If you want to live longer and healthier, just go to the grocery store – you’ll find superfoods that can combat cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease and help your body fight off cancer.
But which foods should be the ones you take with you to the checkout? “Obesity is the single most prevalent cause of death, so the best superfoods are those with disease fighting properties that also have the ability to fill you up,” says Dr. David Macklin, a leading weight management expert and founder of the WeightCare clinic in Toronto.
Despite claims to the contrary, foods such as dark chocolate and red wine don’t really qualify as superfoods because they don’t make you feel full – and they can also contribute to weight gain because of their high caloric content, Dr. Macklin says.
When it comes to healthy eating, variety is key – and the more superfoods you can pack into your diet, the better. Here are five foods guaranteed to give you the most bang for your dietary buck.
As a low-fat, vegetable source of protein, you can’t beat beans, says Dr. Macklin. And, unlike meat, beans contain fibre – an important tool when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight as it makes you feel fuller, faster. (One cup of cooked beans contains about 12 grams of fibre.) Beans are also high in antioxidants, a class of phytochemicals that fight cell-damaging free radicals in the body.
Aim for: Three cups per week
Salmon is a solid source of protein, so it creates satiety, says Dr. Macklin. “It’s also high in omega 3s, which are good fats that make us feel full – unlike bad fats, such as trans and saturated fats, which have the opposite effect.” Omega 3s also decrease your risk of heart disease, ease arthritis pain and may even help prevent memory loss.
Aim for: Two to three servings a week.
As a handy, on-the-go snack, walnuts are a great source of healthy fats, dietary fibre and protein, says Dr. Macklin. A study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found walnuts even have more health benefits than olive oil when it comes to lowering cholesterol and reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Aim for: Eight nuts a day
High in antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, blueberries have anti-inflammatory properties that help protect you from heart disease and cancer. They also contain a compound of chemicals that help improve the flow of information to the brain and slow the speed at which cells deteriorate with age (a recent University of Cincinatti study found a daily dose of blueberries can improve learning and memory).
Aim for: ½ a cup a day
High in cancer-fighting antioxidants, spinach and other leafy greens are packed with important vitamins and minerals, including bone-building nutrients such as vitamin K, calcium and magnesium. “Spinach is also a great source of soluble fibre, which slows down the absorption of other foods and prevents a hunger-inducing insulin spike in your bloodstream,” says Dr. Macklin.
Aim for: at least one cup a day of leafy greens