What is the healthiest food? Living a healthy lifestyle depends mostly on how we eat, and that’s not breaking news. But what really constitutes as healthy when it comes to food? Below you’ll find a breakdown of some of the most nutritious foods you can eat, ranging from fruits and veggies to beans and cheese, to help you make informed decisions when it comes to planning your next meal.
We have always been told that our well-being depends on how we take our meals and the balance we have in them, but when you start to dive into the world of good nutrition, it can often seem somewhat tedious, even terrifying. However, the reality is that eating healthy doesn’t have to be a living hell.
Having a balanced diet doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to suffer when eating food, i.e., we don’t have to cut out virtually everything we usually eat just to be healthy. In fact, one of the best decisions you can make for a good diet is to add foods, not take them away.
So if you want to know what is the healthiest food to add to your diet, keep scrolling because, in this post, we not only compiled the strongest candidates, but we also separated them into food groups to make things a little easier for you. Just sit back, start reading, and get ready to change your perspective on healthy food. Bon appétit!
Top 7 Healthiest Foods based on Food Groups
By now, you’ve probably read multiple headlines with the word “superfood” in them, pointing to those foods as something that should be eaten regularly or even daily no matter what because of their innumerable benefits. And yes, these superfoods contain many beneficial nutrients — we’ll even mention several here — but it’s important to note that no superfood by itself can offer all the nutrition and health benefits we need to nourish ourselves.
That’s why we came up with the idea of looking for the top 7 healthiest foods based on food groups, those that have been part of our diet since time immemorial and are often included in scientific research as ways to prevent disease. Including:
Long story short, lots of variety of basic natural ingredients that will pack a nutritious punch in every meal!
what is the healthiest vegetable?: Top 7 Veggies To Eat
Ah, veggies. You hated them as a kid, and let’s face it. You might still kinda hate them as an adult. Eating vegetables can be difficult for some people, but once you know all the benefits of eating them, it’s clear that it’s worth the effort. Plus, some have extra benefits that can really boost your health, so what is the healthiest vegetable out there? Many!
- Spinach: Remember Popeye The Sailor Man? You may be too young to remember him, but he really knew spinach was a superfood. It has a wide variety of nutrients, especially vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin K — essential for bones and calcium absorption —, and folic acid, plus minerals like iron and zinc.
- Broccoli: It’s no surprised that broccoli is on the list of one of the healthiest vegtables to eat. It’s from the same family as cauliflower or kale, this cruciferous vegetable is very interesting for our health due to its multiple nutritional benefits. Its greatest benefit is that it contains a phytonutrient called sulforaphane, which can stimulate the breakdown of stored fat and even help our body fight off breast cancer stem cells. It also contains vitamin C, K, and beta carotene.
- Kale: Talking about cruciferous vegetables, kale has been one of the most popular in recent years mostly in social media, but we have to admit that they’re worth the hype. Kale has very low caloric intake but high antioxidant power, with vitamins like C and K reigning supreme in their stats, and to top it off, it has been shown that if consumed frequently, it can help reduce the incidence of different types of cardiovascular disease.
- Watercress: If you haven’t paid much attention to watercress, you should know that this super-leaf and its properties is highly recommended to anyone looking for a healthy veggie option. With its high content of vitamins A and C, it strengthens the immune system, with its high content of calcium, potassium, and magnesium it ensures bone health, and with its high amounts of vitamin K, it prevents cell damage in the brain.
- Artichokes: Eating vegetables high in fiber and protein keeps ghrelin, which is your body’s “I’m hungry” hormone, at bay. This way, the feeling of fullness lasts longer and you won’t feel the urge to overeat. Now that you know this, do you have any idea which vegetable has high levels of both fiber and protein? Spoiler alert: artichokes! A medium-sized artichoke has about 7g of fiber — that’s about 30% of what the body needs daily —, and about 3.5g of protein making aritchokes high on our list of healthy vegtables!
- Brussel sprouts: Probably one of the foods that most often divide the world because of their flavor — even though they are a staple of Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner —, Brussels sprouts are without a doubt one of the most outstanding vegetables out there. They are high in vitamins A, C, and K which make them ideal for a balanced diet, and minerals such as potassium and folic acid which give them wonderful antioxidant properties.
- Bell peppers: These crunchy and sweet vegetables come in several colors, including red, yellow, and green, which are all equally nutritious for the body. Bell peppers have great antioxidant power, are low in calories, and are also very high in fiber. They are also characterized by their high vitamin A and C content, as well as several minerals that can support digestive and cardiovascular health. Most people tend to over look bell peppers or only cook with them on occasion – this versitle vegtables packs a healthy punch and can be eaten raw and are delicious!
what is the healthiest fruit?: Top 7 Fruits To Eat
Fruits bring countless benefits to our health for all their nutritional properties, so adding them to our diet may seem like a piece of cake. And yeah, eating fruit may seem like a no-brainer, but the catch is knowing how to choose the best fruit — the one that provides the most benefits and the one that tastes the best. Fortunately, there are several nominees for the title of healthiest fruit! So let’s take a look at them:
- Apples: You know what they say — one apple a day keeps the doctor away, and this couldn’t be truer. This is one of the most accessible and versatile fruits ever, from it we can get lots of potassium — around 195 mg per unit —, good amounts of fiber, lots of antioxidants, and if we eat it with its skin, a compound called ursolic acid that can stimulate metabolism, increase exercise capacity and even help prevent obesity.
- Blueberries: If there is a fruit whose popularity continues to grow, it’s the blueberry, both for its excellent taste and its many health benefits. They are mainly full of antioxidants — in fact, they are considered the most powerful source of antioxidants in the world — such as anthocyanin, which might protect against heart disease, strokes, and other diseases, but they are also highly recommended for fighting urinary infections, such as cystitis.
- Bananas: When you think of potassium, probably the first thing that pops into your mind is a perfectly yellow banana. This common fruit is not only an excellent source of potassium — about 422 mg per unit —, but it also contains fiber, is a good source of calories, and can help us to sweeten dishes naturally and healthily. Plus, it’s very filling!
- Avocados: Despite its high caloric value, we add avocado to the list due to the excellent quality of its fats — oleic acid — and its good content in potassium as well as fiber, which makes this food an ally of cardiovascular health. Even though avacados aren’t sweet in nature they are classifed as a fruit and are definetly high on the the list of the healthiest ones out there!
- Kiwis: This fuzzy fruit is a vitamin C gold mine! A single serving contains twice the amount of vitamin C as an orange and — you won’t believe this — almost as much potassium as a banana. Furthermore, people have used it for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to support digestion and even help increase bowel movements.
- Lemons: We already know that lemons are disinfectants, antiseptics, and bactericides par excellence, but how are they doing in the nutrition department? Excellent! They contain high levels of vitamin C — about 18.6 mg —, folic acid, potassium, are recommended for lowering blood pressure, can help with weight loss, and may even be beneficial for fighting kidney stones. Oh, and they smell wonderful too.
- Pineapples: Among tropical fruits, pineapple is a nutritional rockstar and ranks in as one of the healthiest fruits you can eat! Due to its good manganese and vitamin C content, but its main beauty is that it contains bromelain. Maybe you’ve never read that word before, but bromelain is basically a mixture of enzymes known for its anti-inflammatory properties and potential anti-cancer ability, so if you can get those benefits from a simple fruit, you have to take advantage of it!
P.S: You won’t find a single nutritionist who won’t advise you to eat at least two medium-sized pieces of fruit a day (logically, two whole watermelons a day would be excessive, and three grapes would be useless), and guess what? We advise you the same thing! Fruits are always a good substitute for sweets if you have a sweet tooth, and best of all, they will give you plenty of vitamins and minerals without massively affecting your blood glucose levels.
what is the healthiest meat?: Top 7 Meats To Eat
Although your plate should include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, red and white meats taste delicious. They can provide lean protein, zinc, iron, and several vitamins that will pleasantly benefit your body. But between beef, chicken, turkey, fish, pork, and rabbit… What is the healthiest meat? Don’t freak out looking for the answer; we have it here:
- Salmon: We’re sure nobody is surprised that this oily fish is on this top of our list for healthiest meat, because it is one of the best you can have in any diet. Don’t forget that regular consumption of omega-3 is related to a beneficial effect on inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, which we mentioned in our post on the Mediterranean diet… But what does this have to do with salmon? You may ask. Well, salmon has high amounts of omega-3. In addition, it is extremely rich in vitamin D, which is ideal for strengthening bones. BTW, remember that wild salmon has fewer toxins than the farmed Atlantic variety, so try to get the wild one.
- Turkey: If you only eat turkey at Thanksgiving, get ready to cook it at other times of the year, because this type of meat is known for its low fat and low cholesterol levels. It’s also a great source of B complex vitamins and niacin, nutrients that help support heart health, digestion, and brain function.
- Pork tenderloin: Pork has been a longtime enemy of both nutritionists and doctors, but if you choose the right cut, you can add it to your diet. Pork tenderloin is one of those right cuts, as it is a lean cut that includes high-value protein, B vitamins, iron, and zinc. In addition, it has been proven that including this type of meat may improve body composition thanks to its high amino acid content.
- Strip steak: In general, red meat has a bad rap, but if you are a hardcore carnivore and want to keep it in your diet, red meat lean cuts are for you. Strip steak is a cut that even though it doesn’t have as much fat as others, still contains the protein and nutrients we all need, such as iron, vitamin E, and antioxidants making it one of the healthiest red meats you can eat.
- Chicken breasts: Essentially any diet’s staple, chicken breasts come from the leanest part of the bird and are packed with protein, phosphorus, vitamin B6 and niacin — hey turkey! —, nutrients that, as I mentioned above, provide our body with multiple benefits. However, chicken breasts have a downside: they can be a fail on the taste front. But this can be fixed with a touch of creativity — there are many ways to cook them and take advantage of their low-fat and low-calorie qualities without sacrificing the pleasure of eating.
- Rabbit meat: We apologize in advance to the Easter Bunny, but we couldn’t leave rabbit meat out of this list of the top healthiest foods. In several European countries such as Italy and France it’s common to consume this type of meat, and with good reason — it has a unique flavor, is an excellent option to add to low-calorie menus, provides high biological value proteins, contains B vitamins, is rich in phosphorus and potassium, and is low in sodium.
- Sardines: This protein-rich oily fish may not be a winner in the flavor department for some, but it’s totally worth it. Of all the fish we highlight this one for being one of the fatty fish par excellence, which in recent years has received a lot of attention for its great contribution of omega-3 acids and low price per pound. Plus, it contains a little bit of almost every nutrient our organism needs — a true superfood!
what is the healthiest cheese?: Top 7 Cheeses To Eat
How can you not love cheese? Its popularity is undisputed, and even though it’s known for having “too many calories” and being “not suitable for weight loss diets,” many people claim they can’t live without it. You will notice that we put in quotation marks the bad reputation that cheese has been given, and we did this for a reason: cheese is not bad in itself for a healthy lifestyle, rather it can be harmful if you eat a low-quality, highly processed cheeses, and in large quantities. In fact, there are plenty of healthier cheeses out there that can provide you with essential vitamins and minerals if you eat them in moderation:
- Cottage cheese: Due to its high content of antioxidants and essential amino acids, studies have linked this high moisture, low-fat cheese to better weight control and cardiovascular health. Long story short, cottage cheese is a perfect addition to your table if you’re on a weight loss diet. Oh, bonus, if you need a protein boost, keep this cheese on your shopping list.
- Ricotta: Soft, creamy, grainy… Ricotta cheese is a wonder not only for our palates but for our bodies. It has a high concentration of whey protein — around 11.29 g per 100-gram serving —, which is one of the most absorbable forms of protein for the body, and contains a very wide range of amino acids, calcium, and zinc. So if you’re a fitness person looking to gain muscle mass, ricotta is a safe bet and one of the healthiest cheeses for sure.
- Mozzarella: It is difficult to choose just one quality of mozzarella cheese since we have so many to choose from, but the main one is that it is a great source of probiotics, which makes it easily digestible and beneficial for the digestive system. It is also one of the mildest cheeses with less sodium, low in lactose and fat, and rich in calcium, so feel free to keep adding it to pizzas and salads.
- Parmesan: This is the quintessential cheese in pasta dishes, and although it is a high sodium option — about 55mg per tablespoon —, it is still rich in calcium and phosphorus, not to mention its exquisite flavor. Parmesan is also recommended for those who suffer from lactose intolerance, as this cheese reduces its lactose content as it ages.
- Blue cheese: Blue cheese is characterized by a high presence of mold, which gives it an intense flavor and aroma with an acidic touch, but also by its high calcium content, which leads to a lower risk of osteoporosis. Note: blue cheese contains high levels of saturated fats, so eat it in low quantities in order to get the benefits of calcium without the fat.
- Goat cheese: This soft and neutral cheese has numerous gastrointestinal benefits just like mozzarella cheese due to its high probiotic content. But the best part of goat cheese is that since it is not made from cow’s milk, it may be easier for some people to digest as goat’s milk is lower in lactose. Goat cheese is a healthy option for those that can’t tolerate dairy and is known for it’s healthy benefits.
- Swiss cheese: Do you need a low sodium cheese for the smooth functioning of your cardiovascular system? In 1 ounce of Swiss cheese, we find only 53 mg of sodium, compared to 190 mg in the same amount of, for example, cheddar cheese. It also has good levels of vitamin A and B12, and it’s delicious!
what is the healthiest nut?: Top 7 Nuts To Eat
We can’t stress this enough: nuts are one of the most beneficial foods for any diet. They are filling, an important source of plant-based protein, and rich in both fiber and “good” fats, which are essential for a healthy diet. Plus, they are the perfect substitute for seemingly healthy snacks, which are secretly loaded with unhealthy amounts of sugar, saturated fats, and carbohydrates. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the healthiest nuts to have on hand:
- Cashews: This nut is very popular among vegetarians and vegans, as cashew paste is often used in place of cheese as a dairy-free alternative, but… Does it have any nutritional benefits? Of course, it does! Cashews have more iron than any other nut — which is ideal if you’re an anemia-prone person —, are rich in healthy fats, are a good source of carbohydrates, and last but not least, high in protein. This makes them an excellent pre-workout snack and takes the number one spot at the top of our list for the healthiest nut.
- Almonds: There’s a reason why almonds get so much hype, and it’s not just because of their delicious sweet taste or addictive crunch. Their biggest draw is their impressive nutrient profile, which includes a good amount of heart-friendly monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, — a potent antioxidant that may prevent dementia —, protein, and essential amino acids. Some studies have even touched on the link between almonds and colorectal cancer prevention, so definitely add them to your diet.
- Peanuts: When we learned that peanuts are not a nut per se but technically a legume we were as surprised as you were reading this, but we’ll let them slide into this category just this once. In a nutshell (pun intended), they are a good source of protein — which can help you feel full — and contain many different vitamins such as folic acid, and minerals, such as magnesium. However, take it easy on peanut butter, it is high in calories and we know how addictive it can be.
- Macadamia nuts: Nicknamed the “Queen of Nuts”, macadamia nuts are very, very tasty, and very healthy as well. They are high in thiamin — a.k.a vitamin B1 —, manganese, low in carbohydrates, and like almonds, contain good amounts of healthy monounsaturated fat. They also offer cardiovascular benefits such as lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, a feature that is always welcome.
- Pistachios: As a snack to replenish energy between meals, after a workout, or to calm anxiety, in-shell pistachios are unmatched — unless you don’t like them. They’re full of flavor, and the health benefits they offer don’t slip through the cracks: Compared to most other nuts, pistachios contain the highest amount of potassium, are rich in antioxidants, and have good doses of phytosterols, which supports cardiovascular health making it one of the healthiest foods you can eat.
- Walnuts: You know those anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids you keep hearing so much about? Well, walnuts have more of them than any other nut, which is reason alone to fill a jar with them and grab a handful every time you want a quick healthy snack. Plus, they’re not lacking in other nutrients either: thanks to the presence of Vitamin E in their composition, walnuts help the skin of the face.
- Pecans: Pecans aren’t just for brownies or cakes. Among the benefits of this creamy nut is that it helps reduce the risks of cardiovascular diseases, circulation problems, and atherosclerosis due to its high content of oleic acids, which are good for our overall health. They are also rich in fiber, so their daily intake can help prevent stomach problems such as constipation.
what is the healthiest bean?: Top 7 Beans To Eat
Yes, we know that beans don’t have the inherent deliciousness of a banana or the addictive crunch of a handful of peanuts, but if you want to have a truly balanced and healthy diet, they can’t be missing from your table. Although they don’t have the same amount of protein per gram as animal protein, legumes are still a good source of protein, and to top it off, they are easy to cook, versatile, and loaded with antioxidants giving them a rightful spot in our healthiest foods list. Are you convinced to give them a shot yet? Then it’s time to discuss some of the healthiest beans and their multiple benefits:
- Chickpeas: All beans are healthy beans, but chickpeas are on a whole other level. Along with soybeans — which we’ll talk about later on —, they are the only legume that has what is known as “complete proteins“, which include all 9 essential amino acids needed in any diet. Which is why it landed the number one spot on our healthiest food lists for beans. But what is the best thing about chickpeas? They can be enjoyed in a thousand ways including soups, ceviches, and even hummus.
- Lentils: Lentils are a protein and nutrient powerhouse. They are a very good source of iron, folic acid, and potassium — essential minerals for the correct functioning of the nervous system and to prevent anemia —, and they stand out in the fiber department, strengthening digestion and intestinal transit. Maybe that last benefit will make you think the cliché “oh no, I’ll turn into a flatulence machine,” but dismiss that thought — their benefits just can’t be missed.
- Black beans: A favorite of recipes in Central and South America, black beans may become your favorite bean too, if you have the time to soak them overnight to soften them and release their full potential. They are a great addition to your diet because they are high in soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol and therefore reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Soybeans: Like chickpeas, soybeans are an important source of good quality protein with indispensable amino acids. In addition, they have good levels of fatty acids, vitamin E, fiber, and phytoestrogens, a type of plant estrogen that is recommended during menopause. Plus, a few studies have shown that soy may prevent age-related memory loss, so if you have relatives at home who are already reaching their golden years, consider getting this bean.
- Kidney beans: If you’ve ever had chili con carne in your life, you’ve probably noticed that kidney beans are absolutely delicious, but that’s not their only plus point. They are also gifted in the nutrient department — they are potassium rockstars, are high in vitamins B1 and K, may help reduce body weight and fat mass, and best of all, they are very cheap!
- Peas: Green peas may be small, but they sure are mighty. One of their main benefits is that they are rich in protein and fiber, provide carbohydrates, and have no saturated fats. But wait, there’s more: peas are one of the richest beans in vitamin C and beta-carotene, fundamental in the development of the immune system. So start eating your peas and and enjoy the health benefits that come along with it.
- Black-eyed peas: Hit it Fergie! Last but neat least on our healthies beans list are black-eyed peas. These nutritional dark horses are usually associated with southern cuisine, but really should be cooked in every U.S. state as they are a great source of micronutrients such as iron, thiamine, and folate. They are also high in a specific micronutrient called polyphenols, which act as antioxidants in the organism to prevent cell damage and prevent chronic diseases.
P.S: Before we get to the end of the top, we just wanted to remind you that with a bit of effort, any meal can be delicious. If you’re not a fan of beans but love chicken, you can make a chicken and chickpea soup for a yummy blend of flavors while adding legumes to your diet. Or if, for example, you hate sardines with all your heart but want to benefit from their nutrients, you can make a Greek salad with sardines that also features several ingredients from this top. You can always give a nice twist to any ingredient, there’s no excuse for eating unhealthy!
what is the healthiest grain?: Top 7 Grains To Eat
Up until a few years ago, grains were considered the he-who-must-not-be-named of healthy eating, but thankfully, that changed with the popularization of whole grains and the unveiling of the downside of refined grains. Nowadays, whole grains fit into almost any diet seamlessly — we’re sure you’ve seen hundreds of photos of avocado toasts on your Instagram feed, which are usually made with whole-grain bread —, as they can help prevent diabetes, lower heart disease, and even reduce high triglyceride levels. If you have a hard time searching and finding what are the healthiest grains since there are so many types and varieties in stores, here are the best ones you should have in your pantry:
- Whole oats: Pure oats are one of the healthiest grains that exist. Aside from being packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, they are also naturally gluten-free and a great source of beta-glucans, a type of soluble fiber that helps with digestion, the absorption of nutrients and keeps cholesterol in check. In addition, oats are rich in antioxidants such as avenanthramide, which helps reduce the risk of colon cancer and lower blood pressure.
- Buckwheat: This gluten-free whole grain is filled with nutrients, period. It contains B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, iron, and fiber, and even has antioxidants that are related to the prevention of heart disease. If this wasn’t good enough, buckwheat’s husk is a great source of resistant starch, a type of fiber that can improve digestive health.
- Quinoa: You’ve probably seen many beauty gurus on TikTok promoting this South American grain as a nourishing ally for beautiful and healthy hair, and while this is true, it’s also very nutritious for your organism in general. This healthy grain is a source of complete protein, making it a great option for vegetarians and vegans, and it’s essentially packed with more vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fiber than other popular grains.
- Brown Rice: Brown rice is famous for being a healthier alternative to white rice, and that’s because it’s a whole grain. This means that it contains the entire grain including the bran, germ, and endosperm, meanwhile, white rice doesn’t have the bran nor the germ. Brown rice overall is a great source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Brown rice is definitley on the list of one of the healthiest grains and foods you can eat!
- Bulgur Wheat: Bulgur wheat, better known as cracked wheat, is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisine and is mostly known for being an important ingredient in tabbouleh, but this grain is so good because it’s a great source of fiber and does your heart and digestive health a solid. Additionally, higher intakes of bulgur have shown to lead to less inflammation.
- Amaranth: This little gluten-free whole grain contains good protein levels in ranges from 14% to 15%, higher than buckwheat for example, but that’s not it — it also has phytochemicals, which can lower the risk of the oxidative stress related diseases, and has big, and we mean BIG amounts of magnesium.
- Farro: Rounding out our list of the healthiest grains is farro. Also known as emmer, this nutty-flavored grain is very well-known in Italy and the Mediterranean region for its high levels of protein and fiber. It can be prepared in salads, soups or with some cups of rice, but no matter how you prepare it, it will always give you an excellent amount of magnesium, zinc and some B vitamins.
When it comes to the healthiest foods you’ll find there’s more than one!
So, what is the healthiest food out there? Many! As you can see, there aren’t just one or two foods that are the healthiest in the whole world, rather there are a vast number of foods that are not only super healthy but reaaaally tasty. Mind you, if you pair them with other foods.
Eating lentils every day will not improve your health — quite the opposite —, and eating handfuls of almonds every night won’t either, but if you combine the foods mentioned above in a balanced diet, your body will definitely appreciate it. In addition, you won’t have trouble finding any of them, since you can easily buy them in your nearest grocery store.
The bottom line, there are no miracle foods. There are highly nutritious foods that, when combined correctly, become — almost — miraculous. So just save this post, write down some foods, and add them to your diet! You’ll notice the change. Oh, and we almost forgot: feel free to spoil yourself once in a while. Sometimes it’s nice to eat a couple of Starbursts without feeling guilty about it ;).