According to Australian survey data, hardly any of us consume legumes and when we do they’re in the form of baked beans, which are often in a sugary and/or salty sauce. Legumes are perhaps the MOST forgotten healthy food.
This food is the only one that can count as a vegetable and as a protein alternative – double the reason to eat them!
Besides protein, legumes offer a great source of fibre and resistant starch (a type of carbohydrate that helps maintain a healthy bowel), moderate carbohydrate and low in fat, as well as packing a punch with B vitamins and minerals.
Legumes include chickpeas, lentils and beans as well as split peas. Many people avoid these foods because they’re “boring”, but there are lots of creative recipes online, including lentil pancakes for those of you looking to pack a protein punch for breakfast without the protein powders, or kidney bean Mexican style nachos or burritos.
(2) Nuts & seeds
Nuts are a “high energy” food, which means for a small amount they are high in calories. High calories are not dirty words in this case, because they offer a host of really great fats as well as vitamins and minerals. A handful of nuts 5 times a week has been shown to help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Choose unsalted varieties and say goodbye to 3:30-itis!
You probably already know this one. However, I want to explain WHY vegetables are so important in your diet. Vegetables are low in calories because of their high water content, packed full of vitamins and minerals and also antioxidants. Vegetable-rich diets have been associated with reduced risk of all kinds of disease including cancer.
Besides carrots, most Aussies eat a LOT of potatoes, so try including a greater variety of veggies by swapping potatoes for another vegetable dish such as baked cauliflower. Don’t forget to season with herbs and spices to keep it interesting and tasty!
Remember to choose whole fruit over fruit juice if possible, as fruit juice lacks fibre, which is a key benefit of eating fruit. Fruits are similar to their vegetable cousins, they are low in energy/calories and have a very high water content in some cases. They taste sweet because of their naturally occurring sugars that develop during ripening, and they also contain fibre, lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. You can probably see why we have also been told to eat fruits and veggies, they don’t take up a lot of energy in your diet BUT they give our bodies so many nutrients, and they taste great too – BONUS!
(5) Fish & Seafood
Many Australians are not eating enough fish; on average each person consumes 2.2 kg of fish per year. Fish and seafood are low in energy but still have the same amount of protein as red meat, they’re also low in carbohydrate and oily fish contains the all-important omega-3s. Omega-3s are particularly important for heart health, and since cardiovascular disease is the most common killer, the Heart Foundation encourages 2-3 serves of fish or canned fish a week. This recommendation is based on studies in Eskimo populations, which showed a high omega-3 diet and very low occurrence of heart disease.