As a registered dietitian, if I had to narrow it down to just three foods to eat almost every day, here are the three I would choose – apples, carrots, and walnuts. The reason why? They are affordable, portable and available year round each having their own unique nutritional qualities to offer.
The reason I say to eat them almost every day is because, of course, we also need to choose other nutritious foods besides these three plant foods. Consuming a wide variety of food daily – lean meat, poultry, fish, whole grains, nuts, and other fruits and veggies – is a smart thing to do. But I know people get busy. They want food they can grab and go, that fill you up and are considered healthy. This is why apples, carrots and walnuts made my list. Most people like them whether eaten cooked or raw and they are easy-keepers in regards to their shelf life and storage. Let’s take a closer look at each one:
Remember learning in kindergarten “A is for apple?” That “A” I think stood for “amazing.” Apples are one of the most popular fruits with some amazing health benefits keeping us well – there’s a reason for the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
Apples provide a rich supply of phytochemicals, antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamin A and dietary fiber. They are also rich in the powerful flavonoid quercetin which acts as an antioxidant and may prevent some cancers and protect arteries and the heart. Eating a whole apple is better than apple juice which loses 80 percent of it quercetin during processing.
In addition to their crunchy goodness, it also appears that apples may improve several health conditions as follows:
A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated apple consumption seemed to be related to a decreased risk of thrombotic stroke.
Another study found people who ate three servings of apples weekly had a 7 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who did not.
To top it off, apples may have an influence in preventing dementia. A 2008 study in the Journal of Food Science found eating an apple a day may protect neuron cells against oxidative stress-induced neurotoxicity possibly reducing Alzheimer’s disease.
Store apples in the crisper drawer in the fridge and lay a slightly dampened paper towel on top of the apples.
Carrots are one of the most favorite vegetables in the world, mainly because they are easy to grow and they are very versatile in cooking. They can be easily added to soups, stews or smoothies, shredded over salads, steamed, stir-fried or eaten raw.
We tend to think carrots come in only one color – orange. How wrong we are. Carrots in the colors of purple, white, yellow, and red are around just not as common.
Carrots health benefits come from their beta carotene and fiber content. They are also known to be a rich source of vitamin A, pantothenic acid, folate, potassium, copper and manganese.
Some important health benefits carrots provide are in maintaining good digestive functioning. Carrot’s high fiber content – 4.6 grams in one cup – adds bulk to bowel movements preventing constipation while stimulating peristaltic motion and the secretion of gastric juice.
You never see rabbits wearing glasses and they love carrots and for a very good reason – carrots may reduce risk of macular degeneration. Research has found people who ate foods with the most beta carotene had a 40 percent lower risk of macular degeneration than those who did not. Beta carotene is the precursor to vitamin A which boosts our vision.
Another benefit of beta carotene is it has been linked to a reduction in lung cancer. Researchers found when beta carotene consumption went from 1.7 to 2.7 milligrams per day it reduced lung cancer by 40 percent. Carrots contain about 3 milligrams of beta carotene.
To keep carrots fresh, store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator’s vegetable bin. Avoid storing them next to apples, which emit ethylene gas that can give carrots a bitter taste.
When it came to choosing walnuts, it was a toss-up between all the other nuts available. Walnuts came out the winner as they are the only nut – and one of the few foods – that provide an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based form of omega-3. A ¼ cup of walnuts contains 2.5 grams of ALA more than eight times the amount found in the next highest nut which is good news for our heart health and in reducing inflammation.
Walnuts also contain the amino acid l-arginine important for vascular health. In fact, walnuts positively affect various heart health markers from reducing total cholesterol, lowering LDL cholesterol, raising HDL cholesterol, and decreasing blood pressure
Diabetes is another disease walnuts can have a beneficial effect on. Research shows that consuming 2 ounces a day can significantly improve endothelial function in people with type 2 diabetes and they may also play a role in managing metabolic syndrome.
To maximize the shelf life of walnuts store them in a cool, dry area. Once the package is opened, place them in a sealed airtight container to maintain freshness.
Visit http://nutritiondata.self.com/ type in the food name for additional information on the nutritional content of apples, carrots and walnuts.