Food is central to our lives and our traditions. Holidays, dates, parties, and most social events are planned around food. Food isn’t just social, though. Your dietary choices can help prevent many diseases. A healthy diet can prevent cancer, many signs of aging, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and many other ailments that decrease length and quality of life. So, what should you eat? Lots of fruits, veggies, healthy fats, and lean protein. From what I’ve seen, these five foods were the most commonly listed:

Broccoli

Why?

Broccoli, like most plants, contains phytochemicals, many of which are believed to help fight cancer. Broccoli also has anti-inflammatory properties. The typical American diet is high in omega-6 fatty acids, which often come from processed foods, rather than omega-3 fatty acids, which come from fish. This imbalance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids causes inflammation, which can trigger many chronic diseases. Broccoli can also improve immune function from the beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant. A single serving of broccoli can provide you with over 150% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.

Other nutrients found in broccoli are potassium (improves blood pressure), vitamin K (aids blood clotting), calcium (improves bone health), folic acid (produces DNA), fiber (regulates blood sugar), and iron (strengthens immune system). 

How?

  • Add it to your omelet with a little cheese.
  • Toss it in a stir fry with your favorite protein.

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  • Eat roasted broccoli with salt, pepper, olive oil, and parmesan cheese as a side dish
  • Chop it finely and add to a salad.

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  • Dip into hummus, guacamole, or salsa and enjoy as a snack.

Sweet Potatoes

Why?

The Center for Science in the Public Interest studied the nutritional value of sweet potatoes found that the sweet potato was richest in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and complex carbohydrates. One sweet potato has almost eight times the amount of cancer-fighting and immune-boosting vitamin A you need daily. Sweet potatoes are also high in fiber, potassium, manganese (assists with metabolic activity), magnesium (improves bone health), and folate (improves heart health and cholesterol levels).

How?

5 foods to eat weekly

  • Stuff them with your favorite toppings for a loaded sweet potato.
  • Cube and roast them! They pair well with everything from cinnamon to cumin.
  • Bake them in brownies. Veggies in dessert? Perfect.
  • Wanna get trendy? Try sweet potato toast!

Spinach

Why?

Spinach contains flavonoids, water soluble plant pigments that contain antioxidants which fight against diseases and infections. Spinach is also full of vitamin A and vitamin K and a cup can provide your body with more than the daily value of those vitamins. Vitamin A helps with eyesight, the immune system, and develops bone, teeth, and epithelial cells. Vitamin K encourages blood clotting to prevent excessive bleeding, aids in bone health and brain function, and protects cells from oxidation.

How?

  • Blend a handful or two into your smoothie.
  • Mix into your salads with romaine and kale.
  • Add to scrambled eggs or pasta.
  • Amp up the veggie power in your pesto.
  • Use it to top your sandwich (instead of lettuce) or tacos.

Garlic

Why?

Garlic contains antioxidants and helps boost immunity by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, which will help fight disease and infection. Allicin, a compound found in garlic, works as an anti-inflammatory to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

How?

  • Roast it and use like a spread on bread.
  • Sauté it with vegetables and olive oil for a flavorful side dish.
  • Mix it in pasta or pizza sauce for a classic Italian flavor.
  • Make your own garlic-infused cooking oil so you don’t have to cut it up every time you want a garlicky flavor.
  • Add it to meat marinade or salad dressing for an extra punch of flavor and nutrients in any dish.

5 foods to eat weekly

Beans

Why?

Beans are high in protein and complex carbohydrates, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. One cup of beans contains about 50% of the recommended daily value for protein. Beans, especially darker beans, also contain plenty of antioxidants.

How?

5 foods to eat weekly

  • Make vegetarian tacos with black beans or lentils to replace the meat.
  • Swap tuna salad for a bean salad with onion, tomatoes, black beans, garbanzo beans, edamame, and spices.

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  • Top your salad with beans in place of meat.
  • Make bean burgers – and eat them with sweet potato fries. 

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