Let me present some of the most popular health food choices. We can, based on our individual preferences for a type of food, decide what combination works best for us. A combination of these foods would give us an optimal combination of basic nutritional requirements of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber, and minerals.
I am picking up the most popular of the natural health foods in each of the plant food category — cereal, legume, oil seed, vegetable, spice, and fruit.
Cereal: The question that many people ask is, “Which grain in the healthiest?” According to nutritional data presented by the World Grains Council, it emerges that each grain has its own little specialties. Teff and oats are especially high in manganese, khorasan wheat and durum wheat have 6 to 8 times more selenium than in gluten-free grains, barley is highest in fiber, and quinoa has the highest amount of folate (Whole Grains Council).
Soybean has the highest protein content (around 40%); other legumes have a protein content between 20 and 30%. Cereals have protein content in the range of 8 to 15%. Soybean also contains minor constituents that are traditionally regarded to be antinutritional factors. These include trypsin inhibitors, phytic acid, saponins, and isoflavones. These compounds are now known to have beneficial biological effects in the diet, such as lowering blood cholesterol or preventing cancer (Anderson et al., 1995).
Flaxseed has 11% protein, 66% fats, and 22% fiber. Fats are mainly of the good unsaturated category. The amber-colored oil has alpha-linolenic acid and omega- 3 fatty acids. Both are good for the heart.
Tomato: The vegetable is rich in Vitamins A, C and lycopene, and other carotenoids. Carotenoids are one of the most potent antioxidants. Dietary intake of tomatoes and tomato products containing lycopene has been shown to be associated with a decreased risk of chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease (Agarwal et al., 2000).
Garlic: Fresh garlic is said to be effective against bacteria like Escherichia coli, Salmonella enteritidis, and Staphylococcus aureus. It is topically used to treat fungal infections like ringworm, jock itch, athlete’s foot, etc. It is rich in vitamins and minerals. The most preponderant of these include: Pyridoxine, Vitamin C, Copper, Manganese, Selenium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Iron, Calcium and Magnesium.
Broccoli: This is a form of cabbage with the botanical name Brassicca oleracea variety italica. It belongs to mustard family (Brassicaceae). Other vegetables with similar properties and belonging to the same family are Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower and cabbage. Nutritionally speaking, the vegetable is rich in vitamin C, Vitamin K, Manganese, Potassium, and Phosphorus.
Citrus fruits like other whole fruits contain an array of essential nutrients that includes sugars, fiber, potassium, folate, calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and a variety of phytochemicals. It contains no sodium or fat.
Cranberry berries are rich in phytochemicals-anthocyanins, flavanols, flavan-3-ols, proanthocyanidins and phenolic acid derivatives. These phytochemicals prevent many diseases and infections like cardiovascular diseases, various cancers, infections involving the urinary tract, dental health, and Helicobacter pylori-induced stomach ulcers and cancers (Cote et al., 2010). Cranberry and blueberry constituents counteract oxidative stress, decrease inflammation and modulate expression of genes associated with disease processes.
Tea: Theanine in green tea plays a role in reducing stress. Tea flavonoids reduce inflammation, have antimicrobial effects and prevent tooth decay. The diuretic effects of tea are attributed to caffeine.
Fish: USDA recommends eating 8 ounces of healthy, low-mercury fish per week. In general, fish are an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12, and Vitamin C. As we have seen earlier, Vitamin B12 is not available from plant sources. Fatty fish are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Milk contains 12 – 13% total solids much more than vegetables which have only 6% solids. It is a rich source of calcium and fats
For those who are interested at looking at nutrition in depth, you can check here.