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The Top 10 Healthy Foods to Always Have On Your Grocery List

 

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Photo: George Rudy / Shutterstock

The first step to meal-prep success: getting your hands on the right ingredients. Our ultimate healthy grocery list is like your treasure map, guiding you to the healthy food so that you fill your cart with the building blocks for endless healthy meals. Plus, having a plan will fast-track your shopping trip.

Your Complete Healthy Food List

Before you head to the store, take inventory of your cabinets and then make your own shopping list to fill in the holes. By investing a little shopping time upfront, you'll help eliminate the two biggest hurdles to healthy cooking—not having enough time and not having the right ingredients, says Samantha Lynch, R.D., who designed the healthy food supermarket list. (Related: How to Meal Prep Mediterranean Lunches in 3 Easy Steps)

Be sure to include all of our top 10 healthy food picks below, then supplement with additional items and favorites from the grocery game plan (save it to your phone or download below). Once you've got all your goods, check out our genius meal-planning ideas and get cooking!

Healthy Food #1: Lemons

  • Just one lemon has more than 100 percent of your daily intake of vitamin C, which may help increase "good" HDL cholesterol levels and strengthen bones. (Did you know vitamin C has healthy skin benefits, too?)
  • Citrus flavonoids found in lemons may help inhibit the growth of cancer cells and act as an anti-inflammatory.

Healthy eating tip: Add a slice of lemon to your green tea. One study found that citrus increases your body's ability to absorb the antioxidants in the tea by about 80 percent.

Healthy Food #2: Broccoli 

  • One medium stalk of broccoli contains more than 100 percent of your daily vitamin K requirement and almost 200 percent of your recommended daily dose of vitamin C—two essential bone-building nutrients.
  • The same serving also helps stave off numerous cancers.

Healthy eating tip: Zap it! Preserve up to 90 percent of broccoli's vitamin C by microwaving. Steaming or boiling holds on to just 66 percent of the nutrient. (Learn more: How to Get the Most Nutrients Out of Your Food)

Healthy Food #3: Dark Chocolate

  • Just one-fourth of an ounce daily can reduce blood pressure in otherwise healthy individuals.
  • Cocoa powder is rich in flavonoids, antioxidants shown to reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol and increase "good" HDL levels. (DYK that flavonoids are a type of phytonutrient? Learn more about these powerhouses everyone keeps talking about.)

Healthy eating tip: A dark chocolate bar contains about 53.5 milligrams of flavonoids; a milk chocolate bar has fewer than 14. 

Healthy Food #4: Potatoes

  • One red potato contains 66 micrograms of cell-building folate—about the same amount found in one cup of spinach or broccoli.
  • One sweet potato has almost eight times the amount of cancer-fighting and immune-boosting vitamin A you need daily.

Healthy eating tip: Let your potato cool before eating. Research shows that doing so can help you burn close to 25 percent more fat after a meal, thanks to a fat-resistant starch in this healthy food.

Healthy Food #5: Salmon

  • A great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to a reduced risk of depression, heart disease, and cancer.  
  • A 3-ounce serving contains almost 50 percent of your daily dose of niacin, which may protect against Alzheimer's disease and memory loss.

Healthy eating tip: Opt for wild over farm-raised, which contains 16 times as much toxic polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) as wild salmon.

Healthy Food #6: Walnuts

  • Contain the most omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce cholesterol, of all nuts.
  • Omega-3s have been shown to improve mood and fight cancer; they may protect against sun damage, too (but don't skip the SPF).

Healthy eating tip: Eat a few for dessert: The antioxidant melatonin, found in walnuts, helps to regulate sleep. (Related: The 10 Healthiest Nuts and Seeds)

Healthy Food #7: Avocados

  • Rich in healthy, satisfying fats proven in one study to lower cholesterol by about 22 percent.
  • One has more than half the fiber and 40 percent of the folate you need daily, which may reduce your risk of heart disease.

Healthy eating tip: Adding it to your salad (we're obsessed with this avocado-kale salad recipe) can increase the absorption of key nutrients like beta-carotene by three to five times compared with salads without this healthy food.

Healthy Food #8: Garlic

  • Garlic is a powerful disease fighter that can inhibit the growth of bacteria, including E. coli.
  • Allicin, a compound found in garlic, works as a potent anti-inflammatory and has been shown to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Healthy eating tip: Crushed fresh garlic releases the most allicin. Just don't overcook; garlic exposed to high heat for more than 10 minutes loses important nutrients.

Healthy Food #9: Spinach

  • Spinach contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two immune-boosting antioxidants important for eye health.
  • Recent research found that among cancer-fighting fruits and veggies, spinach is one of the most effective.

Healthy eating tip: Spinach is a healthy and flavorless addition to any smoothie. You won't taste it, we promise! Try blending 1 cup spinach, 1 cup grated carrots, 1 banana, 1 cup apple juice, and ice. (Related: 10 Green Smoothies We Guarantee You’ll Love)

Healthy Food #10: Beans

  • Eating a serving of legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) four times a week can lower your risk of heart disease by 22 percent.
  • That same healthy food habit may also reduce your risk of breast cancer.

Healthy eating tip: The darker the bean, the more antioxidants it contains. One study found that black bean hulls contain 40 times the amount of antioxidants found in white bean hulls.

Check out the printable shopping list that has even more healthy food choices.

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