Eat these foods daily (or at least often)

Improving your diet can seem like a lofty goal, one that people often think requires rigid self-discipline and sacrifice. Cupcakes out, pizza out, treats out, sigh.

But it doesn’t really have to be that way. 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.

But what to add? I asked Teresa Fung, adjunct professor in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health for her advice on what foods pack the biggest nutritional punch to a daily diet. Below is her list of five well-balanced options that she says you should eat every day — or at least as often as possible.

1.  Salmon. This oily fish, known for its bright pink color, is rich not only in healthy protein but also in omega-3 fatty acids, which benefit both your heart and your brain. It also provides you with bone-building vitamin D. Still, serving up salmon every day would be a stretch for most people. Aim instead to eat it at least once a week to reap the health benefits, says Fung.

2.  Brussels sprouts. These crunchy little green balls, which look like mini-cabbages, are nutrient-dense and low in calories — only 28 in half a cup. They offer up a well-rounded group 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. Taste-wise, Brussels sprouts may be a controversial pick, because while they’re certainly cute, some people find them bitter. If you’re firmly in the “dislike” camp, you can substitute other green vegetables for Brussels sprouts to get a similar nutritional boost. But keep an open mind. You can reduce the bitterness of Brussels sprouts by roasting them with a spritz of olive oil. Add some chopped nuts to the top for a little extra crunch and flavor (as well as extra benefits; see below).

3.  Blueberries. These dark-colored little berries are high in antioxidants, particularly vitamin C, says Fung. Weighing in at 56 calories for 100 grams, blueberries also offer up a good dose of vitamin A and fiber. While most grocery stores will stock blueberries year-round, feel free to substitute another dark-colored fruit — like pomegranates or cherries — if blueberries aren’t in season. Or for some variety, swirl up some frozen blueberries, which taste good at any time of year, with plain yogurt (see below) to make a smoothie.

4.  Nuts. Crunchy and satisfying, nuts not only are filling but also provide an infusion of healthy oils, protein, and vitamin E. Choose any type of nuts: almonds, walnuts, even peanuts (technically a legume), or grab a handful of mixed nuts. Just make sure they’re unsalted, says Fung. But keep in mind these are a high-calorie treat. Depending on the type of nut you choose, an ounce can ring in at 200 calories or more — so limit daily intake to a sprinkling to get the benefits without packing on any extra pounds.

5.  Plain yogurt. This creamy treat gives you a dose of probiotics, which are healthy bacteria that help keep your gut working properly and contribute to better overall health. Yogurt is a nutrient-rich food that fuels your body with protein, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B12, and some key fatty acids that your body needs to stay healthy. And if you choose a high-protein yogurt, it can keep you feeling full, which may help you trim your waistline. While you may prefer flavored yogurts, it’s better to stick with plain. “The problem with flavored yogurt is some of the brands out there have way too much sugar,” says Fung. Sugar negates many of the health benefits of yogurt. Plain yogurt too tart? Toss in some blueberries for added sweetness, says Fung, or add nuts for some crunch. These simple additions can improve the taste, and you can check off three of the foods on this list in one easy snack.

Comments:

  1. Anonymous for the Voiceless

    It’s high time you stop propagating myths: salmon and dairy make us sick and cause untold suffering to the beings we murder and steal from. Enough already! Wake up!

  2. Isame

    I am not too shocked that this nonsense comes out of Harvard. They appear to be asleep behind their ivy covered walls!
    Catch up you guys!!!!!
    Worse they make it sound like add a little of this or that and you will be healthy! Not if you don’t remove the poisons you are eating first!!
    Just salmon? For its lovely color? Which is created through dye in their food! Not wild? Yogurt?? with all the lovely sugar that probably killed off the few available good guy microbes?? Really??
    Come ON! One would hope that Harvard could do better!

  3. Josephine Baker

    Dairy makes us sick. There are much better ways to get a healthy dose of probiotics. For instance, a plant-based diet appears to naturally modulate one’s gut flora.

  4. Louis

    Eating Brussels sprouts every day is a terrible idea. Your own studies at Harvard, namely the Harvard Nurses study and the Harvard Physicians health study, have found an association between regular consumption Brussels sprouts and pancreatic cancer. Your own book “The Harvard Medical Guide to Healthy Eating” by Walter Willett specifically recommends AGAINST eating Brussels sprouts every day because of the possible cancer risk.

  5. Alex

    I have fructose malabsorption and cant digest blueberries without spending a long time on the toilet….

    Is there still a way how i could consume blueberries or its healthy ingredients?

    Sincerely,
    Alex

  6. assisted living facilities

    Are those blueberries? Cause if it is. It is 100% helpful to ourt health.

  7. Sharan Binning

    Thanks for sharing this information and making it available for free online. This is good. And BTW, I just recently came across this new research study that I want to share. The study was done to check the affects of marijuana and alcohol on driving. Now Marijuana may not be completely safe and it would obviously interfere with our daily tasks but it’s at least not as bad as alcohol and tobacco which have been legal in most countries from a long time. Here is a recent research study: https://safe2drive.ca/affects-of-marijuana-driving-study.html – research study done by University of Iowa on the affects of cannabis on driving and the results are quite interesting. Take a look at the original study to know more in detail.

  8. Ganesh Shinde

    Wow that really informative post. I have read most of the time about the eating blue berries can bring immense change in our body.

  9. Tom Spradley

    It is a myth not backed up by current research that salmon is a healthy food just because it has Omega 3 fats. It is full of cholesterol, heavy metals, and it’s animal protein is hard on several organ systems of the body. For peer reviewed research backing up these claims go to nutrition facts.org and search on topics fish, and salmon. Get your Omega 3s from dark greens, avacadoes, walnuts and ground flax seed. Same goes for yogurt. Come on Harvard, don’t get fooled by advertising.

  10. Julie Steiner

    Love this article, especially considering the fact that all of my favorite foods were listed as being beneficial!
    Question: with salmon, is it truly best to eat the skin? *Eating the skin is a tad tough to stomach, so I wonder if it is truly necessary to eat…although I always do try to at least ensure to consume the fatty oils from between the skin and flesh).
    I also I wonder about the benefits of swiss chard and kale as I have read conflicting beliefs about their supposed nutritional values?
    Thanks for any and all input!

  11. Craig H Maynard

    Recommending salmon without any reference to how it is sourced seems incredibly naive and irresponsible. Not all salmon is alike. Much of it is produced in large fish farms that use industrial methods and may be polluting the oceans. Wild salmon tastes better but it is very expensive. Consumers get no information about where wild salmon really comes from and how it is caught.

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