Call us 24/7

The 'good, better, best' list of healthy foods

June 12, 2019 | by CTCA

Healthy-Food
“What’s important in a healthy diet is variety,” says Jasmyn Walker, Clinical Oncology Dietitian at our Tulsa hospital. “And what is best for people often depends on their current state of health and what they are trying to achieve. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ diet.” Still, Walker said, it’s good to start by incorporating as much vegetables and fruit as you can into your diet.

It’s a question that Jasmyn Walker gets asked all the time: What’s the best thing I could eat if I want to get healthy? “People always want to know how to get the biggest bang for the buck,” says Walker, Clinical Oncology Dietitian at our hospital in Tulsa.

It’s not an easy question to answer. “What’s important in a healthy diet is variety,” Walker says. “And what is best for people often depends on their current state of health and what they are trying to achieve. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ diet.”

Still, Walker said, it’s good to start by incorporating as much vegetables and fruit as you can into your diet. “The recommendation is that we should have five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day,” she says. “And to be honest, most people find it easier to incorporate fruits into their diets, rather than vegetables. I realize more people would prefer to eat an apple as opposed to, say, a beet.”

To give people a bit of guidance, Walker has developed what she calls her “good, better, best” list of what are considered nutritional powerhouses.

“It’s not that some vegetables aren’t good for you, but that within certain groups of vegetables, there are those with a greater nutritional density,” she says. “Getting more plants into one’s diet has been proven to be beneficial in helping to prevent and fight such things as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.”

For example, the “best” rating for fungi goes not to some rare, exotic species such as morels or chanterelles, but to the humble and widely available white button mushroom. Portobello mushrooms, with their large size and meaty texture, rank as the “better” choice, while shiitakes are the “good” mushrooms.

When it comes to leafy greens, watercress gets the “best” rating as being the most nutritionally dense green you might toss into a salad, followed by organic spinach and arugula.

Carrots are good, but in Walker’s estimation, red peppers are better and green beets are the best. Similarly, when it comes to berries, nothing packs the nutritional punch quite like organic strawberries, although blackberries and blueberries come close.

Kale shows up on the cruciferous vegetable list but only as the “better” choice, ahead of the now-ubiquitous cauliflower. The “best” choice, however, is napa cabbage (sometimes called Chinese cabbage).

Here are a few recipes Walker shared to help you make use of "good, better and best" fruits and vegetables:

Cauliflower Tabouli

Ingredients

½ head cauliflower
2 cups cucumber, chopped
½ cup mint, chopped
2 cups parsley, chopped
2 cups tomatoes, chopped
½ red onion, chopped

Dressing

1 tablespoon tahini (optional)
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
Black pepper to taste
¾ teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  1. Remove the leaves of your cauliflower and chop the head in quarters. Place cauliflower quarters in food processor and blend until the cauliflower turns into a rice consistency.
  2. Mix all salad ingredients including the lemon zest in a bowl, lifting gently and folding so as not to crush the tomatoes.
  3. Add dressing ingredients to a jar and shake until well combined, then pour over salad and mix lightly again.
  4. Plate as desired. Add extra herbs on top as preferred.

Watercress Citrus Avocado Salad with Turmeric Dressing

Ingredients

1 avocado
2 oz. baby watercress
1 tablespoon orange zest
3 slices of red onion (optional)
1 orange zested, peeled and sliced (may also use mandarin oranges or blood oranges)

Dressing

2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon or lime juice
Black pepper to taste
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground turmeric or 1 teaspoon grated turmeric root
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  1. Zest the orange and set aside.
  2. Arrange watercress, avocado, onion and oranges on two plates
  3. Mix dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
  4. Spoon dressing over salad when ready to serve.

Get more healthy recipes.