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.
According to NewCROP, this ancient grain is high in protein and fiber, as well as lysine, an amino acid that many vegetables and other grains lacks.
Barley is another ancient grain that is a great source of soluble fiber, iron, beta-glucan, niacin, and selenium.
Bulgur is a good source of plant-based protein and is also high in fiber, iron, manganese, and magnesium.
Eating brown rice twice a week has been shown to decrease the health issues, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Wild rice has many health benefits, NewCROP adds. It provides more protein, fiber, and B vitamins per serving than brown rice.
Oats have long been known to improve heart health, but they also provide healthy fats, protein, and antioxidants which studies show have anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergic properties, Michigan State University Extension reports.
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, according to Washington State University Extension.
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 (e.g. Nutrition Journal) indicate apples offer a wide array of health benefits, including reduced risk of heart issues, as well as an increase in lung function.
Some of the most current research (e.g. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition) 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.
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, says Food Chemistry.
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, according to Pharmacognosy Reviews.
Consumption of cranberries has been linked to improved cardiovascular, urinary tract, and oral health, according to Advances in Nutrition.
Eating raw grapes, drinking the juice, or snacking on the dried version have all been shown to provide various health benefits, possibly due to their high levels of phytochemicals, according to Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition and the Journal of Nutrition.
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 (see SiOWfa15: Science in Our World: Certainty and Controversy).
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, the Linus Pauling Institute reports.
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, says Harvard Health.
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.
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 issues, stated Harvard Health and the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
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 (see Environmental Health Perspectives and Harvard Health).
“Eat beans. People who eat 2/3 of a cup per day can lower their LDL cholesterol by 5 percent. Peas, beans, and lentils are great sources.” states The Abs Company.
Healthy Foods: MEAT
Lean meats are a good source of protein, iron, zinc, niacin, omega-3 fatty acids, and B vitamins. Recent research in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition also indicates that lean meat trimmed of all visible fat is not associated with increased cardiovascular risk.
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.
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.
Lean poultry is an excellent, low-fat source of minerals, vitamins, and protein. Studies in Food & Nutrition Research indicate consumption of lean poultry can promote weight regulation.
Wild game is typically lower in calories and saturated fat than domesticated meat and is typically less exposed to fewer herbicides, pesticides, and antibiotics, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
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 in Nutrients suggest that consuming nuts and seeds on a regular basis may reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues, promote weight loss, reduce inflammation, and lower cholesterol levels.
Almonds are an energy-dense food with high levels of fiber, copper, magnesium, potassium, and protein. Studies in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry indicate many health benefits, in addition to decreasing the risk of developing cardiovascular issues.
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, says MedlinePlus.
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 in the Western Journal of Medicine show that they have the potential to lower lipid levels and have a beneficial impact on cardiovascular health when consumed in moderate amounts.
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.
Like all nuts, pistachios are nutritional powerhouses. They appear to have anti-inflammatory properties, facilitate weight maintenance, improve glycemic control, and promote good health, according to The British Journal of Nutrition and Nutrition Reviews.
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.
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. “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.
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.
Walnuts are filled with healthy fats, Vitamin E, and folate, may help to moderate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, writes Harvard Health.
Healthy Foods: SEAFOOD
Various forms of seafood are a great way to add healthy animal protein to your daily diet, says Harvard Health.
According to Maine Seafood Guide, “Atlantic mackerel contains more fat and calories than other fish, but is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Mackerel is also a great source of vitamin D and a good source of selenium. Mackerel are low in mercury.”
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, Maine Seafood Guide states.
According to Self Nutrition Data, salmon has a significant amount of protein and healthy fats.
Sardines have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which decrease your risk of heart issues and other health problems, according to MedlinePlus.
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 (see research from Public Health Nutrition).
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, according to Nutrients and Michigan Asparagus.
Beet roots and beet greens offer a host of health benefits. Greens, filled with vitamin K, contain fiber and other nutrients.
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.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are being studied by researchers because they contain glucosinolates.
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, the Agricultural Research Service states. For maximum health benefits, be sure to mix up your carrot consumption with some of the more unusually colored varieties.
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 cardiovascular issues, according to Nutrition Research.
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, according to Preventive Nutrition and Food Science.
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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.
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 has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with professionals in the weight loss industry and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University.