8 Foods a Nutritional Researcher Eats Every Day (and Why!)
Have you ever wondered what someone who thinks, lives, and breathes nutrition research all day, every day, actually eats?
Not in a big picture kind of way like, “I listen to my body!” or “I fill up on healthy foods usually, but don’t deny myself a treat if I feel like having one once in a while.”
No. I mean in a specific, one food at a time kind of way. What does someone who studies this stuff really aim to put in their mouths each day?
Well, wonder no more!
After a solid decade of health and nutrition research and study, here is the list of foods I’ve compiled as the ones I aim to include in my diet every single day and why they made the cut!
Much of this list will likely not surprise you, but maybe there are a few inspiring tidbits sprinkled in that might inspire you to tweak your own daily diet!
1. Leafy Greens
It probably isn’t a surprise to you that my list starts with leafy greens.
Leafy greens make my list because they are excellent sources of minerals, like iron and calcium, vitamins, like folic acid, and fiber, all of which can otherwise be hard to get enough of in the diet. They are also some of the most heart-healthy foods on the planet, improving artery function and lowering blood pressure.
What’s more, they add a lot of flavor and volume to a dish, without upping the calories too much. I don't like to count calories, so adding lots of low-calorie foods helps naturally keep my calorie intake at a healthy level without having to actually measure my intake!
Does that mean I always eat salads?
Nope! While I love a big ol' salad, sometimes I just don't feel like one. And there are lots of other ways to mix these nutritional powerhouses into my daily diet.
Add them to smoothies, layer them on sandwiches, mix them into soups or stir fries. I even mix them into pasta dishes! I love tossing a handful of fresh arugula into my spaghetti!
Any time I can add some leafy greens, I just do!
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
I never turn up my nose to a vegetable (except turnips-- I'm reaallyy not a fan of turnips), but if I can, I try to add or include a cruciferous vegetable to at least one meal a day.
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, kale, brussel sprouts radishes and cabbage. (Yeah... I'm kind of cheating with the arugula and kale counting as both leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, I know, I know...but that kinda underscores how healthy they are for us, right?).
This tasty class of veggies are some of the healthiest foods we know of. They boost your body's ability to detoxify itself, boost your immune function, decrease inflammation, protect against asthma, improve artery function and protect your heart. If these foods are available, I eat them!
Little tip: baked brussel sprouts with chili pepper and garlic. Trust me.
3. Beans, Legumes & Lentils
If there is a bean-based dish, or a dish I can easily add beans to, it's a good bet that that's the one I'm going for.
Beans are rich in fiber and protein, making them super filling and a great option for sustained energy and steady blood sugar. They are also great sources of minerals and phytonutrients that have been shown to boost metabolic health and protect against cancer.
My favorite ways to get some legumes on my plate (in order) are: hummus, warmed with some tofu and eaten as a side, hummus, added to a salad, hummus, added to a soup or chili!
4. Nuts & Seeds
During the fat-free craze that consume much of the 80s and 90s no one would have ever considered high-fat nuts and seeds a health food. But they absolutely are.
They are rich in fat, but healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats that help protect your immune and nervous systems. They are also full of health promoting vitamins, minerals and plant-based protein.
And the healthy nutrients in nuts have been shown to translate into serious health benefits.
Large epidemiological studies indicate that eating nuts and seeds may actually lower risk of heart disease, cancer and early death!
Um - that is something I want in my diet!
And, just in case you were wondering, they don't cause weight gain. Dozens of studies have looked, and even though they contain a lot of calories, adding nuts to our diets doesn't cause us to gain weight. They boost our metabolisms and fill us up so much we usually lose weight, actually!
I personally like adding nuts and seeds to my breakfast muesli/oatmeal or as an afternoon snack when I’m feeling peckish before dinner. But there are a ton of other ways to sneak them in. You can add them salads, smoothies, stir fries, or smear some on toast or fruit in the form of a nut butter!
And I try to mix them up! Different nuts have slightly different phytonutrients, so getting a mixture gives you the widest variety of benefits!
Much like cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens are the healthiest vegetables, berries are the healthiest fruits, so they get a privileged spot in my diet!
Berries are antioxidant powerhouses that reduce oxidative stress, calm inflammation, protect artery function, and help prevent DNA mutations (that is to say, help protect you from cancer).
Since I live at such gastly latitudes, I don’t have access to fresh berries for much of the year. (At least not any that taste like much!) So I buy box after box of frozen berries that make their way into my cereals, oatmeals and desserts.
And when berry season does roll around? My husband and I personally keep the nearby strawberry stand in business. (You think I’m kidding… )
6. Whole Grains
This point may ruffle some feathers. I know the Paleo movement paints grains as the root of all evil, but I have reviewed hundreds of studies looking at the effect of whole grain intake, and I have to say I am not convinced their arguments hold water. Processed sugars, fine, but whole grains -- nope.
Whole grain consumption is consistently found to correlate with better weight management, decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, infections, cancer and early death. They provide steady energy, plenty of B-vitamins and minerals. Most importantly, they are an excellent source of fiber.
Fiber is absolutely essential for regulating our appetite, digestive health and keeping our gut microbiota (the 1 trillion bacteria that live in our intestines) healthy. And since those 1 trillion bacteria help regulate our hormone levels, metabolism, body weight, immune function and mood, we want them happy and healthy!
And so, I fill up on my whole grains every day.
That is not to say I only eat wheat and wheat-based breads. I like mixing it up with other whole grains like whole oats, rye, barley, quinoa bulgur, brown rice or even pasta, depending on the type of meal and what I've got available. Anything to get that health-boosting fiber!
Tea is a fun one!
Tea is made from dried leaves or fruits and provides many of the same benefits of eating the whole berry or leafy green it was made from. Tea provides you with various vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients (depending on the exact type of tea) and water while being nearly free of calories. Drinking tea can help boost your nutrient, phytonutrient and antioxidant intake without making any difference at all to your calorie count for the day!
It’s basically a nutritional freebie! Good stuff!
I’m a huge fan of green, camomile, fennel, ginger (made from fresh ginger root!) and peppermint teas and brew myself 2-4 cups a day on average. (Total. Not of each!) But it doesn’t matter a ton which kind of tea you drink! Just pick the kind you like and will drink!
*Note: some teas have some pretty potent biological effects so if you are planning to give the tea to a young child, have medical conditions, are pregnant or breastfeeding it is best to check with your doctor, nutritionist or pharmacist before firing up the kettle!
Spices are kind of a rehash of tea, just a touch more versatile.
With the exception of table salt (which should be used sparingly), spices are whole, dried and ground up plants that can be added everywhere in your diet. Some are leaves, other roots or nuts. All of them are loaded with phytonutrients and antioxidants that help your body function optimally.
Not to mention, they are just plain tasty!
My spice rack is never lacking: garlic, pepper, chilis, paprika, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, oregano/basil and a curry or tandoori mix! But, again, it doesn’t matter a ton which spices grace your plate with their presence! Find spices you love and use them, daily!
And there you have it! The eight foods a nutritional researcher eats every day!
Did anything on this list surprise you at all? Glean any inspiration for your own diet? Let me know in the comment section below! I’d love to hear about it!
References and Further Reading
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Miranda Poenicke