr 2013, 110(8): 1357-1368.
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12. Liau KM, et al. ISRN Pharmacology 2011, 2011: 949686.
13. Assunção ML, et al. Effects of Dietary Coconut Oil on the Biochemical and Anthropometric Profiles of Women Presenting Abdominal Obesity, vol. 44, 2009.
14. Kim M, et al. Sci Rep 2015, 5: 18013.
15. USDA. Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Dietary Reference Intakes 2002 [cited]Available from:http://iom.nationalacademies.org/Reports/2002/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-for-Energy-Carbohydrate-Fiber-Fat-Fatty-Acids-Cholesterol-Protein-and-Amino-Acids.aspx
16. FDA. A Food Labeling Guide (10. Appendix B: Additional Requirements for Nutrient Content Claims). Guidance for Industry 2013 [cited]Available from:http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/UCM265446.pdf