Get a pen and paper at the ready, because here’s the start of your next shopping list… From chickpeas to macadamias to wholemeal pasta, these are ten dietitian-approved foods to boost longevity.
The events of the last twelve months might have left you thinking about what you need to do to improve your health. You know, your exercise habits… the state of your mental health… the quality of your sleep… what you put in your mouth.
And while I can’t comment on all of these pillars of health – as a dietitian, I can give you a heads up on certain foods that are proven to keep you fighting fit. So, grab a pen and paper, and pop these ten foods at the top of your grocery list…
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No particular kind, just fruit in general – and lots of it. What’s important is that you try to eat a wide variety of different fruits, because different coloured fruits provide different health benefits, thanks to the different disease-fighting antioxidants they contain. Red strawberries, for example, contain lycopene which cuts your risk of cancer, while purple grapes contain anthocyanin which supports brain health. Your target is two serves a day.
Again, no vegetable in particular – they’re all good for you and, for the same reason as fruit, you should eat as many different colours as you can. The sad news is that less than one in ten of us hit our five serves a day, but you can easily change that by making veggies the star of your meal, rather than an afterthought. Aim for at least half a plate of veggies in every main meal, and include them in your snacks, too.
3. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
Packed with healthy unsaturated fats, EVOO is the primary fat in the Mediterranean diet – an eating plan that science consistently shows is incredibly good for us. I’d suggest using EVOO as your number one choice in anything from salad dressings to roasts to frying.
As a type of legume, chickpeas offer some pretty impressive health perks. Not only do they contain low-GI carbs, plant-based protein and stacks of gut-loving fibre, eating them regularly has been shown to cut your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. So, if you haven’t already, it’s time to get on the chickpea train – try them in hummus, veggies burgers or roasted alongside other baked veg.
5. Whole grain bread
Anything whole grain is a good choice because whole grains are far more nutritious than their refined counterparts. In case you’re wondering why, whole grains contain all three natural layers of the grain (the fibre-rich bran on the outside, the nutrient-rich germ in the core and the starchy endosperm). In contrast, refined grains contain only the endosperm. A simple switch from white bread to a whole grain loaf for your morning toast or lunchtime sandwich is a real game changer.
Loaded with healthy fats to support your heart and brain, macadamias are a staple in my kitchen. Consuming any type of tree nut (think: almonds, cashews, walnuts) on a daily basis will do your health a world of good – they can help to manage weight, improve your heart health, reduce your risk of diabetes and support brain health.
7. Dried herbs and spices
Dried herbs and spices are some of the most antioxidant-rich foods you can get your hands on – and I’m a big fan for two main reasons. One, they’re a wonderful way to add flavour to veggies, helping you to eat more of the good stuff. And two, because they’re so flavourful, they can help you to reduce the amount of salt in your cooking. #Winning.
Another option on the legume train, lentils also provide long-lasting energy, hunger-busting protein and fibre to support a healthy digestive system. They’re a wonderful option for meat-free Monday in anything from dal to curries to hearty salads. Plus, they’re delish.
9. Wholemeal pasta
Yes, you read that correctly: pasta! But I’m not talking about the gigantic portions you’re served up at your local Italian – instead, I’m talking about small portions of a wholemeal variety. It’s another great way to get health-giving whole grains into your diet.
A weekly staple in my household, salmon is one of a handful of sources of essential marine omega-3 fats, a special type of fat that’s particularly good for your ticker. As a rule of thumb, you should aim for two to three serves of fish a week, including at least one serve of oily fish, like salmon. Fish tacos, anyone?
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.