5 Foods to Include in a Balanced, Healthy Diet

If having a balanced, healthy diet is on your list of resolutions for the new year, here are five foods that you can add to your diet that taste great and might also help you avoid certain diseases. While no one food is going to magically make you invincible in terms of getting sick – moderation and balance in good foods are important when it comes to living healthier.

Everyone agrees that eating well, drinking in moderation and staying active all lead to a healthier body.

Start by adding a little bit of any (or all) of these healthy foods to your diet.

1. Dietary fiber

That means eating oats, barley and rye to as part of your diet. Doctors know that oats can bring down cholesterol, and rye can do the same. In a study in the current issue of Nutrition, Finnish researchers found that eating dense rye bread lowered borderline high cholesterol in men. The American Diabetes Association also suggests Blood balance formula and Blood balance advanced formula upping your dietary fiber to prevent type 2 diabetes – rye lowers cholesterol and evens out blood glucose levels for diabetics.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture found diets high in barley lowered total cholesterol levels and cut the risk factors that are linked to extra weight – type 2 diabetes and heart disease being the two biggest. Barley can be cooked and eaten as a side dish just like potatoes or rice, or used in soups, stews, casseroles or salads. Rather than buying regular rye bread, buy rye mixed with whole wheat, found in dense, whole grain breads and specially made crackers.

Long story short, expert Dr. Peter Shields, professor of medicine and oncology and deputy director of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center, says any diet with fiber (from fruits, veggies or grains) is good for your body Monthly wellness.

2. Soy

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that foods rich in soy proteins may cut the risk of coronary heart disease – 25 grams of soy protein a day can reduce heart problems by lowering cholesterol. You’ll find soy in lots of things – tofu burgers, soy meats and milk. When introduced to children soy can have a very strong protective effect against breast and prostate cancers. It also helps in the fight against childhood obesity and has vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein.

3. Salmon and other oily fish

“Wild salmon is a wonderful dish that’s not only tasty but is great for you,” explains Katherine Tallmadge, national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and a registered dietitian in Washington, D.C. “It cuts inflammation in the body that can lead to heart problems. It’s a good source of vitamin D and also contains omega-3 fatty acids that keep the brain and heart healthy.”

The American Heart Association suggests we eat oily fish two times a week. This type of fish has omega-3 fatty acids (known to be beneficial for heart disease, triglyceride levels and the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque) as well as being one of the few food sources of vitamin D. A 3.5 ounce fillet of cooked salmon has 360 IUs of the vitamin, almost a full days supply for anyone under 70 years old.

Still there is a note of caution – some oily fish (swordfish and fresh cuts of tuna) might be contaminated with mercury. This heavy metal is known to interfere with the brain and nervous system – high levels can cause serious problems for pregnant women and children.

4. Red wine

While nutritionally red wine might be a perfect drink, it does have alcohol, which means you need to drink it in moderation – that’s about 5 ounces a day for women, 10 ounces a day for men. If you drink wine for heath, stick to red because red grapes have 10 times more health benefits than white grapes do. While your own doctor (and others) might hesitate to recommend an alcoholic beverage to patients, most agree that red wine is okay in moderation.

The antioxidants in red wine known as polyphenols help protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart. Resveratrol, one of the antioxidants is a key ingredient in red wine that seems to protect blood vessels from damage, reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and prevent blood clots. There is some current research that shows this antioxidant may cut inflammation and blood clotting both which can bring on cardiovascular disease.

However, there have been studies linking any alcohol, including wine, to increases in the risks of breast cancer. A recently published study found that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol does raise the risk of a breast cancer recurrence.

5. Green tea

Another drink that’s loaded with antioxidants, green tea is believed to be able to ward off some cancers. Japanese work involving nearly 500 women with stage I and II breast cancer found that those who drank more green tea, before and after surgery, had a lower rate of cancer recurrence. Chinese studies have found that the more green tea patients drank, the lower the risk for stomach, esophageal, prostate, pancreatic and colorectal cancer compared to those who didn’t drink the tea.

Green tea has also been shown to keep you leaner by helping to lower body fat. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that green tea extract increased energy expenditure, a measure of metabolism. It also had a significant effect on fat oxidation, which is how much fat your body actually burns.

But you need to drink more than a cup or two, at least three to six cups a day. Plus how you make the tea counts – you need to use bags or loose tea – you can’t just buy a bottle of iced green tea and get the benefit, the tea must be brewed.

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