5 Foods Proven to Optimize Your Health

 

5 Foods Proven to Optimize Your Health

 

By: Amanda Montalvo, RD, CD-N

www.amandamontalvord.com

 

Nutrition is constantly changing. We’re continually discovering new vitamins, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that are important for our health. New diet crazes are popping up all the time. Nutrition as a topic is very buzzworthy, which makes it vulnerable to being misrepresented in the media. This in turn causes extreme confusion for the general population. It’s no wonder I constantly hear that people don’t know what to eat let alone how much or when to eat it.

No matter what diet you follow or set of food rules you adhere to, the five foods below will help optimize your health and are worth adding in. Let’s dive in.


1.  Broccoli Sprouts

Broccoli sprouts.jpg

You may have had alfalfa or another type of sprout, but most people haven’t had broccoli sprouts since we tend to eat broccoli crowns. Well, these little sprouts (as well as other cruciferous veggies like brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, etc) are packed full of phytochemicals that have been shown to protect us from things like chronic disease and cancer.

Broccoli sprouts contain a nutrient called sulforaphane. This nutrient is called a phytochemical. Phytochemicals are like the super heroes of vitamins and minerals. They’re chemical compounds found in plants that protect us from disease.

Sulforaphane specifically, activates a genetic pathway that controls over 200 genes that have important roles in our bodies. This means that optimizing this nutrient should be a priority if you are looking to improve your health and longevity.

Important Facts To Consider

A couple important notes about sulforaphane. It’s precursor is glucoraphanin, which is then converted to Sulforaphane in the body by an enzyme called myrosinase. Myrosinase is heat sensitive. It’s also released when the plant is crushed. This means you want to eat broccoli sprouts raw and even eat cruciferous veggies like brussel sprouts and cabbage raw sometimes as well. You don’t always have to, but if you are trying to get these benefits I highly recommend it. You can also wait 5 minutes after chopping to let the enzyme activate the sulforaphane. Some studies show that this works as well, however, raw is your best bet.

 
So how much do you have to eat to benefit?

 100-140g of sprouts daily. Studies have shown that eating cruciferous vegetables 3-5 times per week has improved health outcomes and prevented disease.


Favorite Ways to Consume

 I prefer to eat broccoli sprouts raw because I think that’s how they taste best, and because of the nutritional benefits.

·   Add them to a salad

·   Eat with 2 over easy eggs on top and a little avocado oil mayo

·   Add to a sandwich or wrap—try some toasted Ezekiel bread topped with mashed avocado, broccoli sprouts, and egg—not only delicious but has an incredible amount of nutrition for your body

·   Add to a stir fry or warm kelp noodle dish after you are done cooking

·   Add to a smoothie—just like you would add spinach or kale you can add broccoli sprouts


Learn how to grow your own in 5 easy steps!

 

 


2.  Collagen peptides/bone broth

Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in our bodies. You may think of aging when you hear the word it since it’s most widely advertised in beauty products that defy aging.

As we get older we produce less collagen, which leads to wrinkles, sagging skin and joint pain. Collagen is like the glue that holds our bodies together. You can find it in muscles, bones, skin, our digestive systems, tendons, and even blood vessels.

There are 6 different types of collagen (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 10). These all do different things. If you want to get into specifics I highly recommend checking out this post:

https://draxe.com/what-is-collagen/


What I want to cover is why you should be including collagen in your diet and how. Collagen provides the following benefits:

·   Provides amino acids like glutamine, glycine, arginine, and proline that help build new collagen, produce healthy DNA, support bone and muscle repair and heart health

·   Improves gut health, which boost immune system and digestion

·   Improves skin quality

·   Provides arthritis relief

·   Can enhance athletic performance related to muscle and ligament repair

·   Improves sleep—glycine plays an important role for the neurotransmitters in the brain that affect sleep


Ways to Get Collagen

 ·   Supplement: You can purchase collagen peptides or collagen hydrolysate, which are both great forms. We absorb 90% of these forms of collagen rather than around 30% or less from food.

Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides

Grass-fed Collagen Hydrolysate from Great Lakes

·   Bone Broth: You can make your own by saving bones from pasture-raised animals and boiling or cooking in a crock pot/instant pot. You can also purchase from the companies below.

Bare Bones Broth

Kettle and Fire

Thrive Market


So how much do you have to eat to benefit?

12-24g (2-4 tbsp) per day

 
Important Facts to Consider

 Whenever you are purchasing collage peptides/bone broth you want to make sure it is coming from healthy animals. If we are eating unhealthy animals or products from them then we can increase our toxic load.


 Favorite Ways to Consume

·   Replace your protein powder with collagen hydrolysate or peptides and add to smoothies

·   Mix into your morning coffee with 1 tsp of coconut oil

·   Make soups with bone broth or warm up some broth in a mug to sip on

 


3.  Chia Seeds

 I had to include chia seeds when making this list because of the diverse benefits they have. In just one serving of chia seeds you will find:

·   More omega 3‘s than a serving of walnuts

·   As many antioxidants as berries

·   12g of fiber

·   As much calcium as a glass of milk and other minerals: phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, and manganese

·   Vitamins A, B, E, and D


Chia seeds don’t just provide one nutrient, but give our bodies essential fatty acids, fiber, vitamins & minerals, antioxidants, AND prebiotics to feed beneficial bacteria. All of these can do the following:

·   Increase omega-3 intake—reduce inflammation and improve brain cognition

·   Improve gut health and digestion

·   Naturally suppress appetite

·   Give your body more stable energy

I especially like consuming them to increase omega-3’s in my diet and those of my clients. Omega-3’s help reduce inflammation and are essential. This means we have to get them from our diet and cannot make them in the body. Most people aren’t eating wild caught fish 2-3 times a week so including a food like chia seeds helps boost their intake of this essential fatty acid.

Chia seeds also feed the good bacteria in your gut and provide fiber, which is important for digestion and getting rid of toxins.
 

Important Facts To Consider

 You want to make sure you are getting organic chia seeds and that you trust the company you are getting them from. Sometimes when you buy chia seeds in bulk they aren't giving you 100% chia seeds. Organic brands do not do this.


So how much do you have to eat to benefit?

1-2 tbsp or 10-20g

 
Favorite Ways to Consume

berry bowl.jpg

 ·   One of my favorite ways to eat chia seeds is in this berry breakfast bowl recipe. You can also add in collagen peptides!

 

*  Berry Breakfast Bowl

·   Creamsicle Chia Pudding

·   Mix into a smoothie

·   You can grind them up and use as a powder to add as an egg substitute or to thicken

·   Grow sprouts and add to salad—you can follow the same instructions as I linked to for broccoli sprouts

 

 

4.  Avocado

 Avocados are another one of those foods that like chia seeds, gives you healthy fats, fiber, and tons of vitamins and minerals. Avocados are technically a fruit, but they provide similar benefits as a leafy green.


Here are some nutritional benefits of avocados:

·   Healthy fats—provide monounsaturated fats, which are linked to protection against heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline

·   Vitamins A, E, and K—these are fat soluble vitamins, which means they are stored in our bodies. They work with minerals like magnesium and zinc for essential functions in the body

·   B vitamins and Vitamin C—these are water soluble vitamins, meaning they are not stored in the body so we need to replenish them daily.

·   Minerals like Magnesium, potassium, iron, copper—Did you know that one avocado gives you more potassium than two bananas?

·   Soluble fiber—this type of fiber helps to stabilize blood sugar, energy, and helps with health digestion

·   Phytonutrients/antioxidants/phytochemicals—help reduce inflammation, degenerative disorders, and support healthy aging

 

Avocados are a food you want to include in your diet. They are a great way to add variety in the types of fat you are eating and increase your fiber intake all at the same time.

 

Important Facts to Consider

·   Avocados are on the “clean 15” list, which means they are not as heavily sprayed as other plants so you don’t have to purchase organic, however , it won't hurt if you do.


So how much do you have to eat to benefit?

¼-1/2 an avocado 2-4 times a week

 

Favorite Ways to Consume

·   Guacamole: mash up avocado and add 2 tbsp of lime juice, sea salt, and garlic

·   Smoothies: add ½ an avocado to your favorite smoothie to make the texture super creamy (pairs great with chocolate)

·   Chop up and add to a salad or blend with your favorite dressing

 

Chocolate Avo-Chia Pudding

Ingredients:

·   2 avocados,

·   4 tbsp cacao power

·   4 tbsp collagen peptides

·   2 cups almond milk

·   3 tbsp chia seeds

 

Instructions:

 

1. Blend all ingredients except for the chia seeds in a blender.

2. Mix in chia seeds and let set in the fridge for 2-3 hours or overnight.

 


5. Beets

 Beets were originally only eaten for their greens. The red root was thrown out until we realized it was naturally sweet and was later used to make sugar. Beets actually have the highest sugar content of all vegetables, however, they contain so many nutrients and fiber that most people can still tolerate eating them multiple times a week. Now we know the many health benefits of consuming the whole beet.

 

Benefits of Beets:

·         Contain betaine—a nutrient that helps protect cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress—this in turn, reduces inflammation

·         Phytonutrients that give beet their deep red color helps to fight off cancer

·         Betalin (the pigment in beets) supports your body’s natural detoxification pathways, specifically the second phase. This means they help excrete toxins from the body.

·         Beet greens contain two powerful phytonutrients (lutein and zeaxanthin) that are important for eye health.

 

Important Facts to Consider

·         Beets are often genetically modified so go for organic whenever possible

·         Nutrients in beets steadily decline with cooking time. Try to keep steaming to 15 minutes and roasting to under an hour

 

So how much do you have to eat to benefit?

¼-1/2 cup of beets will provide you with phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals that you can consume 2-4 times per week 

 

Favorite Ways to Consume

 ·         Red Berry Detox Smoothie

·         Roasted beet chips: use a mandolin to slice thinly then add 1-2 tbsp avocado oil and a little sea salt. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes then flip and bake for another 15 minutes. Broil for 2-3 minutes.

·         Shredded beet salad

 

Ingredients

 

·         3 beets, peeled and shredded

·         2 cloves garlic, minced

·         1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

·         1/3 cup white wine vinegar

·         2 tbsp olive oil

·         sea salt

 

Instructions

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 1 hour in fridge prior to eating.

 

You don’t have to start eating these foods right now. Making changes to your health and lifestyle habits can be overwhelming. If you aren’t eating any of these foods now, then I recommend choosing one or two to start with. You will notice some of the recipes include 2-3 of these foods all in one, so you could also start with one of those recipes. Regardless, including more of these nutrient dense, whole foods and limiting processed foods will greatly improve your health and overall energy. If you have any questions on anything discussed in this article please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at info@amandamontalvord.com.