How healthy is your diet? You probably know which foods you should be trying to cut down on – but do you know exactly what you should be aiming to include each day for optimal health? While reducing sugar, salt and eating real food that is free from preservatives, additives and artificial colours is an important change we could all benefit from, it’s just as important to enjoy a balanced diet that includes enough of the vitamins, minerals and trace elements our bodies need to function. Below are Paediatric Nutritionist and author of Wholesome Child, Mandy Sacher’s five most essential ingredients for a healthy diet that you should be aiming to include on the menu each and every day.
Along with fruit, vegetables are nature’s greatest source of antioxidants and phytochemicals. Antioxidants such as vitamins E and C, selenium and zinc, can help stabilise the effects of free radicals (harmful atoms with the ability to cause cellular damage that can lead to disease). Both phytochemicals, such as lycopene in tomatoes and anthocyanins in purple cabbage, and antioxidants help to boost the immune system, remove toxins from the body, help regulate hormones and fight off inflammation. Soups are a great way to boost vegetable intake in cooler weather.
2. Healthy fats
Including a range of healthy fats daily from sources such as oily fish, chia seeds, walnuts, grass-fed meat, leafy greens, avocados, macadamia nuts, almonds and egg yolks can enhance the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K from food, promote the healthy development of vital organs, including brain, eyes and skin, provide a healthy and satisfying source of energy, help regulate blood sugar levels and hormones. Essential fats – such as omega 3s have been linked to improved concentration, learning, behaviour and sleep. Nori Wraps are a versatile option for lunch including various healthy fats like avocado, meats, egg filling and even fish.
3. Iron-rich protein
Iron deficiencies are widespread and it’s best to ensure that no matter what type of diet or eating trend is being followed, there are plenty of iron-rich foods included on a daily basis. Good sources of iron include, grass-fed beef, lamb, almonds, clams, legumes (lentils, adzuki beans, pinto beans) liver and pumpkin seeds. Try a simple and Lamb Kofta for an iron-loaded recipe that’s versatile and freezer-friendly.
4. Slow release carbohydrates
These can provide a rich source of minerals and dietary fibre and can help to reduce sugar cravings, stabilise blood sugar levels and steady mood swings. Good options include wholegrains (quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice oats, wholegrain spelt), legumes or starchy vegetables (sweet potato, parsnip, pumpkin).
5. Gut-friendly probiotics
Building and maintaining healthy gut flora with plenty of probiotic-rich foods can contribute to the health and wellbeing of all family members. Our guts are colonised by billions of bacteria that help digest food, process toxins and manufacture vitamins and metabolites, which are beneficial to our wellbeing. Boosting healthy bacteria in the gut can ensure a strong immune system. Our favourite options include kefir, fermented veggies, kombucha, natural yoghurt with probiotics and bone broth.
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