13.APR.2018 9 MIN READ | 9 MIN READ

In celebration of Earth Day, discover the benefits of these 8 healthy foods from nature, and find out how you can add them to your diet!

Healthy food #1: Spinach

Spinach
Why is it so good for you?

A leafy green vegetable that is packed with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium and potassium, spinach is thought to help improve eye health. It is rich in iron, and is also full of fibre, which is great for your digestive system.

How many calories in 100g?

There are only 23 calories in 100g of raw spinach – that’s the lowest calorie choice in this whole list.

What’s in it?

Here are just some of the naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and disease-busting plant compounds found in spinach:

  • Vitamin C, which helps improves immune functions
  • Vitamin K1, which helps your blood to clot properly
  • Folic acid, which is essential for tissue growth
  • Iron, which helps your body produce healthy, oxygen-rich red blood cells for energy, and promotes healthy cells, skin, hair and nails 
  • Calcium, which promotes strong bones
  • Lutein, which is associated with excellent eye health

How can I incorporate it into a healthy diet?

That’s easy, because you can eat spinach cooked or raw! Raw spinach is higher in vitamin C and potassium, but boiling it or steaming it will make it even easier to digest, and will unlock a higher level of iron content. So, why not mix it up and have it both ways? Grab a handful to add to your salad, or steam it with all your other veggies.

Healthy food #2: Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes
Why are they so good for you?

Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Early research suggests the latter might help to keep certain cancers at bay. Because they are fairly fibrous, they are good for your digestive health, and can make you feel fuller for longer.

How many calories in 100g?

There are only around 86 calories per 100g of raw sweet potatoes.

What’s in them?

Sweet potatoes are higher in fibre than regular potatoes. And, while both contain vitamin C, sweet potatoes are also a rich source of vitamin A, which makes them the healthier choice out of the two. They are also a decent source of vitamin E, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, potassium and manganese.

How can I incorporate them into a healthy diet?

Don’t just reach for the sweet potato fries. There are lots of other (healthier) ways to incorporate sweet potato into your diet. You can bake them, mash them or roast them, use them in a soup or casserole, or make sweet potato noodles. Mmm!

Healthy food #3: Avocados

Avocado
Why are they so good for you?

It might be considered trendy to eat avocados these days, but that’s not the only reason to reach for this one-of-a-kind fruit! Whereas other fruits are high in carbs, avocado is high in healthy fats. There are a bunch of different types of avocado, but the one you would probably recognise is the Hass avocado – it’s shaped a bit like a pear, with dark green skin and yellow-green flesh, and it’s packed full of nutrients and fibre.

How many calories in 100g?

There are 160 calories in 100g of avocado, but 84% of those come from healthy fats.

What’s in them?

Perhaps a better question would be: what’s not in it? Avocado (100g) contains 26% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin K, 20% of your RDA for folic acid, and 17% of your RDA for vitamin C, plus:

  • Vitamin E, which promotes good skin health and proper immune system function
  • Potassium, which is linked to reduced blood pressure
  • Vitamin B5, which helps to maintain a healthy digestive system
  • Vitamin B6, which helps to maintain a healthy nervous system
  • Heart-healthy monounsaturated fat (oleic acid)

How can I incorporate them into a healthy diet?

Luckily, avocados are tasty as well as nutritious, and there are plenty of ways to incorporate its goodness into your diet! Scoop the creamy mash out with a spoon and add it to your salad, mash it on toast, make homemade guacamole, bake it with an egg, mix it with rice… the options are endless.

Healthy food #4: Beans

Beans
Why are they so good for you?

Ever heard the song ‘beans, beans, good for your heart…’? Well, it’s true! Eating plenty of beans can help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce your risk of developing heart disease. They are also an important source of fibre and protein in your diet.

How many calories in 100g?

This depends entirely on the beans you eat. With Chinese long beans, you’re looking at around 50 calories per 100g. Chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans and pinto beans are higher at over 120 calories per 100g. Baked beans are somewhere in the middle at around 95 calories per 100g.

What’s in them?

Again, this depends on the beans you eat, but 100g of kidney beans, for example, contain 25% of your RDA for fibre, which is great for your digestive system and may help with weight loss. Here’s what else you’ll gain from kidney beans:

  • Protein, which stabilises blood sugar levels when it is consumed with carbohydrate foods, and supports healthy bones, muscles and skin
  • Iron, which helps your body produce healthy, oxygen-rich red blood cells for energy, and promotes healthy cells, skin, hair and nails
  • Magnesium, which is linked to reduced blood pressure and a lower risk of depression
  • Vitamin B6, which helps to maintain a healthy nervous system

How can I incorporate them into a healthy diet?

Beans are fairly inexpensive, which means picking up a tin or pack of them won’t break the bank. Cook them in your stir fry, simmer them in your soup, throw them on your salad, or use them to make your favourite black bean sauce!

Healthy food #5: Lemons

Lemons
Why are they so good for you?

Who knew the humble lemon was one of the healthier foods on Earth? High in vitamin C, lemon is great for your immune system. A small portion of lemon juice every day may help to prevent the development of kidney stones, as it increases urine volume and urinary citrate. Some research even suggests lemons have anti-cancer properties.

How many calories in 100g?

There are around 30 calories per 100g – not that you’re likely to eat 100g of lemon in one go!

What’s in them?

Lemons don’t just have their own health benefits – they also help your body to absorb the nutrients (like iron) from other food sources! One study found that citrus enhances the body’s ability to absorb antioxidants by up to 80%.

And it’s not just citric acid that’s good for you – one lemon contains over 100% of your RDA for vitamin C.

How can I incorporate them into a healthy diet?

OK, so you’re not going to sit and eat a whole lemon – that would be weird. But there are some simple ways you can incorporate this heart-healthy fruit into your diet! Add several slices or some freshly squeezed juice to your favourite tea, mix it into salad dressings, freeze the juice into ice cubes to add to drinks, or squeeze it over your chicken or fish.

Healthy food #6: Walnuts

Walnuts
Why are they so good for you?

Eating walnuts regularly is thought to improve your brain health, as well as help to stave off heart disease and cancer. If that’s not a good enough reason to grab a handful, they are also a great source of several essential vitamins and minerals.

How many calories in 100g?

There are 654 calories in 100g. Most of these calories come from the high fat content.

What’s in them?

OK, so walnuts are high in fat, but up to 14% of this is a healthy omega-3 fatty acid. This is thought to be good for your heart, as it helps to reduce inflammation and improve the composition of fat in your blood. Walnuts also contain:

  • Copper, which promotes heart health and a healthy immune system
  • Folic acid, which is essential for tissue growth
  • Phosphorus and manganese, which help to maintain strong bones
  • Vitamin B6, which helps to maintain a healthy nervous system

How can I incorporate them into a healthy diet?

Walnuts make a great snack or quick topping for your cereal, salad, soup or pasta. Like anything else, they should be eaten in moderation (30g, which is about a handful), especially because of their high fat content.

Healthy food #7: Salmon

Salmon
Why is it so good for you?

Protein is power! Helping your body to heal quicker after injury, protecting your bones, and building strong muscles, skin, hair and nails, it’s an essential nutrient in your diet. And that’s where salmon comes in. Not only is it packed with protein, it’s also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

How many calories in 100g?

There are around 208 calories in 100g of salmon.

What’s in it?

B vitamins! A 100g serving combines 51% of your RDA for vitamin B12, 50% of your RDA for vitamin B3, 47% of your RDA for vitamin B6 and more, which can help your body to generate more energy, repair DNA, and maintain optimal functioning of the brain and nervous system.

How can I incorporate it into a healthy diet?

Consuming a couple of servings a week should be enough. And you can mix up how you eat it! Whether you steam it, bake it, grill it, or just pop it out of a can, there are plenty of ways to get more salmon into your diet.

Healthy food #8: Broccoli

Broccoli
Why is it so good for you?

You probably know that dark green, leafy vegetables are good for you. But did you know that the unique plant-based compounds in broccoli are thought to help reduce the risk of several cancers, including lung, pancreatic, breast and prostate cancer?

How many calories in 100g?

There are only around 34 calories per 100g of raw broccoli.

What’s in it?

Raw broccoli is almost 90% water, with 7% carbs and 3% protein. That means it contains almost no fat! Packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, iron, manganese, potassium and folic acid, it’s a healthy source of many of the body’s essentials.

How can I incorporate it into a healthy diet?

Just one cup of raw broccoli is about 2.3g of fibre, which is up to 10% of your daily intake. Gentle steaming is thought to release the most health benefits, so mix it in with your rice or other veggies for a hearty, healthy meal.

Article reviewed by Wong Hui Xin, dietitian at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.

References

Arnarson, A. (2015, July 18). Walnuts 101: Nutrition Facts & Health Benefits. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/walnuts

Bjarnadottir, A. (2015, February 26). Broccoli 101: Nutrition Facts & Health Benefits. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/broccoli

Bjarnadottir, A. (2015, April 6). Sweet Potatoes 101: Nutrition Facts & Health Benefits. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/sweet-potatoes

Glass, E. (2013, September 4). The 6 Healthiest Ways to Eat Spinach. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/the-6-healthiest-ways-to-eat-spinach/

Gunnars, K. (2015, October 3). Spinach 101: Nutrition Facts & Health Benefits. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/spinach

Gunnars, K. (2016, March 12). Beans 101: Cheap, Nutritious & Super Healthy. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/beans-101

Spritzler, F. (2016, December 20). 11 Impressive Health Benefits of Salmon. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-benefits-of-salmon

The 10 Healthiest Foods on the Planet. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2017, from https://www.fitnessmagazine.com/recipes/healthy-eating/superfoods/the-10-healthiest-foods-on-the-planet/?page=4

13.APR.2018