Eating healthy does not have to be boring. There are massive amounts of food that are both healthy and tasty.
Here are the 50 healthiest foods on Earth. Most of them are surprisingly delicious.
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1-6: Fruits and Berries
Fruits and berries are among the world’s most popular health foods.
This is not surprising, given that they taste incredible. Fruits are also very easy to incorporate into the diet, because they require little to no preparation.
The apple is high in fiber, vitamin C and numerous antioxidants. Apples are very fulfilling, and perfect as snacks if you find yourself hungry between meals.
Avocados are different than most fruits, because they are loaded with healthy fats instead of carbs. They are creamy, tasty and high in fiber, potassium and vitamin C.
Bananas are among the world’s best sources of potassium. They are also high in vitamin B6 and fiber. Bananas are ridiculously convenient and portable.
Blueberries are not only delicious, but also among the most powerful sources of antioxidants in the world.
Oranges are well known for their vitamin C content. They are also high in fiber, antioxidants and taste incredible.
They are loaded with vitamin C, fiber and manganese, and are arguably among the most delicious foods in existence.
Other Healthy Fruits
There are many other healthy fruits and berries that aren’t listed here.
Some examples: Cherries, grapes, grapefruit, kiwi, lemons, mango, melons, olives, peaches, pears, pineapples, plums and raspberries.
Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the planet.
It is a myth that meat is harmful. Unprocessed, gently cooked meat is one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods you can eat.
8. Lean Beef
Lean beef is among the best sources of protein in existence, and loaded with highly bioavailable iron. Choosing the fatty cuts is fine if you’re on a low carb diet.
9. Chicken Breasts
Chicken breast is low in fat and calories, but extremely high in protein. It is a great source of many nutrients. Again, feel free to eat fattier cuts of chicken if you’re not eating that many carbs.
Lambs are usually grass-fed, and their meat tends to be high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
11-16: Nuts, Seeds and Peanuts
These foods are crunchy, fulfilling and loaded with important nutrients that many people don’t get enough of, including magnesium and vitamin E.
They also require zero preparation, which is important because it makes it easier to incorporate them into the diet.
The almond is a popular type of nut. It is loaded with vitamin E, antioxidants, magnesium and fiber. Studies show that almonds can help you lose weight, and provide impressive benefits for metabolic health (5).
12. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are among the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. A single ounce (28 grams) contains 11 grams of fiber, and a large part of the recommended intake for magnesium, manganese, calcium and various other nutrients.
Coconuts are loaded with fiber and powerful fatty acids called medium-chain triglycerides.
14. Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts are very tasty. They are much higher in monounsaturated fats, and lower in Omega-6 fatty acids, than most other nuts.
Walnuts are highly nutritious and loaded with fiber and all sorts of vitamins and minerals.
However, take it easy on the peanut butter. It is very high in calories and incredibly easy to eat excessive amounts of it.
Calorie for calorie, vegetables are among the world’s most concentrated sources of nutrients.
There is a wide variety available, and it is best to eat many different types of vegetables every day.
Asparagus is a popular vegetable. It is low in both carbs and calories, but loaded with vitamin K.
18. Bell Peppers
Bell peppers come in several colors, including red, yellow and green. They are crunchy and taste very sweet, and are a great source of antioxidants and vitamin C.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that tastes great both raw and cooked. It is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin K and vitamin C, and contains a decent amount of protein compared to other vegetables.
The carrot is a popular root vegetable. It is extremely tasty and crunchy, and loaded with nutrients like fiber and vitamin K. Carrots are also very high in carotene antioxidants, which have numerous benefits.
Cauliflower is a very versatile cruciferous vegetable. It can be used to make all sorts of healthy recipes, and also tastes pretty good on its own.
The cucumber is one of the world’s most popular vegetables. It is very low in both carbs and calories, and consists mostly of water. However, it does contain a number of nutrients in small amounts, including vitamin K.
Kale has been very popular in recent years, for good reason. It is incredibly high in vitamin K, vitamin C, fiber and a number of other nutrients. It is perfect to add a satisfying crunch to salads and recipes.
Onions have a very strong flavor, and are very popular for use in recipes. They contain a number of bioactive compounds believed to have health benefits.
Tomatoes are usually categorized as a vegetable, although they are technically a fruit. They are tasty and loaded with nutrients like potassium and vitamin C.
More Healthy Vegetables
These weren’t listed, but are also very healthy: Artichokes, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, eggplant, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, radishes, squash, swiss chard, turnips, zucchini.
27-32: Fish and Seafood
Fish and other seafoods tend to be very healthy and nutritious.
They are especially rich in in omega-3 fatty acids and iodine, two nutrients that most people don’t get enough of.
Studies show that people who eat the most foods from the sea (especially fish) tend to live longer and have a lower risk of many diseases, including heart disease, dementia and depression (9, 10, 11).
Salmon is a type of oily fish that is incredibly popular due to its excellent taste and high amount of nutrients, including protein and Omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains some vitamin D.
Sardines are small, oily fish that are among the most nutritious foods you can eat. They contain hefty amounts of the majority of nutrients required by the human body.
Shellfish isn’t eaten very often, which is a shame because it contains more nutrients than almost every other food. It ranks similar to organ meats when it comes to nutrient density. Edible shellfish includes clams, mollusks and oysters.
Shrimp is a type of animal found in the sea. It tends to be low in fat and calories, but high in protein. It is also loaded with various other nutrients, including selenium and vitamin B12.
Trout is another type of delicious oily fish, similar to salmon.
Tuna is very popular in Western countries, and tends to be low in fat and calories, but high in protein. It is perfect people who need to add more protein to their diets, while keeping calories low.
Grains have gotten a bad rap in recent years, mainly due to them being a forbidden food on the wildly popular paleo diet.
However, it is a mistake to lump all grains together. There are many different types of grains, and some of them are very healthy.
Just keep in mind that they are still pretty high in carbs, so they are not recommended on a low carb diet.
33. Brown Rice
Rice is one of the oldest cereal grains, and is currently a staple food for more than half of people in the world. Brown (whole grain) rice is fairly nutritious, with a decent amount of fiber, vitamin B1 and magnesium.
Oats are incredibly healthy. They are loaded with nutrients, and also contain powerful fibers called beta-glucans, shown to have numerous benefits.
Quinoa has become incredibly popular among health conscious individuals in recent years. It is a tasty grain that is high in nutrients like fiber and magnesium. It is also an excellent source of plant-based protein.
Most people eat a lot of bread.
For those who are trying to adopt a healthier diet for the first time, it can be extremely challenging to find something to eat instead of bread.
Fortunately, there are several healthy (or at least “less bad”) options available.
36. Ezekiel Bread
Ezekiel bread may be the healthiest bread you can buy at the store. It is made from organic, sprouted whole grains, and also contains several types of legumes.
37. Homemade low-carb breads
The safest choice for healthy bread is something that you make yourself. Here is a list of 15 recipes for healthy breads that are gluten-free and low in carbs.
Legumes are another food group that has been unfairly demonized in recent years.
It is true that legumes contain anti-nutrients, substances that can interfere with digestion and absorption of nutrients.
However, these anti-nutrients can be eliminated by soaking and properly preparing the legumes before eating them (12).
What we’re left with is an incredibly cheap source of quality nutrition, including a great plant-based source of protein.
38. Green beans
Green beans, also called string beans, are unripe varieties of the common bean. They are very popular in Western countries.
39. Kidney beans
Kidney beans are loaded with various vitamins and minerals, and are very high in fiber. Just make sure to cook them properly, because they are toxic when raw.
Lentils are another popular legume. They are high in fiber and are among the best sources of plant-based protein. Lentils also taste delicious, and have a very satisfying texture.
Many people can’t tolerate dairy products.
However, for people who do tolerate them, they are a healthy source of various important nutrients.
If the dairy comes from grass-fed cows, then that may be even better, as it is higher in some bioactive fatty acids like CLA.
Cheese is incredibly nutritious, and a single slice of it contains about the same nutrients as an entire cup of milk. It is also one of the most delicious foods you can eat.
42. Whole milk
Whole milk is very high in vitamins, minerals, quality animal protein and healthy fats. It is one of the best sources of calcium.
Yogurt is made from milk that is fermented by adding live bacteria to it. It has many of the same health effects as milk, except with the added benefits of the friendly probiotic bacteria.
44-46: Fats and Oils
The “war” on fat is lost, and many fats and oils have been making a comeback as health foods.
44. Butter from grass-fed cows
45. Coconut Oil
46. Extra virgin olive oil
Tubers are the storage organs of some plants. They tend to contain a number of beneficial nutrients.
Potatoes are a very popular food around the world. They are loaded with potassium, and contain a little bit of almost every nutrient we need, including vitamin C.
They are also incredibly fulfilling. One study found that boiled potatoes were by far the most filling of 38 foods that were tested (17).
48. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are among the most delicious starchy foods you can eat. They are loaded with antioxidants and all sorts of healthy nutrients.
49. Apple Cider Vinegar
It is great to use in salad dressings, and to add flavor to meals.
50. Dark Chocolate
Not only is dark chocolate the most delicious food on this list, but it may also be the healthiest.
Dark chocolate is loaded with fiber and magnesium, and is one of the most powerful sources of antioxidants in existence (20).
51. Anything Else?
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Feel free to leave a comment if you want to add to the list!
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By Ana Maldonado-Contreras
- Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that are vital for keeping you healthy.
- Some of these microbes help to regulate the immune system.
- New research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows the presence of certain bacteria in the gut may reveal which people are more vulnerable to a more severe case of COVID-19.
You may not know it, but you have an army of microbes living inside of you that are essential for fighting off threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.
How Do Resident Bacteria Keep You Healthy?<p>Our immune defense is part of a complex biological response against harmful pathogens, such as viruses or bacteria. However, because our bodies are inhabited by trillions of mostly beneficial bacteria, virus and fungi, activation of our immune response is tightly regulated to distinguish between harmful and helpful microbes.</p><p>Our bacteria are spectacular companions diligently helping prime our immune system defenses to combat infections. A seminal study found that mice treated with antibiotics that eliminate bacteria in the gut exhibited an impaired immune response. These animals had low counts of virus-fighting white blood cells, weak antibody responses and poor production of a protein that is vital for <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1019378108" target="_blank">combating viral infection and modulating the immune response</a>.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0184976" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In another study</a>, mice were fed <em>Lactobacillus</em> bacteria, commonly used as probiotic in fermented food. These microbes reduced the severity of influenza infection. The <em>Lactobacillus</em>-treated mice did not lose weight and had only mild lung damage compared with untreated mice. Similarly, others have found that treatment of mice with <em>Lactobacillus</em> protects against different <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/srep04638" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">subtypes of</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-17487-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">influenza</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008072" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">virus</a> and human respiratory syncytial virus – the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-39602-7" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">major cause of viral bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children</a>.</p>
Chronic Disease and Microbes<p>Patients with chronic illnesses including Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease exhibit a hyperactive immune system that fails to recognize a harmless stimulus and is linked to an altered gut microbiome.</p><p>In these chronic diseases, the gut microbiome lacks bacteria that activate <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1198469" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">immune cells</a> that block the response against harmless bacteria in our guts. Such alteration of the gut microbiome is also observed in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1002601107" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">babies delivered by cesarean section</a>, individuals consuming a poor <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12820" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">diet</a> and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11053" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elderly</a>.</p><p>In the U.S., 117 million individuals – about half the adult population – <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">suffer from Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease or a combination of them</a>. That suggests that half of American adults carry a faulty microbiome army.</p><p>Research in my laboratory focuses on identifying gut bacteria that are critical for creating a balanced immune system, which fights life-threatening bacterial and viral infections, while tolerating the beneficial bacteria in and on us.</p><p>Given that diet affects the diversity of bacteria in the gut, <a href="https://www.umassmed.edu/nutrition/melody-trial-info/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">my lab studies show how diet can be used</a> as a therapy for chronic diseases. Using different foods, people can shift their gut microbiome to one that boosts a healthy immune response.</p><p>A fraction of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, develop severe complications that require hospitalization in intensive care units. What do many of those patients have in common? <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912e2.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Old age</a> and chronic diet-related diseases like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.</p><p><a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2008.12.019" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Black and Latinx people are disproportionately affected by obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease</a>, all of which are linked to poor nutrition. Thus, it is not a coincidence that <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6933e1.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these groups have suffered more deaths from COVID-19</a> compared with whites. This is the case not only in the U.S. but also <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/blacks-in-britain-are-four-times-as-likely-to-die-of-coronavirus-as-whites-data-show/2020/05/07/2dc76710-9067-11ea-9322-a29e75effc93_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in Britain</a>.</p>
Discovering Microbes That Predict COVID-19 Severity<p>The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired me to shift my research and explore the role of the gut microbiome in the overly aggressive immune response against SARS-CoV-2 infection.</p><p>My colleagues and I have hypothesized that critically ill SARS-CoV-2 patients with conditions like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease exhibit an altered gut microbiome that aggravates <a href="https://theconversation.com/exercise-may-help-reduce-risk-of-deadly-covid-19-complication-ards-136922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">acute respiratory distress syndrome</a>.</p><p>Acute respiratory distress syndrome, a life-threatening lung injury, in SARS-CoV-2 patients is thought to develop from a <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cytogfr.2020.05.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fatal overreaction of the immune response</a> called a <a href="https://theconversation.com/blocking-the-deadly-cytokine-storm-is-a-vital-weapon-for-treating-covid-19-137690" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cytokine storm</a> <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30216-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">that causes an uncontrolled flood</a> <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30216-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">of immune cells into the lungs</a>. In these patients, their own uncontrolled inflammatory immune response, rather than the virus itself, causes the <a href="http://doi.org/10.1007/s00134-020-05991-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">severe lung injury and multiorgan failures</a> that lead to death.</p><p>Several studies <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trsl.2020.08.004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">described in one recent review</a> have identified an altered gut microbiome in patients with COVID-19. However, identification of specific bacteria within the microbiome that could predict COVID-19 severity is lacking.</p><p>To address this question, my colleagues and I recruited COVID-19 hospitalized patients with severe and moderate symptoms. We collected stool and saliva samples to determine whether bacteria within the gut and oral microbiome could predict COVID-19 severity. The identification of microbiome markers that can predict the clinical outcomes of COVID-19 disease is key to help prioritize patients needing urgent treatment.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.01.05.20249061" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">We demonstrated</a>, in a paper which has not yet been peer reviewed, that the composition of the gut microbiome is the strongest predictor of COVID-19 severity compared to patient's clinical characteristics commonly used to do so. Specifically, we identified that the presence of a bacterium in the stool – called <em>Enterococcus faecalis</em>– was a robust predictor of COVID-19 severity. Not surprisingly, <em>Enterococcus faecalis</em> has been associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2011.05.035" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">chronic</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-9440(10)61172-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inflammation</a>.</p><p><em>Enterococcus faecalis</em> collected from feces can be grown outside of the body in clinical laboratories. Thus, an <em>E. faecalis</em> test might be a cost-effective, rapid and relatively easy way to identify patients who are likely to require more supportive care and therapeutic interventions to improve their chances of survival.</p><p>But it is not yet clear from our research what is the contribution of the altered microbiome in the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. A recent study has shown that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.12.11.416180" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers an imbalance in immune cells</a> called <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/imr.12170" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">T regulatory cells that are critical to immune balance</a>.</p><p>Bacteria from the gut microbiome are responsible for the <a href="https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.30916.001" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">proper activation</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1198469" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">of those T-regulatory</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nri.2016.36" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cells</a>. Thus, researchers like me need to take repeated patient stool, saliva and blood samples over a longer time frame to learn how the altered microbiome observed in COVID-19 patients can modulate COVID-19 disease severity, perhaps by altering the development of the T-regulatory cells.</p><p>As a Latina scientist investigating interactions between diet, microbiome and immunity, I must stress the importance of better policies to improve access to healthy foods, which lead to a healthier microbiome. It is also important to design culturally sensitive dietary interventions for Black and Latinx communities. While a good-quality diet might not prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, it can treat the underlying conditions related to its severity.</p><p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ana-maldonado-contreras-1152969" target="_blank">Ana Maldonado-Contreras</a> is an assistant professor of Microbiology and Physiological Systems at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.</em></p><p><em>Disclosure statement: Ana Maldonado-Contreras receives funding from The Helmsley Charitable Trust and her work has been supported by the American Gastroenterological Association. She received The Charles A. King Trust Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. She is also member of the Diversity Committee of the American Gastroenterological Association.</em></p><p><em style="">Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-healthy-microbiome-builds-a-strong-immune-system-that-could-help-defeat-covid-19-145668" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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