Which Food Is Healthier? Health is one of the most important aspects in life. Whatever you eat, will determine whether your body is in max health or not. We all know that healthy food is good for us, but many of us do not know what exactly makes a food healthy. Food is such a big part of our life and has a big impact on our health. There are thousands of different foods all over the world, so which food is healthier? We’ll have to do some research! Let’s go!
Do you ever find it difficult to determine if your favorite foods are actually healthy for you?
Between misleading labels and the never-ending supply of ‘healthy’ foods on every supermarket shelf, eating healthy can be a confusing and even daunting task.
If you’re between the ages of 35 and 50, the choices you make regarding your health right now are more important than ever. In fact, the choices you make today can help support a healthy you now, and in the future.
Take a look below as we explore ‘healthy foods’ and provide some insight into whether the foods in your diet are providing you with the nutrients you need.
What is Considered “Healthy Food”?
While eating fads come and go, there are a few key elements to healthy eating that remain unchanged.
Here is what we know:
“Healthy Food” Defined
Healthy foods are those that provide you with the nutrients you need to sustain your body’s well-being and retain energy. Water, carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals are the key nutrients that make up a healthy, balanced diet.
This information tells us we need to focus on eating fresh foods that provide us with the nutrients our bodies need.
Unfortunately, the food industry doesn’t make as much of a profit on fresh foods; processed foods are where the money’s at. Even big food companies have lobbied aggressively against public health plans – such as a campaign ordering the removal of junk food from schools.
These junk food items, processed from crops such as corn, wheat, and soybeans, are high in calories (fillers) and lack the nutritional value your body needs. However, because they are derived from crops, it can be difficult to know if they are healthy or not, and misleading claims on labels only make things worse.
How to Read Food Labels
According to a recent Nielsen report, almost 60-percent of consumers misinterpret or have a hard time comprehending nutrition labels.
One of the most critical parts of reading your food labels is to look at the serving size; 160 calories may not seem like much, but that could be for only two little cookies. Continue reading for other factors to keep in mind when grocery shopping for your healthy foods.
Saying “zero trans fat”, “all natural”, or “contains whole wheat” can trick you into thinking the product is healthy, even when its nutritional value has been stripped away after being processed.
Alternatively, many packaged products are packed with salt, sugar, and saturated fat. In other words, these claims make you forget about the added calories. Here is a list of what you should know before you read your food’s nutritional facts:
- Sugar: Women should try to limit their sugar intake to 25 g / day or 6 teaspoons
- Fat: There are about 9 calories per gram of fat – stick to about 50 g / day
- Sodium: Women should not consume more than 1,500 mg or 3.8 g of salt / day
- Protein: Women exercising less than 30 min / day should eat about 46 g of protein / day
- Vitamins: Naturally occurring vitamins are ideal, but added vitamins can be helpful too
- Calories: The average amount for women is 2,000 / day and 1,500 / day to lose weight based on a 150 lb. woman
Building a Healthy and Balanced Diet
Make most of your meal vegetables and fruits – ½ of your plate.
Aim for color and variety, and remember that potatoes don’t count as vegetables on the Healthy Eating Plate because of their negative impact on blood sugar.
Go for whole grains – ¼ of your plate.
Whole and intact grains—whole wheat, barley, wheat berries, quinoa, oats, brown rice, and foods made with them, such as whole wheat pasta—have a milder effect on blood sugar and insulin than white bread, white rice, and other refined grains.
Protein power – ¼ of your plate.
Fish, poultry, beans, and nuts are all healthy, versatile protein sources—they can be mixed into salads, and pair well with vegetables on a plate. Limit red meat, and avoid processed meats such as bacon and sausage.
Healthy plant oils – in moderation.
Choose healthy vegetable oils like olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower, peanut, and others, and avoid partially hydrogenated oils, which contain unhealthy trans fats. Remember that low-fat does not mean “healthy.”
Drink water, coffee, or tea.
Skip sugary drinks, limit milk and dairy products to one to two servings per day, and limit juice to a small glass per day.
The red figure running across the Healthy Eating Plate’s placemat is a reminder that staying active is also important in weight control.
Healthiest Foods on the Planet
Popeye’s favorite veggie is a great source of not only protein, but also vitamins A and C, antioxidants and heart-healthy folate. One cup of the green superfood has nearly as much protein as a hard-boiled egg—for half the calories. Looking to get the biggest nutritional bang for your buck? Be sure to steam your spinach instead of eating it raw. This cooking method helps retain vitamins and makes it easier for the body to absorb the green’s calcium content. Add a handful to soups, protein shakes, omelets, pasta dishes, and veggie stir-fries, or simply steam it and top with pepper, garlic, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
Another veggie worthy of a spot in your diet is mustard greens. When steamed, they provide a whopping 922 percent of your RDI for vitamin K, 96 percent of your vitamin A, and 47 percent of your vitamin C per cup, and they have a host of disease-fighting properties thanks to their high glucosinolate content. Glucosinolates are plant chemicals that your body converts into isothiocyanates, which have been shown to ward off cancer. In fact, according to a review in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Design, glucosinolates may protect against and may even represent a therapeutic strategy against several forms of the deadly illness.
Kale has definitely had its moment in the sun (and then some) but as far as healthy veggies go, it’s certainly worthy of praise. The cruciferous green (which is even available in McDonald’s these days) is loaded with health-boosting nutrients like vitamin A, phosphorus, and B vitamins like folate, and it boasts twice the vitamin C as spinach, another nutritional superstar. Furthermore, a study in the journal JRSM Cardiovascular Disease found that a high daily consumption of green leafy and cruciferous veggies (such as kale) significantly reduced incidence of several types of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death among women in the U.S. And since the veggie is as versatile as they come, feel free to add some kale to an array of meals ranging from egg dishes to tacos, and drinks such as juices and smoothies.
The next time you’re making a salad, why not throw some watercress in there? The green veggie is an excellent source of folate, which has been shown to stimulate weight loss. In fact, a study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that those with the highest folate levels lose about 8.5 times more weight when dieting than those with the lowest levels of folate. What’s more? A separate study in the British Journal of Cancer found that higher dietary folate intake reduces breast cancer risk. In addition to watercress, other good sources of folate include spinach, asparagus, and papaya.
Tomatoes are packed with the antioxidant lycopene, which studies show can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers, as well as reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Just one cup of the sun-dried version will lend you 6 grams of satiating protein, 7 grams of fiber and 75 percent of your RDA of potassium, which is essential for heart health and tissue repair. They’re also rich in vitamins A and K. Use them as a pizza topping, a tangy addition to salads, or snack on them right out of the bag.
Ghrelin is your body’s “I’m hungry” hormone, which is suppressed when your stomach is full, so eating satiating high-fiber and high-protein foods is a no-brainer. The humble artichoke is a winner on both counts: It has almost twice as much fiber as kale (10.3 g per medium artichoke, or 40 percent of the daily fiber the average woman needs) and one of the highest protein counts among vegetables. Boil and eat the whole shebang as a self-contained salad (why not add a little goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes?), toss the leaves with your favorite greens and dressing, or peel and pop the hearts onto healthy pizzas and flatbreads and lose belly fat.
It’s enough to make Popeye do a spit take: Despite their wimpy reputation, a cup of green peas contains eight times the protein of a cup of spinach. And with almost 100 percent of your daily value of vitamin C in a single cup, they’ll help keep your immune system up to snuff. Layer them into a mason jar salad or add them to an omelet to boost eggs’ satiating power.
You may have heard that spicy hot peppers can help you scorch calories, but did you know that mild peppers can have the same effect? Thanks to a metabolism-boosting compound, dihydrocapsiate, and their high vitamin-C content, sweet red and green peppers can help you lose weight. A cup of these bell-shaped veggies serves up to three times the day’s recommended vitamin C—a nutrient that counteracts stress hormones which trigger fat storage around the midsection.
In addition to warding off prostate, breast, lung and skin cancers, this flowery vegetable can also help you whittle your middle. According to experts, broccoli contains a phytonutrient called sulforaphane that increases testosterone and fights off body fat storage. It’s also rich in vitamin C ( a mere cup of the stuff can help you hit your daily mark), a nutrient that can lower levels of cortisol during stressful situations. The only downside? It can make some people with sensitive stomachs a bit gassy and bloated—which isn’t a good look if you’re planning to hit the beach or rock a tight-fitting outfit. That’s no reason to steer clear of this veggie on a day-to-day basis, though. Whip up our parmesan roasted broccoli recipe to reap the belly-flattening benefits—just maybe not the day before you need to look your leanest.
Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and fiber, and that’s just the tip of the nutritional iceberg. Beta-carotene—the compound that gives carrots their orange hue—has been linked to a decreased risk for developing certain types of cancer. Per an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study of over 3,000 women, those who had higher levels of beta-carotene in their blood had a 59 percent lower risk of a certain type of breast cancer (ER-negative breast cancer) than women with lower levels. Another related compound also found in carrots, alpha-carotene, reduced the cancer risk by about 39 percent.
Another study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer suggested beta-carotene may ward off lung cancer. According to scientists, beta-carotene and alpha-carotene are carotenoids that our bodies convert to vitamin A, which is important for immune function, maintaining healthy cells, and activating carcinogen-metabolizing enzymes.
Practical advice on maintaining a healthy diet
Fruit and vegetables
Eating at least 400 g, or five portions, of fruit and vegetables per day reduces the risk of NCDs and helps to ensure an adequate daily intake of dietary fibre.
Fruit and vegetable intake can be improved by:
- always including vegetables in meals;
- eating fresh fruit and raw vegetables as snacks;
- eating fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season; and
- eating a variety of fruit and vegetables.
Reducing the amount of total fat intake to less than 30% of total energy intake helps to prevent unhealthy weight gain in the adult population. Also, the risk of developing NCDs is lowered by:
- reducing saturated fats to less than 10% of total energy intake;
- reducing trans-fats to less than 1% of total energy intake; and
- replacing both saturated fats and trans-fats with unsaturated fats – in particular, with polyunsaturated fats.
Fat intake, especially saturated fat and industrially-produced trans-fat intake, can be reduced by:
- steaming or boiling instead of frying when cooking;
- replacing butter, lard and ghee with oils rich in polyunsaturated fats, such as soybean, canola (rapeseed), corn, safflower and sunflower oils;
- eating reduced-fat dairy foods and lean meats, or trimming visible fat from meat; and
- limiting the consumption of baked and fried foods, and pre-packaged snacks and foods (e.g. doughnuts, cakes, pies, cookies, biscuits and wafers) that contain industrially-produced trans-fats.
Salt, sodium and potassium
Most people consume too much sodium through salt (corresponding to consuming an average of 9–12 g of salt per day) and not enough potassium (less than 3.5 g). High sodium intake and insufficient potassium intake contribute to high blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Reducing salt intake to the recommended level of less than 5 g per day could prevent 1.7 million deaths each year.
People are often unaware of the amount of salt they consume. In many countries, most salt comes from processed foods (e.g. ready meals; processed meats such as bacon, ham and salami; cheese; and salty snacks) or from foods consumed frequently in large amounts (e.g. bread). Salt is also added to foods during cooking (e.g. bouillon, stock cubes, soy sauce and fish sauce) or at the point of consumption (e.g. table salt).
Salt intake can be reduced by:
- limiting the amount of salt and high-sodium condiments (e.g. soy sauce, fish sauce and bouillon) when cooking and preparing foods;
- not having salt or high-sodium sauces on the table;
- limiting the consumption of salty snacks; and
- choosing products with lower sodium content.
Some food manufacturers are reformulating recipes to reduce the sodium content of their products, and people should be encouraged to check nutrition labels to see how much sodium is in a product before purchasing or consuming it.
Potassium can mitigate the negative effects of elevated sodium consumption on blood pressure. Intake of potassium can be increased by consuming fresh fruit and vegetables.
In both adults and children, the intake of free sugars should be reduced to less than 10% of total energy intake. A reduction to less than 5% of total energy intake would provide additional health benefits.
Consuming free sugars increases the risk of dental caries (tooth decay). Excess calories from foods and drinks high in free sugars also contribute to unhealthy weight gain, which can lead to overweight and obesity. Recent evidence also shows that free sugars influence blood pressure and serum lipids, and suggests that a reduction in free sugars intake reduces risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.
Sugars intake can be reduced by:
- limiting the consumption of foods and drinks containing high amounts of sugars, such as sugary snacks, candies and sugar-sweetened beverages (i.e. all types of beverages containing free sugars – these include carbonated or non‐carbonated soft drinks, fruit or vegetable juices and drinks, liquid and powder concentrates, flavoured water, energy and sports drinks, ready‐to‐drink tea, ready‐to‐drink coffee and flavoured milk drinks); and
- eating fresh fruit and raw vegetables as snacks instead of sugary snacks.