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Something we have all listened to since we were children is, “Eat your fruits and vegetables.” Even though we always heard this from parents or guardians, they rarely gave a reason behind it other than “They’re good for you.” Let’s look at some of the aspects of healthy foods, why they are classified as such, and what foods contain these benefits.

Antioxidants are a key aspect of many healthy foods. The reason why they are so important is because of the protection they bring to the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, antioxidants can help protect the body from free radicals, which can cause cellular damage. This damage can lead to heart disease and may be a contributing factor in certain cancers, and may affect brain function. Reducing free radicals can improve health. Some foods that can help you do that include leafy greens, berries, brown rice, and nuts

Omega-3s are also crucial for good health. They are fatty acids that are good for the body. It might sound weird hearing that something called a fatty acid is good for you, but your body does need them to function properly. They have many benefits, including reducing blood pressure, improving heart health, and fighting back against the mental decline of aging. Coldwater fish contain high levels of Omega-3s, making them a good choice for entrees. Almonds, eggs, and most leafy green vegetables also contain Omega-3s

The last area I want to cover concerning healthy foods is cholesterol. Most would assume that cholesterol is bad for you and causes heart problems. They would be right in terms of one type of cholesterol, LDL, also known as the bad cholesterol. However, there is another kind of cholesterol known as HDL, which is good for you. The main difference between the two is how they interact with your blood vessels.

According to Harvard Health, HDL can protect your arteries from plaque buildup and metabolize in the liver. On the other hand, LDL remains in your system and can build up plaque in the arteries, causing decreased blood flow to all parts of the body, which could cause heart problems or even strokes. It is vital to get enough HDL in the body while keeping LDL low for a healthy diet. Eating foods low in saturated fats are good ways to limit LDL. Overall improvements to your diet (like the ones listed previously) and an increase in physical activity can help improve HDL levels.

Now that you know about some aspects of foods and what makes them healthy, what is the next step? Incorporating these foods into your daily diet is the answer! Combining them into your meals is the best way to ensure you get all the possible benefits at once. A quick example of this could be dinner which includes salmon prepared with lemon and pepper, with side dishes of spinach and sweet potatoes. A meal like this will ensure you get some antioxidants and Omega-3s into the diet while keeping an eye out for foods high in LDL.

Look up some other healthy foods to try out different combinations to keep your meals fresh and exciting. If you don’t like one kind of food don’t worry, there are so many other possibilities. You need to find the ones that work best for you. Taking steps to incorporate these food items into your everyday life will prove to be beneficial in the long run. So good luck, and go enjoy some new foods!

Written by: Kenny Kolke, Intern, Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Department