When human beings were truly hunters and gatherers during the Stone Age, nuts and berries were an important part of our diet. Think about how much easier we have it now since our hunting and gathering can take place at the local supermarket and farmers’ market. Take advantage of this ease and consider including these foods in your diet every day. Studies show that berries, nuts, colorful vegetables and fatty fish provide health benefits important to today’s lifestyle. Here are some ideas on how to enjoy these foods and why they are important to your health.
Berries – especially blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. I do happen to be partial to wild blueberries since they are native to Maine. Keep fresh and frozen berries on hand. When they are in season, I keep a container of fresh blueberries in the fridge. I enjoy a handful for a sweet snack, mixed into low-fat Greek yogurt, blended into a smoothie or added on top of cereal or oatmeal.
Berries are low in calories, high in vitamins, high in fiber and high in antioxidants that help protect against heart disease, cancer and other age-related chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
Depending on where you live, summer is a great season to find a pick-your-own farm and spend time outdoors gathering up berries to bring home and enjoy!
Nuts – especially walnuts and almonds, since they can be eaten raw. Other nuts require cooking or processing before being eaten, which affects the nutritional profile and can add fats and/or salt. It is economical to purchase nuts in bulk either at the supermarket or specialty foods store. I like to keep a bag on hand and have a small handful as a snack in the evening. They are also great added to salads and to cereal or oatmeal. I find the flavor, crunch and chewing to be satisfying.
Nuts are high in protein, high in fiber and high in antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids that help protect against heart disease. Nuts are packed with calories from fat, and even though the type of fat is heart healthy, it is important to enjoy them in small portions.
Colorful vegetables – especially tomatoes, broccoli and green leafy vegetables. I have also been eating cauliflower (in the broccoli family) in a tasty stir fry with tofu. Generally, more deeply colored vegetables are more nutritious and packed with flavor. Enjoy cauliflower, broccoli or spinach lightly steamed and served as a side dish. Romaine lettuce, other dark green lettuces, spinach and tomatoes make delicious salads topped with a drizzle of olive oil and splash of vinegar. I pop small tomatoes into my mouth by the handful. Larger tomatoes can be broiled until bubbly in the toaster oven – cut in half and top with a dash of olive oil, dried basil, garlic powder and ground black pepper. Yummy!
Colorful vegetables are low in calories, high in vitamins and minerals and high in antioxidants that help protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Fatty fish – especially salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines. As a result of my Italian background, I love fish and enjoy anchovies, herring and sardines. There is also an added health benefit in canned salmon and sardines from eating the soft bones which are loaded with calcium. It may be a challenge for some people to eat fish every day. Try to find ways to eat fish at least twice a week and build up from there. Replace meat with fish as an entrée at meals twice a week. Add canned fish to salads and sandwiches.
Fatty fish is high in lean protein, high in vitamins and minerals and high in the omega 3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which help protect against heart disease and promote development of the brain and nervous system.
Make it easy to enjoy the top four Guiding Stars 3 star foods every day for your health!
About our Nutrition Expert
Lori Kaley MS, RD, LD, MSB is a member of the Guiding Stars Scientific Advisory Panel. Lori has 30 years of combined experience working in healthcare and public health creating policies and environments to help families and children have access to healthy foods and beverages. She is currently Policy Associate at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service.
Lori’s greatest achievement and joy has been in raising her three daughters to be healthy and productive young adults, each with their own particular love of food, cooking and being physically active. Lori’s passion for nutritional community outreach has been a cornerstone of the Guiding Stars Scientific Advisory Panel. Lori regularly contributes to the Guiding Stars blog.