Of course, it's one thing to know what's good for us in theory, but quite another to incorporate these healthy ingredients into our daily diets. Sometimes in the mad dash of an industrious day, we simply reach for what's convenient. But, aside from the obvious health benefits of incorporating more wholesome foods into your cooking, doing so is also much more delicious than popping a vitamin pill.
That's why we've created a list of recipes incorporating many of the most nutrient-packed ingredients you'll find at your local supermarket. Our list contains ideas for soups, salads, mains, sides, snacks and even a few desserts. Many of the recipes come from the Dutch kitchen, but we've also borrowed a few recipes from around the world. We've taken a realistic approach and have also included some more indulgent recipes in our list, too. Enjoy these in moderation. After all, there's nothing wrong with enjoying a small slice of savory tart, if you balance it out with a big green salad.
While alliums such as onions, leeks and garlics are most loved for the full-on flavor they bring to our food, they're also packed with antibiotic properties and can help to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and fight cancer.
Carrot & Sweet Potato recipes
Orange veggies, such as sweet potatoes and carrots, are loaded with beta-carotene, which may lower the risk of certain cancers, and they're flush with vitamin A, an essential nutrient for healthy skin and hair. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins C and E, as well as antioxidants, which fight aging free radicals in your body. And, sweet potatoes contain phytonutrients that are said to boost your immune system and improve the health of your heart and eyes.
Recipes with Cruciferous Veggies
Cruciferous vegetables, including cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and broccoli, are said to contain a powerful range of cancer-fighting properties.
Dark Chocolate Recipes
Filled with flavonoids, a powerful antioxidant, dark chocolate is now considered a health food.
Recipes with Dark Leafy Greens
Dark, leafy greens such as spinach, (curly) kale, watercress, purslane, turnip tops and Swiss chard are an excellent source of vitamins A and C. They're also rich in iron and omega-3s, and contain powerful cancer-preventing compounds.
Forget those old wives' tales about eggs, they're one of the most nutrient-dense foods around. Rich in protein and packed with essential nutrients, such as vitamins D and B12, eggs are also a good source of iron, selenium, choline and biotin. And, according to new research published in the Nutrition and Food Science journal, eggs can even help you to lose weight.
Recipes with Fatty Fish
We probably don't have to tell you that fatty fish such as herring, tuna, salmon and mackerel contain omega-3s, which play a beneficial role in cardiovascular health. But did you know that these nutrients are also essential for glowing skin? You could say that eating fatty fish is like slathering on moisturiser from within.
Recipes with Forest Fruits, Red Grapes & Cranberries
Almost any edible fruit with a blue or red hue is good for you. This includes familiar fruits such as blackberries, blueberries, redcurrants, strawberries, raspberries, red grapes and cranberries, but also the more exotic pomegranate, acai berry and goji berry. These foodstuffs contain so-called phytochemicals, which are said to have cancer-fighting properties and are a rich source of antioxidants, which fight damage from wrinkle-causing free radicals.
Lean Beef Recipes
Beef has received a lot of bad press in recent years, but lean beef is actually one of the best sources of iron, which you need to build healthy red blood cells and strengthen your muscles, bones and nails. Lean beef cuts are often quite tough, which makes them ideally suited to stews. The longer cooking time allows for the meat to become tender, juicy and full of flavor.
Legumes, such as brown beans, broad beans (fava beans) and split peas are a good source of fiber and phosphorus, which is important for healthy bone and hair growth. Many beans are also packed with protein, an essential nutrient for good health.
Red Beet Recipes
The much maligned beet is actually a nutritional superstar, thanks to a phytonutrient called betacyanin, which is not only a powerful antioxidant, but also happens to give red beets their vibrant color. Beets are also high in fiber and beta-carotene and packed with folate, which protects against birth defects, osteoporosis and some cancers.
Recipes with Red Wine
The magic ingredient in red wine is called resveratrol, which is known for its cancer-fighting properties. A glass a day should keep the doctor away.
Spice Rack Recipes
The amazing nutritional benefits of common herbs and spices are often overlooked. Did you know, for instance, that cinnamon, perhaps the most beloved spice in the Netherlands, is packed with antioxidants and helps to regulate blood sugar levels? Or that ginger and black pepper contain gingerols, piperine and capsaicin, which are said to boost metabolism? We've also heard it said that one teaspoon of dried oregano has about the same level of antioxidants as six cups of spinach.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, which is believed to have certain anti-aging effects. It is also said to lower cholesterols and prevent heart disease and certain cancers. While eating tomatoes in any way, shape or form is probably a good idea, lycopene has been proven most effective when cooked.
Recipes with Whole Grains
Whole grains, including buckwheat, barley, oats, rye, quinoa, brown and wild rice, and whole wheat (including varieties such as bulghur and spelt), are high in fibers, B vitamins, magnesium and manganese.
Buy real, unsweetened yogurt to benefit from probiotics, the good bacteria that are said to boost your immune system by helping your digestive system function better. Yogurt is also a healthy source of protein, and contains high levels of calcium and phosphorus, for stronger bones and teeth, and vitamin A for beautiful skin.
High in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, most nuts are excellent little energy bombs, bursting with goodness. Almonds are rich in antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E. Brazil nuts contain selenium, a mineral that helps the body to make glutathione, which is said to slow down the skin's aging process. Walnuts are packed with antioxidants, magnesium, selenium and vitamin E and contain alpha-linolenic omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to lower the bad (LDL) cholesterol and may reduce arterial inflammation.