Nature has provided us with an abundance of food.
Taking cues from mother nature’s rich harvest, we list a few super foods that should be part of your daily diet to promote health, to de-stress, fight diseases, soothe and revitalize your body to heal itself.
Vegetables and Fruits:
Don’t ever give up on fruits and vegetables. They are more nutrient dense than any other foods. About 75 to 80 percent of our food intake should comprise of alkaline vegetables and fruits. These foods help to balance and maintain the body’s ph at an ideal of 7.3. Many fruits and vegetables are rich in Beta Carotene, the substance that converts to vitamin A in the body. Go for foods that are deep orange, yellow and red as they have several times more Beta Carotene than white ones. A diet high in alkaline fruits and vegetables offer protection against many chronic and degenerative diseases. Fruits help to fill the void between meals and can be a satisfying substitute for people who crave desserts and they are excellent source of insoluble fiber.
Green Leafy Vegetables:
Green leafy vegetables include spinach, lettuce, mustard greens, methi leaves, raddish and turnip leaves, kale, collard greens, cabbage etc.
Greens are low in calories and fat content. They are cholesterol fighters, helps control diabetes and is great for weight loss. They have been touted as anti cancer vegetables due to their antioxidant properties. They are not only nutritious but also versatile and can be used in salads, soups, juices, as a stuffing for parathas and in lasagnas. Some greens like spinach have very high sodium content and should be used in moderation esp people on strict low sodium diets.
Beans are rich in health promoting properties. Examples are chick peas or channa, kidney beans or rajmah, lima beans, mung beans, soy beans etc. Calories per cup of boiled or cooked beans varies from 220 to 260 calories. Whatever the color of beans,( pink, brown, red or white ) they are a much talked about food for their benefits which include heart health, lowering of cholesterol and high fiber content. They are rich in proteins (a boon for strict vegetarians).They are high in potassium, iron, ‘B complex’ vitamins and low in sodium. They are delicious too and can be used in salads, soups, stews, casseroles, curries, dips and purees. Sprouted beans are nutrient dense and can be liberally used in salads.
Vegetable juices are natural cleansers of your kidneys, blood and liver. They help to lower high serum cholesterol, promote digestive health and is ideal for treatment of obesity and diabetes as they are low in glycemic index. They are excellent sources of nutrients like beta carotene, potassium and other trace minerals, antioxidants like vitamin C, natural pigments and enzymes and therefore have anti cancer properties. Care must be taken to make sure that the juices are made fresh and consumed immediately. Wash the vegetables really well before juicing them. Avoid straining as the pulp is the storehouse of fiber. Addition of lemon juice and ginger juice helps in making them more tasty and also enhances iron absorption. Use the following vegetables for juicing (either in combination or as a whole) – cabbage, bottle gourd or dudhi, carrots, cucumber, celery, mint and coriander, spinach, wheat grass, beet and tomato.
Whole grains and millets:
Whole grains and millets are ideal foods to boost your intake of complex carbohydrates, fiber and vegetable proteins. They are far more superior in nutrient values than refined grains, they are richer in dietary fiber, B complex vitamins, minerals and vitamin E. Studies have shown that they reduce the incidence if colon cancer, digestive diseases, diabetes, heart diseases and obesity. These grains are rich in bran, germ and the endosperm. The carbohydrates in them are digested and released slowly into the blood stream.
Commonly used grains are whole wheat, brown rice, barley, oats, wheat flour and sprouted grain flour.
Millets too are rich in B vitamins especially Niacin, B6 and folic acid, iron calcium, potassium and zinc. Some of the commonly used millets are Bajra or pearl millet, Ragi or finger millet, Jowar or sorghum. Since millets do not contain gluten it is an ideal food for those who have wheat intolerance, allergies, and celiac diseases. They are also high in fiber and phyto-chemicals which are believed to lower serum cholesterol levels. They are mild in flavor, tasty and can be used as porridge, beverage, breads, soups, stews, salads, biscuits and muffins.
Soups are ideal for weight watchers. It is an excellent and healthy way to make dieting easier (not all soups can be recommended for this purpose ). Soups that are rich in cheese, cream and thickeners are not recommended for health or for weight loss. Opt for low calorie soups like clear vegetable soups and tomato based ones. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants and are lesser in calories than cream based soups. You can thicken them using bottle gourd, pumpkin or barley flour instead of corn flour/white flour. A large bowl of soup before ones meal helps to reduce hunger and makes one full.