College football is finally here! Hooray for dressing up, going to tailgates, and cheering on my favorite team! Of course football season can lead to some pretty unhealthy eating habits, such as drinking lots of beer and eating more chips and burgers than you really should have! We can’t let a fantastic time of the year be an excuse to lose all of our good habits!
With that being said, lately I’ve been curious about the health benefits of individual ingredients. We all know staying away from the fried foods and eating more leafy greens is good for you, but what about other ingredients? What about spices and foods you may not usually think to use? With this thinking, I’ve come to realize that some of my favorite things hold great health benefits that you may not realize! I love the way foods work! 🙂 Here are my favorite food items, their benefits, and how you can incorporate them in your diet!
Cinnamon: This spice packs more than just flavor! It helps regulate blood sugar and reduces your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels! Perfect for oatmeal, peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and smoothies.
Cayenne: Spicy peppers contain capsaicin, which, despite its heat factor, can help reduce inflammation. Add this to your chicken, chili, or even your sauteed vegetables.
Turmeric: An Indian spice that can those suffering from arthritis, and has overall anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. This spice is absolutely delicious on chicken along with cumin!
Bananas: My favorite fruit! Bananas are fat and cholesterol free, and are high in potassium, B vitamins, manganese, and fiber! I could put a banana into almost any recipe- that’s just how much I love them!
Blueberries: These berries are incredibly high in antioxidants, vitamin C, fiber, and are a wonderful low calorie snack! If you are looking for convenience, buy a giant bag of frozen blueberries. Fold them into a piping hot bowl of oatmeal, on top of some ice cream, or into a smoothie!
Oatmeal: As my favorite breakfast food in the world, oatmeal has high levels of fiber that reduce cholesterol levels, reduces appetite with the compound beta-glucan, and can reduce your risk of colon cancer thanks to its antioxidant levels (who knew?). I could eat oatmeal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Add any fruits, cinnamon, or even chocolate chips to make more of a dessert style oatmeal.
Sweet Potatoes: Along with their delicious taste, sweet potatoes are anti-inflammatory, low on the glycemic index (don’t spike your blood sugar), and are packed with vitamins A and C. Just by themselves, sweet potatoes are divine, but you can also use them in a black bean and sweet potato casserole!
Pumpkin Seeds: As the only seed that is alkaline-forming, pumpkin seeds are incredibly helpful if you have an acidic diet. They also have high levels of zinc to battle osteoporosis and illness, and vitamin E. Throw these seeds in your yogurt for some added crunch, or on top of your bread dough before you throw it in the oven. Pumpkin seeds are even fun to just snack on.
Coconut Oil: Not only is coconut oil a great moisturizer/deep conditioner, it also fights of candida and other fungi, and boosts your thyroid function. Try using it in place of olive or canola oil the next time you saute or grill!
Chia Seeds: If you are looking for a super food, chia seeds are the way to go. They are low calorie, high in fiber, protein, and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, reduce appetite, and are a good source of calcium! They are very small and don’t have much taste- I add a tablespoon of chia seeds to my morning oatmeal to really jump start my day.
Garlic: Along with being very delicious, garlic is anti-inflammatory and reduces bad cholesterol levels! It’s perfect for flavoring meat, hummus, pastas, and breads!
Cranberries: These red berries contain anthocyanins, a phytochemical that acts as an antioxidant, reducing cell damage in the body. This explains why pure cranberry juice is used to treat urinary tract infections! Cranberries can be used in desserts, oatmeal, with turkey or chicken, or in juices and mixed beverages.
I personally was surprised by some of the things I found as I researched my favorite ingredients! I always love learning more about the foods I eat and how to improve. I dare you all to Google your favorite ingredient, even if it’s one I listed here already, just to see what kind of wonderful things it does for you. I would love to hear about what you find!
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Peace and love!