The food you eat affects your health. After all, they do say you are what you eat.
Food provides nutrients to the body so it can function properly. Therefore, it’s paramount that you consume healthy foods to stay clear of diseases and live longer.
In this article, you’ll learn the top 9 categories of food backed by medical science that will help you live healthier, stronger, and longer.
Many of them taste delicious and can be found at a reasonable price.
1) Non-starchy Vegetables
Non-starchy vegetables are a group of vegetables that contain low content of starch. Like starchy vegetables, non-starchy vegetables are rich in vitamins, fibre, minerals, and phytochemicals. They include: cabbage, artichoke (green, bok choy, chinese), carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, hearts of palm, broccoli, brussels sprout, squash (cushaw, summer, crookneck, spaghetti, zucchini), celery and asparagus.
When choosing non-starchy vegetables, the American Diabetes Association suggests that people should choose fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables without additional sodium, fat, or sugar. They also recommended eating at least three to five vegetables servings daily for good health.
According to the ADA (American Diabetes Association), a serving of vegetables comprises of:
- ½ cup of cooked vegetables
- 1 cup of raw vegetables
A study published in POS medical journal reveals that consuming non-starchy vegetables helps sustain a healthy weight.
Berries are little, tender, circular fruits. They come in various colours like red, blue, or purple. Berries have a high level of fibre, vitamin C, and antioxidants. They comprise of grapes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, cranberries, and bilberries.
Many studies demonstrate that berries may prevent cardiovascular diseases, inflammation, diabetes, reduce ageing and improve the overall quality of life.
Eggs are considered superfoods because of its high nutrient content. Eggs form many parts of our diets—from breakfast to dinner. They are surplus and come at a low price. Eggs are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Eggs offer several health benefits:
- Building and repair of muscles
- Supports weight loss, pregnancy, and immune system
- Aids eye, skin, eye, and brain health
- Prevents cardiovascular diseases
The 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises adults aged 19 and older to consume 46 - 56g of protein every day.
A study published in the PMC journal demonstrates that eggs contain a high amount of protein and do not increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
4) Fats & Oil
Fats and oils are essential components of our diet. When different types of fats are taken moderately, fats and oils help maintain our cholesterol and triglycerides levels.
The health benefits of fats are:
- Provide energy for the body.
- Improve the bioavailability of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K
- Supports the immune system and aids brain function
The two types of fats are saturated and unsaturated fats.
Saturated fats are usually from animals and are solids at room temperature. Examples of saturated fats include: cream, cheese, yogurt, whole-fat milk, butter, ghee, margarine, coconut, and palm oil. Consuming too much saturated fats will increase your cholesterol level.
Unsaturated fats are mainly obtained from plants and oily fish. They are heart-friendly because of their low-fat content. Examples of unsaturated fats are pilchards, mackerel, trout, and salmon. Some seeds and nuts are also grouped under unsaturated fats.
The World Health Organization advises adults to reduce consumption of saturated fats and trans-fats, and stick to with unsaturated fats instead for healthy living.
Clinical studies demonstrate that refined oils are rich in omega-6 which help regulate the body’s cholesterol level.
Nuts are tasty and versatile. They mostly have hard, inedible external shells and may require cracking to release the kernel inside. The seeds are edible and generally eaten as snacks or used for cooking. They also blend well with different kinds of diets such as keto or vegan. They include: cashews, almonds, walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, and macadamia nuts.
Nuts are extremely rich in calories, fats, and fibre. They provide many health benefits like combating oxidative stress, supporting weight loss, reducing cholesterol, triglycerides, preventing type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
A study indicates that nuts help decrease the level of cholesterol and triglycerides. Triglycerides contribute to the risk of developing heart diseases, stroke, obesity, and other diseases.
Seeds perform reproductive functions in plants, and therefore are highly nutritious. They are also high in fibre, unsaturated fats, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. When consumed, seeds can help decrease cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. They include: flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds.
A study reveals that consuming seeds decreases both good and bad types of cholesterol in postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes. Cholesterol contributes to the risk of developing atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and gallstones.
Avocado is also known as alligator pear or butter fruit. They come in bright green colours and have a large pit and dark leathery coating. They are delicious, versatile, and nutritious fruits. They form part of many diets. Sometimes people regard them as vegetables, but they are technically fruits.
Avocado is significant to the health and wellness industry because of its high nutritional components. They are rich in Vitamins C, E, K, B6, folate, magnesium, and potassium. They are a good source of fatty acids like beta carotene, lutein, and omega-3.
Avocados support heart, eye, bone, and fetal health. They may prevent cancer and depression risk. Furthermore, they may also improve digestion.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition shows that Avocado supports gut health.
8) Root Vegetables
Root vegetables are edible plants that germinate underground. They are applied in making different dishes. Root vegetables are also known as tuber crops. They include: carrots, onions, potatoes, turnips, ginger, fennel, turmeric, rutabaga, radishes, beets, and garlic. All of these provide unique nutrients and health benefits.
Root vegetables are rich in fibre, antioxidants, and carotenoids. They have a low level of calories, fat, and cholesterol. They support the eye, immune system, blood circulation, blood pressure, and digestion.
Consuming a high amount of starchy root vegetables can increase weight, blood sugar levels, and risk of diabetes.
A study published in the International Journal of Food Science demonstrates that root vegetables are an essential healthy diet component and play an active role in energy production. The study further highlights the antioxidative, hypoglycemic, hypocholesterolemic, and antimicrobial properties of root vegetables.
9) Herbs & Spices
Herbs and spices are substances derived from plants that add flavour to any food. They are essential to us because of their medicinal properties. Spices can be obtained from many plant parts like roots, leaves, barks, fruits, stems, rhizomes, seeds, and flowers. On the other hand, herbs are leaves obtained from non-woody plants.
Examples of herbs and spices are: peppermint, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, rosemary, holy basil, cayenne pepper, garlic, fenugreek, bay leaf, vanilla, lemongrass, nutmeg, and parsley.
- Cinnamon can reduce blood sugar levels and the risk of diabetics
- Sage can enhance memory and brain functions
- Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties
- Cayenne pepper possesses anti-cancer properties
- Holy basil strengthens the immune system and battles against infections
- Rosemary can inhibit nasal congestion and allergies
- Fenugreek supports healthy blood sugar levels
- Garlic supports heart health
Studies illustrate that herbs and spices have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumorigenic, anticarcinogenic properties. Subsequent studies show that herbs and spices positively affect glucose and cholesterol levels in the body. More studies suggest that herbs and spices possess cognitive and mood influencing properties.
The foods categories listed in this article are medically proven to support healthy living. However, every food category has its disadvantages.
If you are suffering from a medical condition or taking medications, you should get in touch with your doctor for medical advice if you plan on overhauling or changing your diet.
Consuming too much of these food categories can cause more harm than good. Moderation is the key. Eating diets with a combination (of some or all) of these food categories is the best way to stay healthy. Lifestyle factors like drinking, smoking, and exercise also affect our health. While you consume healthy foods, develop a healthy lifestyle too.