Sticking to a healthy diet can be a challenge so sometimes it’s motivating to know how the foods we eat make us healthier. Here are some key foods that help us reach our RDI (recommended daily intake) of essential nutrients:
Eat 3-6 brazil nuts every day:
Brazil nuts (they are technically a seed) are one of the richest sources of selenium. Selenium is a mineral essential for cell protection, acting like an antioxidant protecting from oxidative stress along with boosting immunity and regulating blood pressure and metabolism. The RDI for an adult is 60-70 μg/day and one brazil nut contains around 35μg. They also contain potassium, calcium and zinc which makes them a nutrient heavy hitter! Try to include 3-6 brazil nuts in your diet everyday.
Include seaweed at least twice per week:
Seaweed is commonly seen in Asian restaurants (think sushi or seaweed salads) but now it’s also popular snack with dried seaweed snacks appearing in many lunch boxes. Seaweed is one of the highest sources of iodine, a mineral essential for metabolism regulation and thyroid health. The thyroid needs iodine to produce essential hormones. Deficiencies can lead to disorders such as hypothyroidism, infertility, birth defects and cancer. Historically there has been a worldwide iodine deficiency epidemic hence in Australia you will find many foods fortified with iodine (for example commercial bread and iodised salt).
The challenge is that too much iodine is contraindicated which makes supplementation a challenge. If concerned, a simple blood test can reveal your iodine levels, however eating seaweed twice per week is a safe, healthy compromise. The RDI for iodine is 150mcg per day and one serve of wakame seaweed contains around 139mcg. Assuming you’re having some commercial bread and iodised salt in your diet, this should hold you in good stead. Other seaweed nutrients include iron and calcium. Some types can even contain high amounts of vitamin B12. Plus it’s a good source of omega-3 fats.
Half a cup of mushrooms most days:
Mushrooms are magic little creatures, more closely related to the animal kingdom than plants. Eating mushrooms has many health benefits from boosting immunity, protecting against diseases such as cancer, to aiding digestion. Mushrooms contain a powerful type of fibre called beta glucan (β-glucan). Researchers are particularly interested in β-glucans because more and more studies are identifying their significant impact on health, such as lowering insulin resistance, blood cholesterol, obesity prevention and immune boosting properties including fighting cancer. 250mg Beta glucan per day has been shown to prevent illnesses such as hayfever. Around 100g of uncooked mushrooms will contain between 210-530g of β-glucans, with differing varieties containing different amounts. If you find it hard to eat mushies everyday, try the EMPOWdER range of organic fermented mushroom powder, sprinkled over breakfast bowls, salads or blended through smoothies.
Eat three oysters (or one cup of baked beans) three times per week:
Shellfish aren’t exactly the easiest food to get hold of, however they are nutrient powerhouses. Most notably, shellfish such as oysters contain the essential mineral zinc. Zinc is considered an essential nutrient, meaning your body can’t produce or store it. It is essential for many processes including gene expression, enzymatic reactions (facilitation of chemical reactions in the body), immune function, protein synthesis, DNA synthesis, wound healing, growth and development.
The RDI for zinc is 8mg/day for women and 14mg per day for men (healthy sperm production demands a lot of zinc). Three oysters contains around 12mg of zinc (and maybe that’s why they have commonly been suggested as an aphrodisiac!). If shellfish aren’t for you, the good news is the common can of baked beans contains a similar amount. Other food sources include; meat, eggs, dairy, Pumpkin seeds, cashews, and hemp seeds.
Amelia Phillips is a nutritionist, exercise scientist and online health coach who has helped thousands live a healthier life through optimised nutrition and targeted supplementation.