By Perri O. Blumberg
You already know how about the amazing things bananas do to your body and the incredible potential of weight loss smoothies. But there are a ton of other obsession-worthy foods that are so crazy-awesome for your health and waistline that top experts simply can’t say enough good things about ‘em.
Nutritionists: You trust ‘em to dole out smart, calorie-blasting, body-sculpting bites of nutritious advice. They’ve got your clean eating plan mapped out as prettily as a Pinterest board obsessivore. They’ve even helped you drop a few pounds in 2016. So when it comes to the healthiest foods, we figured we would divulge their wise counsel. Make like a nutritionist, and start crushin’ on these swoon-worthy health foods, stat. And then be sure to scope out these 9 Foods That Turn Off Your Hunger Hormones!
Even nutritionists are avo-crazy: “I am a huge fan of these fruits! They’re packed with Vitamin C to help boost your immune system and healthy fats which are an essential part of your diet,” says New York City-based Aislinn Crovak, RD, CDN. “They are a great addition to most foods, as a spread on sandwiches, or even plain with some sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. My go-to morning breakfast is two sunny side up eggs with a side of creamy avocado, delicious and nutritious!” If you’re looking to, you know, not get any work done today, behold: The 30 Best Avocado Recipes Ever on Instagram. And here’s a pleasant surprise: “Avocados also offer up to 40 percent of your daily recommended fiber intake!” exclaimes Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, a plant-based dietitian and author of The Vegiterranean Diet and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition.
It’s a good thing you already got that kettle going. “Tea is a good source of polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. That’s why tea is believed to promote cardiovascular health and support healthy vision, teeth, bones, memory, and cognition,” says Alexandra Miller, RDN, LDN, Corporate Dietitian at Medifast, Inc. “If left unsweetened, tea is also naturally low in calories and free of sodium and sugar.” That’s why we included it in our new weioght-loss book, The 17-Day Green Tea Diet. And don’t just drink it: “Try cooking with tea or using it as the liquid for a smoothie,” suggests nutritionist Kayleen St. John, RD at Natural Gourmet Institute, a health-supportive cooking school in New York City. Swapping out water for tea is an easy way to increase the antioxidant content of your dishes and losr weight fast—which is precisely why ETNT created The 17-Day Green Tea Diet!
“One of the best known digestive aids, ginger contains the active compound gingerol, which has been shown to help indigestion, nausea, and vomiting,” says Dr. Taz. “This same compound also has anti-inflammatory properties, assisting in relief of joint pain and inflammation.” Ginger tea to beat bloat? We’ll get the kettle going…
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Not just for martinis! “Olives are a rich source of vitamins A and E, both of which protect the oils on the surface of your skin from free radical damage,” praises Peggy Kotsopoulos, RHN of the tantalizing treat, nutritionist, and author of Kitchen Cures. “Olives also help strengthen connective tissues, improving skin tone and protecting against UV radiation. The rich monounsaturated fat content is particularly helpful to the heart since it reduces the risk for atherosclerosis [a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries] while raising good HDL cholesterol.” Olives also pack flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory properties and help reduce your risk for heart disease. And green or black, Kalamata or pimento-stuffed, they’re just pretty darn tasty if you ask us.
5. Brussels Sprouts
“If you can’t get enough of this winter favorite, you’re in luck,” shares Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Partner American Macular Degeneration Foundation. “Besides being delicious, brussels sprouts are a rich source of the antioxidant vitamin A, important for eye growth and development, and the antioxidant vitamin C. They also contain the plant chemicals lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that could help reduce the risk of developing eye diseases such as macular degeneration.” Did we mention that just a cup of the small but mighty veggie offers 100 percent DV of vitamin C and 100 percent DV of Vitamin K (which helps your blood clot and is necessary for building strong bones).
“Flaxseeds are the richest source of lignins, polyphenols that have weak estrogenic effects which may have significant health benefits,” says Hever.”Research suggests that lignins may reduce risk of breast cancer, control blood sugar, and lower blood pressure. Additionally, flaxseeds are excellent sources of essential omega-3 fats, which are crucial for controlling inflammation and heart health.” And let’s just get to the icky stuff: “Flaxseeds offer both soluble and insoluble fibers that are excellent for gastrointestinal health, which is why it can reduce your risk of constipation.” Learn more: 6 incredible health benefits of flaxseeds!
7. Walnut Pesto
Creamy, savory sauce twirling with your pasta or smothered on a slice of toast? Pretty obsession worthy if you ask us. “Pestos are a delicious blend of phytonutrient-packed green herbs, olive oil, a bit of high-flavor cheese, and in this case, walnuts for their distinct taste and omega-3s,” explains Annie Kay, MS, RDN, Lead Nutritionist at Kripalu Center for Yoga&Health. “Herbs also have some of the highest ORAC scores (a measure of antioxidant levels) of any food.” WATCH: What Walnuts Do To Your Body!
8. Hemp Seeds
“Plant proteins are key to health and even people who have difficulty tolerating nuts can often eat seeds without a reaction,” explains Kay. “In addition to protein, hemp seeds are rich in fiber (fiber is a plant phenomenon – there is none in animal foods), and filled with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats.” And vegetarians, rejoice: “Nutty and chewy, hemp seeds are considered a complete protein providing 5 grams of protein in a two tablespoon serving Hemp seeds’ fatty acids promote heart health, reduce inflammation, and promote brain health. They can be easily baked into muffins and cookies, mixed into oatmeal, or sprinkled on top of a pasta dish for extra crunch,” adds Janel Ovrut Funk MS, RD, LDN.
9. Apple Cider Vinegar
“One of the most important things I stock in my kitchen is apple cider vinegar,” shares Dr. Tasneem Bhatia, MD, also known as “Dr.Taz,” a weight loss expert and author of What Doctors Eat and The 21-Day Belly Fix. We’re starting to think we should do the same: “Apple cider vinegar aids in preserving a healthy alkaline pH level which helps prevent fatigue, inflammation, weight problems, acne and heartburn.”
10. Watermelon Water
Don’t be surprised if this is the next juicing rage. But there’s good reason nutritionists think you should swoon for it just as much as they do. Want a perfect complexion? Get sipping. “Watermelon is one of the best ways to stay hydrated. Made up of mostly water, and rich in electrolytes, particularly potassium, which is essential for hydration on the cellular level. It keeps your skin flawless and fresh looking from the inside out,” elaborates Kotsopoulos.”Watermelon water also contains the rind, which is rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that firms up skin and helps to slow the aging process. And it also contains L-Citrulline, which acts as a vasodilator helping to deliver oxygen to all the cells in your body, and is also great for glowing skin. Plus, it’s rich in antioxidant Lycopene (way more than tomatoes), which helps build our skin-firming collagen and prevents against UV damage.”
Superfood Crusted Turnip Fries? Grab some amaranth and get ready for your taste buds and waistline to be delighted. “Like quinoa, amaranth is not actually a grain, but the seed of an amaranth plant. It is high in protein, and surprisingly calcium, too,” says Hayim. “Amaranth is usually cooked in water, like rice, or can be consumed raw. Amaranth is also naturally gluten free, and has been shown in studies to lower incidences of chronic disease such as heart disease and stroke.” Here are 19 more of the best superfoods you haven’t heard of (yet).
12. Chia Seeds
“Although chia seeds are tiny, they pack the most omega-3 fatty acids —which are proven to reduce risk factors for heart disease—and fiber compared to any other food by weight,” comments Lisa Hayim, registered dietician and founder of The WellNecessities. Stir them into yogurt, add them to a salad vinaigrette, or try them in one of these 50 best chia seed recipes for weight loss. “They’re also an easy alternative to carbs,” adds Rebecca Lewis, RD for popular meal-kit delivery service HelloFresh. [In addition to all their nutrients], not to mention they are also an excellent source of vegetarian-based protein.”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know by now that this gluten-free superstar of the ancient grains kingdom is pronounced keen-wah. “Quinoa is a great source of protein, fiber, and magnesium. It is a versatile plant based protein that can be substituted as rice in many recipes and included in baked goods as well.It can be added to almost anything for an extra protein-packed snack,” shares Crovak. Have a sweet tooth? This nutritionist says, “It’s especially delicious in chocolate, adding some extra crunch in every bite.” Bonus: Not only is it higher in protein than most grains, it is also a better, more usable source of protein, says Hayim.
14. Sweet Potatoes
“Although a starchy food, sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene which is essential for healthy skin and eyes,” comments Crovak. “They are a great source of fiber as well and can be added to casseroles, roasted or steamed as a side dish, or even as a french fry substitute. I even love them baked and sprinkled with cinnamon and a touch of butter for a sweet treat.” You had us at cinnamon apple sweet potato waffles…
15. Swiss Chard
“Swiss chard is one of the healthiest leafy greens around,“ states Kotsopoulos. "It helps to boost cardiovascular strength and keeps bones healthy. Plus, it has an abundant source of Vitamin K.” Vitamin K is one of the most important bone-building vitamins, helping to shuttle calcium to your bones, and helping your bones absorb the calcium once it gets there. One cup contains 374 percent of your DV.
16. Goji Berries
“Goji berries are rich in plant-based antioxidants, our body’s best defense against disease-causing free radicals,” says Hayim. (Fellas, listen up: They also happen to be one of the 50 best foods for your penis. Studies show that they may even play a role in supporting weight loss. In a recent experiment, overweight adults were put into two groups: One that consumed goji berry juice, and one that received a placebo. The results of the study showed that in just two weeks, the group that consumed the goji berry juice had a decrease in waist circumference compared to the group that received the placebo.“ Hayim suggests you add them to your salads, oatmeal, or eat a handful plain for a deliciously tangy boost of natural energy.
“Kale is packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, a substance found in plants that is believed to be beneficial to human health and prevention of various diseases,” explains Hayim. “The phytonutrients promote optimal cell function and communication, ensuring that enzymatic reactions occur when they are supposed to within the body, and lays down the foundation for a strong immune system to fight illness.” Check out our 20 fresh tips for how to cook kale (#9 might just blow your mind!).
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“Jackfruit is the wellness world’s next big thing,” claims Hayim. “Vegan restaurants caught on early, with the creation of jackfruit tacos, using the meaty consistency of the jackfruit as the filler. The fruit is deliciously sweet, rich in vitamin and minerals, and contains no saturated fat or cholesterol. While most B vitamins are found in non-plant sources, jackfruit is rich in vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid, which all play an important role in helping the body in converting food to energy.” Okay, we’re sold!
19. Wild Salmon
And yes, it must be wild because farmed salmon is kinda scary. (Brace yourself.) But wild salmon gets a serious head nod: “Salmon contains a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids as well as a unique combination of antioxidants including DMAE and astaxanthin (which makes it pink),” says Dr. Taz. “All of these constituents control inflammation and contribute to a hydrated and youthful appearance.”
20. Nut Milk-Based Cream Cheese
Get ready to spread on the non-dairy love with these tantalizing spreads from Kite Hill. “For those of you who have jumped off the dairy ship long ago, you know it’s nearly impossible to find a cream cheese substitute that isn’t loaded with soy, additives, or partially hydrogenated fats,” says Hayim. And even if you’re new to eating dairy-free, or still enjoy dairy, you won’t be disappointed. “With its creamy texture and all-natural ingredients, this delicious almond based cream cheese is taking over the non-dairy cream cheese world. Try original, or spice it up with chive flavor on a bagel, or even smeared on a raw Portobello mushroom.” Sounds like it must be part of these 20 secrets to eat bread and not get fat.
21. Dandelion Greens
“When it comes to nutrient density (nutrients per calorie) the mighty dandelion is tops,” says Kay. “Rich in protective antioxidant vitamins A and C, dandelions are a gentle cleansing folk tonic for the liver and gall bladder.” You can eat tender leaves from areas free of chemical spray or look for them at your local farmer’s market or health store.
22. Eat Banza Pasta
This gluten-free pasta alternative (made out of chickpeas!) doesn’t have any refined flour and is lower in carbohydrates. “Unlike regular pasta, EatBanza is made out of beans,“ shares Hayim. "This makes you feel fuller, faster, and helps to avoid overeating and weight gain. EatBanza is made from garbanzo beans and pea protein, making it naturally gluten-free and high in protein. This pasta keeps you full longer, and tastes just as delicious, if not more, than that traditional stuff.” Most of the ETNT editors have taste-tested it, too. And yeah, it’s definitely worthy of obsession!
23. Coconut Oil
It’s one of our favorite superfoods for a reason! Its also super versatile: Have a tablespoon or so plain before a workout, or slip some into your favorite shake. “One tablespoon contains 122 calories and 13.6 grams of fat (12 grams of which are from saturated fat.) Because it’s so high in saturated fat, coconut oil’s health benefits are often called into question,” explains Dr. Taz. She elaborates: “But it actually elevates HDL levels (the good cholesterol) and reduces heart disease. It also contains lauric acid, which has antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiviral properties. I like to spread it on rice cakes for a quick and healthy snack.”
Hey, just because you poked at it on your plate back in the day, doesn’t mean you’re gonna wanna push this cruciferous wunderkind away in your adulthood. “In addition to being loaded with bone-building vitamin K and absorbable calcium, broccoli is an alkalizing food that’s been linked to greater bone density and reduced bone loss in postmenopausal women,” explains Kotsopoulos. “It’s also rich in nerve-calming magnesium, folate for pregnant mamas, and fiber that helps keep you full and aids in weight-loss.” Plus, it contains indol-3-carbonals (I-3-C), which helps eliminate excess estrogen from the body that can cause man boobs, belly fat, and stubborn weight in hips and thighs. So, bite that broccoli if you want to slow down your dad bod or growing backside.
25. Butternut Squash
Mmmmm, perhaps the ultimate fall superfood, this tasty veggie is also a boon for eye health. “A vitamin powerhouse, butternut squash contains high amounts of vitamin A, C and E, all powerful antioxidants that are important for healthy eyes. Roasted and tossed in a hearty salad or used in soups or curries, butternut squash is versatile ingredient that won’t disappoint,” offers Amidor.
Bring on the cukes! “Cucumber is a delicious and light way to hydrate the body and replenish its daily vitamins. In fact, cucumber holds the most water by weight of any solid food (95 percent water),” offers Hayim. “When we’re not in the mood to drink our fluids, slicing up some cucumbers or adding them to a salad can help with hydration and detoxification.“ Cucumbers are also naturally low in calories, making it ideal for weight loss, or just to improve overall digestion.
“Hummus should be a food group,” says Hever. “Literally. With all of its potential in the kitchen, there may not be any other food that provides such a satisfying shot of nutrition. Protein-, micronutrient-, and fiber-jammed chickpeas are typically mixed with tahini, which is loaded with healthy fats and minerals, and then boosted along with vitamin C-rich lemon or other citrus, which synergistically improves the absorption of iron from the chickpeas. It is a winning—and delicious!—combination.” Now, excuse us while we go grab our broc and cukes for dipping…