50 Healthy Foods/Healthy Meals/Healthy Snacks You Should Eat to Make You Healthier
Every time you walk into a supermarket, you face a YOLO moment: You Only Live Once. So how do you intend to play it? Do you want to seize excellence—grab the absolute best that life has to offer and take a deep bite, and be on your way to rapid weight loss? Or are you going to settle for something less?
The choice is the most important one you can make. Great food means not just great eating—it can mean a rockin’ body, perfect health and even a sharper brain. And toss some extra money in there, too: A study at the University of Florida found that for American women, gaining 25 pounds results in an average salary differential of $15,572. Eat the best food, and you’ll live the best life.
The next time you drop by the market or order up a food delivery, make sure your grocery list contains as many of these healthy foods as possible. We have crunched the nutritional numbers on every single food known to man to find you the 50 Healthy foods you should try—the highest in protein, with the best healthy diet, fats, vitamins and minerals. Each will lead to your healthiest and happiest life.
Let’s get started.
Green tea literally blasts away flab! Researchers attribute the fat-burning properties of green tea to catechins, specifically EGCG — the name of a group of antioxidative compounds that blast adipose tissue by revving the metabolism, increasing the release of fat from fat cells (particularly in the belly), and then speeding up the liver’s fat burning capacity.
Research suggests that combining regular green-tea drinking with exercise may maximize the weight loss benefits. In one study, participants who combined a daily habit of 4-5 cups of green tea with a 25-minute workout lost 2 more pounds than the non-tea-drinking exercisers. Surely green tea should be included in your healthy diet menu everyday.
Italian researchers found that drinking a cup of black tea per day improves cardiovascular function—and the more cups you drink, the more you benefit! Better cardiovascular function means you can breeze through that 5K you signed up for. And a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that drinking 20 ounces of black tea daily causes the body to secrete five times more interferon, a key element of your body’s infection-protection arsenal.
Rooibos tea is made from the leaves of the “red bush” plant, grown exclusively in the small Cederberg region of South Africa, near Cape Town. What makes rooibos tea particularly good for your belly is a unique and powerful flavonoid called Aspalathin. According to South African researchers, polyphenols and flavonoids found in the plant inhibits adipogenesis–the formation of new fat cells–by as much as 22 percent. The chemicals also help aid fat metabolism. Plus, Rooibos is naturally sweet, so you won’t need to add sugar. It’s also not technically a tea—it’s an herbal infusion.
Another star of The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse, this fermented Chinese tea can literally shrink the size of your fat cells! To discover the brew’s fat-crusading powers Chinese researchers divided rats into five groups and fed them varying diets over a two month period. In addition to a control group, there was a group given a high-fat diet with no tea supplementation and three additional groups that were fed a high-fat diet with varying doses of pu-erh tea extract. The researchers found that the tea significantly lowered triglyceride concentrations (potentially dangerous fat found in the blood) and belly fat in the high-fat diet groups. Lose up to 10 pounds, like our test panelists, on The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse!
Protein Payout: 1 cup (cooked), 41 calories, 5 grams of protein
Popeye’s favorite veggie is a great source of not only protein, but also vitamins A and C, antioxidants and heart-healthy folate. One cup of the green superfood has nearly as much protein as a hard-boiled egg—for half the calories. Looking to get the biggest nutritional bang for your buck? Be sure to steam your spinach instead of eating it raw. This cooking method helps retain vitamins and makes it easier for the body to absorb the green’s calcium content. Add a handful to soups, omelets, pasta dishes and veggie stir-fries, or simply steam it and top with pepper, garlic, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
Sun dried tomatoes
Protein Payout: 1 cup, 139 calories, 6 g protein
Tomatoes are packed with the antioxidant lycopene, which studies show can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers, as well as reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Just one cup of the sun-dried version will lend you 6 grams of satiating protein, 7 grams of fiber and ¾ of your RDA of potassium, which is essential for heart health and tissue repair. They’re also rich in vitamins A and K. Use them as a pizza topping, a tangy addition to salads, or snack on them right out of the bag.
Protein Payout: 1 medium vegetable, 60 calories, 4.2 g protein
Ghrelin is your body’s “I’m hungry” hormone, which is suppressed when your stomach is full, so eating satiating high-fiber and high-protein foods is a no-brainer. The humble artichoke is a winner on both counts: It has almost twice as much fiber as kale (10.3 g per medium artichoke, or 40% of the daily fiber the average woman needs) and one of the highest protein counts among vegetables. Boil and eat the whole shebang as a self-contained salad (why not add a little goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes?),toss the leaves with your favorite greens and dressing, or peel and pop the hearts onto healthy pizzas and flatbreads and lose belly fat.
Protein Payout: 1 cup, 118 calories, 8 g protein
It’s enough to make Popeye do a spit take: Despite their wimpy reputation, a cup of green peas contains eight times the protein of a cup of spinach. And with almost 100% of your daily value of vitamin C in a single cup, they’ll help keep your immune system up to snuff. Layer them into a mason jar salad or add them to an omelet to boost eggs’ satiating power.
You may have heard that spicy hot peppers can help you scorch calories, but did you know that mild peppers can have the same effect? Thanks to a metabolism-boosting compound, dihydrocapsiate, and their high vitamin-C content, sweet red and green peppers can help you lose weight. A cup of these bell-shaped veggies serves up to three times the day’s recommended vitamin C—a nutrient that counteracts stress hormones which trigger fat storage around the midsection.
Pickles are low-cal, filled with fiber and covered in vinegar—which is all good news for your waistline. In fact, just one large pickle has 15 calories and 2 grams of belly-filling fiber, so eating three or four can actually leave you feeling pretty satiated for less than 100 calories! Every dieter knows that eating filling snacks are paramount to weight-loss success, but how does the vinegar help the fat-fighting cause?
Studies show acidic foods help increase the rate at which the body burns off carbs by up to 40 percent—and the faster you burn off carbs, the sooner your body starts incinerating fat, which can help you get that lean look you crave. Add these tangy, pickled cucumbers to sandwiches and burgers or munch on them solo to start feeling more confident in your skivvies.
In addition to warding off prostate, breast, lung and skin cancers, this flowery vegetable can also help you whittle your middle. According to experts, broccoli contains a phytonutrient called sulforaphane that increase testosterone and fights off body fat storage. It’s also rich in vitamin C ( a mere cup of the stuff can help you hit your daily mark), a nutrient that can lower levels of cortisol during stressful situations, helping those abs take center stage. The only downside? It can make some people with sensitive stomachs a bit gassy—which isn’t a good look if you’re planning to hit the beach or rock a tight-fitting outfit. That’s no reason to steer clear of this veggie on a day-to-day basis, though.
If you typically eat your potatoes warm out of the oven, you’re missing out on the spud’s fat-fighting superpowers. When you throw potatoes in the refrigerator and eat them cold, their digestible starches turn into resistant starches through a process called retrogradation. As the name implies, resistant starch, well, resists digestion, which promotes fat oxidation and reduces abdominal fat.
Since eating cold baked potatoes doesn’t sound too appetizing, why not use the cooled spuds to make a potato salad instead? Here’s how: Bake red potatoes in the oven until they’re cooked through and allow them to fully cool. Then, cut them into small slices and dress them with Dijon mustard, fresh pepper, chopped green onions (more on this veggie next), dill and plain Greek yogurt. Mix everything together and put in the refrigerator to cool before consuming.
Onions are rich in quercetin, a flavonoid that increase blood flow and activates a protein in the body that helps regulate glucose levels, torches stored fat and keeps new fat cells from forming. Not to mention, onions are basically the unsung hero of cardiovascular health—an important area of wellness for everyone, but especially those who hit the gym hard to accelerate their weight-loss efforts. The culinary staple can help lower cholesterol, ward off hardening of the arteries and help maintain healthy blood-pressure levels. The best part? Onions are super low-cal and easy to throw into just about anything, from soups, homemade burgers, sandwiches and tacos to pastas, salads, veggie sides, rice and omelets.
Known as the “chocolate pudding fruit,” black sapote tastes like … chocolate pudding. No wonder it’s an Eat This, Not That! favorite! Deceptively rich and creamy, a 100-gram serving has 130 calories and 191 mg of vitamin C, or twice that of an orange. (That’s a mic drop, chocolate pudding.) A study published in Food Research International found black sapote to be a good source of carotenoids and catechins, which spur the release of fat from fat cells and helps the liver convert fat into energy.
Ruby Red Grapefruit
A study printed in the journal Metabolism found the eating half a grapefruit before meals may help reduce visceral (belly) fat and lower cholesterol levels. Participants of the six-week study who ate grapefruit with every meal saw their waists shrink by up to an inch! Researchers attribute the effects to a combination of phytochemicals and vitamin C in the grapefruit. Consider having half of a grapefruit before your morning oatmeal, and slicing a few segments to a starter salad.
Tart cherries have been shown to benefit heart health as well as body weight, in a study on obese rats. A 12-week study by the University of Michigan found that rats fed antioxidant-rich tart cherries showed a 9 percent belly fat reduction over rats fed a “Western diet.” Moreover, the researchers noted that the cherry consumption had profound ability to alter the expression of fat genes.
Berries—raspberries, strawberries, blueberries—are packed with polyphenols, powerful natural chemicals that can help you lose weight–and even stop fat from forming! In a recent Texas Woman’s University study, researchers found that feeding mice three daily servings of berries, decreased the formation of fat cells by up to 73 percent! A University of Michigan study showed similar results. Rats who had blueberry powder mixed into their meals had less abdominal fat at the end of the 90-day study than rats on a berry-free diet.
Pink Lady Apples
Apples are one of the very best fruit-sources of fiber, which studies have proven to be integral to reducing visceral fat. A recent study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. Additionally, increased moderate activity (30 of sweating, 2-4 times a week) resulted in a 7.4 percent decrease in the rate of visceral fat accumulation over the same time period. A study conducted at the University of Western Australia found that the Pink Lady variety had the highest level of antioxidant flavonoids.
Watermelon sometimes gets a bad rap for being high in sugar, but the fruit has some impressive health benefits. Research conducted at the University of Kentucky showed that eating watermelon may improve lipid profiles and lower fat accumulation. Better yet, a study among athletes by the Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena in Spain found watermelon juice to help reduce the level of muscle soreness.
The humble fruit—botanically, actually a berry!—is perhaps the least-heralded supermarket staple, a superfood more associated with kids, monkeys and slapstick comedy than with steel-cut abs. But its powers are proven, and to investigate just how impactful they can be, Eat This, Not That! consulted our team of nutritionists to determine exactly what eating one banana does to your body. (Cool pro tip: The riper the banana the more nutrients it has!)
Although the chicken breast is the gold standard of healthy grilling that can aid weight loss—low fat, high protein—the key to any successful eating plan is variety, and research indicates that you now have options. While you still want to steer away from traditional supermarket ground chuck, there are ways to enjoy a beef burger knowing you’re doing right by your waistline. And you can open up your grill to more creative choices, too—all packed with nutrients and protein that’ll keep your fitness goals on track without sacrificing flavor.
Protein Payout: 4 oz strip steak, 133 calories, 26 g protein
When it comes to steak or burgers, go grass-fed. It may ding your wallet, but it’ll dent your abs. Grass-fed beef is naturally leaner and has fewer calories than conventional meat: A lean seven-ounce conventional strip steak has 386 calories and 16 grams of fat. But a seven-ounce grass-fed strip steak has only 234 calories and five grams of fat. Grass-fed meat also contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, according to a study published in Nutrition Journal, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Protein Payout: 4 oz, 166 calories, 23 g of protein
While grass-fed beef is an excellent choice, bison’s profile has been rising in recent years, and for good reason: It has half the fat of and fewer calories than red meat. According to the USDA, while a 90%-lean hamburger may average 10 grams of fat, a comparatively sized buffalo burger rings in at two grams of fat with 24 grams of protein, making it one of the leanest meats around.
But wait, taking a chance on this unexpected meat will earn you two healthy bonuses: In just one serving you’ll get a full day’s allowance of vitamin B-12, which has been shown to boost energy and help shut down the genes responsible for insulin resistance and the formation of fat cells; additionally, since bison are naturally grass-fed, you can confidently down your burger knowing it’s free of the hormones and pollutants than can manifest themselves in your belly fat.
Protein Payout: 4 oz patty, 194 calories, 29 g protein
Lower that eyebrow you’re raising. Ostrich meat is the rising star of the grill. While it’s technically red and has the rich taste of beef, it has less fat than turkey or chicken. A four-ounce patty contains nearly 30 grams of the muscle building nutrient and just six grams of fat. Plus, one serving has 200% of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin B-12. This exotic meat can also help whittle your middle: Ostrich contains 55 milligrams of choline, one of these essential nutrient for fat loss. And it’s not as hard to find as it sounds—ostrich is increasingly available in supermarkets around the country.
Protein Payout: 3 oz, 77 calories, 16 g protein
You already knew fish was rich in protein but you might be surprised to learn that halibut tops fiber-rich oatmeal and vegetables in the satiety department. The Satiety Index of Common Foods, an Australian study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ranks it the number two most filling food—bested only by boiled potatoes for its fullness factor.
A separate Australian study that compared the satiety of different animal proteins found a nutritionally similar white fish (flake) to be significantly more satiating than beef and chicken; satiety following the white-fish meal also declined at a much slower rate. Study authors attribute the filling factor of white fish like halibut to its impressive protein content and influence on serotonin, one of the key hormones responsible for appetite signals.
Protein Payout: 3 oz, 121 calories, 17 g protein
Don’t let salmon’s relatively high calorie and fat content fool you; studies suggest the oily fish may be one of the best for weight loss. (In fact, it makes our list of the fatty foods that will help you lose weight.) In one study, participants were divided into groups and assigned one of three equi-caloric weight loss diets that included no seafood (the control group), lean white fish, or salmon. Everyone lost weight, but the salmon eaters had the lowest fasting insulin levels and a marked reduction in inflammation.
Another study in the International Journal of Obesity found that eating three 5-ounce servings of salmon per week for four weeks as part of a low-calorie diet resulted in approximately 2.2 pounds more weight lost than following a equip-calorie diet that didn’t include fish. Wild salmon is leaner than farmed, which is plumped up on fishmeal; and it’s also proven to be significantly lower in cancer-linked PCBs.
Protein Payout: 3 oz, 73 calories, 16 g protein
Tuna or to-not? That is the question. As a primo source of protein and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), canned light tuna is one of the best and most affordable fish for weight loss, especially from your belly! One study in the Journal of Lipid Research showed that omega 3 fatty acid supplementation had the profound ability to turn off abdominal fat genes. And while you’ll find two types of fatty acids in cold water fish and fish oils—DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)—researchers say DHA can be 40 to 70 percent more effective than EPA at down regulating fat genes in the abdomen, preventing belly fat cells from expanding in size.
But what about the mercury? Mercury levels in tuna vary by species; generally speaking, the larger and leaner the fish, the higher the mercury level. Bluefin and albacore rank among the most toxic, according to a study in Biology Letters. But canned chunk light tuna, harvested from the smallest fish, is considered a “low mercury fish” and can–and should!–be enjoyed two to three times a week (or up to 12 ounces), according to the FDA’s most recent guidelines.
Protein Payout: 3 oz, 70 calories, 15 g protein
Fish and chips won’t help you lose weight, at least not out of the fryer. But research suggests a regular serving of Pacific cod, the fish that’s typical of fish sticks, may keep you stick thin. One study in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases found that eating five servings of cod per week as part of a low-calorie diet for eight weeks resulted in an extra 3.8 pounds of weight loss compared to a diet with the same amount of calories but no fish. Researchers attribute the satiating and slimming properties to cod’s high protein content and amino acid profile, which can help regulate the metabolism.
Protein Payout: 3 oz. cooked breast, 142 calories, 26 g protein
A 3 oz. cooked chicken breast contains only 142 calories and 3 grams of fat, but packs a whopping 26 grams of protein — more than half of the day’s recommended allowance. But the go-to protein can be a fail on the taste front. (Our casual poll on the taste of plain breast elicited answers ranging from “air you cut with a knife” to “wet sock.”) The good news: With just a little creativity, you can make it a savory post-gym dinner or an impressive date-night meal.
Protein Payout: 1 egg, 85 calories, 7 g protein
Eggs might just be the easiest, cheapest and most versatile way to up your protein intake. Beyond easily upping your daily protein count, each 85-calorie eggs packs a solid 7 grams of the muscle-builder! Eggs also boost your health: They’re loaded with amino acids, antioxidants and iron. Don’t just reach for the whites, though; the yolks boast a fat-fighting nutrient called choline, so opting for whole eggs can actually help you trim down.
When you’re shopping for eggs, pay attention to the labels. You should be buying organic, when possible. These are certified by the USDA and are free from antibiotics, vaccines and hormones. As for color, that’s your call. The difference in color just varies based on the type of chicken—they both have the same nutritional value, says Molly Morgan, RD, a board certified sports specialist dietician based in upstate New York.
Protein Payout: 2 tablespoons, 191 calories, 7 grams of protein
This creamy spread is downright addictive. While eating too much peanut butter can wreak havoc on your waistline, a standard two-tablespoon serving provides a solid dose of muscle-building protein and healthy fats. According to a 2014 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming peanuts can prevent both cardiovascular and coronary artery disease — the most common type of heart condition. Look for the unsalted, no sugar added varieties without hydrogenated oils to reap the most benefits. If you’re tired of plain old PB&J sandwiches, try stirring the spread into hot oatmeal, smearing it on fresh produce, or blending it into your post-workout smoothie.
Protein Payout: 1/2 cup, 109-148 calories, 7-10 grams of protein
Beans are good for more than just your heart. They’re loaded with proteins, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that can benefit your brain and muscles, too. Not to mention, they digest very slowly, which can help you feel fuller, longer, and fuel weight loss efforts without causing feelings of deprivation. Look for easy-to-use, pre-cooked BPA-free varieties that come in a pouch or a box. Add them to soups and salads or mix them with brown rice and steamed vegetables to create a hearty—yet healthy—dinner. Big into snacking? Mix black beans with some salsa and corn, and serve with some whole grain crackers.
Protein Payout: 1 cup, 230 calories, 18 g protein
Here are some pretty amazing proportions: One cup of lentils has the protein of three eggs, with less than one gram of fat! Their high fiber content makes them extremely satiating, and studies have shown that they speed fat loss: Spanish researchers found that people whose diets included four weekly servings of legumes lost more weight and improved their cholesterol more than people who didn’t. Eat them on their own as a side or simmer them into a soup.
Sprouted whole grain bread
Protein payout: Two slices, 138-220 calories, 8-12 g protein
Not all breads are carb bombs waiting to shatter your weight loss goals. This nutrient-dense bread is loaded with folate-filled lentils, protein and good-for-you grains and seeds like barley and millet. To boost the flavor of your slices, make a veggie sandwich overflowing with wholesome nutrients. On two slices of sprouted whole-grain bread combine tahini-free hummus, avocado slices, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, onions, spinach and tomatoes, one of the healthiest foods on the planet.
Protein Payout: 1/4 cup, 180 calories, 7 grams of protein
This nutty-flavored gluten-free grain may be small, but it packs a mighty nutritional punch. It’s loaded with fiber, essential amino acids, calcium and vitamin C — a nutrient not typically found in grains. To reap the benefits, trade your morning oatmeal in for a protein-packed teff porridge. Combine a half cup of teff with one a half cups of water and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Let it come to a boil before turning the heat down to low and letting it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and top with apples, cinnamon and a dollop of natural peanut butter.
Protein Payout: 1/4 cup, 161 calories, 6 grams of protein
While you may have never heard of this hearty whole grain before, it may become your new favorite. This wheat-rye hybrid packs 12 grams of protein per half cup, and is also rich in brain-boosting iron, bloat-busting potassium, magnesium and heart-healthy fiber. Use triticale berries in place of rice and mix it with soy sauce, fresh ginger, cloves, shiitake mushrooms and edamame to make a healthy, Asian-inspired dish. If you prefer to firing up the oven to using the stove, use triticale flour in place of traditional flour in your baking.
The wonderfood: People who eat oatmeal for breakfast feel full longer—even four hours after they put spoon to mouth! That’s sure to keep you out of the snack drawer mid-morning, boosting your weight loss efforts. The instant varieties often have added sugars and artificial flavors and making slow-cooking oatmeal on the stove can add stress to your already rushed morning routine.
The solution: overnight oats. All you have to do to whip up a bowl is fill a mason jar or Tupperware container with grains, toppings, add-ins and a liquid like milk or water. Then you throw it in the refrigerator overnight. While you’re sleeping, the flavors fuse together so all you have to do is scarf it down next morning—no cooking required!
Protein Payout: 1 oz, 117 calories, 8 g protein
Here’s an excuse for a wine-and-cheese hour: The schmancy Swiss cheese (don’t forget the accented ‘e’) contains 30% more protein than an egg in one slice, plus one-third of your RDA of vitamin A. If you’re looking to indulge, keep your serving to the size of four dice, and moderate your vino to one glass for women, two glasses for men, to get the bad-cholesterol-lowering benefits of the antioxidant resveratrol.
2% Greek Yogurt
Protein Payout: 7 oz, 150 calories, 20 g protein
Yogurt may be one of your key allies in weight-loss efforts. A study printed in the Journal of Nutrition found that probiotics like the ones found in creamy, delicious yogurt helped obese women lose nearly twice the weight compared to those who did not consume probiotics. Both sets of subjects were on low-calorie diets, but after 12 weeks, the probiotic poppers lost an average of 9.7 pounds, while those on placebos lost only 5.7.
Bonus: the subjects who were given the good bacteria continued to lose weight even after an additional 12 weeks, an average of 11.5 pounds to be accurate! The group that didn’t get the probiotic boost? They maintained their 5.7 pound initial loss, but didn’t trim down further. The good bacteria in probiotics can help ramp up your metabolism and improve your immune system, but it pays to be picky about your sources. Yogurt’s a great way to get a.m. protein and probiotics, but to get the healthiest yogurt you’ll have to read labels; most are packed with added sugars that exceed their protein levels.
1% Organic, Grass-Fed Milk
Protein Payout: 8 oz, 110 calories, 8 g protein
Organically raised cows are not subject to the same hormones and antibiotics that conventional cows are; no antibiotics for them means no antibiotics for you. Grass fed cows have been shown to have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids (good) and two to five times more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) than their corn and grain fed counterparts.
CLA contains a group of chemicals which provides a wide variety of health benefits, including immune and inflammatory system support, improved bone mass, improved blood sugar regulation, reduced body fat, reduced risk of heart attack, and maintenance of lean body mass. While skim milk may be lowest in calories, many vitamins are fat-soluble, which means you won’t get all the benefits of the alphabetical nutrients listed on your cereal box unless you opt for at least 1%.
Protein Payout: 1 oz, 138 calories, 5 g protein
One of the hallmarks of a balanced diet is to have a good ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3s. A 4:1 ratio would be ideal, but the modern American diet is more like 20:1. That leads to inflammation, which can trigger weight gain. But while eating a serving of salmon every day isn’t exactly convenient, sprinkling chia seeds—among the most highly concentrated sources of omega-3s in the food world—into smoothies, salads, cereals, pancakes or even desserts is as easy a diet upgrade as you can get.
Shelled Pumpkin Seeds
Protein Payout: 1 oz, 158 calories, 9 g protein
Dr. Lindsey Duncan, a nutritionist who’s worked with Tony Dorsett and Reggie Bush, is a big fan of pumpkin seeds. “A handful of raw pepitas or dry roasted pumpkin seeds can give you a natural jolt to power through a workout,” he says. “They’re a good source of protein, healthy fats and fiber, keeping you feeling full and energized longer, and contain manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, which provide additional energy support to maximize gym time.” Throw them into salads, s and rice dishes or eat them raw.
Protein Payout: 1 oz, 164 calories, 6 g protein
Think of each almond as a natural weight-loss pill. A study of overweight and obese adults found that, combined with a calorie-restricted diet, consuming a little more than a quarter-cup of the nuts can decrease weight more effectively than a snack comprised of complex carbohydrates and safflower oil—after just two weeks! (And after 24 weeks, those who ate the nuts experienced a 62% greater reduction in weight and BMI!) For optimal results, eat your daily serving before you hit the gym. Almonds, rich in the amino acid L-arginine, can actually help you burn more fat and carbs during workouts.
Protein Payout: 1 oz, 157 calories, 5 g protein
Cashews are good source of protein, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and copper, and shouldn’t be overlooked as one of your go-to nuts. Magnesium boasts a myriad of health benefits such as helping your body relieve various conditions like constipation, insomnia, headaches and muscle cramps, as well as regulating the immune system and supporting brain function. They also contain a good amount of biotin, which will help keep your locks shiny and lustrous.
Why It’s Great: Extracted from the meat of fresh coconuts, this tropical oil is a great source of the medium-chain saturated fat, lauric acid, which converts into energy more easily than other types of fat. Picking coconut oil over other less healthy fats, like lard and margarine, means less flubber is apt to be stored on your frame.
How to Use It: This trendy oil can be used for anything you might use butter for, from frying to baking; use it for cookies, cakes, and pancakes. It’s so healthy, you’ll find it in some of the Zero Belly Diet smoothies. It also tastes great on toast and drizzled over homemade baked sweet potato “fries” with a bit of garlic powder, salt and pepper. Coconut oil breaks down when exposed to super high temperatures, so don’t deep-fry with it.
Why It’s Great: Peanut oil is loaded with a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid (OEA) which can help reduce appetite and promote weight loss. Plus, research out of the University of California, Irvine, found that this particular type of fat boosts memory. Don’t forget it next time you cook.
How to Use It: Because of its high smoke point, peanut oil should be your go-to oil for frying and many high-heat tasks like wok-cooking and pan-searing.
Why It’s Great: Made from pressed avocadoes, this oil is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that may help improve cholesterol and ward off hunger. It also contains vitamins B and E and bloat-banishing potassium—it’s no surprise that it’s one of the preferred Paleo diet fats.
How to Use It: Like a salad oil. The oil has a mild nutty taste and a light avocado aroma. It works well drizzled over breads, fish and homemade pizzas. It also pairs nicely with watermelon, grapefruit and oranges. Add some to your fruit salad to create a new twist on a classic dish.
Macadamia Nut Oil
Why It’s Great: You’ll have to hunt around in the specialty stores for it, but this bold and buttery oil may be the healthiest you’ll find: Eighty-four percent of the fat in macadamia nuts is monounsaturated, and it has a very high percentage of omega-3s fatty acids. It’s also a source of phytosterols, a plant-derived compound that has been associated with decreased cancer risk.
How to Use It: Due to its medium to high smoke point, macadamia nut oil is best suited for baking, stir frying and oven cooking. For a quick snack, toss slices of sweet potatoes with the nut oil and bake in the oven on 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until crispy.
How sweet it is! Dozens of studies show that people who consume cocoa–as a hot drink or eaten as dark chocolate–are in much better cardiovascular shape than those who don’t. One nine-year study in the journal Circulation Heart Failure found women who ate one to two servings of high-quality chocolate per week had a 32 percent lower risk of developing heart failure than those who said no to the cocoa. And a second long-term study found that men who ate the most chocolate–about 1/3 of a cup of dark chocolate chips per week–had a 17 percent reduced risk of stroke compared to those who didn’t consume chocolate.
Researchers attribute cocoa’s health benefits to polyphenols and flavanols, anti-inflammatory compounds that help protect the heart in a number of ways. In fact, new research shows that, gram for gram, cocoa has an even higher antioxidant capacity than fruit juice! The benefits don’t stop at the heart, though. Studies have shown this sweet spice can help control inflammation-related diseases such as diabetes, liver cirrhosis, and degenerative diseases of the brain like Alzheimer’s.
Ironically, (or perhaps nature’s way of cutting us some slack) cinnamon–the warm spice that gives sugary baked goods extra flavor–can help control blood sugar and prevent against diabetes. One study found that adding a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon to a starchy meal is as effective as older generation diabetes drugs at stabilizing blood sugar and warding off insulin spikes. And a second study in the Journal of Nutrition found that when a meal contained a spice blend including cinnamon, antioxidant activity in the blood was increased by 13 percent and insulin response decreased by about 20 percent.
Researchers theorize that cinnamaldehyde, cinnamon’s active ingredient, works as a blood-sugar balancer by stimulating insulin receptors on cells and allowing excess sugar to move out of the blood. There are other health benefits of cinnamon: studies have shown the spice may improve cholesterol, prevent against food-borne illness, ward off the effects of Alzheimer’s, and provide treatment for women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).