Top 20 Healthy Foods for fitness
This is list is brought to you by BookCulinaryVacations.com and was originally published there. I did not change anything of Iliana Aguilar's content and just commented on my experience in each section. I hope you enjoy the read and get inspired to travel or try one of these foods to improve your fitness.
It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables are good for our health, but knowing the exact benefits of each food we consume enables us to be more aware of how we are nourishing our body (even our brain) and giving it what it needs. As hard as it is to believe, it is possible to take care of your health and well-being while enjoying delicious foods that you can easily find anywhere around the globe. All you need is this list of 20 foods with potential health benefits that we have whipped up to share with you!
When eaten properly, seeds, fruits, vegetables (as well as virtually everything that originates from Mother Nature) provide specific nutrients for our body. This is the reason why many scientists are reluctant to label some foods as ‘superfoods’. Whilst it is true that some foods have more vitamins or minerals than others, this may not be enough reason to think of them as higher than others. Plus, when it comes to consuming food, enjoying a variety of food on a regular basis will prevent your palate to become ‘bored’ of the same set of flavors.
On this list, we’re providing you not only with information on the various health benefits of each food, we’ve also included some ideas on scrumptious dishes you can try to whip up right in your own kitchen. Read on!
Almonds = Maintain a Healthy Heart
Though almonds come with a variety of health benefits, one of the most advantages is that consuming a handful of almonds every day has been proven to help to maintain a healthy heart. It is an excellent source of magnesium and heart-healthy fat. As a bonus, it also packed with proteins, fiber, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and riboflavin. Almonds make a great ‘on the go’ snack but you can also try adding almonds to your salad or look for low-fat meals where non-processed almonds are included, we are sure these tasty examples will give you a better idea of what we mean: Spaghettini with Tomatoes, Anchovies, and Almonds, Almond-Crusted Tilapia, and Pesto with basil, almonds, and tomatoes.
My personal favorite is almonds with yogurt and honey as a dessert. This is a great snack whenever I get the munchies for chocolate or other naughty stuff. You can also try them in a mince beef roast or bread. Especially when you like baking your own bread almonds can be a tasty add-on.
Apples = Delay the Aging Process
We’ve all heard the saying: ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’, and it happens to be true! Antioxidants in apples are an effective defense against free radicals, undesirable substances that are often related to causing some diseases such as respiratory problems, as well as, your body’s aging process off! Additionally, the fiber found in apples help to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. It also contains other elements as quercetin, which prevents respiratory problems, and ursolic acid in apple’s peel lowers obesity’s incidence. An excellent way to eat an apple is to whip up a Stuffed Apple with Peanut Butter and Granola.
My wife made that recipe first when we started on the keto diet. Excellent little sweet snack. Apples have always been a staple of my day since I was young. My grandmother indoctrinated me to eat more of them. Since then, besides bananas, we always have them in our fruit bowl at home for a snack. Don't be shy to put a bit of effort in and slice them up to combine them with honey or peanut butter. This makes your snack time even better.
Avocados = Prevent Cancer
Here comes another reason to love guacamole! You should know that avocado is an important food in Latin America, particularly in the Mexican cuisine. You actually can learn how to prepare a lot of wonderful avocado dishes in Mexico while enjoying beautiful places!
The prevention of prostate and breast cancer is related to the phytonutrients found in avocados. Among the many vitamins avocados have, you’ll find that it contains plenty of vitamin A, C, E, and B6. With the high percentage of folate in avocados, heart diseases and strokes can also be prevented and cholesterol levels can be reduced thanks to the monounsaturated fat found in this mouthwatering food! So, why not have yourself an avocado sandwich for lunch today?
Aside from having a great meal, you’ll also be taking care of your eyes by making them stronger against macular degeneration and cataracts. The great thing about avocado is that due to its buttery texture and non-intrusive flavor, it can be eaten in many different ways! It’s often an ingredient found in dishes such as salads, pizza, sushi, soups, or even smoothies! PS: a Spinach Smoothie with Avocado and Apple, makes a great healthy breakfast. Yum!
My wife and I like to have Avocado with egg on toast. This is a great breakfast after a lay-in on the weekend. Since avocados are consumed more all over the world we try to stay away from the ones which are sourced in Mexico. There are already several bad impacts apparent like rising prices and gang wars because of the increased demand.
Beans = Manage a Healthy Weight
You’ve probably never thought that beans can actually help you to manage your weight, or at least not the beans that you find perfectly mixed inside a hearty chicken fajita burrito! The truth is, when eaten in moderation, beans are a rich source of fiber, and fiber makes you feel full for a longer period of time than most food. Beans also help to build a good preventive ‘shield’ against diabetes and some types of cancer.
Many vegetarians love beans, as when combined with grains, they become a ‘fountain’ of proteins. Bone health and blood pressure levels can also be managed with moderate consumption of beans, thanks to its huge amounts of iron, potassium, and magnesium. Antioxidants can be also found in beans –here’s an expert tip: the darker the bean, the more antioxidants it contains. So, yes, there are multiple ways to eat beans other than having it in burritos, such as using them as the main ingredient in dishes like: Southwestern Black Bean Salad, and (Almost) Stuffed Peppers.
Whenever we have beans we put them into a chili or soup. These two dishes are ideal for prepping your meals for a week. They can be easily cooked in big batches and put in the freezer for later consumption. The only thing you have to watch out for is that fiber... well you get the picture I guess.
Beets = Prevent Degenerative Diseases
Just by cutting a beet in half, you will immediately see that it is rich in antioxidants. The strong red color of beets (which by the way is difficult to wash away from clothes!) indicates the very high level of antioxidants known as betalain. By having a regular consumption of this vegetable, you can minimize the risks of suffering degenerative diseases and gain anti-inflammation benefits. If that isn’t enough reason to convince you, beets are rich in vitamin A, B, and C to improve your immune system and help your body on producing collagen for strong nails and hair. With a wealth of benefits relating to beauty and health, it’s safe to say that it can be regarded as ‘the fountain of the eternal beauty and health’!
Though you may have only enjoyed beets as a part of your salads, we recommend you to try Oven Baked Beet Chips or a Beet Cake.
I have not tried the chips or the cake yet myself. However, I was used introduced to beets when I moved to Ireland. My wife often ut them into salads. While weird at first I got used to the taste and have them once a week now. They are harder to get in Germany, as they are not as popular compared to Ireland.
Blueberries = Encourage Proper Bodily Function
Don’t be deceived by its size; this tiny yet powerful and low-calorie berry should be part of your daily intake! The antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, and phytochemicals found in blueberries can help to keep your body in good function and prevent certain heart diseases, reduce the aging process, and vulnerability to carcinogenic ailments.
If you’re thinking that this gives you a ‘pass’ to eat a blueberry muffin every day, remember that you can always make a healthier (yet equally delicious) choice! Instead, why not try Blueberry Pie Overnight Oats for dinner or Vegetable Couscous with Wild Blueberries for lunch? Both your taste buds and your body will surely thank you for it.
Berries in overnight Oats area great hit. They make the oats taste less bland and add some flavor and sweetness. If you are still eating breakfast ( which I am not) this definitely a great and easy addition to your diet. If you do not like blueberries you can also opt for strawberries or raspberries.
Broccoli = Combat Breast Cancer
Some of you not really be ‘into’ vegetables. Perhaps some of you may even despise broccoli, but trust us, unless you are clearly allergic to this jolly green vegetable, anyone who offers you a plate of steamed broccoli really loves you!
Broccoli is jam-packed with calcium, potassium, fiber, folate, vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamins K, E, B, and minerals, and yes, it happens to also be very low in calories! Broccoli is a potent ‘weapon’ when it comes to fighting the growth of cancer cells, fortifying your bones, keeping your heart and eyes in good shape, and reducing the risks of diabetes!
If you’re still thinking of ‘running away’ from broccoli like the plague, we’ve got some delectable ideas that may just change your mind. For dinner, why don’t you try to whip up a portion of Broccoli Bites with Cheddar Cheese, Mashed Potatoes, and Broccoli, or Cheesy Mushroom and Broccoli Casserole.?
If you’re looking for even more ideas, why not sign up for a culinary vacation in Asia? You’ll learn to cook plenty of Asian dishes that often use broccoli as one of its main ingredients!
The combination of broccoli with cheese is a great one. This is a great snack as an alternative to popcorn when you are watching a movie at home. It only takes slightly longer to make and is healthier.
Chia Seeds = Manage Hydration
Though the popularity of Chia seeds has boomed for the past few years, you’d be interested to know that chia seeds were actually one of the staple foods of the ancient Mayas and Aztecs!
As chia seeds absorb 10 times their weight in water, some scientific studies suggest that they can help keep the body hydrated for a longer period of time. If you need to lower your body’s inflammation or want to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, then regular consumption of chia seeds could be handy thanks to their omega-3 fatty acids.
Lucky for us, chia seeds make the perfect topping for a yogurt ice-cream or plain yogurt! They can also be added to refreshing smoothies as Banana, Chia, and Spinach Smoothie, Coconut Raspberry Chia Smoothie, or Apple, Lime, and Chia Smoothie; the combinations are endless!
Personally, we have not explored the benefits of chia seeds to their full extent. If you have any reports please let us know in the comments.
Dark Chocolate = More Brain Power
Here comes a sweet treat that (almost) everyone loves! But do take note: chocolate is only considered healthy when it’s dark chocolate. Milk chocolates, though delicious (and addictive), are packed with tons of sugar and non-healthy fat. When it comes to dark chocolate, the rule of thumb is the higher the cocoa content, the better it is for our health. Flavanols in cocoa can generate a boost of blood flow to your brain, which helps you to be more awake and alert!
Consuming dark chocolate with high levels of antioxidants may also result in improving your heart’s health and reducing the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol and up the levels of ‘good’ cholesterol. As wonderful as this all may sound, keep in mind to enjoy it in moderation. Looking for chocolate recipes? You should pamper yourself with these treats: Chocolate and ginger tarts, Chocolate-Dipped Banana Bites, or Chocolate Covered Bourbon Soaked Cherries. Pure decadence!
Chocolate dipped banana and strawberry bites are always a winner with the ladies. They can be a mess to make. Try it on your next date day. She will be thankful. Apart from that dark chocolate has become the go-to naughty snack on our household. Just be aware that consuming too much of it can lead to constipation. Some of the militaries of the world hand chocolate to their soldiers to stay awake for longer.
Edamame = Increased Energy
Everybody seems to be talking about edamame these days, and you should know that the main reason of this is because, well, they happen to taste really good!
In a nutshell, edamame is a young soybean or a ‘baby’ soybean. Due to its richness in iron, it is the ideal snack if you are looking for a natural energy source. Edamame list of benefits are incredible - packed with proteins, folate, magnesium, potassium, and choline, it may help to decrease the risks of cardiovascular diseases, assist in lowering symptoms of depression, and reducing chronic inflammation.
If you have yet to try it, we highly suggest you to do it! If you prefer to eat it as a part of a dish instead of on its own, we recommend you to try Edamole(just like guacamole but with edamame instead of avocado), Edamame and Cranberry Salad, Pasta topped with Edamame or Edamame Hummus Wrap.
Whenever I do these corporations with other blogs I learn something new. This is definitely one of the items I have not seen or eaten yet. Looking forward to trying it.
Eggs = Boost Good Memory
You may not know this, but the simple egg is actually one of the most controversial foods among scientists. Nevertheless, if life has thought us something is that any food is harmless as long as it is consumed in moderation! This is why eating eggs (yolks included) from time to time can be good for your memory as they contain a lot of choline. Eggs have the perfect combination to nourish your body: lots of proteins, low calorie, and low fat. A relatively cheap food item, it is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, an extraordinary substance to keep your body and heart working properly, and antioxidants that are good for your eyes.
Do not underestimate the power of eggs. Here are just some of delicious dishes that include eggs: Mediterranean Eggs with Tomatoes, Potatoes, and Yogurt, a gastronomic treasure you can often find in the Middle East; Potato Hash with Spinach and Eggs, (you can have it for breakfast or dinner); and Grilled Asparagus and Poached Egg on Toast, an easy dish that only requires 20 minutes to cook!
Eggs are a staple of our diet and I could not live without them. We have them with bacon, avocado, by themselves, on toast and scrambled with cheese. There just so many options. If you want to be naughty, put your eggs into a nice cake for the holiday season.
Garlic = Manage Blood Pressure
Don’t worry, we will not suggest for you to eat a whole clove of raw garlic. But you should know that garlic is composed by Allicin, an antioxidant that has proved to be helpful in maintaining blood pressure in low levels. Along with antioxidants, garlic is rich in vitamin C and B6, manganese, and selenium, a rich mix that is linked to the combat of bacteria’s growth.
There are many dishes in which garlic can be included as a replacement of salt. Here are some delectable ideas to start with: Roasted Potatoes with Garlic, Garlic and Jalapeño Hummus, and Herbed-Garlic-Hemp-Popcorn. Note: Garlic cooked for more than 10 minutes will lose its awesome nutrients, so be careful and don’t cook them for too long!
We use garlic in pasta sauces and whenever there is minced beef. They combine well with onions in any dish that you are preparing. Don't be shy to use it. You only live once and if you stink, well so be it for a day.
Lemons = Maintain Tendon and Bone Health
We already know that lemons can provide great benefits to our health thanks to vitamin C, but there are much more benefits to explore! Scientific studies show that it also increases collagen production in our bodies, meaning that the blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, and bones are kept in good shape. Along with helping you to get through a cold or even prevent it, vitamin C may help to increase ‘good’ cholesterol. Finally, flavonoids in lemons could help to fight cancer cells growth and have been known to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Lucky for us, lemons make a great condiment: Lemon-Baked Salmon with Roasted Potatoes, Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower with Lemon and Garlic, or Fried Smashed Potatoes with Lemons.
Whenever you make fish, add some lemon to it. It never fails to make it tastier. Lemon is also great f you want to drink more water during the day. Just add it to your water bottle to make the taste of the water more interesting. This is how we use lemons in our household.#
Oatmeal = Improve Metabolism
If you don’t have too much time to prepare your breakfast, a hearty serving of oatmeal can save your morning! All the soluble fiber in the oatmeal will help you to have better digestion, meaning that your metabolism will process fat in a better way. Another function of oat’s fibers is dropping high cholesterol level in blood. A huge quantity of B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium are part of oatmeal’s composition. If you are serious about eating healthy food, stay away from instant oatmeal though it seems tempting and practical as they are loaded with sugar.
Instead, why not try whipping up these oatmeal dishes: Oatmeal and Quinoa Breakfast Bowl (with dried fruit, vanilla almond milk, and agave for a touch of sweetness), Creamy Cocoa Oatmeal, and Oatmeal with Cheddar and Scallion.
Oatmeals were my number one go-to food when I still had breakfast. I now do intermittent fasting so I do not have as much anymore. If you feel like you have to have breakfast, this is a great compromise between speed, tastiness and being healthy.
Potatoes = Help Building of Cells
Yes, you are reading correctly, we included potatoes on this list. When we think of potatoes and the first image that usually comes to our head is probably the fried full-of-salt-and-fat version.
That said, eating potatoes without all the extra ingredients is a good way to obtain folate, just as if you were eating spinach or broccoli. Don’t waste the peel of purple potatoes as they may lower blood pressure and are surprisingly appetizing!
These dishes might just create the beginning of a whole new love affair between you and potatoes: Red Chile Potatoes, Cajun-Stuffed Potatoes, and German Potato Salad with Dill.
We avoid potatoes at the moment as they are high in carbohydrates. This does not align with the keto diet we are currently on. However, for a more balanced approach to diet, potatoes are great and tasty. Maybe try an Irish stew the next time you want to have potatoes. This was one of the first dishes I enjoyed when I moved to Ireland.
Quinoa = Nourish Your Body
It is to eat quinoa at any time of the day, so feel free to include it in your daily meals! Rich in protein, quinoa is part of a complete range of nutrition. In addition to protein, quinoa is a very useful source of magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, you may be wondering what quinoa actually is, first of all, it is not a type of grain (it’s a common misconception). Quinoa is a seed that provides nine essential amino acids to your body and is a perfect choice to make a gluten-free flour.
Our culinary suggestions on how you can enjoy quinoa are Chicken Quinoa Soup, Oven-Baked Mexican Quinoa Casserole, and Quinoa Coconut Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies.
While Quinoa is on every list of healthy super foods I am not a big fan of it. The taste and texture of it are just not for me. When something tastes too much like it is good for you, I usually do not like it. Quinoa is definitely in this bracket, even though I do not doubt its positive impact for a second.
Spinach = Maintain Good Eyesight
Maybe the idea of eating green leaves don’t exactly excite you, but it is one of the best things you can consume in order to take care of your body and avoid diseases.
Spinach has two wonderful antioxidants that will improve and keep your eyesight in good health: lutein and zeaxanthin (don’t worry about the name, just know that consuming spinaches are beneficial for your eyes). Every time you include spinach in your meal, you’ll receive a high dose of vitamin A and calcium. As an added bonus, spinach is really low in calories, so keep them in mind when you are looking to lose weight in a healthy way. Just so you know, salads are not the only way to eat spinach, why not try to prepare one of these delicious dishes instead? Spinach Lasagna, Sautéed Wild Mushrooms with Spinach, or even, Blueberry Mint Green Smoothie!
Spinach is a great add-on to your diet which we often have in salads. Spinach is high in nutrient and low in calories. This makes it almost risk-free to eat. It is interesting to see how a lot of spinach reduces very fast in a pot when you add it to a meal. Gave it with lemon and salmon for an excellent, easy to make the dish.
Sweet Potatoes = Achieve Radiant Skin
After knowing the benefits of sweet potatoes, you will gladly add them to your meals! Sweet potatoes have an enormous amount of beta-carotene, an excellent element to increase the skin’s cell production. Along with the vitamin A found in sweet potatoes, beta-carotene will make your immune system stronger. When cooking with sweet potatoes, there is no need to add sugar, butter or salt, as they are sweet enough to create a scrumptious dish.
Delight your palate with the following sweet potatoes dishes: Sweet Potato and Arugula Salad, Loaded Sweet Potato Skins, Lemon-Glazed Sweet Potatoes, you should really give all of them a taste!
Sweet potato fries from the oven are the go-to supplement for french fries in our household.Just cut them up like regular fries and put them in the oven for 20 minutes at 180-degree Celsius. A great alternative to missing the good old french fries not too much when you are trying to lose weight.
Tomatoes = Fight Depression
Forget about ketchup! The real deal is consuming tomatoes without so many industrial processes, which only make them lose nutrients. Take a quick look at the cuisines around the world and you will see that tomato is an important ingredient of their menu. During a culinary vacation in Italy, you will notice that the tomato is not only an essential ingredient in preparing pizza but also for a vast array of dishes such as the mouth-watering Caprese salad.
Though tomato is crucial in many culinary traditions, it may also help to ‘solve’ some health issues! For instance, it has been shown that depression can be minimized with folic acid, which is found in tomatoes. Additionally, constipation problems could be reduced with all the fiber and water contained in tomatoes. The benefits of vitamin C are present in tomatoes too, including helping to combat prostate and colorectal cancer.
Let’s see if you can resist this tomato-based dishes: One-Skillet Cherry Tomato Frittata, Poached Eggs with Broccoli, Tomatoes, and Whole Meal Flatbread, and Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomato and Goat Cheese Toast.
Our favorite version of tomatoes is cherry tomatoes. Add them to salads, dressings and almost anything you like. Explore the Mediterranean cuisine as I think it is one of the greatest on earth because they use so many tomatoes.
Walnuts = Drop Cholesterol Levels
You need to eat walnuts on a regular basis. Not just because they taste oh so decadent and make a marvelous snack! but also because they will help you maintain your body’s health! Omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, helping you to boost moods, and last but not least, fight cancer. We know that these nuts can very much be addictive but be sure to not eat them too much as they can be quite high in calories. So, a serving of 1.5 ounces per day shall be enough.
Have you tried using walnuts as a topping? Give it a try with these drool-worthy recipes: Barbecued Chicken and Fiery Walnut Pizza, Brilliant Chili Topped with Walnuts, and Maple-Walnut Roasted Apples.
Walnuts are not just for Christmas. You can have them all year around. Discounters like Lidl and Aldi have picked up on the trend and give walnuts a more prominent place in their shops. Have a hand full whenever you get cravings. You can mix them with almonds for more fun.
There you have it! A list of 20 awesome foods that will help you to achieve and to stay in your best health! Now that you know it can be done in various, delicious, and exciting ways, we hope we have succeeded on motivating you to ditch highly processed, fast food and junk food and opt to prepare and eat healthier & nutritious foods!
There are many excellent foods out there if you are just willing to look for them. Once my wife and I had decided to change our ways it was not as hard as we thought. Go out there and swap potatoes for something else. Have more yogurt and nuts as snacks. Make apples more interesting with peanut butter. Put some berries in your oatmeals. Have oatmeals instead of corn flakes. These few changes will already help you tremendously to reach your fitness goals.
By Iliana Aguilar, Community Manager at BookCulinaryVacations.com. She is convinced that every dish in the world has a story to tell and has the power to connect people. She is a natural born foodie who always finds the perfect excuse to 'spoil' her taste buds!