What Goes on a List of Healthy Food?
With so many mixed messages, it can be hard to know what to add to a list of healthy food and what to leave off.
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I tend to view a sustainable and healthy food list as one that looks to Nature for the answers.
Would a jar of supplements be found in Nature? How about a box of whole grain cereal or a bag of "natural" chips hanging from a tree branch?
When we look at our modern health and what to eat, it's important to look to Nature and our own natural history for the answers. We've been eating as omnivores for millenia; in fact, it's why we evolved into the human beings who can even discuss this topic today.
If eating an omnivore's diet were bad for us, we would have been extinct many thousands of years ago.
So why the rise of heart disease, autoimmune disorders, cancers and so on?
Because we're not eating according to Nature anymore. Our food is no longer from Nature, but from factories. And we've done all kinds of things to it, like give cows (who should only eat grass) things that can't fully digest, like corn; or raise chickens indoors in 2 foot by 2 foot cages (also eating corn, I might add). We say it's better for our budget without ever realizing what it's doing to our healthcare bill.
So what was on a list of healthy food 200 years ago has now become a toxin to our bodies.
That doesn't mean eating meat or eggs is inherently bad for you; it means factory-raised, corn-fed "meat" and "eggs" can hardly be considered real meat and eggs.
So, What Can We Add to a List of Healthy Food?
A complete list of healthy food is largely a matter of opinion, personal taste and individual needs, depending on age, lifestyle and other factors, such as pregnancy or illness.
But there are two rules you can follow that will never guide you wrong:
- Ingredients, Not Ingredient Lists: What I mean is, if your food has an ingredient list, it's not as healthy than if it's something you would use as an ingredient. Skip the packaged meals and use recipes that call for whole foods instead.
- Skip the Grocery Aisles: First, shop your farmer's market for fresh, local and organic foods. If you do venture to your store with a healthy food grocery list, skip the aisles and do 90% of your shopping around the periphery of the store: the produce section, the meat section, the dairy section etc, instead of the chip aisle, the sweets aisle, etc. This, and many other strategies will save you tons of moolah.
Those two rules alone will set you on the right path when making your own healthy food grocery list.
Your List of Healthy Food
Important: Not every food is healthy for every person. We all understand food allergies, but there are also food sensitivities, such as to dairy (casien-intolerant) or certain grains (gluten-intolerant).
The best thing you can do for your own health is to experiment with different foods and without different foods and see how your body feels. Keeping a food journal and noting your physical symptoms, body sensations, moods, energy levels, etc is also a good way to identify if certain foods are triggering certain reactions in your system. The three most common sensitivities are dairy, gluten (found in wheat, rye, barley) and corn (found in just about everything). Try cutting those out and then adding them back in one at a time after a few weeks to notice any difference.
Also imporatnt is to choose local, in-season and organic foods whenever possible, since they are healthier than out-of-season, hothouse, or picked-unripe-to-ship-around-the-world foods.
It would be impossible to create a list of healthy food with every possible option on it, so these partial lists add some of the most important, easy to find or grow (or raise) foods.
Fruits, Fresh or Dried
All fruits are good for you for different reasons, some we may not even fully know yet. Remember to eat the food, though, not opt for the assumed nutrients in a supplement. Because there is more to healthy food lists than nutrients.
Types of fruit:
- Berries: Blackberries, blueberries, currants, grapes, strawberries, tomatoes, etc
- Citrus fruits: Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, tangerine, etc.
- Melons: Canteloupe, honeydew, papaya, watermelon, etc.
- Tree fruits: Apples, apricots, cherries, figs, nectarines, peaches, plums, etc.
- Tropical or exotic: Avocados, bananas, guava, kiwi, mango, pineapple, etc.
Vegetables, Fresh and Cooked
Some veggies should be eaten raw, others fermented, steamed or cooked to get more nutrients from them by breaking down the fiberous wall. All are good for you, but some may affect certain people negatively, such as the effect of nightshade plants on arthritis.
Types of veggies:
- Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard
- Dark Leafy Greens: Beet greens, chard, spinach, etc.
- Lilies: Onions, leeks, garlic, etc.
- Nightshades: Bell peppers, eggplant, other peppers, tomatoes, etc.
- Root Veggies: Beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, etc.
- Squash: Acorn, butternut, patty pan, pumpkin, summer, yellow, zucchini, etc.
- Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.
Vegetables should make up a large portion of your own list of healthy food.
Healthy fats are a crucial part of our bodies, helping our brain function, our cells repair, and helping our bodies have the energy they need, regulate moods and hormones and even to help us absorb vitamins and nutrients.
A list of healthy food fats:
- Oils such as avocado, coconut, macadamia, olive, etc.
- Whole avocado, nuts or seeds
- Butter or ghee from grass-fed, organic cows
- Sour cream or yogurt from organic, grass-fed cows, with live, active cultures
- Animal fats, such as grass-fed beef or foraged pork, pastured chickens and eggs, grass-fed dairy, etc.
Healthy Meat, Seafood & Dairy
Meat, seafood and dairy are needed for more than just protein (cell building nutrients). They also provide amino acids, omega-3 and omega-6, CLA (conjugated Linoleic Acid), and vitamins A and E and more.
How much of these a particular person needs is dependent on personal preference, physical activity and lifestyle. And remember: They healthier the fat, the less you'll crave on your healthy food list since it's a good source and will easily meet your needs.
Some examples of healthy animal products in moderation:
- Grass-fed beef or lamb
- Foraged pork
- Pastured, organic chicken and eggs from a local farmer or your own backyard
- Broths, especially bone broths from organic, pastured, traditionally raised animals
- Grass-fed milk, organic cheese, yogurt, ghee and butter
- Wild-caught carnivorous fish, such as salmon or tilapia
- Oily fish, such as anchovies or sardines
- Sustainably-farmed shellfish, such as lobster, crab, etc
- Mollusks, such as oysters, clams, scallops, squid, mussels, etc.
When considering dairy, consider joining a cow share so that you can get raw dairy, which (if raised properly) is healthier than pastuerized organic milk.
Grains and Legumes
When it comes to grains and legumes I tend to think of these as "okay". You see, in human history, they are still a pretty new food for us, which is probably why so many people are finding they are intolerant to things like gluten or feel sluggish after eating from this food group.
Your best grains and legumes to eat:
- Sprouted, fermented or soaked whole grains
- Rice, such as brown, white or wild
- Legumes, such as lentils, fermented soy products, kidney, black or other beans
Superfoods are just what they sound like: foods that are super conventrated in important nutrients. Below is an abbreviated healthy food list of superfoods, both easy-to-make or find and more exotic kinds:
- Dark chocolate
- Fermented Foods: Sauerkraut, fermented veggies, red wine, sourdough bread, buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream, etc
- Fermented Cod Liver Oil
- Nutritional Yeast
- Spirulina and Kelp
- Exotic Superfoods: Goji berries, acai, cacao, maca, miso, irish moss, etc.
- Anything Raw: From fruits and veggies to yes, meats and seafood (sushi, anyone?)
You know why people think healthy food is boring or tastes bad? Because they don't know how to cook it! It's all about the spice you add, and all herbs and spices are considered on the list of healthy food:
- Curry, curry, and more curry
- Salt and pepper, obviously
- Powders, like garlic and onion (try making your own!)
- Cinnamon, clove, ginger, etc
- Herbs like oregano, basil, parslet, etc
We tend to crave lots of sweets because they are a natural energy boosters. Too much can lead to an outbreak of yeast in our system and just a general "yuck" feeling. But that doesn't mean no sweetners can make your list of healthy food.
The best natural sweetners:
- Raw, local honey: Great for your allergies too!
- Real maple syrup: Actually contains trace minerals!
- Rapadura: A light brown all-natural sugar
- Stevia: A sweet herb!
Want to Learn More About This List of Healthy Food?
Having a list of healthy food isn't the same as understanding WHY these things are healthy or HOW to eat them in a way that ensures you get the most from them.
If you're interested in learning more about eating healty foods, I'd highly recommend the following e-book or e-course, Real Food Nutrition & Health.
Real Food Nutrition & Health is a fantastic, in-depth, but easy-to-absorb guide for kids, teens or adults to understanding real food. It covers everything from the health impact to the environmental impact, preparation and more.
Learn more about Real Food Nutrition & Health here or click the banner below.
You can also check out these great books on the topic: