Healthy foods come in all shapes and sizes. They’re both nutritious and flavorful.
Here are 43 healthy foods. You’ll be surprised how delicious they are.
Healthy Foods: GRAINS
The health benefits of grains are frequently overlooked due to the bad press they have received from those promoting paleo or other high protein diets.
The truth is, the right types of grains offer some spectacular health benefits.
This ancient grain is high in protein and fiber, as well as lysine, an amino acid that many vegetables and other grains lacks. (1)
Barley is another ancient grain that is a great source of soluble fiber, iron, beta-glucan, niacin, and selenium. (2)
Bulgur is a good source of plant-based protein and is also high in fiber, iron, manganese, and magnesium.
While consumption of white rice is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, eating brown rice twice a week has been shown to decrease the risk. (3)
Wild rice has many health benefits. It provides more protein, fiber, and B vitamins per serving than brown rice. (4)
5. Rolled Oats
Oats have long been known to improve heart health, but they also provide healthy fats, protein, and antioxidants which studies show have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergic properties. (5)
Spelt is a type of wheat that has been cultivated for more than 7,000 years. The nutritional content for spelt is similar to that of wheat, spelt has higher levels of niacin, riboflavin, potassium, and copper. (6)
Healthy Foods: FRUITS
Fruits are among the healthiest and most popular foods.
Not only do fruits satisfy the desire for something sweet, but they are also easy to incorporate into any diet because most require virtually no preparation.
Numerous studies indicate apples offer a wide array of health benefits, including reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, as well as an increase in lung function. (7)
Some of the most current research has shown that avocados promote overall health — they specifically boost the cardiovascular system. Preliminary research also indicates that they may help promote healthy aging and weight management. (8)
Bananas are one of the most heavily traded food crops in the world thanks to their taste, ease of use, and adaptability to cooking methods. They contain many bioactive compounds that are beneficial to overall health. (9)
Not only are blackberries high in fiber, but they’re also a great source of vitamin C and provide significant amounts of phytochemicals that are believed to be the foundation of many of the pharmacological uses of the plant. (10) (11)
Consumption of cranberries has been linked to improved cardiovascular, urinary tract, and oral health. (12)
Pineapple is a great low-calorie source of vitamin C, B6, magnesium, and fiber. Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, is reported to improve digestion and bone strength, and may even help reduce one’s risk of cancer. (15)
Healthy Foods: LEGUMES
Legumes are great sources of fiber, micronutrients, and carbohydrates that are low on the glycemic index. Recent dietary guidelines recommend six servings per week for a 2,000 calorie diet. (16)
Beans are one of the healthiest and least expensive sources of protein available. They are also low in fat, high in fiber and can be prepared for any meal. (17)
In addition to being a good source of fiber and protein, lentils also provide high levels of folate, molybdenum, copper, manganese, B vitamins, potassium, and iron. The texture makes them a great meat substitute. (18)
Peanuts are an excellent source of protein and unsaturated fat. They have many of the same health benefits associated with tree nuts at a fraction of the cost. Studies also show consumption of peanuts may lead to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. (19) (20)
Soybeans have become increasingly popular due to their ability to be transformed into numerous types of food products, including dairy and meat substitutes. Many studies have shown that there are numerous health benefits to eating soy in moderation. (21) (22)
Healthy Foods: MEAT
Lean meats are a good source of protein, iron, zinc, niacin, omega-3 fatty acids, and B vitamins. Recent research also indicates that lean meat trimmed of all visible fat is not associated with increased cardiovascular risk. (23)
Lamb is a great source of iron and zinc that is easily absorbed by the body. It’s also high in B vitamins and is the best natural source of carnitine, an amino acid required to create energy from fatty acids. (24)
19. Lean Beef
According to USDA regulations, some of the leanest cuts of beef include sirloin tip side steak, the eye of a round roast, top sirloin, and bottom round roast. (25)
20. Lean Poultry
Lean poultry is an excellent, low-fat source of minerals, vitamins, and protein. Studies indicate consumption of lean poultry can promote weight regulation and may decrease one’s risk of developing cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. (26)
21. Wild Game
Wild game is typically lower in calories and saturated fat than domesticated meat and is typically less exposed to fewer herbicides, pesticides, and antibiotics. (27)
Healthy Foods: NUTS AND SEEDS
Nuts and seeds are a great on-the-go snack because they travel well and require little preparation.
Tree nuts are nutritionally dense and offer protein, fiber, unsaturated fats, and numerous bioactive health compounds. Studies suggest that consuming nuts and seeds on a regular basis may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, promote weight loss, reduce inflammation, and lower cholesterol levels. (28)
Almonds are an energy-dense food with high levels of fiber, copper, magnesium, potassium, and protein. Studies indicate many health benefits, in addition to decreasing the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. (29)
23. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds can easily be incorporated into most recipes and make a great addition to yogurt, soup, salads, oatmeal, smoothies, and pancakes. They are good sources of healthy fats, fiber, iron, calcium, fatty acids, and magnesium. (30)
Macadamia nuts are very high in unsaturated fat. However, those fats are the heart-healthy kind. It’s also a good source of protein, calcium, magnesium, fiber, iron, and B Vitamins. Studies show that they have the potential to lower lipid levels and have a beneficial impact on cardiovascular health when consumed in moderate amounts. (31)
Pecans are high in unsaturated fat. Additionally, research shows that eating just a few peanuts each day may help lower bad cholesterol levels. They are packed with 19 minerals and vitamins, including folic acid, magnesium, zinc, calcium, and potassium, fiber, and antioxidants. (32)
27. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of iron, protein, magnesium, omega-3, zinc, omega-6, and fiber. They can easily be added to salads, casseroles, and trail mix. (35)
Quinoa is a seed, not a grain. This seed is one of the best sources of plant-based protein that is similar in taste and texture to carbs, such as potatoes, rice, and couscous. (36) “Compared to other grains, it has almost twice as much fiber, which means the fiber to protein combination can help keep you fuller for longer.” states May Zhu, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Founder of Nutrition Happens.
29. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are a delicious addition to yogurt, trail mix, and salads but because they are higher in fat and calories than some of the other options they aren’t always the best choice to be eaten on their own.
A ¼-cup serving provides high amounts of manganese, copper, vitamin E, selenium, and other minerals and antioxidants. (37)
Walnuts are filled with healthy fats, Vitamin E, and folate, may help to moderate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and may decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (38)
Healthy Foods: SEAFOOD
Various forms of seafood are a great way to add healthy animal protein to your daily diet.
Walnuts are filled with healthy fats, Vitamin E, and folate, may help to moderate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and may decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (39)
31. Atlantic Mackerel
Walnuts are filled with healthy fats, Vitamin E, and folate, may help to moderate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and may decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (40)
The nutritional content of oysters varies by the region. However, in general, they are excellent sources of protein, B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, iron, and zinc. (41)
Walnuts are filled with healthy fats, Vitamin E, and folate, may help to moderate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and may decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (42)
Walnuts are filled with healthy fats, Vitamin E, and folate, may help to moderate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and may decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (43)
Canned tuna offers many of the same health benefits as other forms of seafood. It makes a healthy foods list due to price and convenience. Choose oil-packed tuna if you want to increase the amount of essential fatty acids in your diet. But, be careful not to eat too much tuna when pregnant (or in general) due to mercury content (44)
Healthy Foods: VEGETABLES
Vegetables offer the essential nutrient and low calories.
With increased interest in heirloom (imperfect looking, but all natural) and ancient varieties of produce, it is easier than ever to find a large range healthy foods.
Asparagus is a plant-based source of folic acid. It is also a low-calorie source of fiber, potassium, thiamin, B6, and other nutrients, and an excellent plant source of prebiotics, which have been shown to have numerous health benefits. (45) (46)
Beet roots and beet greens offer a host of health benefits. Greens, filled with vitamin K, contain fiber and other nutrients. There is also some evidence that supports drinking beet juice as a way to help lower blood pressure. (47) (48)
38. Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are available in a rainbow of colors. The richer the color of the red, purple, and orange varieties corresponds to a greater level of Vitamins A and C. (49)
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are being studied by cancer researchers because they contain glucosinolates, which may help inhibit cancer development. (50)
Carrots are available in a surprising number of colors, each offering their own unique nutritional benefits due to their varying levels of antioxidants and other nutrients. For maximum health benefits, be sure to mix up your carrot consumption with some of the more unusually colored varieties. (51)
41. Collard Greens
Collard greens have long been a southern staple, making any healthy foods list when cooked properly. Steaming these boosts their health benefits, and can lower an individual’s risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. (52)
It turns out Popeye was onto something with his spinach obsession. In addition to the fiber and nutrients they offer, this powerful green has antioxidant properties which may have the ability to offset diets that are higher in fat and cholesterol. (53)
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43. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are affordable nutritional superstars. They contain many vitamins, including vitamins A, B, C, and E, as well as fiber, zinc, and iron. They offer maximum versatility in preparation methods and adapt to sweet and savory recipes remarkably well. (54)
Taking time to incorporate one or two new healthy foods into your diet each week can create positive, long-term changes in one’s health.
Summer Banks, Director of Content at Dietspotlight, has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with doctors specializing in weight loss and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University. full bio.