18 Healthy Ingredients You Should Add To Your Meals

Do you want to boost your health and increase the nutritional value of your meals? Then you’re not alone, although sometimes it can be challenging to know which foods to add to enjoy the greatest boost to our overall well-being. Here, we explore 18 everyday ingredients that offer maximum health benefits and can easily be incorporated into various dishes.

Leafy Green Vegetables

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Healthline says leafy greens like kale, spinach, cabbage, Swiss chard, and collard greens are powerhouses of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, particularly vitamins A, C, and K. These vitamins can improve eye health, immune function, and blood clotting. They also contain folate and magnesium, which are vital for cell growth and the function of muscles and nerves.

Legumes

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These protein and carbohydrate-packed foods are also rich in fiber, folate, iron, and potassium. Their fiber content contributes to gut health, while folate is essential for cell growth and development. Adding beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas to your meals can also help regulate blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol.

Nuts and Seeds

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What can be more nutritious than a seed, which contains everything a baby plant needs to germinate and start growing? They’re excellent sources of healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Most are also versatile ingredients, making delicious additions to both savory and sweet dishes. Try adding some almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, or flaxseeds to your meals.

Whole Grains

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Refined white flour doesn’t offer the health benefits of whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, and whole-wheat bread. Harvard Health states that whole grains contain abundant fiber, complex carbs, B vitamins, and essential minerals like magnesium and selenium. They are necessary for blood sugar regulation, metabolism, and a healthy nervous system.

Fatty Fish

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Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly long-chain polyunsaturated varieties, known as EPA and DHA. These essential fats are crucial for the proper functioning of our bodies at every stage of life and significantly improve brain health and heart function while reducing inflammation.

Berries

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Packed with antioxidants and fiber, berries like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries offer an array of health benefits. According to Everyday Health, antioxidants help combat free radicals, protecting cells from damage and reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. Berries also boost cognitive function, memory, gut health, and weight loss.

Avocados

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Medical News Today says avocados have a whole list of health benefits and contain a unique blend of healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, which lower cholesterol and improve heart health. Avocados also contain potassium, which is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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Often heralded as the secret to the longevity of Mediterranean people, olive oil is found in many Greek, Spanish, and Italian dishes. It is rich in ‘healthy’ fats, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds. Studies suggest it improves heart health by lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation, and even reduces dementia risk by boosting cognitive function.

Garlic and Onions

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These pungent bulbs are everyday kitchen staples, yet they offer far more than just flavor! Both garlic and onions contain allicin, a compound with various health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, boosting the immune system, and combating inflammation. Garlic has also been shown to improve circulation.

Turmeric

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Turmeric is a vibrant yellow-colored spice commonly used in curries and often responsible for its clothes-staining properties! It contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory compound; it’s been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and certain types of cancer.

Ginger

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Ginger has a long history of being used in traditional medicine, particularly for treating intestinal issues. John Hopkins Medicine states, “Eating ginger can cut down on fermentation, constipation, and other causes of bloating and intestinal gas.” It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and can be used to treat anything from nausea to arthritis.

Cinnamon

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This aromatic spice is a popular addition to fruit-based bakes like apple pies, but it offers more than just a delightful taste. Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde, a compound that helps regulate blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. It also lowers cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease.

Tomatoes

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Brightly colored fruits and vegetables often hold the highest levels of vitamins and minerals, and this is true for tomatoes. These versatile, bright red fruits contain high levels of lycopene, an antioxidant linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, and sun damage repair. They’ve also been shown to improve vision and brain function.

Live Yogurt

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Yogurt containing a ‘live’ culture of probiotic bacteria improves gut health by aiding digestion, reducing gas, and ensuring efficient nutrient absorption. Probiotics have also been linked to improved immunity and a reduced risk of certain chronic diseases. Opt for plain varieties of yogurt without added sugar—you can add fresh fruit later for extra sweetness.

Cruciferous Vegetables

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Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are rich in sulforaphane, a compound that helps reduce cancer risk, improve heart health, and boost the immune system. UCLA reports that studies show eating broccoli, in particular, is positively correlated with reduced incidences of breast, prostate, oral, and colon cancers.

Sweet Potatoes

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These bright orange root vegetables are far more nutritious than regular ‘white’ potato varieties and rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are also an excellent source of beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A, which is essential for eye health and immune function. They also help regulate gut transit, improve digestion, and contain immune-boosting vitamin C.

Dark Chocolate

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Chocoholics will be pleased to hear that dark chocolate, with a cocoa content of 70% or higher, has several health benefits when consumed in moderation. It is incredibly high in antioxidants, specifically flavanols, which can improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease. It’s also great for enhancing your mood!

Green Tea

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While not technically an ingredient, green tea is one of the healthiest beverages you can choose to accompany your meals. It contains beneficial plant compounds, known as catechins, that boost brain function, regulate metabolism, and help lower the risk of both heart disease and type II diabetes.

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