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10 superfoods for a healthy body

Food is medicine.

As Canadians, we spend $1.4 billion annually on vitamins, minerals, fish oil and herbal remedies to give us more energy, make our joints move easier, heal our bodies and help us live longer. But much of the health benefits we seek from supplements are readily available in “superfoods” that we can buy from the local market.

Here are 10 powerhouse foods that you should add to your weekly grocery list. Try to buy organic produce if possible.

Avocados

An excellent source of Vitamin E and healthy unsaturated fats, avocados contain more protein than any other fruit and more potassium than a banana. They also contain compounds that inhibit and destroy oral cancer cells.

When purchasing avocados, it isn’t necessary to buy organic because the thick skin protects the inside from pesticides.

Broccoli

Broccoli is packed with nutrients that support overall body health. Research shows this cruciferous vegetable reduces the risk of arthritis, cancer, heart disease, prostate cancer and more.

Raw is better than frozen broccoli, which is blanched. Blanching destroys some of broccoli’s healthful benefits. When you’re preparing broccoli, eat it raw or steam it for no more than five minutes to retain its nutritional value.

Spinach

Spinach is rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants and magnesium and folate, which is important for short-term memory. Spinach helps lower your risk for heart disease and cancer. It also contains more potassium than bananas.

Spinach is best eaten raw in a salad, lightly steamed or sautéed to preserve its nutritional benefits.

Berries

Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries and blackberries are loaded with vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that come with a long list of health benefits.

In addition, the antioxidant power of berries helps keep free radicals in check, fights inflammation, protects your cells and reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Mushrooms

You can find many different types of mushrooms in the produce aisle — including shiitake, maitake and reishi – and they’re all brimming with nutritional goodness.

Mushrooms are known for their immune-boosting powers, and they are rich in protein, fibre, Vitamin C, B Vitamins, selenium, calcium, minerals and antioxidants.

Kale

The nutritional density of kale makes it the king of green leafy vegetables. Kale contains all essential amino acids and nine non-essential ones. Half a cup of raw kale provides 100% of your daily requirement of Vitamin A, and 67% of your daily intake of Vitamin C. It's also loaded with both lutein and zeaxanthin - important for healthy vision. It even contains more calcium than milk!

Kale also contains potent chemo-protective agents, which are proven to aid DNA cell repair and slow the growth of cancer cells. The anti-inflammatory components of kale can help prevent and even reverse arthritis, heart disease and several autoimmune diseases.

Fermented Cabbage (Sauerkraut)

The lowly, inexpensive head of cabbage has been lifted to superfood status. On its own, cabbage contains high levels of iron and fibre. When fermented and turned into sauerkraut, cabbage is elevated to a whole new nutritional level.

Fermenting cabbage creates large quantities of beneficial microbes that help to balance the flora in your gut and boost your immunity. But it doesn’t stop there. Other health benefits of fermented cabbage include its ability to boost circulation, protect heart health, provide an energy boost, stimulate the immune system, strengthen bones, reduce cholesterol levels, eliminate inflammation, protect against certain cancers, and even improve vision and skin health.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil also comes with a long list of inherent health benefits. It strengthens the immune system, prevents high cholesterol and stabilizes blood pressure levels, improves bone and dental health, control blood sugar levels and improves insulin secretion, promotes nutrient absorption, increases metabolism, helps in weight loss and eliminates mental fatigue.

Coconut oil can be used in place of your regular oil – but you will need to melt it first. It comes in a solid form, but it quickly melts when exposed to heat. If you are concerned about the coconut taste or smell, you will find that any flavour or smell is very subtle and sometimes even undetectable depending on how the oil is used.

Kefir

Its name comes from the Turkish work “keif,” which means “good feeling.” Kefir is a unique cultured dairy product that is one of the most probiotic-rich foods available. It also contains protein, calcium, B vitamins and even cancer-fighting conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).

Kefir has been shown to support digestion and combat IBS, Crohn’s Disease and ulcers thanks to its high volume of probiotic compounds. Kefir also has the potential to boost immunity, build bone strength by helping the body absorb calcium, and improve symptoms of lactose intolerance.

You may be wondering what kefir tastes like. Kefir is acidic and tart, and tastes a little lemony with a hint of a yeast smell. It can be enjoyed on its own or if you aren’t fond of the taste, try it in smoothies and protein shakes with fruit.

Salmon (Wild Caught)

Wild salmon contains protein and high levels of healthy omega-3 fats, making salmon good for your heart as well as your brain, nerves and eyes. When eaten two to three times a week, salmon can prevent heart attack, stroke, arrhythmia, high blood pressure and high triglycerides.

But it’s important that you purchase wild-caught salmon. Research suggests that farmed salmon may be one of the most toxic foods on the market.

You can also get many of the same health benefits by eating canned anchovies or sardines. Look for fish canned in water rather than oil.

Instead of reaching for another supplement, visit your local grocery store and stock up on natural superfoods. Your healthy body will thank you!

*2010 Ipsos-Reid Survey

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