We all know that we need to exercise regularly and eat a well-balanced diet to maximize our health. We’re told to complete 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise and get our 5-a-day.
Yet many of us struggle to follow these guidelines consistently. This is likely because the recommendations provided by organizations like WHO are for the general public, but in reality, everybody’s lifestyles and preferences vary. What is optimal for one person’s health might not be the best for someone else.
Being healthy encompasses everything from maintaining a certain level of physical fitness and mental well-being. Focusing on one without the other can be a detriment to your overall health, so it’s important to implement positive practices that will boost both aspects of your health.
One of the most effective ways to enhance your physical and mental well-being is through eating a nutritious diet. There are certain foods that not only provide essential nutrients for your body but also boost your mental health and cognitive functions.
These are foods that everybody can benefit from, regardless of the lifestyle they lead or their individual characteristics, such as age, gender, and genetics.
Here are some of the top health foods that everybody should be consuming as part of a well-balanced diet to maximize their physical and mental health. Many of these foods can be found in your local health food stores in Utah.
Fruits and Vegetables
Two of the most commonly known health food groups are fruits and vegetables.
We are all told to consume at least five combined portions of them every single day to optimize our health, but there is no harm in squeezing in a few additional portions if you can.
Fruits and vegetables contain essential micronutrients known as vitamins and minerals. Each micronutrient has a range of specific functions in your body, from metabolism to growth and development to cell protection. Without adequate amounts of these nutrients, your body cannot function optimally.
Aim to consume a wide variety of colors when you’re choosing which fruits and vegetables to eat. Generally, similar colored items contain similar levels of each micronutrient. For example, red and orange tones indicate a product that is rich in vitamin A-rich.
By eating the rainbow, you can maximize your chances of consuming sufficient amounts of each vitamin and mineral.
If you scroll through a blog full of healthy meal ideas, you are bound to spot avocado in many of the recipes you read. This is because avocados are extremely beneficial to your health. In fact, avocados are labeled as a superfood.
This is because they contain a multitude of essential nutrients that enhance your bodily functions. These micronutrients include the B vitamins, as well as vitamins C, E, K, magnesium, and potassium.
Avocados also provide the body with a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease by decreasing the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein (LDL)) in the body.
Because of their high content of healthy fats, adding some avocado into your meals can help you feel more satiated for longer. This makes them perfect if you’re trying to achieve a weight loss goal.
They also contain large amounts of fiber that can enhance your digestion and feed the good bacteria in your gut, which has positive effects on both your physical and mental health.
The majority of your serotonin is produced in your gut by the millions of microorganisms that reside there, so maintaining a healthy gut microbiome can boost your mood by enhancing your serotonin production.
if you’re pregnant, avocado is a great option! Its consumption has been associated with a lower risk of miscarriage and neural tube defects and enhanced fetal development.
Nuts are one of the best sources of healthy fats. They contain large amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3s and omega-6s) as well as several vitamins and minerals.
The exact nutrient profile varies between the different types of nuts, but they all provide incredible health benefits. In general, nuts can lower risk factors for cardiovascular events by lowering your levels of LDL and reducing inflammation, which would normally increase your risk of several diseases.
Omega-3s have also been shown to boost your mood, sharpen your focus, and enhance your memory.
Nuts can also act as antioxidants in the body, which prevents oxidative damage to the cells. in particular, pecans and almonds contain high levels of polyphenols that are powerful antioxidants.
Just one brazil nut can provide you with your recommended daily amount of selenium, an essential mineral that is required for immune function, reproductive health, thyroid function, and DNA protection.
This one might surprise you, but dark chocolate has several health benefits due to its cacao contents.
Made from the seeds of the cacao tree, dark chocolate contains lots of minerals, including magnesium, iron, copper, selenium, zinc, and manganese. Each of the minerals helps to keep your cells functioning optimally and boosts your metabolism.
Dark chocolate contains high amounts of antioxidants, such as polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins, which can protect your cells from oxidative damage caused by oxygen free radicals.
The flavanols contained in cacao can stimulate the production of nitric oxide (NO). This is a substance that acts as a vasodilator and helps to relax the arteries in your body. This can aid blood flow and reduce blood pressure.
Because of the combined antioxidative and vasodilation effects that dark chocolate provides, it can reduce the risk of heart disease when consumed in moderation. Studies show eating more than five times a week can provide these positive health benefits.
It’s possible the cacao can enhance your cognitive function and boost your mental health. It has been shown to reduce symptoms in those with mild cognitive impairment due to its flavanol contents.
The small amounts of caffeine and theobromine that are contained in dark chocolate provide short-term stimulation for the brain too, making it perfect for a mid-afternoon energy-boosting snack.