7 Simple Ways to Add More Healing Foods to Your Diet
Healing foods are nutrient-dense food choices that contain additional phytonutrients, compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. There’s some evidence that eating more of these foods may protect against chronic health conditions related to aging, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as slow the aging process itself. One theory as to why aging occurs is cell and tissue damage due to oxidative stress.
It’s easiest to add more healing foods to your diet by making small changes. The purpose of this article is to show you simple ways to replace some of the foods you currently eat that are low in nutrient density with ones that are more nutrient-dense. Let’s look at some super-simple ways to add more healing foods to your diet.
Add Produce to Your Morning Meal
The earlier in the day you start eating nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, the more likely you are to get your five-plus servings of fruits and vegetables in. If you eat a bowl of oatmeal or whole grains cereal, add your favorite berries and a pinch of cinnamon to help with blood sugar control. Rather than serving eggs, make a veggie omelet packed with vegetables such as mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, garlic, onions, red peppers, and more. With eggs and veggies, you get fiber and protein for satiety but also vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Have a Smoothie “Snack”
Some smoothies have a bad reputation as being too high in sugar, but if you make one at home with the right ingredients, it doesn’t have to be. Unlike juice, you retain the fiber when you make a smoothie. The key to making a smoothie that won’t spike your blood sugar is to choose a high ratio of vegetables to fruit. For example, make a smoothie with spinach, kale, and blueberries. Although it will have a green shade, the berries will mask the taste of the greens. If you want it a little sweeter, add a natural calorie-free sweetener like Stevia. Frozen berries work well for making green smoothies and you can combine them with your favorite plant-based milk.
Watch What You Drink
Get the most out of the beverages you sip too. The worst thing you can drink is soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages. You’re probably aware that drinking too many sugary beverages can lead to health problems, such as obesity and dental cavities. But should sugary drinks be avoided altogether? The answer, in most cases, is yes. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance.
Why not make your go-to beverage green tea? Some research suggests that green tea has healing properties, thanks to powerful antioxidants called catechins, which help prevent cell damage. Studies are looking at whether the antioxidant power of green tea could lower the risk of some health problems, like cardiovascular disease, cancer, or dementia. The verdict is still out but sipping a cup of green tea is a smarter option than drinking a beverage high in sugar.
Replace the Starch and Double Up on the Vegetables
Starchy foods, like white rice, white potatoes, and pasta are favorite side dishes for many people, but these foods are low in nutrition relative to colorful, non-starchy fruits and veggies. There’s an ongoing debate in the nutrition community about the potential health benefits and/or risks of starchy foods, like white rice, white potatoes, and pasta. While these foods are a good source of energy, they can also be high in calories and carbohydrates.
You can up the nutrient content of any meal by replacing these starchy options with a colorful vegetable. If you like the taste of white rice, try cauliflower rice, available frozen at many grocery stores. It has the same look and texture of rice, but it’s made from diced cauliflower, a more nutrient-dense option. How about spiralized zucchini in place of pasta noodles? If you cant give up baked potatoes, switch that white potato for a sweet potato or a purple sweet potato. You’ll get more nutrients per bite.
Upgrade Your Salads
Start each meal with a salad. Studies show that doing this can reduce the number of calories you eat with the rest of your meal. Swap the iceberg lettuce for more nutrient-dense healing foods such as kale, watercress, and cabbage. Add artichokes, carrots, red peppers, and mushrooms for more nutrients and healing power. Top it off with a sprinkle of broccoli sprouts, one of the richest sources of glucosinolates that your body converts to anti-cancer compounds.
Add More Spices
Did you know gram for gram, spices have more antioxidant power than fruits and vegetables? When you speak of healing foods, it would be remiss not to mention herbs and spices. Many, such as rosemary, garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, and oregano, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. There are many different types of spices and each one offers a different set of health benefits. Your best bet might be to eat a variety. If you’re on blood thinners, talk to your doctor before using some spices, such as garlic, since it can interfere with the benefits of these medications.
Eating “local” may means something different to each person. For some, eating locally may mean sourcing your produce from directly from a local farm. For others, it may mean purchasing locally grown produce at the supermarket. Either way, the common theme is that the food is grown or produced close to home. If you eat local, you know that fresh local food tastes better. But did you also know that eating local helps you eat healthier? Eating local food is good for your health because it’s more nutritious.
Why is locally grown food more nutrient-dense? When food travels a shorter distance, there’s less time for it to lose its nutrients. Some vitamins are especially sensitive to heat and light, such as vitamin C and some B-vitamins. So buy close to home and use your produce as quickly as possible.
The Bottom Line
Use these simple ways to add more healing foods to your diet to upgrade the nutrient density of what you eat. Healing foods are satisfying and delicious!