That old adage “you are what you eat” is true: more than supplements or trendy powders, food should always be your go-to for improved health and well-being. In fact, the right diet can be akin to preventative medicine, reducing general inflammation, improving immunity, balancing blood sugar, stabilizing mental health, and more. So what are the foods you should eat every day?
If we’re being honest here, it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out exactly which foods are the best of the best you should be eating daily. We consulted our experts to help you out and uncovered the best, healthiest foods you should be enjoying every day. Whatever you do, just be sure to never stock up on any of the unhealthiest grocery foods in America!
Mushrooms boast loads of health benefits, according to Jessica Boltze-Ruiz, RN, registered nurse, and writer behind All For Myself, and since there are so many varieties to choose from, it’s impossible to get bored! She recommends lion’s mane and turkey tail mushrooms specifically, touting benefits including immunity support, digestive support, stress reduction, and increased focus.
Henry Obispo, a social entrepreneur, food justice activist, and founder of BornJuice working to improve food insecurity in the Bronx, agrees.
“The versatility of the mushroom due to the numerous varieties, shapes, and textures have brought it to the forefront of the American palate while being gentle on the planet with low carbon emissions during its growth, production, and transport,” he says noting that mushrooms also contain selenium, a powerful antioxidant. Not to mention they’re fat-free and low in calories, too.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut—but also kombucha, kimchi, miso, and yogurt—can help improve gut health, which translates to improved overall health thanks to the gut-brain connection.
“It all comes back to the gut-brain connection,” says Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and DrAxe.com. “Feed your gut right and the benefits ripple out into all other areas of your body.” He references research suggesting that fermented food can aid digestion, immunity, and more.
“These foods help people digest better, produce certain B vitamins, and restore your digestive system after a course of antibiotics,” adds Bolte-Ruiz.
Despite the bad rep carbs have gotten in recent years, whole grains are essential, especially when it comes to fuelling the brain, explains Bolte-Ruiz.
“The brain uses carbs as fuel, and if no carbs are present, you might feel light-headed and irritable, along with having a difficult time concentrating and focusing,” she says. “Despite what everyone believes, not all carbs are bad.”
She recommends complex carbs, which are more nutrient-dense and contain more fiber than simple carbs.
“Fiber-rich complex carbs have been linked to a decrease in cognitive impairments, while the folate found whole grains is necessary for proper brain development, mental health, and well-being,” she says.
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It’s no surprise that avocado is so popular: not only is it delicious, it’s also incredibly healthy. According to Alicia Galvin, RD, a resident dietitian for Sovereign Laboratories, avocadoes are “excellent sources of fiber, vitamin K and potassium.”
“Numerous studies have looked at the relationship between avocado consumption and blood fat levels, types of fat in the bloodstream, inflammatory risk in the cardiovascular system, and degree of cardiovascular protection against damage,” she says.
The fat content of avocadoes might give you pause at first, but according to Axe, it’s nothing to be afraid of. In fact, the opposite is true.
“The low-fat craze created a global obesity crisis as entire countries shifted dietary recommendations to promote low-fat, high-sugar, high-refined-carb foods,” he says. “Studies show this can lead to a host of health problems, including concentration issues and heart trouble.” So go ahead and eat up those avocadoes!
Berries like raspberries and blueberries are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients while also being low-calorie and low on the glycemic index. Joey Thurman, CES CPT FNS, kuudose celeb health expert, dubs blueberries one of his favorites of the bunch, noting that their dark color and thin skin “means that they had to build natural protection from the elements,” which translates to a very high antioxidant level.
“Anthocyanins from blueberries may reduce oxidative stress, slow aging, and lower the chance of high cholesterol,” he says.
Berries have a relatively short growing season, but buying frozen berries affords the same benefits as fresh. Just be sure to choose organic, in either case!
Leafy Green Vegetables
Kale, spinach, arugula, and other leafy green vegetables are “some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet,” according to Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD, nutrition director at Trifecta. “They tend to be very low calories and high in fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C.”
As with berries, be sure to choose organic when it comes to your leafy greens. Axe notes that while he chooses organic whenever possible, it is perhaps never more important than with regards to this group of superfoods.
“The 2020 Environmental Working Group ‘Dirty Dozen’ report found kale samples tested positive for 18 different pesticides,” he says. “In fact, when the analysts crunched the numbers, kale and spinach samples harbored 1.1 to 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop tested.”
Some leafy greens, like arugula, broccoli, bok choy, collard greens, kale, and watercress, fall into the category known as cruciferous vegetables. Alongside cabbage and Brussels sprouts, they are some of the most nutrient-dense veggies out there. It’s no surprise that Sergio Pedemonte, CEO & Certified Personal Trainer at Your House Fitness, recommends consuming some cruciferous veggies not just every day, but at every meal.
“Cruciferous veggies are packed with distinct phytonutrients that fight inflammation as well as contain cell-modulating properties, meaning they can help protect against cancer,” he says.
Brussels sprouts, in particular, explains chartered physiotherapist and board-certified neurologist Dr. Chris Norris from SleepStandards.com, are “nutrient-dense and low in calories.”
“They offer up a well-rounded group of vitamins (including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate) and potassium,” he says. “Like other cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts feature bioactive compounds, such as antioxidants, which are chemicals that help prevent cell damage inside your body.”
Fatty fish like mackerel and sardines are not only some of the most sustainable fish choices out there; they also provide “some of the most bioavailable omega-3 fatty acids found in all foods,” according to Pedemonte.
“Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and great for your brain, skin, and hormones, just to name a few pros,” he says.
And don’t feel like you need to shy away from canned fish to reap the health benefits. According to Rima Kleiner MS, RD, a registered and licensed dietitian and nutritionist, and blogger at Dish on Fish, canned sardines with bones provide essential calcium.
Nuts are rich in protein and healthy fat—both of which are essential for overall health. Walnuts, in particular, “are a great way to get crucial omega-3s,” says Elliott Reimers, certified nutrition coach at Rave Reviews. “We need to make sure we’re getting enough omega-3’s, which are essential fatty acids the body cannot make itself.”
“These nuts are smart, and not just because they look like a brain!” he says, noting that the omega-3s, but also the anti-inflammatory polyphenols in walnuts are essential for optimum brain health.
Almonds, too, are a great, healthy option high in monounsaturated fats which, Galvin explains have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease.
“They are also the nut highest in fiber so they help to curb hunger,” she says.
Rich in protein and low in calories, lentils are also extremely ecological to produce, according to Obispo.
“The carbon footprint is one of the best all-around, with low emissions in growing and transporting,” he says. Choose lentils to help cut down on your meat consumption while also enjoying a filling, protein-rich meal.
“Green tea helps decrease inflammation and touts plenty of antioxidants,” says Reimers, who notes that studies have linked it to reducing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, reducing cholesterol, and regulating blood sugar in diabetics.
Bone broth may be all the rage, but its trendiness is well-deserved, according to Axe.
“Bone broth is a key source of amino acids and glucosamine, a compound naturally found within the cartilage, and chondroitin, a major component of cartilage,” he says. “It’s also rich in hyaluronic acid, a natural substance found in the greatest concentrations in the skin, inside joints, and in other tissues where it helps retain collagen.”
Collagen, he notes, helps build ligaments, tendons, connective tissue, fascia, arterial walls, gut lining, and even bones.
Herbs and Spices
Low in calories and rich in flavor, herbs and spices also boast a host of health benefits.
“When I walk into most American homes, the first thing I notice is the smell of bleach, artificial air fresheners, or other harsh cleaning products,” says Axe. “In the healthiest cultures around the globe, their kitchens smell like herbs and spices instead!”
This is thanks to a high concentration of antioxidants and antimicrobials in seasonings like clove, cinnamon, turmeric, oregano, and ginger. Each spice has its own flavor and nutritional profile, so feel free to experiment with mixing and matching!
Like sauerkraut, yogurt also boasts healthy probiotics, not to mention a host of other nutrients.
“[Yogurt] fuels your body with protein, calcium, magnesium, vitamin b12, and some key fatty acids that your body needs to stay healthy,” Norris explains. “And if you choose a high-protein yogurt, it can keep you feeling full, which may help trim your waistline.”
Choose full-fat plain yogurt without added sugar for the most potent benefits (like any of these best low-sugar yogurts, approved by nutritionists) and combine with berries or nuts for a triple dose of superfoods for breakfast or a nourishing snack.
Even though water isn’t a food, it’s important for health and, more than any other item on this list, is essential to consume every single day as it helps with nutrient absorption, your skin, and even your brain.
“Water is essential for the digestion and metabolism of food,” says Satrazemis. “Drinking plenty of water has also been linked to improved appetite and weight loss because it is essentially calorie-free and often replaces sugar-sweetened beverages.”
Drink about an ounce of water for every pound you weigh every day, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy start.