MAINTAINING a healthy diet isn’t very easy. There are so many options to choose from when shopping for groceries that we often forget about our healthy-eating goals. It is so much easier to just pick up the items that are in season, affordable and easy to prepare.
But it’s important that certain foods be part of your diet all the time, in order to ensure that you’re operating at optimun health. Nutritionist Vanessa White-Barrow recommends adding the seven items below to your weekly shopping list, as not only are they good for you, but they are readily available in Jamaica, and are pretty affordable too.
Eggs are natural super foods, which means they are very low in carbs and high in energy-boosting properties. Although one egg contains only about 75 calories, it can give you up to seven grams of protein, iron, potassium, zinc, manganese, folate, and vitamins A, B1, B2 (riboflavin) B12, B5 and E. The egg is an excellent part of a healthy diet, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Because it has about five grams of fat and less than two grams of saturated fat, you don’t need to consume more than an average of one egg per day. And because the yolk is already rich in fats, boiled eggs are a much healthier option than fried ones.
2. Sweet potatoes
Though its cousin, the Irish potato, receives most of the spotlight in commercial food preparation, the sweet potato is a tuber that is very rich in nutritional benefits. The orange-coloured species that is found in Jamaica is rich in antioxidants, helps to regulate blood sugar levels, and contains anti-inflammatory properties. Unlike many other healthy foods, the sweet potato bears all year round.
Ripe bananas are very popular for their high potassium content and taste. They also contain a beneficial amount of both soluble and insoluble fibre, protein, magnesium, copper, manganese, and vitamins C and B6. Ripe bananas can also help you to feel fuller for longer, which is great if you are trying to lose weight.
While green bananas contain most of the nutrients found in ripe ones, they are much higher in starch content. This starch is converted to simple sugars as a banana ripens (which is why ripe bananas are sweeter). Ripe or green, breakfast or dinner, bananas are a great part of your weekly meal plan.
Peanuts are not ‘just nuts’; also think of them as peas. A part of the legume family, peanuts are especially high in protein, and are used as a substitute for the protein found in meats and dairy by vegetarians. They are also great sources of biotin, copper, manganese, folate, niacin, thiamine, phosphorous, magnesium and vitamin E. For such high protein and vitamin content, peanuts are very low in carbs. They are thought to help in weight regulation, heart health and even in reducing the risk of developing gallstones. Though salted nuts and peanut cakes are popular in Jamaica, have peanuts raw or in shakes with other natural ingredients to reap the best of its benefits.
Oats are gluten-free whole grains that are a regular part of a healthy diet. Oats are a good source of carbohydrates, protein, soluble fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Oats have been known to lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, regulate blood sugar, prevent and relieve constipation, help in weight loss, and improve the appearance of the skin. Oats are usually boiled in water or milk to make oatmeal porridge, but can also be used to make healthful and tasty snacks such as cookies and smoothies.
Regardless of the kind of fish you prefer, it is good for you. Fish is high in protein, generally low in saturated fats, and rich in vitamins and minerals which boost brain function and physical development. Popular fatty canned fish varieties consumed in Jamaica such as tuna, mackerel and sardines are high in important nutrients like vitamin D, and are among the best naturally occurring sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish has been touted to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes, and some autoimmune diseases. Fish also helps in fighting depression, reducing inflammation and supporting neurological development in foetuses and infants.
Milk the first food of humans and other mammals. It provides all the nutrients that the baby needs until its body is developed enough to properly digest food from other sources. Many adults still rely heavily on milk, especially cows’ milk, to provide a large portion of essential vitamins and minerals. Calcium is one of the most well-known nutrients in milk, and the body needs it for growth of bones and teeth. The creamy liquid also provides protein, vitamins A and D, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium. For people who are lactose intolerant or who do not consume dairy products, milk has been derived from plants such as soy beans, coconuts, almonds and even rice.