What are the healthiest foods for a balanced diet?

Everyone knows that a balanced diet is essential to enjoying a long, healthy life. And we all know that we’re supposed to aim for five servings of fresh fruit and vegetables a day, as well as avoiding the temptations of a McDonald’s Big Mac.

However… what does a balanced diet actually mean? Apart from the obvious – a little bit of everything and not too much of anything – it may not be clear what specific foods you should look to eat. For example, it’s estimated that 75 per cent of the population doesn’t reach the recommended dose of 300mg of magnesium a day. Clearly an imbalance – but how do you fix it?

Fear not – we’re here to help. There are a number of nutrient rich foods that you can add to, or increase in, your diet, en route to attaining your maximum health. Below, we’ve listed twelve of the key additions, from cruciferous vegetables, to quinoa.

1. Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale. They’re largely part of the family of brassicaceae, which takes its alternative name crucifare from the Latin for cross, because their four central leaves resemble a cross.

Curciferous vegetables really have it all: vitamins, fibre, and disease fighting phytochemicals. A nutrient-packed powerhouse.

2. Lean beef and chicken breast

Pic shows meat from the dairy herd at Coombe Farm, near Crewkerne, Somerset, where old retired milking cows are fattened for beef production instead of being discarded.

We all need protein in our diets – and for meat eaters, it’s beneficial to find the leanest source going. Chicken and certain cuts of beef (ask your butcher) are best.

Studies show that increasing your protein intake to around 30 per cent of your daily calorie intake can reduce late-night snacking resulting in the loss of around half a pound of fat a week. However, you should also be careful not to overeat meat protein – remember, we’re going for a balanced diet here. A few times a week should do nicely.

3. Boiled potatoes

Despite falling out of fashion in the post-Atkins era, potatoes are a wonderful, nutritious ingredient. They’re particularly high in potassium, a nutrient of which most people are deficient, and which plays an important role in keeping blood pressure at a minimum.

Roasting them is delicious – but also adds unnecessary fat to your diet. Instead, boil them, then allow them to cool for a short while so that they build up resistant starch, a fibre-like substance that has lots of health benefits, including keeping you fuller for longer.

4. Quinoa

Quinoa has become an increasingly trendy ‘health food’ – and the hype is justified. There are multiple health benefits to eating it, including that it’s high in protein (a good source for non-meat eaters), anti-oxidants and minerals.

The super-food is often incorrectly referred to as a grain, but it is actually an edible seed that’s native to the Andes, and is related to beetroot, Swiss chard and spinach.

5. Salmon and oily fish

Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herring are a key way of upping your protein and Omega 3s – essential to healthy bones, skin and hair. If you are vegan or vegetarian, make sure to include a good quality vegetable-based Omega 3 oil to your daily diet, which is abundant in sources such as soy, walnuts, canola oil, and chia, flax, and hemp seeds.


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