7 Non-negotiable Foods You Should Eat Daily
Updated: Jul 15
Making positive diet changes can be intimidating. People often think that avoiding junk food requires sacrifice and rigid discipline.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Sometimes, change can be about adding healthy foods to your routine- not taking away. Adding healthy foods to your routine provides the much-needed wins your psyche needs to make change sustainable.
But, which foods to add?
This can be determined by examining which foods provide the most health-promoting benefits, and by that, I mean which foods help you live longer, prevent chronic disease and heal the body. Under these standards, the following 7 foods are no-brainers.
Incorporating these foods into your daily routine may take some practice, but once these foods become a habit they’re here to stay.
FYI: I don’t consider these foods to be “superfoods”. All plant foods are superfoods; each plant provides a unique nutrient profile that can’t be found anywhere else in the plant kingdom.
Antioxidant-rich foods are the key to counteracting the oxidative stress our bodies experience daily. Antioxidants are found in colorful plant foods, but berries are the richest source. Just one serving of berries can prevent oxidation caused by a meal full of fatty, fried foods. So, if you’re eating bacon, at least consider adding a cup of strawberries to your meal.
Interestingly, berries have been shown to fight cancer and boost immune cell activity more than any other fruit. They’re also lower in sugar, which make them a great food for people with diabetes.
To save at the grocery store, buy the frozen berries instead of fresh; they’re less expensive per serving and just as nutritious.
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are unique in that they are a rich source of sulfur-containing compounds known as glucosinolates, which play an important role in disease prevention. Glucosinolates aid in inhibiting the development of cancer cells by protecting cells from DNA damage, inactivating carcinogens, and inhibiting tumor blood vessel formation. Cruciferous vegetables have also been shown to improve cardiovascular health by preventing plaque formation in arteries.
The cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, kale, cauliflower, collard greens, arugula, turnips, brussel sprouts, cabbage, radishes, rutabaga, bok choy, and watercress.
Small yet mighty, seeds pack high quality protein, healthy fats, fiber and plant chemicals you could never find in a pill. Seeds are so nutrient dense you don’t need to eat a lot of them. A tablespoon or two per day is more than enough to reap the benefits.
Seeds come in all shapes and sizes. Among the most nutritional are hemp seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds. But, perhaps the king of all seeds are flax seeds. Flax seeds are proven to help lower cholesterol levels, regulate blood pressure and blood sugar, reduce menopausal symptoms, and suppress appetite. In addition, Flax seeds are one of the only plant sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Flax seeds are an extremely versatile ingredient; add them to smoothies, baking recipes, veggie burgers, and oatmeal.
The longest living populations on earth have one dietary factor in common: Legumes. Legumes include beans, lentils, and peas. Due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, legumes help regulate blood sugar and blood pressure, subsequently reducing risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. They also promote the growth of health gut bacteria and improve microbiome biodiversity.
Legumes are incredibly versatile; add lentils to a stew or curry, spread some hummus on toast, or bake some black bean veggie burgers. No matter how you decide to eat them, one thing is for certain: legumes should be eaten everyday!
5. Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens are powerhouse vegetables. They provide the most bang for your buck when it comes to vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. The calcium in greens is more effectively absorbed than cow’s milk. Greens also supply a rich source of zinc, iron, antioxidants, magnesium, folate and many more nutrients. And unless you’re drowning your greens in oil or butter, dark leafy greens are likely to be the lowest calorie food on your plate, making them the king of weight loss foods.
Here are just a few of the scientifically proven health benefits of dark leafy greens:
Support oxygenation and detoxification of the body
Decrease risk of cognitive decline
Improve cardiovascular health by reducing atherosclerosis plaque in the arteries
Reduce risk of diabetes
Protect against osteoporosis and improves bones health
Support DNA repair
Overall, most Americans fall short of meeting the USDA guidelines for vegetables intake; if only people knew just how beneficial adding one serving of dark leafy greens per day can be… or even just one per month! Consuming at least one serving of dark leafy greens per month appears to reduce the risk of glaucoma by 69%! Eating two or more serving of greens per day may help clear the human papilloma virus, which can cause cancer.
There are countless ways to boost your intake of dark leafy greens. Consider adding them to a soup, stir-fry, sandwich or wrap, or a smoothie. Mix up the variety too. Among the healthiest greens are spinach, watercress, swiss chard, collard greens, arugula and romaine.
6. Whole Grains
Whole grains offer a complete package of health benefits: A diet rich in whole grains reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer all while improving the health of the gut microbiome. A recent study found that consuming three portions of whole grains per day could decrease the incidence of heart disease and stroke by 25% respectively!
The reason whole grains are health promoting, while refined grains are not, is because whole grains still contain the bran and the germ. The bran and the germ have various health benefits:
Slow the breakdown of starch into glucose, thus regulating blood sugar levels.
Helps lower cholesterol due to the intact fiber.
Contains phytochemicals and essential nutrients that protect against some cancers.
The benefits of whole grains are more pronounced when they’re eaten in their most unprocessed form. This means preferencing brown rice over brown rice pasta, oatmeal over whole wheat cereal, and barley over whole grain bread.
You’re right, water is not a food, but it’s just as important to drink water as it is to eat your veggies. Think of water as a nutrient that your body needs for optimal health; water is essential for circulation, digestion, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature. Water can even be helpful with weight loss if you choose to swap the high calorie beverages for water and consume lots of water-rich fruits and vegetables.
Drinking more water than you think you need is never a bad idea. Stay tuned for some tips to help you drink more water.
So, what do you think? Can you include these 7 non-negotiable foods in your daily routine? Shoot me a message and let me know your thoughts!