Eating a balanced diet isn’t easy and often involves a fair amount of careful planning if you want to ensure you’re meeting your nutritional needs.
Unfortunately, no single food is that complete. But there are some which contain a greater nutrient profile which are able to satisfy our nutritional requirements. These foods have a superior ‘nutritional fitness’ rating.
By including some of these foods in our diet every day, we're better able to meet our nutrient intakes for good health.
The list below includes 10 of the most nutritionally balanced foods that are suitable for vegans, vegetarians, and of course everyone else!
Try to ensure you include at least a few of these foods in your daily diet for optimal health.
This list is taken from the top 100 nutritional fitness foods. Naturally the list contains plenty of fruit and vegetables, but it also includes lots of fish. If you’d like to see where your favourite fruit and veg appear in the top 100, check out the link below in the resources.
Almonds contain 20% protein and up to 60% healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), plus vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc.
They can help promote cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol.
Eat raw as a snack, use ground or flaked almonds in recipes or soak overnight then blend with water and filter to make almond milk.
Not so well known in Europe, the Cherimoya is a native of southern Ecuador and northern Peru. This fruit looks like a cross between an artichoke and strawberry and tastes like pineapple and banana!
Nutritional benefits include high vitamin with good sources of B vitamins especially B6, as well as fibre, iron, potassium, copper, magnesium and manganese.
Helpful for anti-ageing, promoting cardiovascular health and boosting immunity.
3: Chia seeds
These tiny crunchy seeds are a powerhouse of nutritional benefits and were eaten by Aztec warriors to give them energy and endurance.
Chia seeds contain around 30% omega 3 fatty acids and are a rich source of zinc and iron (both useful for vegans).They're a good source of fibre, protein and contain calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins. Additionally they contain a good balance of amino acids, antoxidants and flavonoids and they’re low glycaemic index (GI). High in vitamin E and manganese.
Their high fibre content supports bowel regulatory such as relieving constipation, plus they can support cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure.
Soak chia seeds in liquid eg coconut milk to make a chia pudding or sprinkle onto food. Always drink plenty of liquid when eating chia seeds as they swell up once digested.
4: Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are are a rich source of magnesium, zinc, iron and plant-based omega 3's (all useful for vegans). They're also high in vitamin E and manganese.
Can help support sleep, skin, eyes and prostate health.
Eat them as a snack on their own, add to stir fries or granola, or sprinkle onto yogurt. Toast them on a low heat or soak overnight to reduce their phytate content (phytates prevent absorption of some nutrients).
5: Swiss chard
Low in calories with a high vitamin C content. Also a good source of B vitamins, K, A, omega 3 fats, flavonoid antioxidants including beta-carotene, alpha carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Minerals include copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, phosphorous, iron and manganese.
Swiss Chard is immune boosting, supports eye health, weight loss, bone health and cardiovascular health.
Can be eaten raw with a little olive oil and sea salt, or lightly steamed to retain maximum nutrients.
6: Beet greens
These are the leaves from beetroots. They’re high in calcium, iron, vitamins K, A and the Bs while providing protein, phosphorous, zinc, magnesium, potassium and copper.
Benefits include bone health, brain health and cardiovascular health as well as helping with weight loss.
Eat beet greens in a salad with a little olive oil and apple cider vinegar or lightly sauteed.
7: Dried parsley
Strangely, dried parsley cropped up way ahead of fresh parsley which is at number 44 in the top 100 list.
Dried parsley is high in boron and calcium for healthy bones and teeth.
This is an ingredient which is so easy to purchase and keep in the cupboard ready to use in your cooking wherever you’d use fresh parsley.
8: Celery flakes
Celery is a rich source of vitamin K and also contains folate, Vitamins A and C and potassium. It also has plenty of antioxidants to help support health and may help lower bad LDL cholesterol and blood pressure as well as reducing inflammation. The flakes are a more concentrated source which can be added to soups and smoothies.
Note that celery can cause an allergic reaction in susceptible people.
Available from Amazon.
This dark green leafy vegetable is slightly bitter in taste. It's high in vitamins A and C, zinc and iron. It’s also rich in potassium, calcium, phosphorous with decent amounts of iodine, sodium and magnesium. It may inhibit the growth of some cancers.
Use in salads and soups. Try eating a small watercress salad with a little olive oil before eating a main meal to help stimulate digestive enzymes.
Buy organic watercress whenever possible as some wild watercress may be unsafe for eating due to contaminants.
These mini oranges are low in calories but high in vitamins A and C, folate and potassium. They also contain iron and flavonoids (antioxidants).
Health benefits include immune boosting, cardiovascular support, collagen production, eye health and bone health to name a few.
They make the perfect on the go snack and are easier to eat than an orange due to their easy peel skins.
If you're a vegan, or eating a plant based diet, it makes sense to try and include as many of these superfoods in your daily diet. While some of them aren't that easy to get hold of, the majority of the foods listed above are readily available in supermarkets and health food stores.