10 delicious foods that are good for your health
“If it tastes good, just spit it out. Because if it tastes good, it has to be bad for you.”
As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist I’ve heard these words from patients, friends, family and students in my classes a lot. Just this week someone who had recently been diagnosed with heart failure told me his doctor said that! Ouch. How discouraging it must have been to hear those words.
Luckily not all health care providers think this way. And even more luckily, it’s well-established that nourishing, healthful foods can taste really fantastic.
I personally got involved in health care because I really love food and I’ve seen so many times how helping people choose wholesome, delicious foods they love can completely change their health.
Nutrition is obviously about health, but it’s also about food. And food should taste good! Don’t be fooled -- food is definitely your friend and not your enemy when it comes to improving your health.
Here are 10 foods that taste as amazing as they are health-promoting:
Dark chocolate: Rich in flavonols that may help lower blood pressure and improve insulin sensitivity, dark chocolate is a delicious and nourishing indulgence. Look for chocolate that contains a high percentage of cocoa solids to get the most benefit from this superfood!
Berries: Berries are often called nature’s candy, and with good reason. Their sweet flavor, bright coloring and portable size make them incredibly appealing. But that’s not all berries can do. Blueberries are packed with antioxidants, called anthocyanins, that may help keep memory sharp as you age. Raspberries contain ellagic acid, a compound with anti-cancer properties. All berries are great sources of fiber, which can keep you full longer and feed the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract.
Oven-roasted carrots (or really any oven-roasted root vegetable): We all know (and hopefully love) the satisfying crunch of a raw carrot. But have you ever tried them roasted? It’s a game-changer. Chop and toss with olive oil, a bit of salt, pepper and garlic powder. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. You’ll love the savory and sweet combination from the roasted carrots and spices. Packed with Vitamin A, biotin and fiber, carrots are a delicious nutrient powerhouse.
Caramelized onions: Onions of all kinds and preparations can give a big flavor boost to your dish, but caramelized onions are a personal favorite. The low, slow cooking method brings out all the naturally-available sweetness and it’s the perfect topping for just about anything. In addition to their unmatched ability to flavor foods, onions are fantastic sources of prebiotic fibers, polyphenols and sulfur-containing compounds that may help prevent blood clots and lower blood cholesterol levels.
Tomatoes: Fresh, in-season tomatoes are tough to beat for their sweet flavor and juiciness. In addition to being a great snack and welcome addition to salads, soups, sauces and more, tomatoes are a great source of fiber, potassium, and Vitamins A, C, and K. The Beta-carotene and lycopene in tomatoes may help protect skin against sun damage. Good thing tomato season is in the summer!
Avocados: Who doesn’t love a zesty, creamy guacamole? Avocados are enjoying a bit of a moment in the foodie world and those of us who follow nutrition are not at all disappointed! In addition to being packed with fiber and heart-healthy fats, the carotenoids in avocados may help protect your eyes against macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of age-related vision loss.
Lemons: Their tart, acidic flavor brightens soups, chicken, fish, tea, water, salads and just about anything else. Not only are lemons fantastic flavor enhancers, some studies show they may have anticancer benefits, prevent kidney stones and aid digestion.
Eggs: Eggs got a bad rap in the ‘80s and ‘90s because the yolks have a significant amount of cholesterol, but now we know eating cholesterol in foods doesn’t have as big of an effect on blood cholesterol levels as saturated and trans fat intake or fiber intake. Eggs are a great source of protein, healthy fats, Vitamin D, choline and iron. They’re also incredibly versatile, easy to make and fantastic for mixing with vegetables to get more produce in your day.
Roasted nuts: Roasting and lightly salting nuts brings out such amazing flavor! Adding nuts to salads, breads, snack mixes and more brings a delicious crunch that’s packed with nutrients. Studies suggest that eating nuts reduces incidence of coronary heart disease, gallstones, hypertension, cancer and inflammation.
Salmon: Grilled salmon is tender and meaty with none of the strong fishy flavor that other seafood can bring. Try it with capers and lemon. You will not be disappointed! It’s no secret salmon is packed with heart-healthy fats, protein and Vitamin D. But did you know that those same heart-healthy fats may also help improve mood and joint health? Eating healthy fats in seafood (like salmon) is associated with decreased risk of depression, decreased risk of hostility in some studies of teenagers and decreased risk of cognitive decline in older persons.
These are just a few examples of how tasty food can improve health, but there are so many more! Here’s my National Nutrition Month challenge to you: Instead of focusing on foods you think you should eat less of, think about how you can improve your health by eating MORE of the things you love.
And next time someone says all healthy food tastes bad, you’ll know exactly how to make the case that food is your friend in improving health!
Claire Walsh, MS, RD, LD, CHC is a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City.