Body parts diet: How to eat for optimum health

What we eat can have a direct link to how our minds and bodies function. Here’s how to make the ideal choices.

Certain foods pack a nutritional punch when it comes to protecting against chronic conditions.

However, as RMIT University head of food science and technology Professor Rajaraman Eri points out, good nutrition is not as simple as single foods for single conditions, and what we eat needs to adapt to changing needs at certain times of life.

“The foods in the Australian Dietary Guidelines are good for general health,” Prof Eri notes.

Our overall health is determined by a range of factors, including genetics, behaviour, physical fitness and social factors, he adds.

And depending on our life stage, our food needs to vary.

“Puberty and menopause, for example, require different foods in the diet,’’ Prof Eri says.

Dietitian Karen Inge says the key to eating well for every part of your body is to have a diverse diet, with the emphasis on plant foods that are bursting with colour and naturally occurring antioxidant power.

“It’s not to say that white and brown foods aren’t healthy because they are, especially when we’re talking about milks, yoghurt, wholegrains and legumes, nuts and seeds,’’ Karen notes.

“The concern is the reliance on ultra‑processed foods that have little or no nutritional value that can damage our body parts.’’

The good news is that some foods are particularly beneficial for certain body parts, giving rise to a tailor‑made approach to eating while always maintaining variety.

Here are some of the foods known to be especially nourishing and beneficial for certain body parts.

Body parts diet: what to eat to nourish your body


When we think of a healthy brain, we think of not only cognitive function but also our mood.

“We’re now more aware about the gut-brain axis and how the health of our gut can influence our mood such as anxiety and depression,’’ Karen says.

“Poor gut health increases anxiety and depression.’’

The brain needs healthy fats such as omega-3s, folate and flavonoids.

Best foods: Oily fish such as salmon and sardines, walnuts, chia seeds, quinoa, green leafy vegetables (kale, silverbeet, spinach and watercress) and berries such as blueberries.


Karen says eyes need lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc.

“All of these nutrients are important for eye health as well as protecting against macular degeneration, the leading cause
of blindness in people over 50,’’ she says.

Best foods: Eggs (especially egg yolks), gold kiwi fruit, hazelnuts, carrots, green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, rocket, bok choy, mustard greens and collards), citrus fruit (oranges and mandarins), oily fish (salmon, trout and sardines) and oysters.


Keeping our heart healthy means maintaining a healthy weight and keeping our blood fats in check, reducing inflammation and controlling our blood pressure.

Best foods Oats and barley, which are high in glucan, to reduce cholesterol, extra virgin olive oil to balance out the use of saturated fats such as butter, and colourful fruit and vegetables to help reduce inflammation in the blood vessels.

Prof Eri says optimal blood pressure can be achieved by nourishing our organs with blood.

A diet high in salt, fat and sugar “can have an influence on blood pressure and in turn negatively affect heart health”, he adds.

Of great benefit for blood pressure are oily fish, herbs and spices, nuts and seeds, reduced‑fat milk, plant-based proteins, avocado, olive or peanut oils, plus eggs and poultry.


As a vital workstation in the body, constantly filtering blood and getting rid of toxins by producing urine, the kidneys need to be treated well.

Best foods: Berries (especially cranberries to help prevent urinary tract infections), onion, blueberries, fatty fish, cabbage, capsicum, garlic and rocket.


Our gut is the major pipeline through which all food must pass, be processed into different components and then absorbed and digested or eliminated as waste.

“An important aspect of the gut is that it is home for billions of beneficial microorganisms, known as the microbiome,’’ Prof Eri says.

“The latest research indicates that we need to keep those microorganisms happy to keep us in a healthy state.’’

Best foods: Leafy greens, lean meat, ginger, bananas, probiotic yoghurt, prebiotics that are rich in dietary fibre (artichoke, leeks, asparagus, beans and legumes), and fermented foods (kimchi and kefir).

Teeth, bones and gums

A good supply of calcium is crucial for the health of teeth and bones.

Best foods: Dairy products such as cheese and milk, crunchy vegetables and fruits, leafy greens, citrus fruits and other vitamin C-rich food. There’s good research showing that green tea may be of great benefit to teeth and gums.


The liver is the body’s engine house, running our metabolism and having 500-plus functions, from regulating blood clotting to producing bile.

Best foods: Wholegrains, nuts, beans, berries, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and rocket.


As the largest organ in the human body, skin needs as much internal nourishment as external care.

Best foods: Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, vitamin C-rich fruits (such as cherries, oranges, strawberries and kiwifruit), nuts and seeds, avocados, green tea and omega-3-rich foods.

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Written by Catherine Lambert.