Olive oil should be the first choice when it comes to cooking and making salad dressings. This particular oil is of high nutritional value, due to its high monosaturated fatty acid content and high polyphenol levels.
Nuts and oilseeds are a rich source of polysaturated fatty acids and are considered to be “healthy” fats, promoting heart health. Additionally, they contain a significant amount of dietary fibre, protein, minerals (phosphorous and zinc), vitamins A and E, folic acid and plant sterols. The combination of nuts or seeds with fruits can be a healthy, low GI snack. Since oilseeds have a relatively high fat content, when they are combined with foods high in free sugars, like fruits, they have the ability to reduce the rate of fruit sugar absorption.
However, both nuts, seeds and olive oil are energy dense foods and they should be consumed in moderation. Even a small quantity of them in a daily basis can offer significant health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart and other chronic diseases. Moreover, they are beneficial for brain and nervous system function.
Recommended daily portion: 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 portions of nuts and/or seeds per day. 1 portion of nuts varies depending on the nut. Here are some examples for 1 portion:
1 portion of seeds could be 1 tablespoon of a seed oil.
See our article on good fats: (Good) fat is life! Here’s how to find good sources of healthy fats and how to tell them from the bad ones.
Fish and seafood are rich sources of protein and unsaturated fatty acids (“good” fats), such as ω-3, Iron and Zinc. In terms of vitamins fish are good sources of Vitamin A and D and Vitamins B, which contribute to optimal brain function.
One of their main benefits is that they contain high biological value protein, like meat, with a significantly lower saturated fatty acid content. Fish are particularly rich in Ω-3 fatty acids, which are essential fatty acids that our body can’t compose and we need to receive them from our food. They have been linked with anti-inflammatory action, protection against cardiovascular diseases and reduction of the risk of depression and development of neurological diseases like Alzheimer. The high fatty acid content of fish increases absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K).
It is important to opt for fishes that are grown locally at your region, whenever it is possible. Additionally avoid smoked, cured and fried fish, since this processing methods can be harmful for our health. It is better to consume fish boiled, baked in the oven or as a soup.
Smaller fish species, like sardines and mackerel, which are preferable eaten whole contain significant amounts of calcium and Zinc and constitute a healthier option. Larger fish, like swordfish and salmon have a higher risk of containing heavy metals, because they live longer and as a result, they have more exposure to potential pollution.
Recommended portion: 2-3 portions of 150 g weekly and try to have at least half of them coming from oily fish, such as fresh salmon, sardines, anchovy and mackerel.
In nutrition, above all else, it’s important to have a balanced diet and try to include a variety of food groups in moderation on a daily basis. There are no “forbidden” foods – everything can be a part of one’s diet. However, there are of course food products that are more nutritious, such as fruits, vegetables and legumes, which should be included in one’s diet more often. On the other side there are foods rich in saturated fat and/or added sugars and processed meat (e.g. slices of ham), that should only be consumed occasionally, and in smaller quantities. It’s crucial to mention that each individual has specific and unique dietary requirements, so it’s often better to seek advice or even get a personalised dietary plan from a registered dietician or nutritionist.
This is the third of 5 weekly articles – each containing 2 tips around healthier eating habits – in TAKINOA's Healthier Eating Habits series. Stay tuned to discover more of the basic principles of a balanced diet and to learn how you can improve your eating habits.