No surprise, but our bodies literally need food for survival. Everything that we consume does something for our bodies, somehow, or at least it should. The next time you put a meal together or grab a snack, think about what each component does for your body. Consider nutrients, calories and vitamins and how each may impact your body. The following foods are some of the healthiest because of how nutrient-dense they are and what they do for our bodies:
• Cucumbers: These fruits, yes fruits, are just a bundle of delicious green goodness. Consisting of 95 percent water, cucumbers are a great food source for hydration. They are also jam-packed with vitamins and nutrients, but remain super low in calories, so they make for a perfect snack.
• Eggs: These are one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world! While the yolk portion is criticized for being high in cholesterol, the nutrient benefits are still worth it. Eggs are also one of the best non-meat sources of protein. Try hard-boiling a few eggs for meal-prep so they can be taken on the go during the week.
• Spinach: Popeye was right in the fact that spinach is really good for you. It is one of the most nutrient-dense foods for least amount of calories. The best part is that spinach is incredibly versatile and can be added to just about anything — from salads, to soups, to smoothies and more!
• Berries: Loaded with fiber and tons of vitamins, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are a fabulous super food. They are also surprisingly low in sugar given their sweetness. Add berries to yogurt or oatmeal for a nutritious, delicious flavor.
• Salmon: Packed with omega-3 (healthy fat) and tons of vitamins and nutrients, salmon is among the healthiest of seafoods. Try baking salmon with some of your favorite veggies, spices and herbs for an easy, tasty meal.
• Beans: Never mind the old saying about what happens when you eat beans, just remember that they are a high-quality plant protein source. The quality calories of beans mean that they are worth the nutrients gained for the calories consumed and are digested slowly, so they keep you fuller for a longer period of time. Try throwing them in soups, burrito bowls or, for some extra flavor, brown rice.
• Almonds: Nuts, in general, are great for our health, but almonds take the lead because of their healthy fats and protein content. They are still a bit higher in calories and carbs, so be mindful of serving size when almonds are your go-to. They work great as a snack on the go or even with your favorite fruits and smoothies in the form of almond butter.
• Oats: I could live off oatmeal for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert — no shame. Oats are one of the best sources of complex carbs, so they provide long-lasting energy. The combination of complex carbs and fiber means that oats keep us full and satisfied, so there's no need to go snacking unnecessarily. Stick to homemade oats and avoid the processed junk and sugars in packet oats — they are still super easy to make by either throwing in the microwave for a couple of minutes or leaving in the fridge with your favorite ingredients overnight.
• Greek yogurt: Don't knock it before you try it. Greek yogurt is an excellent protein source, as well as for probiotics. Just be sure to watch for added sugars and unnecessary ingredients; it's easy enough to grab some plain Greek yogurt and create your own delicious yogurt bowl.
The main thing to consider when choosing foods is to stick to whole foods. The healthiest, most beneficial foods for our bodies are whole foods, meaning that they are natural and not processed and we know how they were made — or grown — and can track where they came from. These foods are just a few of the amazingly long list of healthy foods, so healthy eating is not as boring as it may seem. Don't be afraid to try new foods, especially healthy ones. You never know what your taste buds, or your body, may think.
Amanda Oppenheim is a graduate of Stevenson University and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.