Last week I wrote an article about the 7 unhealthiest foods in the diet, ones that you would do best to limit.
Now it's time for the opposite — the foods that you can and should eat.
Even if you banish the unhealthy modern foods from your diet, you can still eat an endless variety of healthy and delicious foods.
This includes beef, pork, lamb, chicken and various other animals.
Humans are omnivores. We have been eating meat for hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of years.
Our species thrived eating a combination of animals and plants.
The problem today is that meat isn't like it used to be. It is often harvested from animals that ate grains and were pumped full of hormones and antibiotics to make them grow faster.
If the meat comes from animals that weren't pumped full of drugs and given unnatural foods, it is very healthy.
Beef from cows that ate grass and were allowed to move around, pastured chickens, meat from lambs that got to roam around the countryside — this is what meat is supposed to be like.
To take cows as an example, their natural source of food is grass, not grains. Beef from cows that are grass-fed has a much better nutrient profile, including (, , ):
- More omega-3 and less omega-6.
- Much more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) - which can lower body fat and increase lean mass.
- More vitamin A, vitamin E and the cellular antioxidant glutathione.
However, if money is tight, don't sweat it. Choosing conventionally raised meat is still a million times better than the standard western diet.
Bottom Line: Eat meat from animals that were raised and fed in a natural way. It is healthier and more nutritious. If you can't afford it, grain-fed meat is still a much better option than the standard western diet.
This includes salmon, trout, haddock, cod, sardines and many, many others.
In nutrition, people tend to disagree a lot.
Among the few things that everyone seems to agree on is that fish is good for you.
Fish is rich in high-quality proteins, various essential nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids, which are excellent for the brain, heart and various other parts of the body.
Omega-3 fatty acids appear to be especially important for mental health and prevention of cardiovascular disease ().
Omega-3s are very beneficial for depression, which means that eating fish 1–2 times per week may literally make you feel better every single day ().
Due to pollution of the oceans, some fish may contain contaminants, but their health benefits still far outweigh any potential risk ().
Bottom Line: Fish is very healthy and eating it is associated with a much lower risk of depression, other mental disorders and several chronic diseases.
Eggs are among the healthiest foods on the planet and the yolk is by far the most nutritious part.
Just imagine, the nutrients contained in one egg are enough to grow an entire baby chicken.
Despite what has been claimed for the past few decades, eating eggs does not give you heart attacks.
Eating eggs changes your cholesterol from small, dense LDL (bad) to large LDL (good), increases HDL (good) cholesterol and provides the unique antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are very important for eye health ().
Eggs are high on the satiety index, which means that they help you feel full and make you eat fewer overall calories ().
A study in 30 overweight and obese women revealed that a breakfast of eggs (compared to a bagel) made them eat fewer calories for up to 36 hours ().
Bottom Line: Eggs are highly nutritious and so filling that they make you eat fewer overall calories. They're among the healthiest foods on the planet.
Spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and many, many others.
Vegetables are rich in fiber, antioxidants and many nutrients that are important for the human body.
In observational studies, eating vegetables is associated with a lower risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease (, , , ).
I recommend eating vegetables every day. They're healthy, filling, low in calories and add variety to the diet.
Bottom Line: Vegetables are high in fiber, antioxidants and nutrients, but very low in calories. Eat a variety of vegetables every day.
Generally considered healthy, fruit has been under heavy attack recently due to its high fructose content.
But fruits are more than just bags of fructose. They're also high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C, have a low energy density and are almost impossible to overeat.
If you like fruits, eat them, but don't eat more than 1 piece per day if you are on a low-carb diet as they are still pretty high in carbs.
Bottom Line: Fruits are real foods. They are tasty, increase variety in the diet and don't require preparation.
6. Nuts and Seeds
Includes almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and many others.
Nuts and seeds contain a lot of essential nutrients and are particularly high in vitamin E and magnesium.
Despite a high energy density and being rich in fats, eating nuts is associated with improved insulin sensitivity, lower body weight and improved health (, , ).
However, nuts are high in calories and can hinder weight loss for some people. Therefore, I suggest eating nuts in moderation if you find yourself constantly snacking on them.
Bottom Line: Nuts and seeds are nutritious, healthy and generally associated with improved health. Eat them, but not too much.
Root vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes are healthy, nutritious and very filling.
Many populations around the world have eaten massive amounts of tubers and remained in excellent health ().
However, they are still very high in carbs and prevent the metabolic adaptation required to reap the full benefits of low-carb diets.
Bottom Line: If you're healthy, active and don't need to lose weight, then you can eat tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes.
8. Fats and Oils
Supplement your diet with some healthy fats and oils such as butter, coconut oil, lard, olive oil and others.
If you don't eat much omega-3 or vitamin D3, include a tablespoon of cod fish liver oil each day. It's not delicious, but you'll get used to it.
For high-heat cooking, it's best to choose saturated fats like coconut oil and butter. Their lack of double bonds makes them more resistant to the high heat.
Extra virgin olive oil is great as an addition to salads and to improve flavor.
Bottom Line: Supplement your diet with some healthy saturated and monounsaturated fats. If appropriate, take some cod fish liver oil each day. Choose saturated fats for high-heat cooking.
9. High-Fat Dairy
Cheese, cream, butter, full-fat yogurt.
High-fat dairy products are rich in healthy fats, calcium and other nutrients.
If the cows are grass-fed, the dairy products will be rich in vitamin K2, which is important for bone and cardiovascular health (, ).
In a large review study published in 2012, consumption of high-fat dairy was associated with a lower risk of weight gain over time ().
Observational studies from Holland and Australia revealed that those who ate the most high-fat dairy had a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease and death, compared to those who ate the least (, ).
Of course, these observational studies don't prove that high-fat dairy caused the improvement and not all studies agree on this.
However, it definitely suggests that high-fat dairy products aren't the villain they've been made out to be.
More about healthy foods: