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Lots of focus has been on health lately. It’s vitally important that our bodies are as healthy as possible so we’re able to fight off disease. The first step to better health is a no-brainer. Garbage in, garbage out, we have to eat healthier! Better diet not only can create a healthier, stronger body, but also give you that mental boost you may be lacking. Foods can affect our well-being and in turn give us the energy to face everyday tasks with more focus.

So, what do we know about what foods we should incorporate into our diets? 

Beans & Peas

Beans and peas are legumes. Did you know that they a have very high nutrient content? Because of this, they are recommended for everyone. Beans and peas are also classified by the USDA as both vegetables and protein. This classification includes pinto beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, black beans, split peas, lentils, and garbanzo beans. They come in a variety of forms including frozen, canned, and dried. 

There are some “peas and beans” that aren’t listed in the beans and peas vegetable subgroup. Green beans (string beans) are generally grouped with vegetables like lettuce, onions, cabbage, and celery due to similar nutrients. Green lima beans  and green peas have a starch content that lands them with other starchy veggies categorically. 

Beans generally add to our digestive health; they naturally increase healthy gut bacteria. You need to increase your iron or zinc? Eat beans and peas. Working on lowering your cholesterol? Eat beans and peas. You can even decrease your blood sugar levels by eating beans and peas. There are so many great ways to get more beans and peas into your diet, from a hearty dish of southern field peas to a an inviting bowl of split pea soup. Work on incorporating more beans and peas into your diet.

Grains

Foods made from barley, cornmeal, rice, wheat, oats, or other cereal grains are known as grain foods. For me, it’s all the good things like bread, grits, tortillas, and pasta. Grains can be considered whole grains or refined grains. Whole-wheat flour, brown rice, and oatmeal are examples of whole grains. Milling is a process that removes the bran and germ and is the process refined grains go through. Refined grains have a finer texture and an increased shelf life; but they are missing the dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. White rice, white flour, and white bread are examples of products made with refined grains. Refine grains that are enriched add those B vitamins and iron back in after processing. Note that fiber is not added back into enriched grains. 

If you didn’t know already, having a lot of grains in your diet makes it easier to for your body to thrive. Try to focus on mostly whole grain products for the greatest health benefits. Dietary fiber, iron, magnesium and selenium are found in whole grains and are important for an overall healthy diet.

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Leafy Greens

You can’t go wrong with leafy greens. They are among the healthiest foods you can eat. Diets that include lots of leafy greens are linked to a lower risk of heart disease, macular degeneration, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes. Leafy greens may also help us older people keep our memory sharp. Many greens like arugula, kale, and Swiss chard are great sources of vitamin K. You’ll find vitamin C in iceberg and red and green lettuce. Collard greens are rich in calcium, beta carotene, and folate. 

We like to tell our kids to eat their greens in order to grow big and strong. There is a some of truth to this statement; leafy greens contain a lot of iron, as well as no small amount of protein, so they are important in building and maintaining muscle mass. Greens can be steamed or you can even add them to stews, broths, and the like. Use a wide mix of greens for delicious salads or even add them to pizza. They really are one of the most important kinds of vegetables to have in your diet.

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Fruit

Fruit is nature’s dessert. Everyone typically needs to eat between one and two cups a day. Losing weight may be a bit easier if you incorporate more fruit into your diet. Sometimes you just crave something sweet and eating a beautiful crunchy apple or munching on some grapes can sate that craving.

Dried peaches and apricots are a good source of potassium for healthy blood pressure. You can also get potassium from bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, and orange juice. The dietary fiber derived from fruits can help lower blood cholesterol levels. A diet rich in dietary fiber also helps keep your body in balance and regular. You can find vitamin C in many fruits and is important to help heal cuts, keeping teeth healthy, and for repair of body tissues. 

In other words, eating fruits can both satisfy your sweet tooth as well as provide nutrients that keep your body in tip top shape.

Try a balance of all of the fruits and vegetables mentioned along with your protein choices for a well balanced diet. If you focus on healthy food choices, you may just start to feel your energy levels increase and your overall well-being will be increased as well.

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