We all want to be healthier. Whether we define healthy as sleeping better, feeling better, being more active, losing weight, or gaining weight, food is a crucial element to helping your body function at its most optimal level. Unfortunately, most of us in college fall into the trap of eating whatever is immediately available at the dining hall — french fries, pizza and pasta. The hard part is that while these foods are usually immediately satisfying, we end up feeling not so good after we’ve eaten them. And while those foods have their place as occasional treats, we really should try to incorporate some food into our diet that will make us feel better, not worse.
Here are ten foods to sneak into your diet more often.
1. Green Tea
Green tea is super good for you. Every sip is filled with antioxidants, which help fight free radicals in your body. Free radicals are suspected to be part of the reason why we age and are involved in diseases. So, drink green tea if you want to be immortal and banish all diseases from your life! All kidding aside, green tea has even more benefits, including raising your metabolic rate (which will help you burn fat faster) and may even help protect neurons, lowering your risk of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's.
2. Whole Eggs
Gone are the days when having just egg whites was fashionable. In order to reap the benefits of consuming eggs, which include vitamin D to help build strong bones, iron and protein, make sure to eat the yolk as well. The yolk is a great source of choline, which helps brain and memory development, as well as vitamin B12, which helps your nervous system and blood flow.
And if that isn’t enough to convince you of eggs’ wonderful qualities, a study in 2005 tested whether consuming eggs for breakfast would be conducive to weight loss. Participants either ate a bagel for breakfast every day, or an egg. Both contained the same amount of calories, but the people who ate the egg as opposed to the bagel ate significantly less for lunch. So perhaps incorporating an egg for breakfast is a smart idea, particularly if you are looking to lose weight.
Popeye was onto something. You probably know spinach is healthy, but why? It’s full of magnesium, iron, vitamin K and vitamin B2. In addition, spinach has carotenoids, anti-inflammatory nutrients. A risk factor for cancer is inflammation. So guess what spinach can help do? Reduce your risk of cancer! So eat your spinach — research shows that sautéing your spinach is the best way to cook it, as it retains its carotenoid content most efficiently.
4. Sweet Potatoes
They aren’t called sweet without a reason. Sweet potatoes release their sugars slowly into your bloodstream, which means you won’t get that instant sugar-high you would get from candy or other high-sugar foods. Instead, your level of energy will be relatively steady. And get this — sweet potatoes are rich in magnesium, a mineral that is known for its ability to help with stress by promoting healthy blood, muscles and bones, as well as relaxing your muscles and giving you a mood boost. The next time you’re staring at your mountain of schoolwork and ready to collapse from stress, maybe reach for a sweet potato instead of a Snickers bar (hey, it was worth a shot, right?).
Oatmeal is a great food for making you feel satisfied, a great quality to have when looking to lose weight. But besides from that possible benefit, oatmeal causes your brain to release serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has antioxidant properties and is known as a “feel-good” chemical because it creates a good mood. A hearty bowl of oatmeal might be just the thing to start your day off on a good note.
“Vitamin C” probably immediately springs to mind, but vitamin C’s great qualities can’t be emphasized enough. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help battle free radicals, which can cause cancer. It’s particularly good at targeting free radicals in areas of the body where cells are rapidly created, such as the digestive tract. So vitamin C is good for digestive health, but it’s also good for its anti-inflammatory properties, its ability to help lower cholesterol build-up, and is essential for a healthy immune system. And even though it’s tempting to opt for those gummy vitamins instead, studies have shown that the vitamin C in orange juice is more protective than the vitamin C supplements and are better at preventing damage from free radicals. There’s no excuse to not have an orange more regularly.
7. Dark Chocolate
Ah yes, something we all wanted to hear. Unfortunately, the kind of dark chocolate that your body will thank you for isn’t Dove or Hershey’s or even those delicious dark chocolate M&Ms. Dark chocolate is healthy for you because it has flavanols, which can lower blood pressure, help your vascular system, and help your brain function. The reason why dark chocolate is healthy, as opposed to milk chocolate, is because cacao (AKA cocoa) itself is high in flavanols. The higher the percentage of cacao, the higher the flavanol content, and the more benefits you’ll get from it. Some of the better brands to purchase dark chocolate from include Lindt, Godiva, Ghiradelli and Endangered Species.
Despite being delicious, easy to eat on the go and the fact that they basically come prepackaged from nature (how cool is that?), bananas are great for other reasons. They contain easy-to-digest carbohydrates, making them the perfect pre-workout snack. Bananas are also great sources of fiber, in the forms of pectin and resistant starch. Pectin can help firm bowel movements and resistant starch helps feed the bacteria in your gut that help your digestive tract. Resistant starch and pectin are both found in unripe bananas, but the pectin content decreases as the banana ripens. Basically, try to eat a banana every now and again. They can easily be incorporated into smoothies, oatmeal or breakfast cereal.
Hear me out with this one. Tofu is made by taking fresh soya milk, curdling it then pressing it into a block and cooling it into a solid. This is essentially the process by which cheese is made. Tofu has a bad rap for being gross or bland, but the great thing about it is that it can take on the flavors of whatever you choose to cook with it. Tofu is full of protein, so it can be helpful to add into vegetarian diets especially. The particular protein that tofu contains is called soya protein, which is thought to help lower levels of bad cholesterol in your body. So throwing some tofu into your stir fry is an excellent way to add some good protein into your diet.
But why does an apple a day keep the doctor away? You might overlook this simple fruit, but you really shouldn’t. Apples contain only about 95 calories each, but they are very filling due to their high fiber and water content. This makes them an ideal choice of fruit to eat if you are looking to lose weight. In a study conducted in 2008, 50 overweight women added either apples or oat cookies to their diets for ten weeks. The oat cookies and the apples had a similar calorie content, but the women who ate apples lost more weight and ate fewer calories. Apart from the weight loss potential involved in apples, these fruits are associated with lowering the risk of type II diabetes and, same as bananas, they contain pectin to help your gut health. Basically, there’s no reason to not eat this easily-accessible fruit more often.
If you’re looking to be more conscious about your health and are looking for a place to start, this list of food is a great place to get a general idea about nutrition and what to eat. Eating “healthy” doesn’t have to be hard or an all-or-nothing ordeal. Slice a banana on top of your cereal. Drink some green tea instead of an afternoon coffee. Peel yourself an orange alongside your dessert. Remember to treat yourself and your body with respect, and everything will fall into place.
Lead Image Credit: Zevile & Arunas via Unsplash