Foods That Are Actually Healthier Than You Think - Health Digest (2023)

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Foods That Are Actually Healthier Than You Think - Health Digest (1)

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ByMichelle Washmuth/July 19, 2021 3:21 pm EDT

Changing your lifestyle can be daunting — especially when it comes to nutrition. You may think that eating healthy is all salads, no restaurants, and no fun. But eating healthy doesn't have to be boring.

The American Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition stresses variety in healthy eating. Creating a healthy plate should include a mix of foods from all food groups, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy (via Eat Right). That means you're not eliminating one whole food group for the sake of dieting (we're looking at you, low-carb diets).

Contrary to popular belief, eating healthy can actually be enjoyable. At first, it may seem challenging, but eventually your body and mindset will see a shift. You will likely start to feel better with higher energy levels and you can still enjoy your favorite foods in moderation with adaptations to portion size (via Verywell Fit). In fact, you may be surprised to learn that some of your favorite foods are healthier than you think. With a few modifications, they can certainly be a part of your well-rounded diet.

Guacamole and other dips

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By making some slight modifications, you can actually enjoy your appetizer tray and feel better about it. Although avocados are known for being higher in fats, they don't contain the same fat you'd find in a fast-food meal. Avocados are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, as well as tons of other vitamins and minerals like folate, fiber, potassium, and vitamins B-6, C, E, and K-1 among many others (via Cleveland Clinic). This means guacamole can be a great snack — especially if you make it yourself with fresh ingredients to ensure it's not packed with high sodium or preservatives.

If guacamole isn't your thing, you can healthify other dips. Many classics like spinach and artichoke or buffalo chicken dip are based with heavy cream cheese, sour cream, ranch, or mayonnaise. But if you swap out those heavier options for Greek yogurt and add veggies directly into the dip, you may not even know they're the lighter versions. You can leverage seasonings like onion or garlic to pack the flavor and forgo the chips for fresh vegetables, fruit, or a corn chip alternative to make it low-calorie and more nutritious (via Anytime Fitness).

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Eliminating the dip portion entirely and going with popcorn can also be a perfect, whole-grain snack option — so long as you don't load it with butter and salt. Registered dietitian nutritionist Jennifer Glockner toldBustlethat air-popped popcorn is low in calories, high in fiber, and can be just as delicious as movie theater popcorn with some olive oil and spices.

Breakfast classics

Eggs have gotten a bad rap for cholesterol levels over the years, but they may actually help improve your HDL ("good") cholesterol and lower your risk of heart disease (via Healthline). One study cited by Healthline even found that having eggs for breakfast reduced calorie intake later in the day and caused fat loss.

Eggs are also a good source of protein and tons of other vitamins and minerals like choline, vitamin B, A, selenium, and more. So don't be afraid of grabbing a couple eggs and whipping them up the way you like. Even egg casseroles can be a healthy breakfast choice. Just try to stick to crustless quiches and casseroles full of healthy veggies (via Anytime Fitness).

If you prefer a sweeter breakfast, don't fear: You can still get your flapjack fix! While not as nutrient-dense as eggs, you can avoid empty calories by limiting the sugary toppings and syrup on your pancakes. Also try making them yourself with whole grain or whole wheat flour for fiber, adding nuts and fruit for best nutritional benefits (via Eating Well).

You also have other pancake alternative options like the Paleo dieter's favorite 3-ingredient pancakes that call for bananas and white flour alternatives like almond or oat flour. Try topping your pancakes with your nut butter of choice for an extra protein boost.

Italian dishes

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When you think of Italian food, your mind may immediately go to the family-style portions of pasta casserole dishes full of delicious cheese, carbohydrates, and meat. While many Italian dishes may be full of these tasty ingredients, these meals can be healthy. Tomato sauce contains the plant-based antioxidant lycopene, lean beef contains iron and protein, and pasta packs an energy boost from the carbohydrates (via Food Network). If you use lean meat like lean ground beef or ground turkey, replace the white pasta with whole wheat, and watch your sodium, you can enjoy portions of spaghetti and meatballs in moderation.

Lasagna also offers some of the same nutritional perks and has its own set of alternatives to maximize health. You can make your lasagna full of vegetables — even replace your noodles with zucchini or eggplant if you're feeling daring. Some people also use protein-packed cottage cheese instead of the dairy milk-fat ricotta cheese. Just be sure to check your tomato sauce to monitor your sodium intake (via Anytime Fitness).

And we can't forget about pizza! While you may be thinking of the greasy slice you enjoy after a night out on the town, pizza actually offers some healthy customizations. The average amount of protein in a slice of pizza is 12 grams thanks to the cheese, registered dietitian Chelsey Amer toldInsider. You can add more nutrition to your slice by adding lots of fresh vegetable toppings and choosing a thin crust or whole-wheat crust for higher fiber levels to fill you up.

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Burritos and other handheld foods

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Burritos can be a good choice for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. One tortilla full of beans, small portions of meat or eggs, rice, and vegetables can cover all the food groups (via Food Network). To make this option even healthier, skip the sour cream and cheese and try a whole wheat tortilla instead of a regular flour tortilla.

You likely won't find a fast-food burger on top of any healthy food lists, but when done correctly burgers can actually be okay too. Choose a lean ground meat like beef, turkey, or chicken with less than 10 grams of fat and keep your serving size at 4 ounces (via OpenFit). When making your own patties, you can also sneak in some extra vegetables like mushrooms or zucchini, as well as grains like quinoa or black beans.

The toppings and condiments are where burgers can steer into unhealthy territory, however. Eliminate extras like bacon or cheese for fresh vegetables like tomatoes, lettuce, onion or peppers. The large white bread bun can also be problematic, but you can choose a low-carb whole wheat alternative, or wrap in lettuce leaves. Sandwiches and wraps at restaurants can also be deceiving, as they typically are much larger than a sandwich you'd make for yourself at home. That means more sodium, calories, and fat (via Consumer Reports). Choose a side other than chips or fries, steer clear of the processed lunch meats and cut back on cheeses and condiments.

Potatoes

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When you think of potatoes, you probably envision a side of french fries or a bag of potato chips. While frying isn't the healthiest cooking option, potatoes themselves can actually be nutritious. The specific nutritional profile can vary depending on your variety of potato, but generally speaking, potatoes are a good source of antioxidants, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese (via Healthline). By keeping the skin on the potato when cooking, you maximize these nutritional benefits. Potatoes can also be very satisfying, keeping you fuller for longer. But be mindful of your portions. These have been linked to weight gain in some studies, according to Healthline.

Baking, boiling, or steaming your potatoes are your best bets for health, but they don't have to be plain and boring. You can top your baked potato with vegetables like broccoli or peppers and use plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. It is wise to skip the cheese and bacon if trying to really keep calories and fats down. You can also opt for the potato varieties with vibrant colors like sweet potatoes, which also contain beta carotene to fight inflammation and fewer calories (via Anytime Fitness).

If potato salad is your favorite side dish at picnics and barbecues, don't fear — there are lighter versions out there. Opt for the low-fat, low-calorie mayonnaise to dress your salador omit the mayo entirely for a vinegar-based salad dressing (via WebMD).

Butter and nut butters

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Tried and true peanut butter can be high in saturated fats, calories, and sodium if you are not careful with your selection. However, PB also includes heart-healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, as well as protein, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, and more (via Medical News Today). It's been linked to weight loss, heart health improvement, and it's even helpful for those with diabetes. Peanut butter is also popular in the bodybuilding and weightlifting community. To get all the perks of peanut butter without some of the negative nutritional aspects, go for an unsalted, no sugar added, pure peanut butter that boasts just nuts and a few other ingredients. Use peanut butter as a topping for numerous snacks or dishes.

Nut butters can be great, but what regular ole butter? It was once a big no-no, but these days, some say it may not be as unhealthy as we once thought. In fact, it could be better than the oils that many people use in place of butter. "It makes foods like vegetables taste better, and the saturated fatty acid, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), helps improve body composition and leanness," Rebecca Scritchfield, registered dietitian nutritionist, toldMen's Journal. "Adding a teaspoon to sautéed vegetables will also help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins (E, A, D and K)." Scritchfield advises going for butter derived from grass-fed cows with less saturated fat and more good fatty acids. These can be stored in your muscles and used for fuel during exercise.

Dark meat chicken

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White meat chicken has the reputation for being the healthier chicken option. But your poultry intake doesn't necessarily have to be all chicken breasts. Dark meat is actually healthier than you may think — it is the skin that is the main health issue with chicken of all cuts (via Business Insider).

Fat is necessary for us to consume to function for energy, so not all fat is unhealthy. Dark meat chicken contains twice as much healthy unsaturated fat (and saturated fat) as light meat. It also contains more iron, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamins B6 and B12, and zinc, the National Chicken Council revealed to Business Insider. The taste of dark meat may also help keep the cooking method as healthy as possible, as its juiciness may lend itself to needing fewer extras. "It's more succulent and full of flavor, which allows it to easily stand on its own without being smothered in sugary, salty sauces," Marisa Moore, registered dietitian nutritionist, toldWomen's Health. "Dark meat will also stand up to broiling without drying out."

You will want to be mindful of how you cook your dark meat, though. Frying it up in oil or butter can make any cut of poultry an unhealthy option. Also, be sure to select the skinless chicken thighs for your cut of meat if trying to keep it healthy, or remove the skin after cooking.

Coffee and alcohol (in moderation)

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Drinks can be a hidden labyrinth for calories and sugar, making it difficult to keep on the healthy track. But what if you're tired of just water with every meal? Luckily, some drinks contain health benefits to consider.

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While there has been some debate on if caffeine is healthy, coffee contains some nutritional benefits like antioxidants to accompany the brain boost that comes with caffeine (via Food Network). Studies have also shown that moderate coffee intake can help with type 2 diabetes and maintain your mental health as you get older (viaHealthline). Coffee also contains riboflavin, pantothenic acid, manganese, potassium, magnesium, and niacin. It leaves many with more energy and ignites fat burning in your body. Just be sure when you're enjoying your coffee you limit the added sugars and cream, opting for black coffee or fat-free milk.

Alcohol is another popular drink category that can be tough to avoid. But studies have shown that alcohol is okay in moderation. Research showed one alcoholic drink a day for women and two for men may help prevent heart disease, kidney stones, gallstones, and type 2 diabetes (via WebMD). Red wine in particular has been shown to have antioxidants that can lower your risk of heart disease, according to Thrillist. However, too much alcohol can have the opposite effect, so don't go too crazy with the booze for your health's sake. It is also important to note that alcohol recommendations aren't generalized to all people and specific health situations may make the risks outweigh the possible benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Soy-based foods

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The health of soy products as meat alternatives have been up for debate due to some believed disease risks. But health experts say that picking organic, non-GMO versions of soy can provide a slew of nutrients. "Soy-based foods are some of the best foods you can eat on the planet," Jaclyn London, registered dietitian, toldGood Housekeeping about the plant-based protein source. She added that the negative headlines of soy have been largely from supplements rather than eating the whole foods themselves.

Physician Steven Masley echoed the positive impacts of soy to Bustle, saying, "One to two servings per day of edamame or soy milk will improve cholesterol profiles, improve blood sugar control, provide a great source of dietary fiber, and improve menopause symptoms."

Other soy products to try are tempeh, tofu, and miso. Avoid ultra-processed soy foods like soy bars or soy yogurts to get the full benefits of soy, not just the protein isolates, according to Good Housekeeping. That said, there are some cases where soy may not be the best option for your dietary plan. If you have issues with your thyroid or are on thyroid medication, you should first discuss your soy intake with your doctor.

Chocolate

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Dessert lovers rejoice! Chocolate can actually be healthier than you may think for both your mind and body. "All forms of chocolate stimulate the release of 'happiness' neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins," Rebecca Scritchfield, registered dietitian, toldMen's Journal. "It's also rich in plant flavanols, antioxidants, and magnesium, which can help reduce stress."

Dark chocolate is the popular health-conscious chocolate of choice, as it contains the highest amount of cocoa with flavonoids, antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients and the least amount of sugars. These may help with blood pressure, improving blood flow to your brain and heart, and reduce the risk of certain kinds of heart disease, according to WebMD.

Indulge in those chocolate cravings in moderation relatively guilt-free. Try breaking off pieces of dark chocolate bars to get your chocolate fix. If you have a major sweet tooth and are curious about other options to curb your cravings, check out these surprisingly healthy desserts.

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FAQs

What is the number 1 healthiest food in the world? ›

So, having scoured the full list of applicants, we have crowned kale as the number 1 healthiest food out there. Kale has the widest range of benefits, with the fewest drawbacks when stacked up against its competitors. For us, kale is truly king. Read on to find out exactly why.

What is the absolute healthiest food you can eat? ›

Here are the top 15 foods you should be eating according to our experts:
  1. Fish. ...
  2. Broccoli or any of the cruciferous vegetables. ...
  3. Beets. ...
  4. Spinach and other leafy green vegetables. ...
  5. Kale. ...
  6. Peanut butter. ...
  7. Almonds. ...
  8. Mangos.
5 Apr 2019

What is a food that people think is healthy but really isn t? ›

Whether you're noshing on pretzels, veggie straws, sweet potato chips or kale chips with sea salt, chances are you're getting a whole lot of calories without a ton of nutrition. Most of these packaged snacks are refined grains, like enriched wheat flour or corn or soy flour.

What is the number 1 unhealthiest food in the world? ›

1. Bacon
  • Fried food. ...
  • Potato chips. ...
  • Added sugars. ...
  • Processed oils. ...
  • Hydrogenated fats. ...
  • Refined carbohydrates. ...
  • Breakfast sausages. ...
  • Processed meat. Even though it's been explained that processed meats like breakfast sausage, bacon and turkey bacon are horrible for your health, this category of food is unhealthy as a whole.
30 Jan 2022

Is there a single food you can survive on? ›

Eating only one food probably won't do any harm in the short term. However, there is no known food that supplies all the needs of human adults on a long-term basis.

What 3 foods Can you survive on? ›

  • Perfect Foods. (Image credit: XuRa (opens in new tab) | shutterstock (opens in new tab)) ...
  • Beans. (Image credit: USDA) ...
  • Kale. (Image credit: Justin Jernigan) ...
  • Cantaloupe. (Image credit: stock.xchng) ...
  • Berries. (Image credit: Ohio State University.) ...
  • Barley. (Image credit: USDA) ...
  • Seaweed. (Image credit: NOAA) ...
  • Fish.
8 Dec 2021

What is the number 2 healthiest food in the world? ›

2. Kale
  • Kale is especially high in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K1. ...
  • Kale may be even healthier than spinach. ...
  • Kale and other greens are also high in various bioactive compounds, including isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol, which have been shown to fight cancer in test-tube and animal studies ( 11 , 12).

What is the number 1 healthiest fruit in the world? ›

Citrus fruits and berries may be especially powerful for preventing disease. A 2014 study ranked “powerhouse” fruit and vegetables by high nutrient density and low calories. Lemons came out top of the list, followed by strawberry, orange, lime, and pink and red grapefruit.

What is the most nutritionally complete food? ›

"The only food that provides all the nutrients that humans need is human milk," Hattner said. "Mother's milk is a complete food.

What foods keep you healthy forever? ›

It Can Help Your Heart
  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Whole grains.
  • Low-fat dairy products like yogurt and cheese.
  • Skinless poultry.
  • Lots of fish.
  • Nuts and beans.
  • Non-tropical vegetable oils (olive, corn, peanut, and safflower oils)
27 Apr 2022

What is the number 1 vegetable to avoid? ›

Cruciferous Vegetables

Vegetables that belong to the cabbage family such as cauliflower, Brussels, broccoli, and sprouts should never be consumed raw. These vegetables contain sugar that is difficult to digest. Eating these vegetables raw may lead to a number of gastronomical problems.

What is the unhealthiest meat? ›

Cured meats, cold cuts, salami, and hot dogs are just a few examples of processed meats to limit or avoid. Scientific consensus confirms that eating large amounts of these processed meats will raise your risk of colon cancer. These meats are often high in both sodium and saturated fats, Malkani says.

What is the healthiest meat? ›

5 of the Healthiest Meats
  1. Sirloin Steak. Sirloin steak is both lean and flavorful – just 3 ounces packs about 25 grams of filling protein! ...
  2. Rotisserie Chicken & Turkey. The rotisserie cooking method helps maximize flavor without relying on unhealthy additives. ...
  3. Chicken Thigh. ...
  4. Pork Chop. ...
  5. Canned Fish.
6 Jan 2020

What food has all the vitamins? ›

More Vitamin Rich Foods
AsparagusHigh in Vitamins B1, B9, K, and Lycopene
CarrotsHigh in Vitamin A, Beta Carotene, and Lycopene
CheeseHigh in Vitamins B2, B5, and B12
ShellfishHigh in Vitamins B2, B12, and E
Sweet PotatoesHigh in Vitamins A, B5, and Beta Carotene
16 more rows
26 Sept 2022

Can you live off eggs? ›

Eggs can be a healthful source of protein, but they should not be the only food a person eats. The egg diet may lead to weight loss initially, but it is not a balanced or safe weight loss plan in the long-term.

Can you live off of rice and beans? ›

Still, if rice and beans is all you've got, it's a pretty decent choice. But "you're not going to have a complete diet," she says. The combo lacks Vitamin C and other essential nutrients. "It's extremely important that you eat meat and vegetables," Campos says.

What two foods could you live off of? ›

4 Foods You Could (Almost) Exclusively Live Off Of
  • Potatoes. Advertisement. ...
  • Human Breast Milk. Advertisement. ...
  • Kale. Advertisement. ...
  • Trail Mix.
7 Jul 2016

What to eat to get all nutrients? ›

Nutrient-dense foods are rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients important for health, without too much saturated fat, added sugars and sodium. We're talking fruits, vegetables, whole grains, non-fat and low-fat dairy, fish and seafood, unprocessed lean meat and skinless poultry, nuts and legumes.

What to avoid eating to live longer? ›

Nutrition tips for foods and drinks to avoid
  • Reduce sugar. According to research , dietary sugar, dextrose, and high fructose corn syrup may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. ...
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. ...
  • Avoid sugary drinks. ...
  • Eat less red and processed meat. ...
  • Avoid processed foods.
8 Feb 2022

What is the #1 Superfood? ›

1. Dark Leafy Greens. Dark green leafy vegetables (DGLVs) are an excellent source of nutrients including folate, zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C and fiber.

What is the healthiest item at McDonald's? ›

Best Healthy Options at McDonald's
  • Egg McMuffin.
  • Fruit & Maple Oatmeal.
  • Filet-O-Fish.
  • Apple Slices.
  • Fruit 'N Yogurt Parfait.
  • Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad.
  • McChicken.
  • Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich.
8 Nov 2022

What food takes the longest to digest? ›

The foods with the longest time to digest are bacon, beef, lamb, whole milk hard cheese, and nuts. These foods take an average of about 4 hours for your body to digest. The digestion process still occurs even when asleep. Which means our digestive fluids and the acids in our stomach are active.

What is one fruit you should eat everyday? ›

Some of the healthiest fruits include pineapple, apples, blueberries, and mangos. You should eat three servings of fruit a day as part of a healthy diet. Eating fruit improves heart health, reduces inflammation, and boosts your immune system.

What is the number 1 healthiest vegetable? ›

1. Spinach. This leafy green tops the chart as one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables. That's because 1 cup (30 grams) of raw spinach provides 16% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin A plus 120% of the DV for vitamin K — all for just 7 calories ( 1 ).

What are the 3 Superfoods? ›

3 Superfoods to Add to Your Diet + How to Prep Them
  • Maqui Berry.
  • Sea Vegetables.
  • Cacao.
16 Feb 2012

What is one food you could eat everyday? ›

Experts suggest that there are certain foods that people should eat every day. These include lean protein and a variety of vegetables. Additionally, including foods such as olive oil, nuts, and berries can help people lower their risk of certain chronic conditions.

What is the one food for longevity? ›

Longevity experts agree. Eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and good amounts of omega-3s (from fish, nuts, seeds, or algae), while minimizing refined carbohydrates will not only improve your odds of living more healthfully, but it will likely add more years to your life, too.

What food do you need to live to 100? ›

Dr. Longo described the key to longevity: “Lots of legumes, whole grains, and vegetables; some fish; no red meat or processed meat, and very low white meat; low sugar and refined grains; good levels of nuts and olive oil, and some dark chocolate.”

What is the #1 food in the world? ›

Pizza is the topmost liked food in the world. Today you can find pizza in almost every corner of the world. This traditional Italian dish is made of flattened round dough topped with cheese, and tomatoes, and additionally garnished with basil, olives, and oregano.

What is the most healthiest food in the world 2022? ›

#1 Moringa

According to the 2022 Whole Foods Trend Report, expect to see this nutrient-dense plant steal the spotlight as one of the healthiest foods to eat in 2022. In fact, global technology research predicts a 2.85 billion dollar growth in the moringa-product market by 2025 – wow is right.

What is the number 1 healthiest fruit? ›

Citrus fruits and berries may be especially powerful for preventing disease. A 2014 study ranked “powerhouse” fruit and vegetables by high nutrient density and low calories. Lemons came out top of the list, followed by strawberry, orange, lime, and pink and red grapefruit.

What is the best food of all time? ›

22 Best Dishes in The World You Must Try Once In Your Life
  • Sushi (Japan) Source Prepared with vinegared rice and a wide range of ingredients including seafood, vegetables, and sometimes fruits. ...
  • Rendang, Indonesia. ...
  • Ramen, Japan. ...
  • Tom Yam Goong, Thailand. ...
  • Kebab, Turkey. ...
  • Pho, Vietnam. ...
  • Peking duck, China. ...
  • Paella, Spain.

What is America's #1 favorite food? ›

The Number 1 Most Popular Foods in America are Hamburgers!

What is the least liked food in the world? ›

10 Most Hated Foods In The World
  • 8 Brussel Sprouts.
  • 7 Okra.
  • 6 Turnips.
  • 5 Raisins.
  • 4 Blue Cheese.
  • 3 Anchovies.
  • 2 Olives.
  • 1 Candy Corn.
13 Oct 2021

What are the three Superfoods for your gut? ›

The Best Superfoods For Gut Health
  • Leafy Greens. Leafy greens are a powerful prebiotic and are high in vitamins C, K, B complex, folic acid, beta carotene, iron, iodine, calcium, potassium, magnesium, sulphur and chlorophyll. ...
  • Asparagus. ...
  • Oats. ...
  • Leeks. ...
  • Greek Yoghurt. ...
  • Apples. ...
  • Ginger.

What are the 7 super foods? ›

These standouts — plus a few 'boosters' — can keep you healthy as nutritional needs change with age
  • Berries. ...
  • Dark-green leafy vegetables. ...
  • Seafood. ...
  • Nuts and seeds. ...
  • Cottage cheese. ...
  • Beans and legumes. ...
  • Water. ...
  • Avocados.
4 Aug 2022

What is the new superfood? ›

When most of us read the words “plant-based diet,” we tend to think of foods such as kale salads and grain bowls or trendy meat replacements. But there is one nonmeat option that's gaining traction as the newest superfood: seaweed.

What is the healthiest meat to eat? ›

5 of the Healthiest Meats
  1. Sirloin Steak. Sirloin steak is both lean and flavorful – just 3 ounces packs about 25 grams of filling protein! ...
  2. Rotisserie Chicken & Turkey. The rotisserie cooking method helps maximize flavor without relying on unhealthy additives. ...
  3. Chicken Thigh. ...
  4. Pork Chop. ...
  5. Canned Fish.
6 Jan 2020

What is the healthiest drink? ›

Water is the best choice for quenching your thirst. Coffee and tea, without added sweeteners, are healthy choices, too. Some beverages should be limited or consumed in moderation, including fruit juice, milk, and those made with low-calorie sweeteners, like diet drinks.

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