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Alexandra Walker-Jones

Alexandra Walker-Jones

Alexandra Walker-Jones

Alexandra Walker-Jones

25 days ago

These are the 15 foods you should eat daily and why.

Research on preventing disease, extending life, and caring for your body from the inside out

Photo by Isra E on Unsplash

Grapefruit and pomegranates aren't on the list, so ignore that. Mostly, I enjoyed the visual, but those fruits are healthful, too.

15 (or 17 if you consider the photo) different foods a day sounds like a lot. If you're not used to it  — it is.

These lists don't aim for perfection. Instead, use this article and the science below to eat more of these foods. If you can eat 5 foods one day and 5 the next, you're doing well. This list should be customized to your requirements and preferences.

“Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it” -Heather Morgan.

The 15 Foods That You Should Consume Daily and Why:

1. Dark/Red Berries

(blueberries, blackberries, acai, goji, cherries, strawberries, raspberries)

The 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study is the greatest definitive analysis of death and disease risk factors in history. They found the primary cause of both death, disability, and disease inside the United States was diet.

Not eating enough fruit, and specifically berries, was one of the best predictors of disease (1).

What's special about berries? It's their color! Berries have the most antioxidants of any fruit, second only to spices. The American Cancer Society found that those who ate the most berries were less likely to die of cardiovascular disease.

2. Beans

Soybeans, black beans, kidney beans, lentils, split peas, chickpeas.

Beans are one of the most important predictors of survival in older people, according to global research (2).

For every 20 grams (2 tablespoons) of beans consumed daily, the risk of death is reduced by 8%.

Soybeans and soy foods are high in phytoestrogen, which reduces breast and prostate cancer risks. Phytoestrogen blocks the receptors' access to true estrogen, mitigating the effects of weight gain, dairy (high in estrogen), and hormonal fluctuations (3).

3. Nuts

(almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts)

Eating a handful of nuts every day reduces the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Nuts also reduce oxidation, blood sugar, and LDL (bad) cholesterol, improving arterial function (4).

Despite their high-fat content, studies have linked daily nut consumption to a slimmer waistline and a lower risk of obesity (5).

4. Flaxseed

(milled flaxseed)

2013 research found that ground flaxseed had one of the strongest anti-hypertensive effects of any food. A few tablespoons (added to a smoothie or baked goods) lowered blood pressure and stroke risk 23 times more than daily aerobic exercise (6).

Flax shouldn't replace exercise, but its nutritional punch is worth adding to your diet.

5. Other seeds

(chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, fennel seeds)

Seeds are high in fiber and omega-3 fats and can be added to most dishes without being noticed.

When eaten with or after a meal, chia seeds moderate blood sugar and reduce inflammatory chemicals in the blood (7). Overall, a great daily addition.

6. Dates

Dates are one of the world's highest sugar foods, with 80% sugar by weight. Pure cake frosting is 60%, maple syrup is 66%, and cotton-candy jelly beans are 70%.

Despite their high sugar content, dates have a low glycemic index, meaning they don't affect blood sugar levels dramatically. They also improve triglyceride and antioxidant stress levels (8).

Dates are a great source of energy and contain high levels of dietary fiber and polyphenols, making 3-10 dates a great way to fight disease, support gut health with prebiotics, and satisfy a sweet tooth (9).

7. Cruciferous Veggies

(broccoli, Brussel sprouts, horseradish, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, boy choy, arugula, radishes, turnip greens)

Cruciferous vegetables contain an active ingredient that makes them disease-fighting powerhouses. Sulforaphane protects our brain, eyesight, against free radicals and environmental hazards, and treats and prevents cancer (10).

Unless you eat raw cruciferous vegetables daily, you won't get enough sulforaphane (and thus, its protective nutritional benefits). Cooking destroys the enzyme needed to create this super-compound.

If you chop broccoli, cauliflower, or turnip greens and let them sit for 45 minutes before cooking them, the enzyme will have had enough time to work its sulforaphane magic, allowing the vegetables to retain the same nutritional value as if eaten raw. Crazy, right? For more on this, see What Chopping Your Vegetables Has to Do with Fighting Cancer.

8. Whole grains

(barley, brown rice, quinoa, oats, millet, popcorn, whole-wheat pasta, wild rice)

Whole-grains are one of the healthiest ways to consume your daily carbs and help maintain healthy gut flora.

This happens when fibre is broken down in the colon and starts a chain reaction, releasing beneficial substances into the bloodstream and reducing the risk of Type 2 Diabetes and inflammation (11).

9. Spices

(turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, saffron, cloves, cardamom, chili powder, nutmeg, coriander)

7% of a person's cells will have DNA damage. This damage is caused by tiny breaks in our DNA caused by factors like free-radical exposure.

Free radicals cause mutations that damage lipids, proteins, and DNA, increasing the risk of disease and cancer. Free radicals are unavoidable because they result from cellular metabolism, but they can be avoided by consuming anti-oxidant and detoxifying foods.

Including spices and herbs like rosemary or ginger in our diet may cut DNA damage by 25%. Yes, this damage can be improved through diet. Turmeric worked better at a lower dose (just a pinch, daily). For maximum free-radical fighting (and anti-inflammatory) effectiveness, use 1.5 tablespoons of similar spices (12).

10. Leafy greens

(spinach, collard greens, lettuce, other salad greens, swiss chard)

Studies show that people who eat more leafy greens perform better on cognitive tests and slow brain aging by a year or two (13).

As we age, blood flow to the brain drops due to a decrease in nitric oxide, which prevents blood vessels from dilatation. Daily consumption of nitrate-rich vegetables like spinach and swiss chard may prevent dementia and Alzheimer's.

11. Fermented foods

(sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha, plant-based kefir)

Miso, kimchi, and sauerkraut contain probiotics that support gut microbiome.

Probiotics balance the good and bad bacteria in our bodies and offer other benefits. Fermenting fruits and vegetables increases their antioxidant and vitamin content, preventing disease in multiple ways (14).

12. Sea vegetables

(seaweed, nori, dulse flakes)

A population study found that eating one sheet of nori seaweed per day may cut breast cancer risk by more than half (15).

Seaweed and sea vegetables may help moderate estrogen levels in the metabolism, reducing cancer and disease risk.

Sea vegetables make up 30% of the world's edible plants and contain unique phytonutrients. A teaspoon of these super sea-foods on your dinner will help fight disease from the inside out.

13. Water

I'm less concerned about whether you consider water food than whether you drink enough. If this list were ranked by what single item led to the best health outcomes, water would be first.

Research shows that people who drink 5 or more glasses of water per day have a 50% lower risk of dying from heart disease than those who drink 2 or less (16).

Drinking enough water boosts energy, improves skin, mental health, and digestion, and reduces the risk of various health issues, including obesity.

14. Tea

All tea consumption is linked to a lower risk of stroke, heart disease, and early death, with green tea leading for antioxidant content and immediate health benefits.

Green tea leaves may also be able to interfere with each stage of cancer formation, from the growth of the first mutated cell to the spread and progression of cancer in the body. Green tea is a quick and easy way to support your long-term and short-term health (17).

15. Supplemental B12 vitamin

B12, or cobalamin, is a vitamin responsible for cell metabolism. Not getting enough B12 can have serious consequences.

Historically, eating vegetables from untreated soil helped humans maintain their vitamin B12 levels. Due to modern sanitization, our farming soil lacks B12.

B12 is often cited as a problem only for vegetarians and vegans (as animals we eat are given B12 supplements before slaughter), but recent studies have found that plant-based eaters have lower B12 deficiency rates than any other diet (18).


Article Sources:

  1. The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010)

2. I. Darmadi-Blackberry, M. Wahlqvist, A. Kouris-Blazos, et al. Legumes: the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2004;13(2):217–20.

3. Guha N, Kwan ML, Quesenberry CP Jr, Weltzien EK, Castillo AL, Caan BJ. Soy isoflavones and risk of cancer recurrence in a cohort of breast cancer survivors: the Life After Cancer Epidemiology study. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2009 Nov;118(2):395–405.

4. Y. Bao, J. Han, F. B. Hu, E. L. Giovannucci, M. J. Stampfer, W. C. Willett, C. S. Fuchs. Association of nut consumption with total and cause-specific mortality. N. Engl. J. Med. 2013 369(21):2001–2011.

5. V. Vadivel, C. N. Kunyanga, H. K. Biesalski. Health benefits of nut consumption with special reference to body weight control. Nutrition 2012 28(11–12):1089–1097.

6. D Rodriguez-Leyva, W Weighell, A L Edel,R LaVallee, E Dibrov,R Pinneker, T G Maddaford, B Ramjiawan, M Aliani, R Guzman R, G N Pierce. Potent antihypertensive action of dietary flaxseed in hypertensive patients. Hypertension. 2013 Dec;62(6):1081–9. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.113.02094.

7. Vuksan V, Jenkins AL, Dias AG, Lee AS, Jovanovski E, Rogovik AL, Hanna A. Reduction in postprandial glucose excursion and prolongation of satiety: possible explanation of the long-term effects of whole grain Salba (Salvia Hispanica L.). Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Apr;64(4):436–8. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2009.159. Epub 2010 Jan 20. PMID: 20087375.

8. W. Rock, M. Rosenblat, H. Borochov-Neori, N. Volkova, S. Judeinstein, M. Elias, and M. Aviram. Effects of date (Phoenix dactylifera L., Medjool or Hallawi Variety) consumption by healthy subjects on serum glucose and lipid levels and on serum oxidative status: a pilot study. J. Agric. Food. Chem., 57(17):8010{8017, 2009.

9. Eid N, Enani S, Walton G, et al. The impact of date palm fruits and their component polyphenols, on gut microbial ecology, bacterial metabolites and colon cancer cell proliferation. J Nutr Sci. 2014;3:e46.

10. Li Y, Zhang T, Korkaya H, Liu S, Lee HF, Newman B, Yu Y, Clouthier SG, Schwartz SJ, Wicha MS, Sun D. Sulforaphane, a Dietary Component of Broccoli/Broccoli Sprouts, Inhibits Breast Cancer Stem Cells. Clin Cancer Res. 2010 May 1;16(9):2580–90.

11. Lappi J, Kolehmainen M, Mykkänen H, Poutanen K. Do large intestinal events explain the protective effects of whole grain foods against type 2 diabetes? Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(6):631–40.

12. S. S. Percival, J. P. V. Heuvel, C. J. Nieves, C. Montero, A. J. Migliaccio, J. Meadors. Bioavailability of Herbs and Spices in Humans as Determined by ex vivo Inflammatory Suppression and DNA Strand Breaks. J Am Coll Nutr. 2012 31(4):288–294.

13. Nurk E, Refsum H, Drevon CA, et al. Cognitive performance among the elderly in relation to the intake of plant foods. The Hordaland Health Study. Br J Nutr. 2010;104(8):1190–201.

14. Melini, F.; Melini, V.; Luziatelli, F.; Ficca, A.G.; Ruzzi, M. Health-Promoting Components in Fermented Foods: An Up-to-Date Systematic Review. Nutrients2019, 11, 1189.

15. H. Funahashi, T. Imai, T. Mase, M. Sekiya, K. Yokoi, H. Hayashi, A. Shibata, T. Hayashi, M. Nishikawa, N. Suda, Y. Hibi, Y. Mizuno, K. Tsukamura, A. Hayakawa, S. Tanuma. Seaweed prevents breast cancer? Jpn. J. Cancer Res. 2001 92(5):483–487.

16. Chan J, Knutsen SF, Blix GG, Lee JW, Fraser GE. Water, other fluids, and fatal coronary heart disease: the Adventist Health Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2002 May 1;155(9):827–33. doi: 10.1093/aje/155.9.827. PMID: 11978586.

17. Fujiki H, Imai K, Nakachi K, Shimizu M, Moriwaki H, Suganuma M. Challenging the effectiveness of green tea in primary and tertiary cancer prevention. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2012 Aug;138(8):1259–70.

18. Damayanti, D., Jaceldo-Siegl, K., Beeson, W. L., Fraser, G., Oda, K., & Haddad, E. H. (2018). Foods and Supplements Associated with Vitamin B12Biomarkers among Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian Participants of the Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2) Calibration Study. Nutrients, 10(6), 722. doi:10.3390/nu10060722