As medical science advances we increase our understanding of how diet affects our health.
As medical science advances we increase our understanding of how diet affects our health.
It’s not just about what NOT to eat though if you want to protect yourself from illness. It’s becoming clearer that getting the right balance of nutrients regularly protects your health in a multitude of ways. There’s a lot of information online about superfoods, dietary supplements, and all the things to avoid in your diet. It can be an overwhelming amount of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’.
To make your life – shopping and food preparation – easier, here’s a guide to 75 healthy foods that most people would benefit from. We say ‘most’ as of course some may be linked to allergies and cultural choices. Also, some foods listed in our guide may well be ‘off the menu’ to those who prefer vegetarian or vegan lifestyles.
The guide is in alphabetical order for ease of reference.
Like other nuts (and seeds) mentioned in this list of healthy foods, almonds are an excellent source of magnesium.
It’s believed that a significant proportion of the population – possibly as much as 20% – don’t get enough magnesium in their diet. Some scientists believe that deficiency could be as high as 80% in older people. Almonds are also a dense source of compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, vitamin E, and dietary fiber. Making them a great option for snacks and as a dairy milk alternative.
The old saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor has some truth, as apples are a good source of antioxidants and vitamin C. Leave the skin on to increase their impressive plant fiber value. Apples are also healthy food that’s easy to carry around, and versatile for cooking!
There’s been a substantial amount of scientific research into the benefits of apple cider vinegar, as it has been used as a natural remedy and nutritional supplement for centuries. The advantages it appears to provide include being an antimicrobial and antioxidant and helping to manage blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
It’s also a handy way to preserve foodstuffs that are good for you, to eat later.
There’s a wide range of green, leafy vegetables that are packed with vitamins, minerals, and trace elements essential to human health – including this popular salad vegetable.
One of the most impressive benefits of arugula is how dense its antioxidants are – the wonderful natural chemicals that fight free radicals in your body. It’s also a valuable source of vitamin K. This green salad item gets its strong taste from glucosinolates which are a good detoxifier, and some scientists believe may fight certain cancers.
Despite its often-discussed side effects, asparagus is a health hero when it comes to daily diets. It’s an important source of folic acid, and vitamins A, C, and K, as well as being a low-calorie food with high plant fiber.
These have fast become breakfast staples, as well as being a popular feature in salads and dips. That is a good thing, as they are not only delicious and versatile, but a good source of ‘healthy fats’, fiber, potassium, and vitamin C.
Bananas appear on everyone’s list of superfoods with good reason. Not only do they lend themselves to being a great portable snack they can be incorporated into many different dishes, and fabulous smoothies. Doing that provides you with a fabulous source of potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B6.
This category of health foods is deliberately ‘all inclusive’, as it’s recommended that everyone eat more beans including runner beans, kidney beans, black beans, and haricot beans. The reasons included that beans are a great source of dietary fiber. Some medical professionals believe many Americans don’t eat enough fiber in their diet, despite the fact it: “helps keep you regular and seems to protect against heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and digestive illness.”
Beans in all their forms are also excellent low-calorie protein choices and a source of Magnesium.
Red meat has been the subject of much debate and many people opt to exclude it from their diet, even if they are not following a vegetarian lifestyle. So, why is it on a list of healthy foods?
If you’re careful to find lean beef, it’s high in protein and other nutrients. According to one study, lean beef is also a good source of: “omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, niacin, zinc, and iron.”
Whatever the color, beets are a good choice of healthy food. Not least as they are an important source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, as well as being packed with fiber and vitamins such as B9.
Bell peppers are a handy ingredient for many dishes. If eaten raw or cooked lightly, they are a great source of vitamin C. If you include them in your diet, you are also getting vitamin A and fiber.
Blueberries are a true superfood, and that largely comes from their color! You will find a number of fruits containing anthocyanins (blue/red pigments) in this list of healthy foods. Studies have shown they have “antidiabetic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-obesity effects”. They may also help to prevent cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).
Blueberries are a fabulous source of antioxidants, vitamin C, and potassium too.
Carrying all the other nutritional values of nuts, Brazil nuts are also one of the best natural sources of the crucial mineral selenium.
Like arugula and another green veg, broccoli is a great source of glucosinolates, which are believed to play an important detoxification role. It also contains a healthy level of plant protein and contains fiber and vitamins C and K.
High in nutrients – especially vitamins C and K – and antioxidants, Brussels sprouts are also a good source of fiber.
Cabbage can be a leafy green (see below) or a leafy red or white vegetable. All varieties are a compact source of vitamins and minerals, a digestive aid, and a low-calorie ‘filler’ when you are managing your weight.
Are carrots good for your eyesight? There is some truth in that popular saying, as they are packed with beta carotene antioxidants, vitamins A and K, as well as plant fiber. One medical report says: “Studies have shown that eating carrots and other foods containing beta-carotene and vitamin A can improve vision for people with vitamin A deficiency and subsequently poor vision.”
This handy vegetable now appears as rice, vegan pizza bases, and all sorts of other creative cooking ingredients. Whichever way you use it, cauliflower is a great source of B vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, and a good way to feel fuller after meals.
One of the best reasons to include celery in your diet is that it is low in calories and high in water and plant fiber. However, it also offers you a good source of nutrients like vitamin C, beta carotene, and flavonoids. This is why celery juice is becoming a more popular drink.
Cheeses in moderation – especially varieties low in saturated fats – are considered to be a valuable protein source in healthy diets. Lower-fat cheeses are also a way of accessing all the nutrients available from dairy products. Including highly essential calcium.
These are especially magnesium-rich food options. They are also incredibly dense fiber and a good source of manganese, calcium, and other nutrients. That’s a lot of good things packed into a small, versatile seed!
Chicken that is trimmed off its fat is a great way to ingest enough protein to maintain your energy levels, cellular health, and healing. It is also a low-calorie form of animal protein.
Referred to as either chickpeas or garbanzo beans, this food substance is dense in plant protein and other nutrients – including being a great source of minerals and B vitamins. That is why hummus is considered a key part of the highly popular ‘Mediterranean diet’. Chickpeas are also an excellent protein source for anyone following a plant-based diet.
Coconut has become a popular addition to healthy diets in various forms – including coconut oil and milk. That’s not just a way of replacing less healthy options. It is also because coconut contains a powerful fatty acid called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These are great sources of healthy energy.
This is of course a red fruit (see listing for blueberries) with all the value that brings, but cranberries are also a wonderful, compact source of vitamin C and antioxidants. There is a widespread belief that their natural antibacterial benefits also have a positive role in urinary health.
Cucumber slices are not just good for reducing puffiness around the eyes! This humble salad veg is high in water – helping with hydration – but also carries some nutritional value. That includes being a source of vitamin K. Cucumber is low in calories too of course!
It may be surprising to see chocolate on a list of 75 healthy foods, but there is some truth in the adage that a little of what you fancy does you good.
The list of reasons to add dark chocolate to your diet includes the high density of beneficial flavanols, which are powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. It is something to be consumed in moderation though, due to the sugar content!
The benefits of eating eggs are substantial, earning them a place as a core part of many North American breakfasts. They are classed as a complete protein, as eggs contain all nine essential amino acids. Other nutritional advantages include being a source of Selenium, Phosphorus, Choline, Vitamin B12, and important antioxidants.
A common recommendation for eating healthily is to opt for a ‘rainbow’ of fruit and vegetables, as each color indicates a unique nutritional composition. One color that needs to be high on the list, is purple as it shows the presence of valuable anthocyanins. Eggplants are also packed with fiber, antioxidants, and an impressive list of minerals essential to human health.
This category of healthy food is wide-sweeping, as fish in general are a great source of protein, and the oily fleshed varieties are packed with Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids. The role Essential Fatty Acids play in health – especially Omega 3 – has been much publicized in recent years. The most vital job they do though is to protect heart health.
The rush to get rid of ‘bad fats’ has given rise to the potential to have too little Omega 3 in diets, which can increase the risk of heart disease and strokes. EFAs like Omega-3 are also important to joint health, brain function, skin, hair, and nails. All adds up to a great reason to include fish in your diet, especially the oily varieties.
It’s always great when healthy food is easy to add to your daily diet, and seeds are certainly one of those compact, nutritional ingredients. The reason to choose flax seeds is that they not only have the great plant protein and fiber you need, but they are also dense in Omega 3 fatty acids.
One of the reasons garlic is good for you is it is a source of the trace element selenium – also referred to as a micronutrient. It’s something you also get from eating onions, meat, and dairy products for example.
Selenium has various key roles in human biology, including playing a role in a role in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, and DNA synthesis.
Used as a medicine and preventative measure for centuries, there is a lot of truth in the belief that ginger is good for you. According to John Hopkins Medicine, this includes a key role in detoxification and nausea control: “Eating ginger encourages efficient digestion, so food doesn’t linger as long in the gut.”
This list of 75 healthy foods has already mentioned the ‘rainbow’ recommendation, and the importance of purple, blue and red fruits and vegetables. Grapes tick the right boxes and pack a punch when it comes to important vitamins and minerals.
As grapefruit is a citrus fruit, it’s a rich source of vitamin C. In fact, one grapefruit a day could help you reach your daily target of this important nutritional element. As they are a powerful source of antioxidants, these low-calorie fruits give your immune system a boost too.
Okay, so this is a drink, not a food, but it richly deserves its place on a list of the healthiest things to include in your daily diet. Green tea is packed with healthy bioactive compounds, and the reasons to drink it are numerous!
It’s always a happy occurrence when a food that is really good for you, also happens to be readily available and easy to incorporate into a wide range of dishes. That certainly is true of kale, which can be used in everything from smoothies to winter stews. Kale is a fabulous source of antioxidants and can help lower cholesterol, alongside being a leafy green powerhouse of other important nutrients.
High in Vitamin C, antioxidants, and dietary fiber, kiwis are believed to help support heart and digestive health, and immunity function.
This list highlights a few top foods for health that come under this category, but there is actually a range of other green, leafy veg that you can opt for – including collard greens and various types of lettuce.
The common dominator is the compounds that create that color, and which can re-alkalize you on a cellular level, leading to a natural cleansing process. They are also all rich in essential nutrition.
The benefits of adding lemon to your daily diet – especially starting your day with lemon water – have been much discussed in recent times. The plant compounds they contain do bring advantages throughout your body, but possibly their biggest advantage is they contain high levels of vitamin C.
Filling, versatile, and a valuable source of plant protein, lentils are also packed with fiber, folate, and potassium.
Eating animal liver is not everyone’s idea of a delicious meal ingredient, but if you do you are getting a rich source of iron, copper, riboflavin, vitamin A, and vitamin B12.
Milk is vital for growth and health in the young, but can offer adults important health benefits too. Among its nutritional values is the significant amount of calcium it contains but it is also a valuable way to get enough vitamin D. Especially as you get older, or when you don’t get enough sunlight regularly.
In all their variations, mushrooms are a good source of fiber, protein, and antioxidants, while being a low-calorie ingredient to help with weight management,
Some of the stars in the world of nuts are referenced in this list, but this is generally a food group that should feature in any guide to healthy eating. All nuts are packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals, as well as ‘healthy fats’. However, they are still high in fat and therefore can’t be eaten in large quantities when managing your weight.
Oatmeal is a fabulous example of how whole grains can be of great benefit in daily diets. They are a powerhouse when it comes to fiber and digestive health, as well as being a wonderful source of beta-glucan which is believed to play a role in protecting heart health.
This is a great food choice to reach your daily targets for vitamin E and other powerful antioxidants. Olive oil is considered to be a cooking oil that is ‘healthy’ too when used in moderation, bringing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant advantages.
Another wide category of foods that are good for you, we are including all the onion ‘family’ in this including leeks. Apart from containing a significant amount of antioxidants, onions in all their forms and colors are also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Oranges are citrus fruits rich in vitamin C, but are also considered a great way to boost your immune system, and improve skin health. They even pack a good dose of calcium.
Peanut butter features in many daily diets and with good reason. Nuts in general are a great source of protein, unsaturated fats, and other nutrients, but peanuts pack a punch when it comes to dietary fiber. Did you know, that the nuts with the lowest calorie count are almonds, followed by peanuts?
Why are peas good for you? They are in fact a form of vegetable seed, and therefore packed with heart-friendly minerals including magnesium and potassium. Peas are also rich in calcium and vitamin C.
Adding fruit to your daily diet provides various benefits and one of the most palatable and versatile is the peach. The nutritional value of peaches includes vitamins A and C.
Pineapples are tropical fruits loaded with important nutrients, including compounds that aid digestion and that boost immune health. That includes a high level of vitamin C and Manganese.
Plums are another versatile fruit containing a good amount of vitamin C and antioxidants, as well as dietary fiber and that significant purple/red/blue coloring! They are handy for sweet and savory dishes too.
Potatoes get a bad press sometimes when it comes to healthy eating, especially if you are cutting down on carbohydrates. However, the biggest issue with potatoes is how they are cooked. Fries are not the best way to eat potatoes.
Including them in a healthy diet is even more beneficial if you opt for a cooking method that keeps the skin on. In fact, crisping up potato skins in the air fryer is becoming a popular and nutritious snack.
There is a myth that most of the value of a potato is in the skin. According to the marketing and research organization Potatoes USA, that’s not true. The white flesh is where you find most potassium and vitamin C.
“A medium (5.3 oz) potato with the skin contains 620 mg of potassium and 27 mg of vitamin C.1 Removing the skin eliminates approximately 150 mg of potassium and 4.5 mg of vitamin C.”
However, the skin is a great source of fiber, and potatoes in general are a good source of Vitamin B6 and contain iron.
This is not just a Halloween decoration or Thanksgiving dish. Pumpkin is an excellent source of beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, and folate, which all boost immune health.
This bit of the pumpkin is often discarded, but the seeds are actually the best bit in some ways. Pumpkin seeds are an especially good source of magnesium, for example.
This is a healthy food that is easy to slot into a daily diet, as it is a versatile and tasty starch. However, it is also a good combination of plant fiber and protein, which has a low glycemic index making it a good choice for anyone managing carbs.
This item on our list of healthy foods loops back to the benefits of red/purple/blue berries in general. They are also rich in potassium, manganese, and even omega-3.
Iodine deficiency is rare in the western world these days, but the best source of this essential nutrient is seaweed. (It’s in fish and shellfish too.)
What does iodine do? It is strongly linked to thyroid function, and keeping your thyroid gland healthy avoids poor food metabolism and lower growth rate and brain development in the young.
Shellfish varieties are a good source of protein that’s low in calories, and high in ‘healthy fats’ making them a valuable aid to weight management. They are also high in various nutrients including vitamin B12, and zinc
Soy is not simply an important way for people following vegetarian and vegan lifestyles to get enough protein. It is something everyone should eat, for its health benefits.
According to the University of California San Francisco Health team: “25 grams of soy protein a day is recommended as part of a low-fat diet to help lower cholesterol levels.”
There is a reason this was the veg that the cartoon character Popeye used for his strength! Spinach is packed with lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients that help protect us against macular degeneration. Like other leafy greens, it’s also a great source of iron and other essential vitamins and minerals.
The reasons to eat varieties of squash are numerous, including getting enough fiber in your daily diet. They are also a good source of vitamins A, C, and B and are high in antioxidants; as well as being packed with potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
Strawberries are another red berry that’s dense in important dietary compounds that impact positively on health. Low in calories, strawberries are also rich in beneficial antioxidants known as polyphenols.
Seeds make a regular appearance on this list of healthy foods as they are incredibly dense in important nutrients, including protein. There are impressive levels of zinc and selenium to be found in sunflower seeds.
These manage to be starch to help fill you and manage your weight, but also an important source of many nutrients found in vegetables. The benefits of eating sweet potatoes include high levels of fiber and antioxidants, as well as important dietary elements such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, and potassium.
There are many reasons to include tomatoes in your diet regularly, including the fact they contain a valuable antioxidant called lycopene, which is widely believed to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. They are also a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and folate.
The spices and herbs used in food preparation can greatly enhance health benefits, and none more so than turmeric, which is also sometimes consumed as a tea. It is considered to be an excellent source of anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting elements.
Reference has already been made to the way in which nuts are a powerhouse of nutrients and protein. However, one of the stars of this particular type of healthy food is undoubtedly the walnut.
Walnuts are especially good for you as they are rich in vitamin E, omega 3, melatonin, and plant compounds called polyphenols.
Yes, another liquid that you don’t technically ‘eat’. However, no list of healthy foods would be complete without mentioning how vital it is to your entire body to drink plenty of water every day. Especially after exercise.
Watercress is another impressive ‘leafy green vegetable’ packed with valuable nutrition, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, and other carotenoids that are potent antioxidants.
This too covers a variety of options but basically invites to you steer away from refined, white flour for example. Wholegrains – including wheat flour, rye, and barley, still contain source nutrients but are also a vital way to consume enough dietary fiber for digestive health.
Yoghurt is a great way to get enough calcium in your diet, and those containing live cultures add to the thousands of microbiomes that play roles in your digestive health. There is a rider on this though, and a lot of commercial products in this category are high in added sugar and contain additives. Look for natural or Greek yogurt, for example, and add your own fresh fruit and healthy flavorings.
Also known as ‘summer squash’ zucchini carries all the nutritional importance of other varieties of this vegetable category. They are incredibly versatile to use and deliver high levels of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial plant compounds.