Eating a balanced diet is vital for overall health and wellbeing. The food we eat provides our body with all the energy, protein, essential fats, vitamins and minerals we need to live, grow and function properly – this is why it is so important to eat a balanced diet that is filled with those very things. Similarly, regular exercise is also an important part of a healthy lifestyle as it will improve general wellbeing and mobility as well as assisting and improving your body’s digestive flow.
Understanding the benefits of the ingredients we use and why they are so important to our daily diets is critical to maintaining overall health and well-being.
Almonds are rich in Vitamin E, a fat soluble vitamin and antioxidant that’s essential for protecting the cells in our body from damage. In fact, almonds are among the world’s best sources of Vitamin E; with just one serve of almonds (a handful – about 30g or 20 nuts) providing 85% of the ecommended Daily Intake (RDI).
Overall, almonds boast an incredibly impressive nutrient profile, with one serve of almonds providing a good amount of fibre, protein and healthy monounsaturated fats as well as 32% of our RDI of manganese (essential for healthy bone structure, the formation of connective tissues, the absorption of calcium and much more) and 20% of our RDI of magnesium (which works to control blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, repair muscles and much more). Almonds also contain a decent amount of copper, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and phosphorus.
Almonds are also a fantastic source of antioxidants, which work in the body to protect our cells against damage that contributes to aging and diseases like cancer and they have also been found to assist with blood sugar control; keeping you feeling fuller for longer and making them a perfect choice for diabetics.
Whilst macadamia nuts are high in monounsaturated fats, high in kilojoules and have a large amount of plant sterols, they’re certainly not bad for you!
Incorporating macadamia nuts into your diet will reduce bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol levels. The plant sterols found in macadamia nuts also limit cholesterol absorption – helping your body to maintain those lower cholesterol levels in the long run. But what about the kilojoules? They’ll give you energy put won’t put on excess weight when eaten in moderation.
- Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium; a vital mineral and antioxidant that may help prevent heart disease. Eating just two Brazil nuts a day will provide your entire daily intake of selenium!
They’re called Brazil nuts because they’re actually the seeds of a very large tree from the Amazon rainforest. Brazil nuts for international trade are sourced entirely from wild collection, rather than from cultivated nut farms like other nuts. They really are a natural superfood!
- Chia Seeds
Known as the Superfood of Modern Times, chia seeds provide you with the highest levels of plant-sourced Omega-3. This tiny wonder multiplies antioxidant activity in the body and provides you with all-natural dietary fibre whilst also being a source of plant-based complete protein.
If you’re not already convinced, chia is also a thermogenic aid; boosting your metabolic rate and assisting in healthy weight loss and weight maintenance!
Honey is a liquid sweetener that is naturally produced by honey bees from flower nectars. Honey has a low to medium GI rating (between 35-58) and contains trace amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Honey is also an energy elixir that can increase stamina and help your muscles to recover. As a natural sweetener, it’s a much more nutritious option than processed sugar and honey’s naturally occurring antioxidants make it a perfect workout fuel.
Unlike sugar and other sweeteners, honey has a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Science has also found that honey can help your recover from even the most demanding of workouts and is regularly used by athletes and marathon runners to refuel.
Hazelnuts contain a significant amount of B group vitamins, including folate and Vitamin B6. But that’s not all! Hazelnuts also contain the highest fibre content of all nuts and are also high in manganese and copper, essential for both bone formation and iron absorption. Research has found that eating one serve of hazelnuts per day may help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as depression and neural tube birth defects.
Whilst generally considered a grain, quinoa is actually an amino acid rich seed that’s a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and swiss chard. Recently rediscovered, this ancient “grain” was once considered “the gold of the Incas”.
Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is a complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. Not only is quinoa’s amino acid profile well balanced, making it a great option for vegans or vegetarians concerned about their protein intake, but quinoa also contains the amino acid lysine which is essential for tissue growth and repair.
In addition to protein, quinoa features a host of other health building nutrients. As an excellent source of manganese, magnesium, folate and phosphorus, this “grain” may be helpful in those suffering from migraines, headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis.
Walnuts are an incredible addition to a healthy diet. With the highest source of natural plant omega-3’s (called alphalinoleic acid, ALA), eating walnuts is like wearing a seat belt for your heart!
As far as healthy foods go, cranberries are at the top of the list due to their high nutrient and antioxidant content and are often referred to as a "super food." Cranberries are known to also be a good source of vitamin C, Fiber and vitamin E.
Cranberries health benefits include lowering risk of urinary tract infections, prevention of certain types of cancer, improved immune function, decreased blood pressure and more.
- Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds)
Pepitas are calorie-dense and an excellent source of protein, dietary fiber, niacin, iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus. Pepitas are a good source of riboflavin, folate, pantothenic acid, sodium and potassium.
In fact, did you know that one-quarter cup of pepita contains nearly half of the recommended daily amount of magnesium, which participates in a wide range of vitally important physiological functions, including the creation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the energy molecules of your body), the synthesis of RNA and DNA which is the pumping of your heart, proper bone and tooth formation, relaxation of your blood vessels and proper bowel function.
All the more reason to make sure you include pepita otherwise known as pumpkin seeds in your diet.
- Sunflower Seeds
The sunflower seed is the fruit of the sunflower (Helianthus annuus). The term "sunflower seed" is actually a misnomer when applied to the seed in its pericarp (hull). Botanically speaking, it is a cypsela. When dehulled, the edible remainder is called the sunflower kernel or heart.
Did you know that sunflower seeds provide a rich source of vitamins E and B-1, as well as copper? Adding nuts and seeds to your diet benefits your health. Some studies indicate that individuals who consume nuts and seeds on a regular basis enjoy a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes.
- Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds add a nutty taste and a delicate, almost invisible, crunch to many Asian dishes. They are also the main ingredients in tahini (sesame seed paste) and the wonderful Middle Eastern sweet call halvah. They are available throughout the year.
Sesame seeds are known to be an excellent source of copper and a very good source of manganese; they are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, and dietary fiber. In addition to these important nutrients, sesame seeds contain two unique substances: sesamin and sesamolin. Both of these substances belong to a group of special beneficial fibers called lignans, and have been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effect in humans, and to prevent high blood pressure and increase vitamin E supplies in animals. Sesamin has also been found to protect the liver from oxidative damage.
Figs are the fruit of the ficus tree, which is part of the mulberry family (Moraceae). Figs have a unique, sweet taste, soft and chewy texture and are littered with slightly crunchy, edible seeds. Fresh figs are delicate and perishable, so are often dried to preserve. This produces a sweet and nutritious dried fruit that can be enjoyed all year round. There are multiple different varieties of fig, all of which vary widely in colour and texture. Their unique feature is a little bud-like opening called an ostiole at the top that helps the fruit develop. Their natural sweetness meant that, before the days of refined sugars, they were often used as a sweetener.
Figs are high in natural sugars, minerals and soluble fibre. Figs are rich in minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper and are a good source of antioxidant vitamins A, E and K that contribute to health and wellness.
A date fruit is the product of a date palm, a tree native to Northern Africa and the Middle East, although it is also cultivated in other parts of the world. In addition to being eaten fresh, the date fruit is dried and eaten whole as a snack or included in an assortment of desserts. Many regional Middle Eastern cuisines incorporate dates, as do Mediterranean cuisines like those of Italy and Greece. Dried dates are usually readily available in most markets, and fresh dates can be found in specialty markets in season.
The benefits of dates include relief from constipation, intestinal disorders, heart problems, anemia, sexual dysfunction, diarrhea, abdominal cancer, and many other conditions. Dates are good for gaining weight also. Dates are rich in several vitamins, minerals and fiber too. These delicious fruits contain oil, calcium, sulfur, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, copper and magnesium which are all beneficial for health. Some health specialists have said that eating one day per day is necessary for a balanced and healthy diet.
Amaranth is the common name for more than 60 different species of amaranthus, which are usually very tall plants with broad green leaves and impressively bright purple, red, or gold flowers. There are three species; the Amaranthus cruenus, Amaranthus hypochondriacus, and Amaranthus caudatus which are commonly grown for their edible seeds.
The name for amaranth comes from the Greek amarantos, “one that does not wither," or “the never-fading.” True to form, amaranth’s bushy flowers retain their vibrancy even after harvesting and drying, and some varieties of ornamental amaranth forego the production of fancy flowers in favor of flashy foliage, sprouting leaves that can range from deep blood-red to light green shot with purple veining. Although several species can be viewed as little more than annoying weeds, people around the world value amaranth as leaf vegetables, cereals, and ornamental plants.
Amaranth contains more than three times the average amount of calcium and is also high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. It’s also the only grain documented to contain Vitamin C. Very little research has been conducted on amaranth’s beneficial properties, but the studies that have focused on amaranth’s role in a healthy diet have revealed three very important reasons to add it to your diet.
Amaranth is a protein powerhouse. At about 13-14%, it easily trumps the protein content of most other grains. You may hear the protein in amaranth referred to as “complete” because it contains lysine, an amino acid missing or negligible in many grains.
Blueberries contain antioxidants, which work to neutralize free radicals linked to the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other age-related conditions. These little powerhouses provide tasty ways of staying healthy.
Low in fat - coming in at about 80 calories per cup and practically fat-free - blueberries are loaded with fiber to keep you fuller longer. Just a handful can satisfy your daily fiber requirement. Plus, blueberries are an excellent source of manganese, which plays an important part in bone development and converting carbohydrates and fats into energy.