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Claire Nielsen: Health-boosting foods to include in your meals

Columnist Claire Nielsen shares her favourite healthy foods.
avocadoandegg
Avocado can be used in many different ways, including on toast or in a salad.

I have had a lot of request from the community to share my favourite healthy foods. It was hard to limit to just a few as there are so many, but space only allows me to cover the following ones.

Avocados help with the production of collagen in the body, are packed with vitamins and healthy fats and great for our skin, bones, muscles heart, brain and liver. Use it in a salad, guacamole, add to a smoothie, smash it on toast (with cream cheese and tomato). I make a delicious key lime pie with avocados.

Berries are an amazing source of antioxidants, full of vitamins, are anti-aging, aid memory and heart function, supports circulation, and even help with mood regulation. I use organic cherry and organic blueberry in my (turmeric-ginger) elixirs and always add to my morning smoothie. Add to salads, yogurt, cereal or eaten by the handful. My favourite are raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries. Strawberries are also full of fibre and help balance female hormones. Pomegranate juice is an amazing antioxidant also.

Seeds: Flax, hemp, chia and sunflower are my favourite and are all fantastic for our health — full of essential omega 3 which is essential for heart health, brain health, digestion… Flax is excellent for premenstrual or menopausal symptoms in women and prostate issues in men. All of these seeds can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, baking or bread. However, flax loses its health benefits when cooked so the oil or the seed is optimally used raw or in salad dressings. Buy the whole flax seed and grind yourself (with a dedicated coffee grinder), putting a bag of ground flax in the freezer for when you need it. Pre-ground flax has diminished omegas.

Nuts: Not all nuts are created equal. Sadly, many are allergic to peanuts (which are often rancid anyway) so they should generally be avoided. But walnuts are a great brain food and a natural sedative so a handful in the evening are good for you. Almonds are excellent for women’s health and bone building and pumpkin seeds can be added to any salad.

Olives are one of the healthiest fats (up there with avocados) and very beneficial for heart health, skin elasticity, bone strength and brain clarity. My favourite are the real (not canned) Kalamata olives, which are great in Greek salad (or any salad), in any pasta, on pizza, as a condiment on your plate…

Rooibos tea and green tea both decrease LDL (cholesterol) and raise the good HDL levels. If you drink green tea, stick to daytime consumption because of the caffeine. Rooibos doesn’t have caffeine and tastes wonderful. Where green tea can be slightly bitter, rooibos tea has a nutty flavour.

Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants but must have very little sugar. If you can manage 80-90% cocoa, you will get the most benefit.

Cinnamon is an amazing spice that helps regulate blood sugar, and these days everyone seems to have blood sugar issues. Put cinnamon in as much as you can. I love it in my oatmeal and applesauce.

Sprouts are very high in protein and an absolute superfood. I love sunflower spouts the most and add them to salads, whatever I’m cooking, and even put them in my smoothie (undetectable).

Spinach and kale are two of the most nutritious leafy greens containing many essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, folate, iron, calcium, fibre and protein (surprisingly). They have cancer-preventative and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Fermented foods help the digestive system and support the probiotic bacteria lining our digestive track. They include sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and kombucha. There are great recipes for homemade versions, which are the best because they haven’t been processed or pasteurized.

Mushrooms are amazing for longevity and brain health. I make an amazing homemade cream of mushroom soup that is to die for and very few calories. But fancy mushrooms are expensive.

Raw onions and fresh garlic have amazing benefit for immunity and preventing/fighting viral and bacterial infections. Red onions always find their way into my salads and garlic into my salad dressing.

As always, I have run out of space but there are many more foods that are so beneficial for our health and I feel bad that I could only name a few. With a little internet research or finding a wholesome cookbook, you can change how you eat and what you serve your family.

Eating clean feels so good in our bodies. To your continued health.

Claire Nielsen is a columnist, health coach, public speaker, author and founder of www.elixirforlife.ca.