11 Very Healthy Foods You Should be Eating Regularly

Jessica Migala
by Jessica Migala
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11 Very Healthy Foods You Should be Eating Regularly

Most trendy diets share a list of off-limit foods, which can range from beans and dairy to whole grains and sugar. However, there are some foods considered so nutritious they make practically any approved list. Thinking in those terms can be more helpful for reaching health goals. “Thinking about what you can’t have feels restrictive. But shifting your perspective to what you can add in is a healthier mindset,” says Jill Keene, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer in New York City.

Google anything from keto to Paleo to Mediterranean and the biggest thing you’ll see is a push to focus on fresh, whole foods. “The big-three types of foods that can make up most any diet are lean proteins, healthy fats and vegetables,” says Keene.

Here are 11 go-to foods to enrich your diet:

Very Healthy Foods You Should be Eating Regularly

The Mediterranean diet is rich in leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, dandelion greens) and for good reason: Not only are they a non-starchy veggie (ideal for very low-carb diets), but they’re full of important vitamins and minerals like vitamins C, A and K, as well as iron.

Try them in a breakfast skillet, smoothie or meal-worthy salad.

Whether you’re on a high-, moderate- or low-fat plan, nutritionists advise honing in on healthy fats. Avocado fits the bill, as it’s rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) that are associated with cardiovascular health, says Keene. Plus, it’s a surprisingly rich source of GI-friendly fiber. One half of the fruit packs nearly seven grams.

Try using it in everything from chicken salad to sweet potato toast and even brownies.

Very Healthy Foods You Should be Eating Regularly

Salmon is one of the top sources of omega-3’s, fatty acids that benefit the heart by slowing accumulation of plaque that gums up arteries and better lipid profiles and blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. The AHA recommends consuming two fatty-fish meals per week.

Use it in a breakfast salad or roasted for a quick weeknight dinner.

People who regularly consume nuts are less likely to gain weight over a five-year period or be overweight or obese, according to a study in the European Journal of Nutrition. Walnuts are particularly special because they contain a type of omega-3 called alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). They’re also a good way to eat more fiber and are rich in magnesium, which plays a key role in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.

Try these delicious walnut recipes under 400 calories.

In the era of coconut everything, olive oil is an important staple in some of the top-ranked diets including DASH and the Mediterranean diet. Incorporating it in your diet as one of your go-to healthy fats pays off: Research shows people who do so may lose weight and reduce belly fat.

Use it to cook veggies, pasta and soup.

Very Healthy Foods You Should be Eating Regularly

As a source of natural sugar, people remain weary that eating berries may cause weight gain. The reality is that, in moderation, fruit — especially berries — can add a source of satisfying, subtle sweetness to any eating plan. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries are rich in disease-fighting polyphenols and are lower-carb.

Try them as an oatmeal or yogurt topping, snack or dessert.

One of the best things about broccoli is its versatility: It shines as a stand-alone side when roasted, soaks up sauce perfectly in a stir-fry, and is a tasty snack with homemade dressing. Better yet, broccoli yields a ton of nutrients for very few calories. “Broccoli contains specific sulfur-containing compounds called sulforaphane that can lend protection against certain cancers,” says Catherine Perez, RD. It’s also a surprisingly good source of C, which plays a key role in immune function. One cup (150g) of chopped florets has 81 mg of vitamin C, which represents 108% and 90% of the RDA for women and men, respectively.

Try it in this delicious vegan casserole, added to pasta or in a quick stir-fry.

Very Healthy Foods You Should be Eating Regularly

An underappreciated veggie, “red cabbage is rich in anthocyanins, the antioxidants that give the vegetable its beautiful reddish-purple color,” says Perez. Most notably, these antioxidants have been shown to help protect heart health. In a 2019 meta-analysis in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, people with the highest intake of anthocyanin-rich foods in their diet had a 9% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and 8% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality. What’s more, cabbage is a cruciferous veggie similar to broccoli, so you’ll get the added boost of cancer protection.

Try it in a morning smoothie, as a slaw topping for tacos or shredded in hearty salads.

CLICK TO TWEET THIS ARTICLE > Tasty foods that are so good for you, you should try to consume them regularly. See if your favorite food made the list via @MyFitnessPal #MyFitnessPal

Very Healthy Foods You Should be Eating Regularly

They’ve been trendy for years now, but there’s a reason why chia seeds have risen to the top. “Chia seeds contain a lot of great omega-3 fats, which are beneficial to heart health and cognitive function,” says Perez. What’s more, if you’re on a low-carb diet of any kind (including keto), they can help you meet your fiber needs (something that can be hard to do when cutting back on carbs). One tablespoon of chia seeds contains about 3 grams of digestion-friendly fiber.

Add them to smoothies, overnight oats, sprinkle them on veggies before roasting or try chia pudding.

Perez often recommends her clients eat more kiwi because they’re “loaded with fiber, and they actually have more vitamin C than a regular orange.” A single kiwi has two grams of fiber and just 42 calories. Besides, they may be the perfect bedtime snack. Past research shows eating two can help you sleep better and longer, possibly because kiwi is rich in the calming neurotransmitter serotonin.

Enjoy kiwi on its own as a snack or add it to smoothie bowls and overnight oats.

Very Healthy Foods You Should be Eating Regularly

“Black beans and red kidney beans have more antioxidants than blueberries,” says Perez, who advocates consuming more beans. “They’re rich in fiber and plant-based protein to keep you satisfied for longer.” For instance, a half-cup of black beans packs 7 grams of protein and more than 8 grams of fiber for 109 calories. Research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds regularly including beans in your diet can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, heart disease and diabetes. Bonus: They’re inexpensive and easy to use.

Add beans to hearty soups, no-cook salads, tacos and breakfast burritos.

Originally published April 2020, updated with additional reporting

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About the Author

Jessica Migala
Jessica Migala

Jessica Migala is a health and fitness freelancer based in the Chicago suburbs. She spends her days writing with her beagle mix by her side and her free time with her two young sons. Jessica also writes for O, The Oprah magazine, Woman’s Day, Real Simple and others. Find her at jessicamigala.com.


40 responses to “11 Very Healthy Foods You Should be Eating Regularly”

  1. Avatar Breck says:

    Disappointed they chose to tell people to eat highly processed pure fat (olive oil). No doctor worth his salt tells people to actively add oil to their diets anymore. Eat olives to get the same benefits as the oil, but with more nutrients and fiber.

    • A small amount of olive oil probably wont hurt. I like your idea though.

    • Avatar Beth Stone says:

      Yes . Any Dr. would . There are health reasons to add some oil to your diet. Some. No one said a gallon a day. 🙂 Besides, some people don’t like olives. I for one, can’t stand them.

      • Beth, I want to thank you for your message. For me the problem is not that I can’t join online. I know I can. The problem is will it work for me? I have recently become a vegan. Very difficult when Weight Watchers changes the program all the time. Will the freestyle program work for me? Many thanks.


  2. Avatar Brittany says:

    I wish people would stop saying that salmon and olive oil are “healthy foods”

  3. Avatar Tim Babcock says:

    why aren’t they healthy Brittany?

  4. Avatar Rodger says:

    Good article, I am new to Fitness Pal and am really liking it. I am also a walnut grower and right now we’re receiving less than half the price on walnuts that we got last year. EAT WALNUTS!

  5. Avatar Alessia says:

    Useless article for vegans with tree nut allergies. Blah.

    • Avatar Ian Daley says:

      And she had the nerve to publish it anyway! What a world…

    • Avatar MELISSA R says:

      Likewise when articles push useless things vegans use, like flax eggs. I will rudely use real chicken eggs. This article is a great reminder to eat whole foods.

    • Avatar MassillonJill says:

      I think you would need to look for a nutrition site that addresses the specific needs of vegans. My youngest daughter is a vegan and she also has weight problems. I’d like to find a resource for her; she has been looking.

  6. Avatar redavenger says:

    Great article. I’ve spent 2.5 years at ww and while they claim you can eat anything on their plan, an avocado is so high in points it’s not worth it. My intestinal health took a bad turn from not enough fiber or healthy fats. So now I’m over here and I have to say I don’t feel hungry or deprived anymore! Yay for fiber and healthy fats!!

  7. You won’t find salmon on the approved list of a vegetarian or vegan diet!

  8. Avatar Christine says:

    Great article! I love the idea of focusing on foods to eat instead of what not to eat. I get that you are not trying to tell vegans to eat salmon and you are not telling people with nut allergies to eat walnuts. It is concerning to me that this article would spark such negative comments. I enjoyed reading it and am inspired to eat most of these foods more often.

  9. Avatar Memphis says:

    It’s homing in, not honing in. It’s wary or leery or even leary, but definitely not weary. Otherwise, great article!

  10. Avatar Mklombard333 says:

    Make sure it’s WILD CAUGHT Salmon, not farm-raised. No crappy stuff in the the food, and the wild-caught is definitely better tasting, too.

  11. Hi all.., Has nothing to do with oils but I need some advice. I am trying to decide whether to join weight watchers again. I am a vegan. Will the new freestyle work for me? I wish they wouldn’t change the program so often. I know this is in the right place for this but I don’t know how to do it any other way. Many thanks.

  12. Avatar Gerold says:

    I cringe every time I see Olive Oil being touted as healthy. There are several reasons why olive oil is not only UNHEALTHY, but dangerous.
    1) Demand exceeds supply so most brand-name olive oils on grocery store shelves are watered down with over-processed vegetable oils. Artisan olive oils in health food stores are more likely to be made with real olives which is why it’s so expensive.
    2) You might think you’re buying Italian, but look at the label. If it says “Bottled in Italy” it means it’s grown somewhere else (who knows where?,) pressed, shipped in bulk (tanks) to Italy where it’s transferred to bottles.
    3) Olive oil has few anti-oxidants so it’s usually rancid by the time it’s bottled, let alone by the time it hits store shelves.
    4) It has a very low smoke point compared with better oils and the smoke is unhealthy to inhale.
    5) Heating olive oil produces carcinogenic acrylamides when it is heated for cooking which is why few Italians die of heart attacks; most die of cancer.
    Conclusion: IF it’s REAL olive oil, and IF it’s fresh (??) it should be used only at room temperature such as salad dressing. There are far better oils such as Coconut, Carmelina, etc. (DO NOT used vegetables oils as they’re over-processed and likely to be GMO.)

  13. Avatar Duncan Boar says:

    Great article – especially for a new member struggling with the nutrition aspect of a fitness recovery programme. Any chance of another article aimed at those limiting Calorie intake (1800 a day) whilst having to up the protein intake (to maintain muscle mass, covering a suitable exercise programme). Thanks

  14. Avatar MassillonJill says:

    I love any kind of berry, and have them every day with my breakfast. However, I’ve read they are one of the worst things to eat as far as pesticides goes, and washing them does not help. Organic isn’t available where I live. Does the healthfulness of berries outweigh the pesticide residues even after washing?

    • Avatar OkieTechGuy says:

      Not sure where you live, but an easy answer to the problem is to grow your own. I have for years in several different places I’ve lived. If you are short on space? You can even grow them in large pots. Doing so offers several advantages even if you have space for them in the yard. You can move the berry plants to sunnier locations if needed and it can contain the invasive nature of the plants too. Fresh grown berries taste fantastic, easily freeze for storage, the plants return year after year, and multiply so they are a great investment in any healthy lifestyle.

      • Avatar MassillonJill says:

        We used to grow strawberries and raspberries. Birds love them so we had to cover them with netting. Rabbits would get underneath the netting and too often get tangled in it. Deer love the berries too, and they’d pull off the netting! They also chew the bark off the shrubs. It’s nice seeing all the wildlife in our backyard (turkeys too) but they wreak havoc on the berries!

  15. Avatar Sara says:

    Under the berries section, the word “weary” should be spelled “wary.” These are different words with different meanings.

  16. Avatar RationalistInFL says:

    Okay, fine. My response, by the numbers:

    1. Yeah, okay, I do like my salads
    2. Meh. I’m not a millenial, so avocado isn’t typically in my diet
    3. No thanks. I’m not interested in any kind of meat whether it comes from a land or a sea creature
    4. Sure, I like nuts, including walnuts, thanks for the update
    5. Already done. I try to add olive oil to lots of my meals
    6. See #5 above. Only problem: I have to stay away from carbs, being diabetic

    If I’m already following much of the above listed diet, why am I still fighting type 2 diabetes?

  17. Avatar Pauline Pantaleo says:

    I like this article for several reasons 1.) Does NOT mention Eggs 2.) Does NOT mention Greek Yogurt 3. ) Does NOT mention Chicken, meat or poultry, 4.) Does NOT mention Cottage cheese! FINALLY!

    Aside from that, after reading the comments I feel necessary for some deliberation and clarification. The Mediterranean diet includes these foods Disclaimer- the SOURCE matters, the PROCESSING, the amount consumed, how it is prepared, what is it combined with and each persons body dynamics.
    (EXTRA VIRGIN ORGANIC, AUTHENTIC) Olive oil is a monounsaturated (healthier)fat. (PORTION CONTROL) Avocado is also monounsaturated.
    (WILD CAUGHT)Salmon is high in omega 3 fatty acids.
    (BLANCHED, SPROUTED, RAW in MODERATION) Nuts are great sources of ALA And poly/ monounsaturated fat, some protein. Walnuts are a source of omega 3 fatty acids
    (Organic, NON GMO) Leafy greens and berries enough said

    I am unclear to why this has to be controversial for vegans since the title is not specific for vegans? I was a vegan, I am plant based but find the best way to read and learn is take what you need from each source and forget the rest.

    There is so many variations of diets that exclude a whole other way of living. bottom line, we should filter the lack of understanding, miss information and be more supportive. My diet is very limited and I know what works for ME. I rarely find any article that is all foods I consume.

  18. Avatar e kondrot says:

    Wow, I never knew that berries and avocado have so many health benefits. I will definitely add it in my daily diet to enjoy the benefits of this food.

  19. Avatar Sarah L says:

    You could just combine all of these into a delicious salad!

  20. Avatar Sarah L says:

    You could just combine all of these foods into one delicious salad!

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