Full of anthocyanins that act as antioxidants, as well as vitamin C, dietary fibre and essential minerals, blueberries pack a nutritious punch. Dietitian Dr Rosemary Stanton says they are a worthwhile addition to your diet, but that there are many other antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables. Preliminary studies suggest blueberries are
high in flavonoids and may be associated with slower rates of cognitive decline.
The dietary guidelines encourage
eating all fruits on the basis that there is now strengthened evidence between the
consumption of fruit and decreased risk of some cancers.
Fish, especially oily fish, is a great
addition to a healthy diet, with
iron to help transport oxygen and
regulate cell growth, zinc for the
immune system, and vitamin B12 for
healthy blood cells and a good dose
of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats.
According to Stanton, dozens of
research studies support the value
of omega-3s in reducing the risk of
heart disease and type 2 diabetes,
as well as offering a benefit to
rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. Additionally, clinical trials have
also shown a dramatic drop in
second heart attacks in those who
eat fish twice a week (for more info, read our story on omega-3s).
To introduce more
fish into your diet, eat tuna or
salmon at lunch. When shopping for
canned tuna, beware of the added
sodium in those canned in brine, the
additional kilojoules of those packed
in oil, and the added sugars and
preservatives in flavoured varieties.
The US National
Institutes of Health says ginger is possibly
effective for nausea and vomiting following
surgery, as well as dizziness, menstrual pain,
arthritis pain and for preventing morning
sickness. It may also reduce cholesterol and possibly
help to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease,
although further human trials are needed to confirm this.
Also a popular dietary condiment, chillies contain vitamin C and minerals,
including potassium (to maintain normal body growth and break down
carbohydrates), and some B vitamins. Red chillies offer a good boost of betacarotene – an important antioxidant and
precursor to vitamin A, essential for immune function, vision, reproduction
and the normal function of the heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs. Although
the amount of these nutrients consumed in chillies is fairly small, as a condiment
they’re far healthier than bottled
sauces, which can be
higher in sugar and salt.
Based on current Australian consumption data, we should be
eating more legumes, which provide a valuable low-saturated
fat source of protein as an alternative to meats.
The Heart Foundation recommends legumes and pulses for
their high-fibre content and low glycaemic index (which keeps
you feeling fuller for longer). They are also a good source of iron for
vegetarians. Legumes and pulses can be added to soups,
casseroles and meat sauces, such as bolognese, to extend the meal
and use less meat, making these dishes lower in fat and cheaper.
When buying tinned legumes and pulses, we recommend choosing
lower-salt brands or buying dried varieties, some of which need to
be soaked overnight before cooking.
Accredited practising dietitian Melanie McGrice names spinach and broccoli
as some of the most nutritious foods – spinach for its good source
of vitamin A (important for vision) and broccoli for its high vitamin C content
– twice the daily recommended intake in just 100g.
Green veggies such as bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and cabbage
are generally also high in folate, which is essential for the development
of new cells, especially for pregnant women, and other
valuable nutrients, while being low in kilojoules.
Accredited nutritionist Catherine Saxelby elevates broccoli to “powerhouse” status as it
appears to switch on cancer-fighting enzymes, as well as
maintain bowel health and boost vitamin intake.
Grains consist of three major parts: bran – the outer layer (a good source of fibre,
omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals), endosperm – the main part of the
grain (mainly starch), and germ – the smallest part of the grain (rich in vitamin E,
folate, thiamine, phosphorus and magnesium). Wholegrains, such as brown rice,
barley and oats, provide you with all three components, as opposed to refined
grains (think pasta, white rice and white flour). Wholegrains are free from
cholesterol, low in saturated fats and an excellent source of carbohydrates.
There is evidence that dietary patterns consistent with relatively high amounts
of wholegrains, in conjunction with a balanced diet, may be associated with
excellent nutritional levels, quality of life and survival in older adults. There is also
a positive association between consumption of wholegrain cereals and decreased
risk of heart disease and excessive weight gain.
Oats deserve special attention, according to
Saxelby. They’re high in beta-glucan
(a soluble fibre that helps keep your
cholesterol down), low GI (to keep
diabetes at bay) and full of B
vitamins and minerals.
Regarded as a source of protein, vitamins B2 and B12, iodine and zinc, yoghurt and its
beneficial good bacteria can do wonders for your health as part of a balanced diet.
is also full of calcium in a readily absorbable form, and probiotics – live organisms that are
similar to the beneficial microorganisms found in the stomach – may help with some digestive
issues and diarrhoea associated with antibiotics.
The dietary guidelines indicate there is now strengthened evidence to suggest eating two or
more serves of (mostly) low-fat dairy foods per day is probably associated with reduced risk of heart
disease and stroke. Beware of fruit-flavoured yoghurts as many include added sugar.
Olive oil has high levels of the healthy dietary fat known as monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Consuming MUFAs instead of saturated fats (for example, choosing olive oil instead of butter for baking and pan frying) may help lower your risk of heart disease by improving blood lipids related to cardiovascular disease.
Studies have also shown that olive oil may have a protective role against breast, colon, lung, ovarian and skin cancer development.
Compounds specific to olive oil, known as phenolics, are antioxidants that may be able to reduce oxidative damage to DNA.