By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
What are the best healthy foods to eat every day? Take a look at this list for the top healthy foods to eat daily, including the best fruits to eat daily.
Most people assume healthy eating requires drastic changes from day one. But my wellness strategy is a little bit different! I like to recommend small changes, such as adding seasonal veggies to dinner or switching up a mid-afternoon snack.
Swaps like these don't take a lot of time or effort, but they do add up to pretty big changes over time! Looking for more easy ways to live better today? Read on.
Top Healthy Food: Fruits and Veggies
Every time I eat a meal or snack, I aim to add some produce to it, whether that means topping my Greek yogurt with berries or pairing carrot sticks and grape tomatoes with my guacamole. Produce is delicious and beautiful!
An eating pattern that’s rich in fruits and vegetables has been shown to be fantastic for our health, and research in PLOS One reveals that having fresh fruits and vegetables on hand may provide a short-term boost to our psychological well being, too.
In the small preliminary study, young adults ages 18 to 25 who were eating three or fewer daily servings of fruits and vegetables were asked to continue their current diet, were provided with an additional two servings of fresh produce to add to their regular eating pattern, or asked to take part in an intervention in which they received a voucher to purchase produce as well as receive text message reminders to eat more produce. This intervention lasted for two weeks.
After the two-week period, the people who were provided with the extra fresh fruit and veggies–compared to the folks who were simply reminded to eat fresh produce daily and given a voucher to purchase it–reported more motivation, vitality, curiosity, and creativity. At the same time, however, there were no decreases in depression or anxiety.
This is another good reason to keep fresh fruits and vegetables on hand in your kitchen—and to use that produce to bulk up stir-fries with broccoli and onions, to add berries to oatmeal, and to snack on fruits and vegetables! These foods are great sources of antioxidants. Plus, most offer vitamin C, which benefits the immune system.
Additional fruits and veggies to eat:
- Brussels sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
Looking for more tasty ways to incorporate fruits and veggies into your day? Take a look at my plant-based meal plans!
Top Healthy Food: Healthy Fats
I advise my clients to have a healthy fat—for example, a quarter of an avocado, a couple of Tablespoons of nuts, two teaspoons of olive oil, or about ten olives—with each meal. These foods contain healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats that may help to keep you full and feeling satisfied.
Plus, research in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology found that eating olive oil or nuts as part of a regular diet could lead to more weight loss, versus eating a reduced-fat diet!
Additional healthy fats to eat:
- Almond butter
- Chia seeds
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Hemp seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Top Healthy Food: Leafy Greens
I love kale. Why am I singing this green gem’s praises? Well, it’s a prime source of lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamins very important for eye health.
When you eat lutein and zeaxanthin, they’re deposited directly into the eye and work as natural sunblock to help filter harmful blue wavelengths of light that can damage sight. This means that as part of an overall healthy diet, the veggies could help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD(, according to a landmark study published in American Journal of Ophthalmology.
And if you already have AMD or cataracts, taking in more of these vitamins–along with eating a nutritious diet–may improve your vision.
The average American gets between just 1.4 milligrams (mg) and 1.9 mg of combined lutein and zeaxanthin daily, per the study. While there’s no daily recommendation for these vitamins, recent research shows a benefit to taking
in 10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin daily.
How to accomplish this? Just one cup of cooked kale provides more than this amount—23.8 mg. Other prime sources are spinach, collards, and turnip greens. Basically, eat your leafy greens!
Cook them when you can, since you’ll pack in a lot more veggies and nutrients. One cup of cooked kale, for instance, is equivalent to about eight cups of raw kale. Other veggies like corn, peas, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, and romaine lettuce contain a smaller amount.
To best absorb lutein and zeaxanthin, pair a food rich in the vitamins with a healthy fat. Sauté greens in a teaspoon of olive or grapeseed oil, or sprinkle them with sunflower seeds or slivered, toasted almonds.
Other leafy greens to eat:
- Collard greens
- Swiss chard
Top Healthy Food: Dark Chocolate
Yes, I'm telling you to eat dark chocolate in moderation–especially if you want to reduce the risk of heart disease! Yup, studies show this benefit.
Chocolate is a sweet treat and can be good for your health. A study in the journal Heart shows that regular consumption may help heart health, resulting in a reduced risk of heart disease and strike. Regular chocolate intake can also help control blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Dark chocolate is the healthiest type of chocolate, as it contains the most disease-fighting antioxidants. Yum!
Top Healthy Food: Lean Protein
Protein is a nutrient that not only helps build muscle but also helps keep you full so you don’t get "hangry." Some of my favorites are plain low-fat Greek yogurt, tofu, cheese, and eggs. Want 100 more options?!
Never underestimate the power of protein. Whether you’re a gym buff or simply need a snack to tide you over, protein will help. I give my take on 100 protein-packed foods in this MensJournal.com article.
When you choose lean proteins that are excellent sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, you get additional health benefits. Salmon, anchovies, and sardines all fit into this category.
Additional lean protein options:
- Black beans
- Chicken breast
- Kidney beans
- White-meat turkey
And hey, if you want even more inspiration for what to add to your shopping list, take a look at my healthy grocery list download.
This blog post was updated in September 2020. A version of this content originally appeared on WeightWatchers.com.
- PLOS One
- The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology
- The Relationship of Major American Dietary Patterns to Age-Related Macular Degeneration, American Journal of Ophthalmology
- Habitual Chocolate Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Among Healthy Men and Women, Heart
- 100 of the Healthiest Foods with the Highest Protein, MensJournal.com
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I'd love to hear from you! What else would you add to this list of the healthiest foods to eat everyday and the top healthy foods to eat everyday?
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