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While many know that healthy foods should be part of your diet, many Americans are nutrient deficient. A recent study by the CDC found that only one in ten adults are eating the recommended daily serving of vegetables and fruits. These issues have only been worsened by issues in food accessibility and rising costs— leading to decreased protection against chronic conditions and other health problems.
As we shared in our previous post on wellness without going over your budget, eating nutrient-rich foods doesn’t have to be expensive. One way to cut down on expenses is to shop for food in bulk for pantry items. At the same time, it can also be good to invest in more expensive healthy ingredients to improve your meals and boost your motivation. If you’re looking to work towards a more nutritious diet, listed below are five healthy foods we recommend:
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Oats are incredibly nutritious, containing a good source of carbohydrates and fiber. In particular, fiber beta-glucan in oats offers multiple health benefits, including reducing blood sugar and insulin response, increasing the feeling of fullness, and promoting the growth of good bacteria in your gut. In addition, oats provide high levels of protein and essential amino acids. For the best balance between cooking time and nutrients, we recommend using rolled oats. A simple, delicious, and guilt-free way to have oatmeal is to have it with fruits, milk, or yogurt for added nutrients.
Legumes are a broad food category that includes kidney, black, and garbanzo beans, peas, and soybeans. These vegetables are a rich source of plant-based protein, iron, potassium, and folate. They are also full of fiber — just one cup of black beans provides 15 grams of fiber, more than half the recommended daily amount for adults. In addition to being nutritious, legumes, especially beans, are affordable and available almost everywhere. Beans are easily prepared, especially with a rice cooker. Small rice cookers like the Instant Pot Lux Mini act as slow cookers, allowing you to prepare its settings without worrying about spending too much time in the kitchen. After making the main dish, you can always use the rice cooker to make rice— which partners well with cooked beans to make a healthy meal. If slow cooking, use dried beans, as canned beans might become too mushy.
A fun way to incorporate fruits into your diet is through frozen berries. A comparison of fresh and frozen blueberries found that freezing doesn’t affect the nutritional content. Studies have shown that the antioxidant value of blueberries increases with freezing and stays high for three months. Since frozen berries are as good as fresh, making fruit smoothies can be a great way to add fiber, manganese, and vitamins A, K, and C into your diet. Make sure to minimize added sugar in these drinks to keep them healthy.
An underrated health food that is widely available is tomatoes. Aside from being rich in vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K, these are significant sources of the antioxidant lycopene. Research has shown that lycopene is linked to several health benefits, such as the reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and macular degeneration (or the development of poor eyesight as you grow older). Canned tomatoes are an excellent way to get a cheap but healthy fix in stews or sauces. But if you’re opting for fresh produce, choose the reddest tomatoes to get the most antioxidants.
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While on the pricier side, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, radish, and bok choy are high in nutrients, including several carotenoids, vitamins C, E, and K, and other minerals. Research has shown that regular intake of these vegetables can reduce the risk of different cancers, like prostate and lung cancer, due to their bioactive components— making them critical parts of a healthy diet. One of the best ways to prepare these vegetables is by using a food steamer. With its size, the Hamilton Beach digital food steamer can be a great way to steam two different types of dishes at once, be it vegetables or protein. It also automatically switches to a keep-warm setting when finished cooking, preventing the loss of valuable nutrients when vegetables are overcooked.
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