Sure, apples, broccoli, olives, and yogurt make any healthy eating list. But the science behind these healthy foods shows they’re so nutritious, they’re practically medicinal.
This creamy fruit contains 60 percent more potassium per ounce than bananas and is an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Avocados are also rich in plant sterols, shown to lower cholesterol. Add some avocado slices to a sandwich, and the fat will slow the digestion of the bread, easing its impact on your blood sugar levels.
We’re calling it: The banana is a food genius. It comes in its own sealed, portable container (also known as a peel). One fruit has about 100 calories and is loaded with potassium and fiber while containing no fat. Bananas also boast tryptophan and 30 percent of your day’s vitamin B6, which helps the brain produce mellowing serotonin so you get through the day with less stress.
Everyone goes straight to quinoa when they want a healthy grain, but this “Grandma” side dish is seriously underrated. Barley’s big bonus is its soluble fiber, which has been shown to lower cholesterol and cut the risk of heart disease. Barley’s fiber is found throughout the grain, so even refined products like barley fiber are beneficial. The niacin, vitamin B3, in unrefined barley can also protect against cardiovascular disease.
4.Beans and legumes
The humble bean is a nutritional powerhouse in disguise—high in protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron, potassium, and other mineral, while low in fat. Legumes contain a range of disease-fighting phytochemicals, including isoflavones, which are especially protective against heart disease. Studies find that about 10 grams of soluble fiber a day—the amount in a half to 1.5 cups of navy beans—reduces LDL cholesterol by about 10 percent.
Many kinds aren’t the heart attack-causing culprits they’ve been made out to be and rightfully earned their place in the healthy foods community, especially if you stick to a healthy three-ounce serving. Many cuts are 20 percent leaner than they were a decade or so ago. Beef is a good source of iron, which your body uses to carry oxygen in the blood. And a three-ounce serving provides more than 25 percent of your required selenium, a trace mineral essential in a healthy immune system.
Next time you see a beet salad on the menu, order it and do your ticker a solid. Beets are a wonderful source of folate and betaine, nutrients that together help to lower blood levels of homocysteine, which causes artery-damaging inflammation. They’re packed with potassium—even more than bananas, in fact. Beets also help to produce nitric acid, which increases blood flow throughout your body. MRIs done on older adults showed that those who ate a high-nitrate diet (including beet juice) had more blood flow to the white matter of their brain’s frontal lobes, which could affect dementia risk.
Whether blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries, these sweet, juicy fruits are powerhouses among healthy foods. Their high antioxidant levels neutralize free radicals, unstable compounds that can damage cells and lead to such diseases as cancer. Berries’ valuable antioxidants can also slow down brain aging and enhance your memory. Finally, they’re a boon to your heart. Adults who ate about a cup of berries a day lowered their blood pressure and raised their good HDL cholesterol.
One of the most nutritious and studied vegetables, good ole broccoli has an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and other disease-fighting substances. Though all cruciferous veggies are cancer-fighting superfoods, broccoli seems to be the most protective. One study of women in China diagnosed with breast cancer found that those who consumed the most cruciferous veggies were 62 percent less likely to die and 35 percent less likely to have a recurrence compared with those who ate the least. Broccoli’s vitamin K also helps boost bone health.
Bugs Bunny must have been the picture of health. Carrots are our most abundant source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant the body can convert to vitamin A—a nutrient essential for healthy hair, skin, eyes, and bones. However, it’s best to get this nutrient through food; the beta-carotene supplement could increase your risk of lung cancer. A U.S. government study found that volunteers who ate about one cup of carrots a day had an average 11 percent reduction in their blood cholesterol levels after only three weeks.
Low in calories, celery is a dieter’s go-to dip vehicle. But this underrated veggie doesn’t have zero nutrition, as many people think. Celery is a good source of potassium, a mineral that aids muscle function and offsets some of sodium’s damaging effects on blood pressure. And phytochemicals in celery help destroy benzopyrene, a carcinogen that occurs in foods cooked at a high temperature.
We can’t imagine a life without cheese—so thank goodness this savory, gooey, crumbly snack boasts some serious health cred. According to one study, women who get plenty of calcium from dairy products—including cheese—have a significantly lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which is linked to heart disease and diabetes. Combating sleeplessness and inflammation are also reasons to eat dairy every day. In moderation, cheese provides good amounts of calcium and protein necessary for bone and muscle strength. Even your teeth love cheese! The natural fats coat your teeth and act as a barrier for cavity-causing bacteria.