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5 Foods You Should Buy Every
Week If You Want To Get Healthier
MAY 12, 2014, 5:44 PM
If you eat to improve your health, here are five foods to put in your supermarket trolley every
week. All pack a proven punch in terms of health gains if you have them regularly.
1. Oats
Oats are a wholegrain cereal
usually eaten for breakfast as
porridge or in muesli. They
have more soluble fibre than
other grains.
A soluble fibre found in the
outer endosperm cell wall of
this cereal known as beta-
glucan reduces absorption of
cholesterol in the small
intestine. Eating enough oats so
you get around three grams of
beta-glucan daily reduces your
total cholesterol and LDL (bad)
cholesterol in both people with
high and normal cholesterol.
Half a cup of raw rolled oats
(50 grams) contains about two
grams of beta-glucan and four grams of fibre. Oat bran is a bit higher with eight to 12 grams
of beta-glucan in every 100 grams.
Put another way, three bowls of porridge a week gives you enough soluble fibre and
decreases your total cholesterol so much that if everyone started eating rolled oats, then the
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Flickr/James Bowe
incidence of heart disease would drop by about 4%.
Clearly, oats for breakfast are a must. And there’s an added bonus – they’re cheap, at $4 to
$5 a kilogram.
2. Salmon
Salmon is an unusual fish
because it’s so high in fat; at
about 13 grams of fat per 100
grams, it has double the fat
content of lean steak.
But put it on your menu every
week anyway because it
contains highly specific
polyunsaturated fatty acids
called omega-3s (1.7 grams per
100 grams fish), which are
components of every cell
membrane in your body.
Omega-3s, and another group
of polyunsaturated fatty acids
known as omega-6, get
converted into a host of
powerful compounds that
regulate important body functions, including blood pressure, blood clotting, the brain and
nervous system, and the production of molecules that regulate the inflammatory response.
A systematic review of 11 placebo-controlled, double-blind randomised trials, with 15,348
patients who had heart disease, measured the impact of taking one gram of omega-3s daily
for at least one year. It found significant protective effects on cardiac death rates, sudden
death and heart attacks, even though there was no protective effect for all-cause mortality or
We need to get the major omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from food because our bodies
cannot manufacture them. To keep inflammatory processes under control you need a ratio of
omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids of about four to one.
Unfortunately, typical Western diets have a ratio of 15 to one due to use of vegetable oils high
in omega-6s. So reduce these and increase the good sources of omega 3s, such as oily fish,
soybean and canola oils, flaxseed, walnuts and omega-3 fortified foods, such as eggs.
3. Tea
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We all know that sharing a
cuppa is a great way to feel
better. A 2013 review published
in the American Journal of
Clinical Nutrition found
drinking tea regularly improves
your attention and self-
reported alertness, while
population studies suggest it’s
associated with better cognitive
function in the elderly.
Tea constituents thought to
have neuro-protective effects
include L-theanine, caffeine
and catechins.
The most powerful data
dictating that green and black
teas should definitely be in your
shopping trolley comes from a Cochrane systematic review of tea and prevention of heart
Across 11 randomised controlled trials and a total of 821 healthy adults, including people at
high risk of heart disease, drinking black and green teas led to significant reductions in LDL
cholesterol and blood pressure.
So, put the kettle on and drink up.
4. Soy foods
A range of health benefits have been attributed to soy foods, although not all the promises
hold up to scientific scrutiny.
A review of soy products containing a compound called isoflavones, evaluated the impact of
soy protein on heart disease risk. One risk factor is how easily blood flows though your
In a meta-analysis of 17 randomised trials researchers found a small but significant
improvement in blood flow of 0.72% in studies using soy foods, such as soy milk, pasta, soya
beans or flour for four to 24 weeks.
The biggest nutritional pay off from eating soy beans or other soy foods regularly is their
fibre and protein content. They are low in saturated fat, contain some omega 3s and are a
good source of folate, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, zinc and magnesium.
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Supermarkets carry a range of
soy foods from soy milk, cheese
and yoghurt to canned or dried
soy beans, tofu, fresh beans, soy
“meats” and textured vegetable
protein. Experiment until you
find the products you like best.
5. A variety of
vegetables and
Vegetables and fruit can help
ward off type 2 diabetes. A 2012
meta-analysis of five studies
involving over 179,000 people
found a 7% lower risk ratio of
developing type 2 diabetes in
those with the highest fruit and
vegetable intakes compared to
the lowest.
A closer look at specific types of
fruit and vegetables, found the
relationship was strongest for
green leafy vegetables (bok
choy, spinach, cabbage, choy
sum, all lettuce varieties,
rocket, broccoli, silverbeet,
watercress). And the longer the
studies ran, the stronger the
protective relationship.
While a meta-analysis of three
studies on fruit intake found
that for every three pieces eaten
weekly, the hazard ratio for
developing type 2 diabetes was
0.98, meaning a small risk reduction.
Some fruits were better than others. The most protective, in descending order were
blueberries, prunes, grapes and raisins, apples and pears, bananas and grapefruit.
Add a vegetable and fruit you have not had for a while to your shopping trolley every week.
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This variety will boost your fibre, vitamin and mineral intakes. The more colour the better, as
it maximises your intake of plant phytonutrients that contribute to good health.
If you fall short of getting 2+5 serves a day, then a target of three fruit and four veg may be
easier to start with. Learning to prepare meals that include lots of vegetables or fruit and
how to hide them in your favourite recipes will be worth the effort.
Clare Collins has received funding from NHMRC, ARC, MLA, HMRI and the University of
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
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