//The Top 10 Healthy Foods

The Top 10 Healthy Foods

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magine a choice of foods that were tasty, nutritious and good for your health – i.e. they helped you maintain a healthy body weight, improved your overall mood, and reduced your risk of developing diseases.

This Medical News Today information article provides details on the top ten foods considered to be the most healthy, according to surveys and sources across North America and Western Europe.

1 – Apples

Apples are an excellent source of antioxidants, which combat free radicals. Free radicals are damaging substances generated in the body that cause undesirable changes and are involved in the aging process and some diseases.

Some animal studies have found that an antioxidant found in apples (polyphenols) might extend lifespans.

Researchers at The Florida State University said that apples are a “miracle fruit”.

In their study, the investigators found that older women who starting a regime of eating apples daily experienced a 23 percent drop in levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and a 4% increase in good cholesterol (HDL) after just six months.1

Different varieties of apples

Recent developments on the benefits of apples from MNT news

Apples and pears can reduce stroke risk by 52%. Researchers from Wageningen Uninversity in the Netherlands, found that consuming fruit with white edible portions, such as pears and apples, can potentially reduce the risk of stroke by 52%. They reported their findings in the journal Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.2

2 – Almonds

Second on our list of top 10 healthy foods is almonds. Almonds are rich in nutrients, including magnesium, vitamin E, iron, calcium, fiber, and riboflavin. A scientific review published in Nutrition Reviews3 found that almonds as a food may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

The authors wrote:

“The message that almonds, in and of themselves, are a heart-healthy snack should be emphasized to consumers. Moreover, when almonds are incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet, the benefits are even greater.”

Almonds have more fiber than any other tree nut.

The fatty acid profile of almonds, which is made up of 91-94% unsaturated fatty acids, may partly explain why it helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

A bowl of almonds

Recent developments on the benefits of almonds from MNT news

Appetite decreased by snacking on almonds, no increase in body weight. Research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that participants who ate 1.5 ounces of dry-roasted, lightly salted almonds every day experienced reduced hunger and improved dietary vitamin E and “good” fat intake with no increase in body weight.4

Research review suggests almonds contain nutrients that provide cardioprotective effects. A scientific review, published in Nutrition Reviews, suggests that nutrient-rich almonds may promote heart health, and may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.5

Eating nuts every day may prolong life. Eating a handful of nuts a day could help you live longer and lower a your risk of death from heart disease and cancer, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.6

3 – Broccoli

Broccoli is rich in fiber, calcium, potassium, folate and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are compounds which reduce the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Broccoli also contains vitamin C, as well as beta-carotene, an antioxidant.

Broccoli florets
Note that boiling broccoli for too long can destroy much of its vital nutrients

A single 100 gram serving of broccoli can provide you with over 150 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, which in large doses can potentially shorten the duration of the common cold.7

Another ingredient, sulforphane, which exists in broccoli, is also said to have anti-cancer as well as anti-inflammatory qualities. However, overcooking can destroy most of the benefits.

Recent developments on the benefits of broccoli from MNT news

Lightly steamed broccoli contains the powerful anticancer enzyme myrosinase. Researchers from the University of Illinois wrote in Nutrition and Cancer that lightly steamed broccoli can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancers (steaming it slightly does not destroy the enzyme myrosinase). However, if you overcook it the health benefits are undermined.8

Eating broccoli may help prevent osteoarthritis. A UK study found that sulforaphane, a compound found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and Brussels sprouts, could help fight osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis.9

4 – Blueberries

Blueberries are rich in fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are natural chemicals found in plants.

Unlike minerals and vitamins that are also found in plant foods, phytonutrients are not essential for keeping us alive. However, they may help prevent disease and keep the body working properly.

According to a study carried out at Harvard Medical School, elderly people who eat plenty of blueberries (and strawberries) are less likely to suffer from cognitive decline, compared to other people of their age who do not.10

Scientists at Texas Woman’s University found that blueberries help in curbing obesity. Plant polyphenols, which are abundant in blueberries, have been shown to reduce the development of fat cells (adipogenesis), while inducing the breakdown of lipids and fat (lipolysis).11

Blueberries
Blueberries may help in controlling body weight

Regular blueberry consumption can reduce the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) by 10%, because of the berry’s bioactive compounds, anthocyanins, scientists from East Anglia University, England, and Harvard University, USA reported in the American Journal of Nutrition.12

Recent developments on the benefits of blueberries from MNT news

Blueberries and strawberries may reduce women’s risk of heart attack. Women could reduce their risk of heart attack by as much as 33 percent by eating three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries per week. Researchers believe it is because these fruits contain high levels of dietary flavonoids known as anthocyanins.13

Could blueberries help treat Parkinson’s disease?. Researchers from Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada suggest blueberries could help treat Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

5 – Oily fish

Examples of oily fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies.

These types of fish have oil in their tissues and around the gut. Their lean fillets contain up to 30% oil, specifically, omega-3 fatty acids. These oils are known to provide benefits for the heart, as well as the nervous system.

Oily fish are also known to provide benefits for patients with inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis.

Oily fish also contain vitamins A and D.

Scientists at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center found that prostate cancer progression was significantly slowed when patients went on a low-fat diet with fish oil supplements.14

Mackerel - oily fish
Oily fish such as these mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids

6 – Leafy green vegetables

Studies have shown that a high intake of dark-leafy vegetables, such as spinach or cabbage may significantly lower a person’s risk of developing diabetes type 2.

Researchers at the University of Leicester, England, said that the impact of dark green vegetables on human health should be investigated further, after they gathered data from six studies. They reported their findings in the BMJ.16

Spinach, for example, is very rich in antioxidants, especially when uncooked, steamed or very lightly boiled. It is a good source of vitamins A, B6, C, E and K, as well as selenium, niacin, zinc, phosphorus, copper, folic acid, potassium, calcium, manganese, betaine, and iron.

Spinach
Spinach is very rich in antioxidants

7 – Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fiber, beta carotene, complex carbohydrates, vitamin C, vitamin B6, as well as carotene (the pink, yellow ones).

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, USA, compared the nutritional value of sweet potatoes to other vegetables.17The sweet potato ranked number one, when vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, protein and complex carbohydrates were considered.

Sweet potatoes
Sweet potato roots are rich in fiber and several important nutrients

8 – Wheat germ

Wheat germ is the part of wheat that germinates to grow into a plant – the embryo of the seed. Germ, along with bran, is commonly a by-product of the milling; when cereals are refined, the germ and bran are often milled out.

Wheat germ is high in several vital nutrients, such as vitamin E, folic acid (folate), thiamin, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, as well as fatty alcohols and essential fatty acids.

Wheat germ is also a good source of fiber.

Wheat germ on white background

9 – Avocados

Many people avoid avocados because of its high fat content; they believe that avoiding all fats leads to better health and easier-to-control body weight – this is a myth. Approximately 75% of the calories in an avocado come from fat; mostly monosaturated fat.

Avocados are also very rich in B vitamins, as well as vitamin K and vitamin E and have a very high fiber content of 25% soluble and 75% insoluble fiber.

Studies have shown that regular avocado consumption lowers blood cholesterol levels.

Avocado extracts are currently being studied in the laboratory to see whether they might be useful for treating diabetes or hypertension.

Researchers from Ohio State University found that nutrients taken from avocados were able to stop oral cancer cells, and even destroy some of the pre-cancerous cells.

Want to know more? Read our article looking at the health benefits of avocados.

Avocados - sliced and unsliced
Weight-for-weight, avocados have 35% more potassium than bananas.

Recent developments on the benefits of avocados from MNT news

Avocado consumption may be associated with better diet quality. Consuming avocados may be associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake level, lower intake of added sugars, lower body weight, BMI and waist circumferences, according to a study published in Nutrition Journal.18

Avocados may help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol, study finds. A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, claims that consuming one avocado a day as part of a moderate-fat diet could help lower bad cholesterol among people who are overweight or obese.

10 – Oatmeal

Concluding our list of top 10 healthy foods is oatmeal. Oatmeal is meal made from rolled or ground oats. In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, the term “porridge” or “porridge oats” are common terms for the breakfast cereal that is usually cooked.

Interest in oatmeal has increased considerably over the last twenty years because of its health benefits.

Studies have shown that if you eat a bowl of oatmeal everyday your blood cholesterol levels, especially if they are too high, will drop, because of the cereal’s soluble fiber content. When findings were published in the 1980s, an “oat bran craze” spread across the USA and Western Europe. The oats craze dropped off in the 1990s.

In 1997, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) agreed that foods with high levels of rolled oats or oat bran could include data on their labels about their cardiovascular heart benefits if accompanied with a low-fat diet. This was followed by another surge in oatmeal popularity.

Oats is rich in complex carbohydrates, as well as water-soluble fiber, which slow digestion down and stabilize levels of blood-glucose.

Oatmeal is very rich in B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium. Coarse or steel-cut oats contain more fiber than instant varieties.

A bowl of oatmeal
A bowl of oatmeal with blueberries – a combination of 2 items from this top 10 healthy foods list…

If you enjoyed reading this article about the top 10 healthy foods, take a look at our in-depth feature examining the health benefits of a range of popular foods.

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