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Trying to maintain that perfectly healthy and balanced lifestyle is easier said than done; but the benefits of eating a diet that meets your body’s nutritional needs is definitely worth it.

During National Nutrition Week (9-15 October), Patrick focusses on highlighting the foods that pack the most nutritional punch as a good foundation for a well-balanced diet.  Here are just some of the most common ones that are easy to find and incorporate into your diet.

Cruciferous vegetables – these are members of the Brassica family i.e. dark green, leafy veggies, such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cress, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi and turnips. These vegetables are rich sources of anti-cancer phytochemicals.

Essential Oils – Fats have a bad name, fact, but there are two – Omega-3 and Omega-6 – that we cannot live without. From these two families of fats, the body makes cell membranes, brain tissue and hormone-like substances that control heart health, fertility, brain and nerve functioning, skin health and a host of other essential processes. Essential indeed. Due to the highly-processed nature of our modern-day diets, most people are deficient in these essential fats. A simple way to increase your levels is to have one or two tablespoons of the right kind of oils a day – added to salads, soups, cereals and other food, after cooking. Look out for sesame, sunflower and borage oil blends which are rich in Omega-6 and flax and pumpkin seed combinations, rich in Omega-3.

Fish – fatty or carnivorous fish such as salmon, tuna, swordfish, mackerel or herring are also excellent sources of essential fats as well as being a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Try eat these types of fish three times a week if you can, or consider a fish oil supplement.

Garlic – the wonders of garlic have been documented for thousands of years already. Garlic contains around 200 biologically active compounds, many of which play a role in preventing diseases including our two major killers, cancer and heart disease. Garlic has also been shown to significantly lower cholesterol in the blood and help prevent blood clots – probably a safer way to maintain thin blood than taking an aspirin a day! Garlic contains allicin which is anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial and it acts as an antioxidant, being rich in sulphur-containing amino acids.

Quinoa (Pronounced ‘keenwa’) –  this little grain has quickly risen to cult status as the perfect health food and it’s no wonder why. Known as the ‘mother grain’ for its unique, sustaining properties, it contains significantly more protein than any grain, with a quality of protein better than meat. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals, providing almost four times as much calcium as wheat, plus extra iron, B vitamins and vitamin E. Quinoa is not technically a grain, rather a seed and as such is rich in polyunsaturated oils, providing essential fatty acids.

Seeds and Nuts – rich sources of essential fats, Vitamin E and many minerals including Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc and Selenium, they are easy to include in your daily diet by adding to salads, stir-fry’s, curries or simply swopping out your morning or afternoon snacks for seeds and nuts instead.

Watermelon – is a fine example of the benefits you can get from natural foods.  The flesh is very rich in the antioxidants and Vitamin C. The seeds are rich in Vitamin E, essential fats, Selenium and Zinc. Put the flesh and the seeds in a blender to make watermelon juice, a natural antioxidant cocktail ideal for fighting infections, pollution and detoxifying diets.