Watercress is a dark, leafy green that grows in natural spring water. It was a dietary staple for soldiers in Ancient Rome. This cruciferous vegetable is in the same family as arugula, kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. The father of medicine, Hippocrates, used watercress when treating his patients. The working class ate watercress sandwiches, and this green was common until the 19th century. Eventually, watercress became less popular and was cast aside in favor of kale and other greens. Its popularity is growing again because of its excellent nutritional value. Just one cup of watercress contains over one hundred percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K. Magnesium, potassium, and calcium found in this leafy green can help reduce blood pressure levels. Two cups of fresh watercress contain only seven calories and can help decrease the risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. To incorporate more watercress into your diet, add some into scrambled eggs, blend a handful into a smoothie, make pesto with it or use it on a sandwich or wrap.
While most people enjoy pumpkin in pies and spiced lattes, it’s actually an exceptionally nutritious food. Pumpkin is loaded with vitamins and minerals but low in calories, making it an excellent superfood. In addition to its flesh, the pumpkin’s leaves, seeds, and juice are filled with vital nutrients. Health benefits are a-plenty with pumpkin! This fruit contains beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. That’s how it gets its vibrant orange color. Beta-carotene is absorbed by the body and converted into vitamin A. Eating foods rich in beta-carotene can reduce the risk of certain cancers, protect against heart disease and asthma, and slow down aging. Potassium, fiber, and vitamin C found in pumpkin are great for lowering blood pressure and keeping your heart healthy. Plant compounds found in pumpkin seeds help with glucose absorption in the body, making this food suitable for diabetes. Pumpkin is great in sweet and savory dishes! You can put it in smoothies, baked goods, yogurt, and even pasta dishes. Avoid canned pumpkin pie filling because it typically contains added sugar.
Another superfood to add to your diet is buckwheat. This grain contains protein and fiber and is a wonderful source of energy. Buckwheat contains zero gluten, so it’s ideal for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. This crop primarily grows throughout the United States and is known as a pseudocereal. It is referred to like that because it does not come from the grass like other cereals. One cup of cooked buckwheat contains nearly six grams of protein and five grams of fiber. It’s rich in vitamins K and B-6, niacin, folate, and riboflavin. Whole grains are an essential part of a heart-healthy diet, and buckwheat is an excellent whole grain source. The fiber found in buckwheat contributes to lower cholesterol levels and reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and stroke. Buckwheat can also help regulate your digestive system by supporting your intestines and helping food move through your body efficiently. This whole grain enables you to feel fuller longer, making it an excellent choice for those trying to lose weight. To incorporate buckwheat into your diet, make a breakfast porridge, add it to a salad, or make a delicious stir-fry with your favorite source of protein.
One of the most popular health foods out there today is oats. Oats can be found in oatmeal, baked goods, and cereals. Many people eat oats in the form of porridge for breakfast. Because oats are quite versatile, you can eat them with sweet or savory additions. Because of their high fiber content, oats are great for your heart. Eating oats can reduce your cholesterol and triglycerides, leading to a healthier heart. A study showed that every additional ten grams of fiber added to a person’s diet would give them a ten percent reduction in their risk of developing colorectal cancer. The research concluded that eating three portions of whole grains can significantly reduce high blood pressure. Luckily oats taste great for every meal! Antioxidants found in oats also help to improve blood pressure and can soothe irritated skin when applied topically.
Did you know that onions are a member of the allium family of vegetables and are closely related to garlic, scallions, leeks, and chive? For centuries, onions have been cultivated for their pungent flavor and medicinal qualities. Onions come in all shapes and sizes, and the most common types are yellow, red, and white. Each year, over 100 billion pounds of onions are harvested around the world. Since the time of the Ancient Egyptians, onions have been consumed. During that time, onions were considered a holy crop and were worshipped. Onions were even buried in tombs with pharaohs. In the Middle Ages, onions were used as currency to pay for essentials like rent, and they were also given away as gifts. Plant foods like onions can assist with reducing mortality, heart disease, and diabetes. Organosulfur compounds found in onions are beneficial for lowering cancer risk, especially colorectal and stomach kinds. The high levels of vitamin C found in alliums build collagen, necessary for improving skin and hair. Folate, another vitamin found in onions, has been known to reduce depression and insomnia. Onions can be eaten raw and cooked in many different dishes. This is one of the easiest vegetables to incorporate into a healthy diet.
You know the old saying: an apple a day keeps the doctor away. There may be some truth to that! Apples are always referred to as a miracle food because of their nutritious makeup. Their convenience makes them one of the world’s most consumed and cultivated fruits. There are over one hundred different apple varieties, but the top fifteen types make up more than ninety percent of production in the United States. Research shows that apples may just be one of the healthiest foods to add to your diet. Antioxidants found in this fruit has been linked to improving brain health and preventing dementia. Apples can also lower harmful cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of stroke, and to avoid diabetes. Granny Smith apples have been identified as the apple variety that’s best for good gut bacteria. Apples and apple skins contain loads of vitamin C, dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, and other phytonutrients. While apples taste great in desserts and baked goods, it’s best to eat them raw to reap the most benefits.
If you’re a fan of beans, black beans are one of the best types to eat. Commonly known as turtle beans because of their shell-like appearance, black beans are rich in dietary fiber and protein. These legumes are related to peas, peanuts, and lentils. Vitamins and other nutrients found in black beans are great for your health. One of the main benefits of consuming black beans is strengthening your bones. Black beans contain calcium, copper, zinc, manganese, and magnesium. All of these vitamins help to build and maintain bone strength and structure. Because 99 percent of your body’s calcium supply, 80 percent of its phosphorus, and 60 percent of its magnesium stores are located in your bones, getting an adequate amount of these essential vitamins is essential. These tasty beans can also help reduce high blood pressure, manage your diabetes, and prevent heart disease. Black beans are a great source of protein, so they’re an excellent meat substitute for vegetarians. Use them in soups, salsas, salads, and more!
Contrary to popular belief, almonds are not considered nuts. They are known as drupes, a type of seed. Almond trees were one of the first to be domesticated and dated back to 3,000 BC. These trees are native to North Africa, India, and the Middle East. Almonds make a great snack and contain a wealth of nutrients. Whether eaten raw, toasted, or by the handful, almonds are a delicious source of protein. Just one ounce contains an eighth of your recommended daily protein needs. Vitamin E found in almonds works to lower cholesterol levels and the risk of developing breast cancer. It can also help to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s. Antioxidants found in almonds ward off heart disease keep blood sugar under control. Almonds can be eaten by themselves, in cereals, in baked goods, or other dishes. You can also try almond butter, which is a healthier alternative to peanut butter.
Cabbage is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family. It’s closely related to broccoli and leafy greens like kale. Although it looks similar, cabbage is not associated with lettuce. This vegetable comes in a wide variety of colors, including green, purple, and red. The leaves can be wrinkled or smooth. Cabbage is low in calories but high in nutrients, making it a great addition to any healthy diet. One cup of cooked cabbage is less than fifty calories! This green veggie helps protect the body from radiation therapy, and scientists believe it can be used to protect healthy tissue during cancer treatment. Sulforaphane found in cabbage can help lower your risk of developing cancer. Antioxidants found in red cabbage also have this effect—other antioxidants in cabbage work to reduce heart inflammation. When fermented, like kimchi or sauerkraut, cabbage becomes packed with probiotics, which are great for your immune system. Fiber and water in this vegetable help regulate the digestive system. Cabbage is delicious eaten raw, boiled, roasted, sautéed, or stuffed. Add it to salads, stews, or eat it roasted as a side dish.
Yogurt is an excellent option for getting in vital protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Greek yogurt is different from the regular kind because of the way it’s made. With Greek yogurt, the whey is removed via straining. Getting rid of the whey removes lactose from the Greek yogurt, leading to a thicker, less sweet creamy yogurt. Greek yogurt contains many vital nutrients, including protein, calcium, probiotics, iodine, and vitamin B-12. Protein and calcium in the yogurt promote good bone health and can reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. Greek yogurt is a great way to feel fuller longer and can lead to you consuming fewer calories throughout the day—fiber and protein in this tasty food help boost your metabolism. Probiotics work with bacteria in the gut to balance your digestive system. Greek yogurt is healthy by itself, in smoothies, or with drizzled with honey. You can also use it in place of sour cream in tacos and chili, as an addition in pasta sauce, or to marinate chicken.
For meat-eaters, one of the most common sources of protein is chicken. It has been consumed for centuries. Chicken is 80 percent protein, 20 percent fat, and zero carbs. This protein is essential for a healthy diet because of its versatility and low-calorie count. Chicken is an excellent source of lean protein that’s low in fat. It’s great for growing and developing muscles. The protein in chicken can also aid in weight loss. This tasty bird controls the body’s homocysteine amino acid levels, leading to heart disease if they get too high. It also contains vitamins and minerals that promote healthy bones, boost metabolism, and keep your blood vessels healthy. Enjoy light or dark meat in a variety of ways, including roasted, grilled, or baked. Chicken is delicious in salads, sandwiches, soups, and of course, by itself!
One of the world’s healthiest foods is kale! It also happens to be one of the trendiest. This leafy green is packed with vital nutrients for healthy bones, skin, and hair. Whether eaten raw or cooked, kale is an excellent food for any healthy diet. There are several different kale types, including Red Russian kale, curly kale, or dinosaur kale. Kale provides a wealth of nutrients, including calcium, fiber, antioxidants, and other vitamins. The high fiber content is effective at lowering blood sugar levels and preventing diabetes. This vegetable contains vitamin B6, potassium, fiber, and vitamin C, all of which work to support a healthy heart. These can also lower blood pressure, prevent stroke, and lower your risk of dying. Chlorophyll in kale binds to carcinogens and prevents the body from absorbing the cancer-causing substances. The high water and fiber content promote a healthy digestive system, and the beta-carotene makes skin and hair healthy. Enjoy kale in salads, sautéed with other veggies, or dried into chips. If you don’t like the flavor, blend a generous handful of kale into your favorite smoothie recipe!
33. Oranges are packed full of essential vitamins.
Who doesn’t love a nice, tasty orange? This popular citrus fruit is not only delicious, but it’s also loaded with vital nutrients. It’s not surprising that orange trees are the most cultivated in the world. They’re used to make juice, marmalade, candy, and even face masks. There are more than 60 flavonoids and 170 phytochemicals in an orange. That’s a lot of antioxidant power! Oranges are best known for containing vitamin C. Just one orange can provide you with 130 percent of your daily vitamin C needs. Eating citrus fruits can help lower your risk of stroke. The potassium in oranges works to lower blood pressure and make your heart healthier. Vitamin C in oranges can help reduce your risk of developing cancer. When eaten or applied topically, vitamin C can improve your skin quality. Oranges are great for snacking and are great to always have on hand. You can put them in fruit salads, sprinkle them on a green salad, or make them into juice.
32. Salmon is full of healthy omega-3s and fatty acids.
When it comes to protein sources, salmon is one of the best. Not only is it tasty, but salmon is rich in vital omega-3 fatty acids. Because it has far less saturated fat than other protein sources, salmon is a great choice for any healthy diet. Because it’s low in bad fats, salmon is an ideal protein option for those looking to lose weight. For those looking to keep their heart healthy, salmon’s omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce heart rates and heart failure. Cultures that eat much fatty fish, like Japanese and Inuit people, reportedly have a lower risk of heart disease deaths than Western cultures. Selenium found in the fish helps support a healthy thyroid. Fish has long been known to benefit your brain and cognitive function. Omega-3 fatty acids also decrease depression, aggression, and impulsivity. A 3-ounce portion of salmon contains 175 calories and about 19 grams of protein. Salmon is excellent grilled, baked, or sautéed. Make it into sandwiches, throw it on salads, or mix it into pasta.
31. Olive oil is beneficial in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
One of the biggest components of the popular Mediterranean diet is olive oil. People from Mediterranean regions tend to have longer life expectancies and reduced risks of developing heart disease, strokes, and high blood pressure. Olive oil is considered a monounsaturated fatty acid, a healthy dietary fat, unlike trans and saturated fats. This healthy fat comes from the Olea europaea or olive tree, a traditional tree in the Mediterranean. Consuming olive oil can reduce your risk of inflammation, thrombosis, and cardiovascular issues. It can also prevent stroke and possibly reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. Olive oil has again been proven to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. It’s not only consumed, but olive oil has also been used in soaps, medicine, cosmetics, and as a fuel for lamps. Olive oil can be used to dress salads, fried food, and as a dip for bread. You can also get the benefits of eating olives whole or chopped and added into your favorite dishes.
30. Nut butters are a tasty, healthy alternative to peanut butter.
Nut butters are tasty and easy to eat. There are quite a few different types, with some being healthier than others. You’re probably most familiar with peanut butter, but several different options are better for a healthy diet. Another great thing about the different nut butters is that they’re great for those with peanut allergies. If you’re allergic to peanuts but would love to enjoy a PB&J sandwich, you can! Almond, cashews, sunflower, and macadamia nut butters are delicious and full of healthy fats. They also contain adequate protein, fiber, phytochemicals and vitamins, and minerals. Nut butters can help improve your cholesterol levels as well. If you have a peanut allergy, talk to your doctor before enjoying another type of nut butter. Keep in mind that nut butters are high in calories, so watch your portions.
29. Whole grain pasta is full of vitamins and minerals.
Even those who maintain a healthy diet can enjoy pasta! Whole grains are essential for good health, and one of the best ways to consume whole grains is with pasta. Pasta that’s made with whole-grain comes from the entire wheat kernel. The resulting food is high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Because this pasta is made from pulverized whole wheat flour, it’s not as nutritionally dense as intact whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats. Whole grain kinds of pasta are ideal for people looking to lose weight. They can lower your risk of diabetes, obesity, stroke, and heart disease. Another benefit is that the way whole grain pasta is processed leads to a higher level of micronutrients. To make a healthier pasta dish, add protein and vegetables to your noodles. Drizzle on heart-healthy olive oil and fresh herbs. Stick to tomato-based sauces instead of cream varieties.
Mushrooms are technically vegetables because they belong to the fungi family. There are over 14,000 mushroom species out there, but only half of those are edible. The most common mushroom variety eaten in the United States is the button mushroom. These tasty fungi are known for their umami flavor and go well in many dishes. Mushrooms contain a wealth of antioxidants, including selenium. Selenium isn’t found in most fruits and vegetables, but eating mushrooms is a great way to raise your selenium levels. This mineral can prevent inflammation and, along with vitamin D, slow the growth of cancer cells. The high fiber content of mushrooms can improve blood sugar levels and help those with diabetes become healthier. They’re also great for your heart! Potassium, vitamin C, and fiber all boost cardiovascular health. Just one cup of mushrooms contains 15 calories and 2.2 grams of protein. Mushrooms taste great raw or cooked! Add them to salads, stir-frys, pasta, sandwiches, and more.
27. Barley is high in fiber — leaving you fuller for longer.
Barley was one of the first-ever cultivated grains. It has remained one of the most widely-eaten grains around the world for centuries. It’s most commonly found in cereal, bread, and beverages. Barley’s popularity has risen over the past few years because of its health benefits. The most popular form of barley in the United States is pearl barley. This whole grain is great for maintaining low blood pressure. Magnesium, calcium, and potassium found in barley naturally decrease blood pressure levels. Fiber, folate, vitamin B6, and other minerals work to strengthen your heart and bones. The high fiber content in barley also regulates your digestion and helps you lose weight by making you feel fuller longer. Incorporate barley into your diet by adding it to soups, eating it in place of rice, putting it into a salad, or making a risotto.
26. Walnuts are an excellent source of fats and fiber.
Native to eastern North America, walnuts are grown worldwide, most commonly within Arizona and California. They are an excellent source of good fats, fiber, and protein. Walnuts can be enjoyed raw, roasted, salted, or unsalted. One cup of walnuts contains about 200 calories, 2 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein. Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids, making them great for your heart. These fats can lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular disease. Consuming walnuts can also help you burn more energy while at rest. Studies have found that diets rich in nuts provide higher rates of weight loss than those without nuts. Walnuts also contain the mineral copper, which is good for healthy bones. Eat walnuts by themselves, in granola, on salads, or with yogurt.
25. Blueberries are full of vitamins and minerals.
One of the top superfoods is blueberries! These little blue gems are not only tasty but loaded with nutrients. They are sweet and taste great fresh or frozen. Just one cup of blueberries provides 24 percent of your daily vitamin C requirements. Blueberries contain a flavonoid called anthocyanin that is a powerful antioxidant. It also gives the berries their signature blue color. Iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K and other nutrients in blueberries can promote good bone health. Blueberries can improve your skin because their vitamin C can help boost collagen production and prevent skin damage. Eating foods high in calcium, magnesium, and potassium like blueberries helps lower blood pressure and manage type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Blueberries are great to eat on their own, with yogurt, smoothies, and baked goods and on top of pancakes.
Pronounced keen-wah, quinoa is an ancient grain that has been cultivated for over 5,000 years. Like barley, farro, amaranth, and other ancient grains, its popularity has risen over the years because of its many health benefits. While there are hundreds of quinoa varieties, the most common types are back, white, and red quinoa. Like buckwheat, quinoa is considered a pseudocereal. Nutritionally, quinoa is regarded as a whole grain because its grain seed remains intact. Quinoa is excellent for those with celiac disease because it’s naturally free of gluten. One cup of this whole grain is 222 calories and contains over 8 grams of protein, 5.2 grams of fiber, and a ton of nutrients. Quinoa is considered a complete protein, so it’s great for vegetarians and vegans. The high fiber content makes it an excellent food for a healthy heart and controls blood sugar levels. Compared to other gluten-free grains, this grain is one of the richest in antioxidants. Other vitamins and minerals you can get from quinoa include iron, manganese, B-2, and lysine. The easiest way to incorporate quinoa into your diet is to use it in place of rice in your favorite recipes. It works well in baked goods, salads, and as a breakfast grain.
Deriving from the plant Salvia hispanica, these tiny black seeds are related to the mint plant. They date all the way back to the time of the Mayans and Aztecs, where they were a dietary staple. In Ancient Mayan, chia means strength. In the last decade or so, the popularity of chia seeds has risen, and they are now considered a superfood. These tiny seeds are packed with nutrients. A one-ounce serving contains 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are naturally gluten-free and non-GMO. Loaded with antioxidants, chia seeds provide a wealth of health benefits. 90% of the carbohydrates found in chia seeds are from fiber, which is not digested by the body. Chia seeds benefit your health without raising blood sugar levels. The fiber content also makes you feel fuller longer and is suitable for the friendly bacteria in your gut. These seeds are ideal for vegetarians and vegans because of their high protein content. Enjoy chia seeds in porridge, smoothies, salads, and yogurt.
While eggs got a bad rap for a while because of their cholesterol levels, they are actually a vital part of any healthy diet. Eggs are tasty, easy to eat, and packed with vital nutrients. They contain a bit of nearly every nutrient you need. If you get pastured or enriched eggs with omega-3, they’re even healthier than regular eggs! While eggs are high in cholesterol, that doesn’t mean they’re bad for you. Eating foods high in cholesterol won’t necessarily raise your blood cholesterol levels. In fact, eggs tend to raise HDL cholesterol, known as the right kind of cholesterol. One of the best ways to get choline into your system is by eating eggs. Most people don’t consume choline, which helps to build cell membranes. One egg provides over 100 milligrams of choline. They also contain vital antioxidants that promote good eye health. For those avoiding meat, eggs are a wonderful source of protein. Whether you like them boiled, poached, or scrambled, eggs are one of the best foods to incorporate into your diet.
Sweet potatoes aren’t just a great Thanksgiving side dish! This tasty spud is packed with vital nutrients. One medium-sized potato provides more than 400 percent of the daily vitamin A requirement. These potatoes are known as complex carbohydrates, making them better for you than regular potatoes. Because sweet potatoes are low on the glycemic index scale, they are ideal for people with diabetes. Sweet potatoes won’t raise blood sugar levels like starchier foods. Potassium found in these tubers can help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Vitamin C and beta-carotene in sweet potatoes can protect against cancer and give an immunity boost. Their fiber content promotes healthy digestion and regularity. Sweet potatoes are best roasted. Their naturally sweet flavor makes them taste great on their own. You can make them mashed, into fries, into chips, or even into dips.
20. Kidney beans are an excellent source of fiber and protein.
Kidney beans are a variety of the bean Phaseolus vulgaris and are native to Mexico and Central America. These beans are a significant protein source around the world. Kidney beans are best eaten well cooked, Eating them raw or undercooked can be toxic. These legumes come in a wide range of colors, including black, red, purple, white, and striped. Kidney beans are a great source of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. One serving of kidney beans contains 127 calories, 8.7 grams of protein, and 22.8 grams of carbs. Beans are considered one of the best non-meat protein sources and are commonly referred to as the “poor man’s meat.” These tasty beans are starchy, but they’re considered a slow-release carb. That means that they take longer to digest and don’t quickly raise blood sugar, making them an excellent carbohydrate choice for people with diabetes. Their high fiber content makes them ideal for aiding in digestion and weight loss. Kidney beans are a great source of vital nutrients like iron, folate, copper, potassium, and vitamin K1. Enjoy kidney beans in your favorite soups, with rice or another whole grain, or in salads.
19. Swiss chard is a leafy green full of many health benefits.
One of the healthiest leafy greens to incorporate into your diet is Swiss chard. Known as spinach beet, mangold, and silverbeet, this vegetable is packed with nutrients. Eating one cup of Swiss chard can give you more than three times the required amount of vitamin K. Swiss chard is excellent because it can be eaten raw or cooked, so it’s exceptionally versatile. Swiss chard is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, and magnesium. It also has antioxidants like alpha and beta-carotene, choline, zeaxanthin, and lutein. The calcium, potassium, and magnesium levels in this green can help lower blood pressure. Chlorophyll contained in Swiss chard can hinder carcinogens in the body. Antioxidants found in this green have been known to lower glucose levels and reduce neuropathy symptoms in patients with diabetes. Swiss chard can also help to prevent the onset of osteoporosis and improve athletic performance. This tasty vegetable works well raw in salads and sandwiches. It’s also great in soups, stews, and casseroles.
Part of the cruciferous vegetable family, broccoli is known as one of the healthiest veggies. It’s closely related to cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, bok choy, and turnips. Broccoli and its relatives are excellent sources of nutrition while being low in calories. Cruciferous vegetables are a must for any healthy diet! Studies have shown that sulforaphane, a compound found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, can help fight cancer. Vitamin K works to improve bone health. One cup of broccoli contains more than 100 percent of your daily needs of vitamin K. Broccoli also has a lot of vitamin C, which can improve your skin and make you look younger. It’s also loaded with fiber, which is ideal for digestion and satiety. Broccoli can be added to pretty much any dish! Put it in salads, soups, pasta, and even on pizza. For a more simple dish, sauté it in olive oil with minced garlic.
The kiwifruit originated in northern China and arrived in New Zealand in the 20th century. Back then, it was known as the Chinese Gooseberry. To avoid high export duties charged on Chinese Gooseberries, the name was changed to kiwifruit. The name derives from New Zealand’s national symbol, the kiwi bird, brown, fuzzy, and small like a kiwifruit. Did you know that kiwis are technically a berry? Kiwis are high in nutrients but low in calories, making them great for snacking. They have a high vitamin C content, making them great for your skin and collagen production. Studies have shown that kiwis can help improve your sleep quality. Kiwis have a lot of fiber and potassium, which is essential for a healthy heart. Their potassium content also helps to lower blood pressure. Kiwis are delicious eaten by themselves or with a drizzle of honey. This fruit also works well in smoothies, with yogurt, and on salads.
Belonging to the nightshade family, bell peppers are considered fruits. They are related to tomatoes, chili peppers, and breadfruit and are native to Central and South America. These peppers are also known as sweet peppers or capsicum and are delicious raw or cooked. You can find bell peppers in various colors, including green, red, orange, and yellow. Fresh bell peppers are over 90 percent water. They are packed with vitamins and minerals. One red bell pepper can provide 169 percent of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C. These peppers also include vitamin B6, which is great for red blood cell formation, and vitamin K1, which is essential for blood clotting and bone health. Bell peppers have a lot of potassium and folate, which promote good heart health. Antioxidants found in bell peppers can improve eye health and help prevent anemia. In addition to eating bell peppers raw, you can sauté them with onions, add them into soups, or stuff them with tasty whole grains.
One of the best sources of healthy fats is avocado! Avocados come from the Persea americana tree that’s native to Central America and Mexico. This fruit has a smooth, creamy texture and is packed with good monounsaturated fats. There are several different colors, shapes, and sizes of avocados, but they’re all tasty. Avocados are low in sugar, unlike most fruits. They rank low on the glycemic index scale, making them a great healthy food choice for people with diabetes. Half an avocado holds nearly 5 grams of fiber, which is a lot. Fiber is ideal for your gut and keeps you full. These tasty fruits have an abundance of oleic acid, reducing inflammation and protecting against cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. You’ll find folate, potassium, copper, vitamins E, K1, C, and B6 in avocados. You can eat avocados alone or make them into guacamole. They’re also great on salads and sandwiches and can even be blended into a smoothie.
While you may not be jumping at the chance to add sardines into your diet, you may want to consider it. These fish have been eaten for centuries. In 1795, Napoleon Bonaparte began canning sardines to feed his army. Sardines got their name from the Italian island of Sardinia, where the tiny fish are abundant. Because they are very perishable, sardines are most often canned. Because sardines only eat plankton, they don’t have high levels of mercury like most fish. The fish are loaded with vital omega-3 fatty acids that help with heart disease prevention. You can get a lot of vitamin B-12 from sardines, boosting your energy, and keeping your cardiovascular system working smoothly. Vitamin D found in the fish promotes good bone health. You can get the necessary calcium requirements from sardines for those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy. Sardines can be eaten on crackers, in salads, and as a main course.
This is a tasty snack that’s healthy and free from added sugar. Edamame is from young soybeans that are harvested before they can ripen. They can be found in the pod or shelled, fresh, or frozen. These beans are common in Asian cuisine. Because they are gluten-free, low calorie, and full of protein, edamame is a perfect addition to a healthy diet. One cup of edamame is 188 calories and contains nearly 20 grams of protein, 8 grams of dietary fiber, and 98 milligrams of calcium. That’s 10 percent of an adult’s daily calcium needs! Edamame provides all of the essential amino acids the body needs to get from protein, so it’s an excellent plant-based protein source. You can also get vital omega-3 fatty acids and other healthy fats from these beans. Edamame helps prevent age-related mental disorders, breast and prostate cancer, depression, and heart disease. Use edamame as an alternative to peas in casseroles, soups, or salads. Of course, you can eat them right out of the pod!
One of the most popular ingredients in Middle Eastern cuisine is bulgur wheat. This cereal grain is made from dried, cracked wheat and is typically partially cooked to make it easy to prepare. After being cooked, it has a similar consistency to quinoa or couscous. Bulgur wheat is a whole grain, so it’s an excellent choice for a healthy diet. One single serving of bulgur wheat can give you 30 percent of your daily fiber needs. This whole grain is rich in iron, manganese, and magnesium and lower in calories than other whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. One cup of cooked bulgur wheat is 151 calories, 34 grams of carbs, 6 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fiber. The fiber in bulgur wheat can help keep your heart healthy and regulate blood sugar. These whole grains also work to help grow good bacteria in your gut. Bulgur wheat is most commonly used in salads like tabbouleh and pilafs. You can make it into a breakfast porridge or add it to soup recipes.
11. Spinach can be incorporated into your diet in a variety of ways.
When you think of the top superfoods, spinach is definitely on the list! This low-calorie leafy green is loaded with vitamins and minerals. It’s inexpensive and easy to prepare, making it a must-have for healthy eaters. There are quite a few different types of spinach, including savoy, flat, and semi-savoy. One single serving of spinach has 28.1 micrograms of vitamin C. That’s 34 percent of an adult’s daily recommendation! There are seven calories, 0.86 grams of protein, 167 milligrams of potassium, and 0.81 grams of iron in one cup of this vegetable. That’s a ton of nutrients in just a small serving! These nutrients help your body stay healthy, and your energy remains up. The antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid is plentiful in spinach and has been known to reduce blood sugar levels and instances of neuropathy in diabetics. Chlorophyll found in leafy greens like spinach has been shown to block carcinogenic effects in the body, preventing cancer growth. Spinach makes a great salad base and can be added to omelets, sandwiches, and different kinds of pasta; you can also sauté it with a bit of olive oil and Parmesan cheese for a tasty side dish.
Originally from China, green tea is a lightly caffeinated beverage with a wide variety of medicinal properties. Green tea is rich in antioxidants and polyphenolic compounds, which have potent anti-inflammatory effects. One of the most prevalent antioxidants in green tea is the catechin epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG. Although many people choose to drink green tea due to the flavor, the health benefits are a bonus. EGCG is likely what gives green tea the apparent ability to protect against chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. In addition to the antioxidants, the combination of catechins and caffeine in green tea has shown to be a useful tool for weight loss in some individuals.
9. Legumes are a great source of protein and fiber.
Legumes, also known as pulses, includes a plant food class made up of beans such as lentils, peas, soy, peanuts, and alfalfa. They have earned the superfood label because they are loaded with nutrients and play a role in preventing and managing various diseases. Legumes are a rich source of B vitamins, different minerals, protein, and fiber. Consumption of legumes offers many health benefits, including improved glucose control in type two diabetics and a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Eating beans and legumes regularly and consistently may also promote healthy weight maintenance due to their ability to improve fullness feelings.
8. Nuts and seeds are full of fiber and heart-healthy fats.
While nuts and seeds are a typical snack amongst people of all ages, they are consumed for their flavor and their health benefits. Nuts and seeds are rich in fiber, vegetarian protein, and heart-healthy fats. They also pack various plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can protect against oxidative stress. Consuming nuts and seeds can have a protective impact on heart disease. There are various standard nuts and seeds, including almonds, walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and hemp seeds. Some nuts and seeds are calorically dense, so it is essential to eat them in moderation. Additionally, some types of nuts have been linked to weight loss when included in a balanced diet.
7. Kefir is a fermented dairy beverage that has many health benefits.
Kefir is a fermented beverage typically made from milk containing protein, calcium, B vitamins, potassium, and probiotics. While similar to yogurt, kefir has a thinner consistency and typically more probiotic strains than yogurt. Fermented, probiotic-rich foods like kefir have several associated health benefits, including reduced cholesterol, lowered blood pressure, improved digestion, and anti-inflammatory effects. While generally made from cow’s milk, it’s typically well tolerated by people with lactose intolerance due to the lactose’s fermentation by bacteria. It can also be made from non-dairy beverages such as coconut milk, rice milk, and coconut water. You can purchase kefir or choose to make it on your own. If purchasing, be mindful of any added sugar.
6. Garlic is a nutrient-rich food that has many health benefits.
A superfood that has been used for its medicinal benefits for centuries is garlic. A portion of plant food that is closely related to onions, leeks, and shallots, garlic is an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium, and fiber. In addition to its use for medicinal purposes, garlic is a popular culinary ingredient due to its distinct flavor. Garlic may be useful in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure as well as supporting immune function. The sulfur-containing compounds in garlic also play a role in preventing certain types of cancers. Garlic promotes healthy immune function and can be enjoyed for either medicinal or flavor.
5. Ginger is used for not only its flavor but potential medicinal effects.
Coming from a flowering plant in China, ginger is utilized as both a culinary flavor enhancer and its multiple medicinal effects. Ginger root contains antioxidants, such as gingerol, that may be responsible for many reported health benefits with this food. Ginger may help manage nausea and reduce pain from both acute and chronic inflammatory conditions. This food has also been shown to potentially reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, dementia, and certain cancers. It is available fresh, as an oil or juice, and in dried or powdered forms. Many people will incorporate ginger into food items such as soups, stir-fries, sauces, and teas.
4. Turmeric is an increasingly popular healthy food.
This ingredient is a bright yellow spice that is closely related to ginger. Originating from India, turmeric is used for cooking and also for medicinal benefits. Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric. It has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and is the focus of the majority of research surrounding turmeric. Curcumin may effectively treat and prevent chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. It has also been shown to aid in the healing of wounds and also reduce pain. Curcumin is not easily absorbed. To enhance absorption, it should be paired with fats or other spices such as black pepper.
3. Seaweed is a group of healthy foods that offer many benefits.
Seaweed is a term used to describe certain nutrient-rich sea vegetables. It is most commonly consumed in Asian cuisine but is gaining popularity in other parts of the world due to its nutritional value. Seaweed is packed full of multiple nutrients, including vitamin K, folate, iodine, and fiber. These ocean vegetables are a source of unique bioactive compounds that are not typically present in land vegetables. The bioactive compounds may also have antioxidant effects and reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. If you have never tried any of these sea vegetables, you may want to consider adding them to your diet to take full advantage of their nutritional value.
2. Sun-dried tomatoes have a large number of nutritional benefits.
Tomatoes are packed with many health benefits. They are primarily comprised of the antioxidant lycopene, decreasing your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers. Lycopene also aids in reducing the risk of coronary artery disease. Also, one cup of sun-dried tomatoes will provide you with protein, fiber, and potassium, which is essential for heart health and tissue repair. Sun-dried tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and K. You can use them as a pizza topping, tangy addition to salads, or can be snacked on out of the bag. There is sure to be a way that you can incorporate them into your meals.
Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and fiber. They also contain beta-carotene, the compound that gives carrots their orange hue. Beta-carotene has been linked to a decreased risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as breast and lung cancer. Another related compound found in carrots is alpha-carotene, which also aids in reducing the risk of cancer. Beta-carotene and alpha-carotene are carotenoids that our bodies convert to vitamin A, which is vital for immune function, maintaining healthy cells, and activating carcinogen-metabolizing enzymes. Carrots can be consumed in various ways, as a snack or as part of a meal. They can also be eaten raw or cooked.