There’s no such thing as “the perfect diet,” but when you choose your foods wisely, you can get pretty close! If your eating habits are less than stellar or you’re simply looking for a nutritional pick-me-up, consider incorporating one or more of these fantastic healthy foods at mealtimes. These are some of the most nutritious choices you’ll find, and they’re all quite tasty on top of that.
Kale has been around for thousands of years, but it’s finally getting its time in the limelight! This cruciferous wonder vegetable is packed full of no less than 20 essential nutrients—many of which are severely underrepresented in the typical American diet. Most astonishingly, one serving of kale provides you with more than 1000% of your daily recommended amount of vitamin K, which is responsible for everything from proper blood clotting to good bone health. While you’ll get the best nutritional impact from eating it raw, kale can also be steamed or baked if the raw leaves disagree with your palate.
Salmon is a must-have if you’re looking for a diet that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids—a substance that reduces your risk of heart disease and cancer, promotes good joint health, and has even been shown to improve cognition. A single four-ounce serving of salmon contains two grams of omega-3 acids, which is more than most people get in two or three days from other sources! If possible, go for a wild-caught variety over farmed salmon because it’s considered more nutritious, but even the farmed variety will provide you with a healthy dose of omega-3s.
Chia, the tiny seeds first popularized in the '80s by the iconic Chia Pets, are now considered one of the healthiest seeds on the market. Like salmon, they’re packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and they’re also a great source of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps slow down the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar by our bodies, which makes it a good candidate for regulating glycemic levels in patients with diabetes. Soluble fiber is also a good way to help keep your cholesterol in check as well.
Lentils are a close relative to beans, and like their cousins, they provide you with a hearty helping of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Lentils are also high in folate and magnesium, which are important for maintaining good heart health. Lentils are readily available year-round in both canned and dry varieties, and luckily they’re quite inexpensive. This means there’s no reason you shouldn’t be including them in your diet! They’re great as a base for soups, stews, and curries, but you may enjoy eating them all by themselves as well.
Now, before you snub your nose at these tiny little fish, keep in mind that “canned and smelly” is not the only way they come. There are plenty of fresh varieties of sardines to be enjoyed as well. While they might not look like much, sardines are packed with omega-3s, which is reason enough to eat them on its own, but they’re also chock full of vitamin D. Vitamin D is the nutrient responsible for important things like bone health, blood sugar regulation, and a strong immune system. If you’re a weightlifter, sardines make a great post-workout snack, as one serving contains almost 50% of your daily recommended protein.