Every family has its own favourite foods and preferences. In the everyday battle to serve three appetising meals, the nutrient value of foods is often forgotten. Ditto striking a balance between vegetables, fruits and meat. For instance a family that frequently eats chicken, may fail to include leafy vegetables in its daily diet. Or a household that eats plenty of dal and rice might be missing out foods rich in good fats.
Browse through the superfoods checklist below to evaluate if your family is maintaining a well-balanced diet comprising essential vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
Common edible legumes include lentils, peas, chickpeas, beans, soybeans, and peanuts. Legumes are a vital source of protein, fibre, calcium, and iron. Health benefits of consuming legumes include reduced risk of heart disease and low cholesterol levels
Add channa, rajma and other beans to your regular diet.
Rice (brown or red), millets, oats and wheat are rich in fibre, carbohydrates and minerals, Vitamin B, and protein.
The less processed, the more nutritious the grain. A diet rich in whole grains reduces risk of heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Nowadays a variety of millets and millet flour are available in the market. They are good substitutes for polished white rice.
Dark, leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and cabbage, are vitally important as they are rich in vitamins, calcium, folic acid, and iron. Moreover most vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories, and none have cholesterol. Dietary fibre from vegetables, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and lowers risk of heart disease while folic acid helps the body form red blood cells.
Nuts such as cashew, almonds, walnuts and peanuts are a good source of fibre, protein, minerals, and essential fatty acids. For instance almonds are rich in calcium, fibre, vitamin E and magnesium and help lower cholesterol, boost cardiovascular health, and prevent diabetes. Cashews are rich in iron, high in magnesium, copper, and unsaturated fat (oleic acid). They help to prevent cancer, promote a healthy heart and strong bones, and also are good for skin and hair.
Nuts are a healthy anytime family snack.
Seeds (flax, chia, pumpkin, sesame) are nutritious and rich sources of fibre, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and several important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. For instance flaxseeds are an important source of Omega 3 fatty acids, a nutrient that non-vegetarians get from fish.
Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories and contain zero cholesterol. They supply the body with many essential nutrients that are under-consumed, including potassium, dietary fibre, vitamin C, and folate (folic acid).
Buy seasonal fruits. For example, fresh apples are nutritionally richer than frozen. Citrus fruits have vitamin C which boosts immunity and banana is a great energy booster. Eat fruits as snacks between meals. The popular Indian myth is that some fruits are ‘cold’ (e.g. pears) and ‘hot’ (e.g. papaya) and hence should be avoided. There is no proven research about fruits generating ‘heat’ or creating ‘colds’. Therefore try to include seasonal fresh fruits in the daily family menus.
Great source of inexpensive, high-quality protein for muscle growth, eggs also contain selenium, vitamin D, B6, B12 (immune system boosters) and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper (healthy skin). Eggs also provide children with much-needed protein to build muscle and stamina for sports and games.
Meat and fish
Meat and fish are excellent sources of protein and iron. In addition, fish provides Omega 3 fatty acids. Buy fresh meat and fish as processed meats/fish may contain carcinogenic compounds.
Also read: Importance of good gut health