With so many health fads dominating the media these days, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by sometimes contradictory information on what’s best to eat, what to avoid, and which supplements to use to boost your diet. It can be so exhausting separating the true from the false that dialing up the pizza delivery guy starts sounding like a better idea by the minute. But instead of giving up, try starting small by adding a few delicious new foods to your family menu.
Michael Pollan, author of “In Defense of Food,” suggests that people really should be more concerned about getting basic nutrition than they are about avoiding the bad stuff. Sticking with natural foods that are unprocessed and “close to the farm” is one of the ways to get the essentials.
There are many healthy foods that can do this. Here are five simple and tasty suggestions of health foods that might not wrinkle the family’s noses.
Avocado is a mild-tasting fruit that is loaded with health benefits. As it can help lower blood cholesterol levels, avocados are a single source for monounsaturated fats (the good kind!). Avocados are higher in potassium even than bananas, and have vitamin E, K and fiber, plus oleic acid, which has been shown to ward off cancers, according to HealthDiaries.com. It’s great for the skin and hair, too.
While some folks aren’t fond of avocados for their consistency, serving them with something crunchy (like on crackers with tomato) can work around that problem. Guacamole is a popular way to eat them, but there are hundreds of ways to use this delicious fruit, if you’re shy about eating it solo. Here is a link to some avocado recipes on allrecipes.com.
Even raw, unsalted almonds are delicious and have the staying power of a great midday snack. Naturalnews.com shares that as natural alkaline boosters, almonds help an immune system, add energy and prevent osteoporosis. Almonds also contain phosphorus, which is great for strong bones and teeth. Naturally high in potassium, almonds also lower blood pressure, according to this report in the Times of India.
Keep little containers of almonds all over the house for the family to snack on, but they are also great sliced in salads or mixed in with bean dishes.
Buying and cutting fresh pineapple is worth the effort, and it’s a great way to sneak in vitamins and minerals as well. Pineapple is another immune system booster; it aids in healthy gums and improves digestion. The dieting website 3fatchicks.com offers tons of health information about the nutritional powerhouse that pineapple is for anyone's diet.
Keep fresh pineapple cut and in containers in the fridge. Kids are usually a lot more likely to go straight to fresh fruits when they are ready to eat. Skewering pineapple with strawberries or other fruits, or using it in a fruit salad are other wonderful ways to enjoy this perfect fruit.
Raw honey is as sweet as can be without the effects of processed sugar. Honey helps regulate blood sugar and has tremendous healing properties for basic coughs and colds. Honey has also been shown to have cancer-preventing qualities, as well as being a treatment for nausea, digestive discomfort and urinary tract disorders, according to nutritionist Diana Herrington. Eating honey that is made locally can help alleviate seasonal allergies.
Put honey on anything. Use it as a substitute for sugar in oatmeal, and use it instead of sugary jams and jellies. Look for honey that is raw — unprocessed and unrefined. Farmer’s markets are a fun place to buy honey, as they usually have a variety to sample to find your favorite flavor.
If you’re going to eat chocolate anyway, why not go the healthy route? Studies at the Mayo Clinic have shown that the cacao bean, and “raw chocolate,” which is formed by adding a few unobtrusive ingredients like sea salt, is packed with antioxidants, lowers blood pressure and helps with vascular function. Uncooked, chocolate also contains vitamin C and fiber in healthy quantities.
If those taste buds are accustomed to drugstore milk chocolates, they may be in for a refining education. Raw chocolate is stronger and darker, but equally delicious. Most of us are aware of the mood-enhancing benefits of eating chocolate as well. Kind of nice to know there’s a way to indulge that’s great for your body, isn’t it?
Eating healthfully doesn’t have to be bland. Starting to train taste buds to enjoy the abundant goodness right here in nature can be the first step toward moving away from the processed foods so commonly found in our diets. Don’t get overwhelmed; instead, have fun with it.
Margaret Crowe is a poet and mother of two from Charlotte, N.C. Email: [email protected]