You get it by now: Fruits and vegetables are good, potato chips and Oreos are bad. Not exactly rocket science. But are you stocking your fridge and pantry with the right healthy foods as in, the ones that give you optimum nutrition for your buck (and shelf space)? Here are the foods to put on your grocery list—and keep there—for a healthy diet.
Keep your "good" digestive bacteria at a healthy level with yogurts containing live, active cultures. Warning: Some varieties are packed with sugar, so stick with plain or check the labels before tossing it in your grocery cart. Yogurt is one of several super diet foods thanks to the fact that it's both filling and loaded with calcium, potassium and vitamin B.
2. Wild Salmon
Unlike some other types of fish, studies have shown that mercury levels are relatively low in salmon. This is good news, considering the fish offers optimum nutrition and protein for few calories. It also contains omega-3's, which help maintain heart health. Why go wild? Farm-raised salmon can be more prone to disease and may have been exposed to or treated with antibiotics.
3. Egg Whites
Even with yolks, eggs have just 70 to 80 calories each—but that yellow center is high in cholesterol. Buy fresh eggs and then take out the yolks for a quick boost of protein in your breakfast. Mix them up with fresh vegetables to add flavor.
4. Leafy Greens
Healthy greens like broccoli, cabbage and kale have optimum nutrition and are loaded with a plant chemical that may help lower your risk of cancer. Low on vitamins? Add some spinach to your salad. Like other dark, leafy greens, it's loaded with iron and vitamin K, the latter of which may prevent osteoporosis, diabetes and arthritis.
There’s no way to talk about super diet foods without mentioning blueberries, which contain antioxidants and double as an anti-inflammatory. Aim for about half a cup a day, whether on top of whole wheat, mixed in with yogurt or simply on their own.
Not only do almonds help reduce bad cholesterol, they may help you lose weight—according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity. Another study, this one out of Harvard's School of Public Health, found that the nut could reduce the risk of a heart attack by 25 percent if eaten at least twice a week.
7. Black Beans
Did someone say breakfast burrito? Add black beans to your list of healthy foods. They're high in fiber (a major plus) and offer other optimum nutrition components, such as calcium, iron and folic acid. So toss them in an omelet or make a black bean soup as the perfect cold-weather lunch.
You've heard the expression "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," and it's true. Apples are also packed with fiber and may help reduce your risk of heart disease, according to a study published in the Nutrition Journal. They also contain the mineral boron, which is good for bones.
Tomatoes contain an antioxidant called lycopene, which may help prevent certain cancers. Studies have also shown that tomatoes can lower cholesterol, as well as reduce blood pressure and maintain healthy cellular growth (which is a fancy way of saying it can help you have healthier hair, nails and skin). Your best bet? Eat plenty of tomato sauce. You’ll be able to pack in more nutrients than by just downing slices alone.
10. Orange Juice
It's also possible to drink super healthy diet foods. Orange juice contains potassium and—you guessed it—vitamin C. Plus, many brands are now fortified with heart healthy omega-3s. It may also help increase your HDL levels, a.k.a. healthy cholesterol. Look for fresh squeezed varieties and brands low in sugar.
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11. Sweet Potatoes
Talk about optimum nutrition: Sweet potatoes have five times the "required" amount of beta carotene your body needs. So what does that mean? For one, healthier skin. Beta carotene can help prevent against sun damage. It may also boost your immune system, preventing you from getting sick from colds and other infections this winter.
12. Wheat Germ
Wheat germ contains magnesium, which helps keep your bones healthy in addition to reducing stress and maintaining healthy insulin levels. It also has iron, fiber, calcium, potassium and even zinc (which may help boost your immune system). Add wheat germ to your diet by sprinkling it on yogurt or healthy cereal.
Eat this tangy fruit's juicy seeds or drink it in juice form for a punch of antioxidants, including tannins and anthocyanins. It's a must-have addition for any heart healthy diet since it may help blood flow and reduce levels of bad cholesterol. According to research out of UCLA, it may also help prevent certain types of cancers.
14. Hot Peppers
Chilies don't just spice up your favorite recipes—they’re also packed with vitamin C and may help reduce pain levels. They may also help you lose weight. Spicy foods have been found to increase the metabolic rate by up to 23 percent for short periods of time.
Down a healthy dose of fiber for breakfast with a bowl of oatmeal, which may help reduce LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels, as well as provide nutrients, such as vitamin E, iron and magnesium. Tip: Add a scoop of protein powder for an extra healthy kick in the morning.