Simply adding these foods to your daily routine, says Teresa Fung, is a great way to boost your health.
Navigating the massive maze of nutrition advice that has descended upon us over the last few decades feels pretty much like a fool's errand. "Truths" are proved wrong over time, concurrent studies contradict each other, and the pure volume of guidance is enough to make one's head spin.
It really shouldn't be so hard to know what to eat ... but we're been bombarded with so much insipid food that's either been stripped of its nutrients or never had any in the first place, that eating well can take some effort. In general, I subscribe to eating the whole foods of a Mediterranean-style diet – mostly plants, healthy fats, limited sugar and processed items, etc. But to simplify things even more, I like this idea offered by Kelly Bilodeau, Executive Editor of Harvard Women's Health Watch, who notes that, "sometimes making better decisions for your body can be about adding – not taking away. This may create a more palatable option for those looking for a health boost that feels like a bonus, not a burden."
With that in mind, she asked asked Teresa Fung, adjunct professor in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, for advice on "what foods pack the biggest nutritional punch to a daily diet." Fung offers five options that she recommends eating daily, or as frequently as possible. (And in some cases I'm including sensible substitutes because variety matters too.)
BlueberriesIt's no secret that blueberries are super, especially given that they are one of the all-time superstars of the superfoods family. Fung explains that they are high in antioxidants, particularly vitamin C, as well as vitamin A and fiber. Other dark-colored fruit – like pomegranates or cherries – are good too. If you don't have access to a fresh supply of local dark fruits; buy them frozen and add to smoothies (instead of ice!), oatmeal, yogurt, etc.
See more: Blueberries could help fight Alzheimer's
Brussels sproutsBrussels sprouts have had a roller-coaster ride, from most disdained vegetable ever to hipster darling ... though some of us have loved these underdogs forever. Fung recommends them for providing a parade of vitamins, including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and folate. "Like other cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts feature bioactive compounds, such as antioxidants, which are chemicals that help prevent cell damage inside your body," Fung explains. If you have had bad experiences with Brussels sprouts thank to over-exuberant boiling, try them again with a kinder cooking method, like sliced thinly into coins and sauteed with garlic and olive oil, or oven-roasted whole to the point of crispiness. And if can't handle Brussels sprouts everyday (which is asking a lot, even for those of us who are most devoted) go with other cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, or cabbage.
NutsNuts are in high in calories, but that doesn't mean they should be avoided, because they are also high in healthy oils, protein, and vitamin E. Fung says to select any type of nuts: almonds, walnuts, even peanuts (technically a legume), or mixed nuts.
Plain yogurtYogurt is beloved for its probiotics, the advantageous bacteria that help keep your gut happy and boost overall health; it also comes with protein, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B12, and some key fatty acids. Vegans can opt for probiotic-rich alternative milk yogurts. The one thing to avoid is flavored yogurts that are rife with added sugar. This can be hard to know because food labels don't always differentiate between added sugars and natural ones, like the lactose in a dairy product. If you compare the labels of a plain yogurt and a flavored yogurt of the same brand, look to see the difference in sugars to get an idea of how much has been added to the flavored one.
SalmonBilodeau and Fung admit that eating salmon everyday might be a stretch, but note that eating it at least once a week is still a good idea for its protein and omega-3 fatty acids, "which benefit both your heart and your brain," as well as vitamin D. Of course, eating fish sustainably adds a whole other complication to this scenario, and the whole endeavor becomes impossible for anyone dedicated to a plant-based diet. While plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids don't contain the same set of acids that animals provide, you can still get healthy doses from chia seeds, flax seeds, hemo seeds, and walnuts, among others.
See more: 7 super seeds to add to your diet.