8 Foods You Should Eat Every Day
This noted muscle builder is a rich source of plant-based omega-3s and folate, which help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. Bonus: Folate also increases blood flow to the nether regions, helping to protect you against age-related sexual issues. And spinach is packed with lutein, a compound that fights macular degeneration (and may help your sex drive). Aim for 1-cup fresh spinach or 1/2 cup cooked per day.
SUBSTITUTES: Kale, bok choy, romaine lettuce
This 2,000-year-old food’s health benefits are not disputed: Fermentation spawns hundreds of millions of probiotic organisms that serve as reinforcements to the battalions of beneficial bacteria in your body. That helps boost your immune system and helps provide protection against cancer. Not all yogurts are probiotic, though, so make sure the label says “live and active cultures.” Aim for 1 cup of the calcium and protein-rich goop a day.
SUBSTITUTES: Kefir, soy yogurt
There are two things you need to know about tomatoes: Red are the best, because they’re packed with more of the antioxidant lycopene, and processed tomatoes are just as potent as fresh ones, because it’s easier for the body to absorb the lycopene. A diet rich in lycopene can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers, as well as reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Aim for 22 mg of lycopene a day, which is about eight red cherry tomatoes or a glass of tomato juice.
SUBSTITUTES: Red watermelon, pink grapefruit, Japanese persimmon, papaya, guava
Most red, yellow, or orange vegetables and fruits are spiked with carotenoids — fat-soluble compounds that are associated with a reduction in a wide range of cancers, as well as reduced risk and severity of inflammatory conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis — but none are as easy to prepare, or have as low a caloric density, as carrots. Aim for 1/2 cup a day.
SUBSTITUTES: Sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, yellow bell pepper, mango
Host to more antioxidants than any other North American fruit, blueberries can help prevent cancer, diabetes, and age-related memory changes (hence the nickname “brain berry”). Blueberries, which are rich in fiber and vitamins A and C, also boost cardiovascular health. Aim for 1-cup fresh blueberries a day, or 1/2 cup frozen or dried. Try this amazing blueberry smoothie!
SUBSTITUTES: Acai berries, purple grapes, prunes, raisins, strawberries
All beans are good for your heart, but none can boost your brain power like black beans. That’s because they’re full of antioxidant compounds that have been shown to improve brain function. A daily 1/2-cup serving provides 8 grams of protein and 7.5 grams of fiber. It’s also low in calories and free of saturated fat.
SUBSTITUTES: Peas, lentils, and pinto, kidney, fava, and lima beans
Richer in heart-healthy omega-3s than salmon, loaded with more anti-inflammatory polyphenols than red wine, and packing half as much muscle-building protein as chicken. Other nuts combine only one or two of these features, not all three. A serving of walnuts — about 1 ounce, or 7 nuts — is good anytime, but especially as a post-workout recovery snack.
SUBSTITUTES: Almonds, peanuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts
They are packed with soluble fiber, which lowers the risk of heart disease. Yes, oats are loaded with carbs, but the release of those sugars is slowed by the fiber, and because oats also have 10 grams of protein per 1/2-cup serving, they deliver steady, muscle-friendly energy.
SUBSTITUTES: Quinoa, flaxseed, wild rice