The 100 Healthiest Foods
In the fast-paced world of nutrition research, it seems like a hot discovery hits the news every week. So we asked prominent scientists doing groundbreaking work on how edibles stave off illness to pin down the 100 most nutrient-packed foods. To make our list, a food had to be very rich in at least one vitamin, mineral or other compound known to protect against cancer, heart disease or other diseases. Be supermarket smart and use this list as your shopping list. you body will be glad you did!
GLOSSARY OF HEALTHY-FOOD TERMS:
ANTHOCYANINS: Plant pigments that help protect you from heart disease.
ANTIOXIDANT: A substance that prevents harmful molecules called free radicals from damaging DNA. Free radicals may be a cause of cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases.
CAROTENOIDS: Antioxidant plant pigments that are converted to vitamin A by the body. There are several types: beta-carotene, a major plant source of vitamin A, which lowers the risk for heart disease and cancer; lutein and zeaxanthin, which are linked to a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration, a major cause of vision loss and blindness in older adults; lycopene, linked with a lower risk of heart attack and cancer.
CONJUGATED LINOLEIC ACID: Beef, lamb and full-fat cheeses are rich in CLA, which halts tumor formation in animals.
ELLAGIC ACID: A plant compound that detoxifies and traps carcinogens.
FAVONOIDS: Plant compounds that deter cancer in a number of ways.
FOLIC ACID: B vitamin that helps prevent birth defects and lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to heart disease.
INDOLES: Compounds that help fight cancer.
ISOFLAVONES: Compounds that act as weak estrogens (phytoestrogens). Eating 90 mg of isoflavones daily can improve bone density.
ISOTHIOCYANATES: Compounds, including sulphoraphane, that protect against cancer.
LIGNANS: Phytoestrogens that help prevent cancer.
MONOUNSATURATED FAT: The heart-healthiest type of fat.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS: A type of fat that reduces the risk factors for heart disease.
ORGANOSULFIDES: Substances that help lower cholesterol.
PHYTOESTROGENS: Compounds that are structurally similar to human estrogen. One difference: They do not promote breast and endometrial cancer. In fact, they help protect against these cancers, while providing many of the same heart-and bone-protective effects as human estrogen.
THE 100 HEALTHIEST FOODS Fruit
(1) Apples 1 medium apple:
81 calories, 0 g fat An apple’s 3 g of fiber help you meet your fiber goal of 20 g to 30 g daily. High-fiber diets can lower heart disease risk.
(2) Apricots 3 apricots:
51 calories, 0 g fat A good source of beta-carotene (which is converted to vitamin A by the body), providing the equivalent of 35% of the RDA for vitamin A
(3) Bananas 1 medium:
105 calories, 0 g fat Bananas are a great source of potassium, which plays a key role in heart health and muscle function. Plus each one has 2 g of fiber.
(4) Blackberries 1 cup:
74 calories, 0 g fat This fruit boasts a whopping 10 g of fiber in a single cup.
(5) Blueberries 1 cup:
81 calories, 0 g fat Blueberries help prevent and treat bladder infections by making it hard for bacteria to stick to urinary tract walls.
(6) Cantaloupe 1 cup, cubed:
84 calories, 1 g fat An antioxidant double whammy, with 68 mg of vitamin C and enough beta-carotene to cover 65% of your daily vitamin A quota.
(7) Cherries 1 cup:
84 calories, 1 g fat A good source of perillyl alcohol, which helps prevent cancer in animals. Heart-protective anthocyanins give cherries their color.
juice 1 cup:
144 calories, 0 g fat Fights bladder infections the same way blueberries do.
(9) Grapefruits 1/2 fruit:
39 calories, 0 g fat A good source of vitamin C and a compound called naringenin, which helps suppress tumors in animals.
(10) Purple grapes
and juice 1 cup seedless:
113 calories, 9 g fat Offer three heart-guarding compounds: flavonoids, anthocyanins and resveratrol. (Green grapes are not rich in them)
fruit 1 medium kiwi:
46 calories, 0 g fat Just one little fruit packs a mean vitamin-C punch (74 mg) and an impressive 2.8 g fiber.
(12) Mangoes 1 mango:
135 calories, 1 g fat A single mango has enough beta-carotene to cover your RDA for vitamin A while racking up 57 mg of vitamin C.
(13) Oranges 1 orange:
61 calories, 0 g fat One orange provides an impressive 50 g to 70 g of vitamin C, 40 mcg of folic acid and 52 mg of calcium.
juice 1 cup:
112 calories, 0 g fat One of the richest sources of folic acid: A cup provides one-quarter of the 400 mcg RDA for folic acid and boasts 96 mg of vitamin C.
enriched orange juice 1 cup (from concentrate):
112 calories, 0 g fat drinking this beverage is a healthful way to make a 300-350 mg dent in your daily 1500 mg calcium requirement.
(16) Papayas 1 cup, cubed:
55 calories, 0 g fat Loaded with vitamin C (86 mg per cup), a healthy dose of fiber (2.5 g) and a sprinkling of beta-carotene and calcium.
(17) Prunes 1/3 cup, stewed:
87 calories, 0 g fat Prunes’ famed laxative effect is no mystery: There are 5 g of fiber (both soluble and insoluble) in just 1/3 cup.
(18) Raspberries 1 cup:
60 calories, 0 g fat Teeming with 8 g of fiber per cup, they also boast vitamin C, ellagic acid and anthocyanins.
grapefruit 1/2 fruit:
37 calories, 0 g fat All the goodies of white grapefruit and more: They provide up to 100% of the RDA for vitamin A and are also high in lycopene.
(20) Strawberries 1 cup, sliced:
50 calories, 0 g fat Strawberries have high levels of ellagic acid and anthocyanins, and are rich in vitamin C (95 mg per cup) and fiber (3.8 g per cup).
(21) Artichokes 1 medium:
60 calories, 0 g fat In addition to their high fiber content (6 g), artichokes contain a flavonoid that has been shown to reduce skin cancer in animals.
(22) Arugula 1 cup:
5 calories, 0 g fat A cruciferous (cabbage family) veggie, this tangy green contains cancer-preventative compounds such as isothiocyanates.
(23) Avocado 1/2 avocado:
170 calories, 13 g fat Yes, they’re high in fat, but fortunately half of it’s the heart-healthy monounsaturated variety. And they’re a good source of vitamin E.
(24) Beets 1/2 cup, sliced:
37 calories, 0 g fat Beta-cyanin, which gives beets their reddish-purple color, is a disease-fighting antioxidant.
(25) Bok choy 1 cup, cooked:
20 calories, 0 g fat This staple of Chinese cuisine contains isothiocyanates, plus lots of calcium (158 mg per cup) and vitamin C (44 mg per cup).
(26) Broccoli 1 cup, cooked:
44 calories, 0 g fat This super food is loaded with sulphoraphane. Then there’s the 72 mg of calcium, 78 mcg of folic acid and all the vitamin C.
sprouts 1/2 cup:
10 calories, 0 g fat As protective as broccoli is, these little sprouts may be even better. They’re sprouting up in health food stores and supermarkets.
sprouts 1/2 cup, cooked:
30 calories, 0 g fat Along with good-for-you isothiocyanates and indoles, these vegetables give you an impressive 48 mg of vitamin C.
(29) Cabbage 1 cup raw, chopped:
22 calories, 0 g fat The indoles in cabbage help make it a cancer fighter. For a healthy coleslaw, top shredded raw cabbage with low fat dressing.
(30) Cauliflower 1 cup, raw:
24 calories, 0 g fat Another great source of indoles; plus it’s high in fiber (2.5 g per cup) and vitamin C (72 mg per cup).
(31) Carrots 1 medium:
26 calories, 0 g fat A stellar source of beta-carotene. one carrot contains twice the RDA for vitamin A. Cooked carrots are even healthier than raw.
(32) Celery 2 medium stalks:
13 calories, 0 g fat Celery doesn’t get much hype, but it’s got the goods - namely phthalides, compounds that lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
(33) Garlic 1 clove:
5 calories, 0 g fat Raw, cooked or granulated: All forms contain cholesterol-fighting organosulfur compounds.
beans 1 cup, cooked:
43 calories, 0 g fat Green beans carry a variety of antioxidant carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
pepper 1 medium:
32 calories, 0 g fat One of the more vitamin C-rich vegetables - 66 mg per pepper - and it’s got a little capsaicin, too (see peppers, below).
mustard, turnip) 1 cup, cooked:
29 to 49 calories,
0 to 1 g fat These greens are packed with disease fighters: lutein, zeaxanthin, and isothiocyanates and 93 to 226 mg of calcium per cup.
(40) Onions 1/2 cup, chopped:
30 calories, 0 g fat They’re important suppliers of the same heart-healthy organosulphur compounds that are found in garlic.
(41) Peas 1/2 cup, cooked:
67 calories, 0 g fat A good source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin - both of which help protect against age-related eye disease.
(hot) 1 pepper:
18 calories, 0 g fat Their phytochemical claim to fame is capsaicin, which helps short-circuit the cancer process.
(white) (1) 7 oz. potato:
220 calories, 0 g fat Don’t peel it, and you get a generous 5 g of fiber, 43% of the day’s vitamin C requirement and a major dose of potassium.
(44) Pumpkin 1/2 cup, canned:
41 calories, 0 g fat Gives you three times the RDA for vitamin A and 3/5 g of fiber. Use canned pumpkin to make pumpkin bread, risotto and soup.
(45) Radishes 4 radishes:
4 calories, 0 g fat The beginning of the bite is cool, but soon things get hot; chewing activates the veggies’ indoles and isothiocyanates.
and other dark
lettuce 2 cups, shredded:
18 calories, 0 g fat The darker the green, the more carotenoids. These lettuces are also high in folic acid: There’s 40% of the RDA in 2 cups of romaine.
red, sweet 1 pepper:
32 calories, 0 g fat An improved version of the already top-notch green pepper, with twice its vitamin C content and a day’s supply of vitamin A.
(48) Seaweed 1 cup:
32 calories, 0 g fat Seaweed is carotenoid and calcium-rich and has a delicate taste.
(49) Spinach 1 cup, cooked:
41 calories, 0 g fat Offers enough beta-carotene to surpass the RDA for vitamin A, a ton of lutein and more than half the RDA for folic acid.
butternut) 1 cup, cooked:
82 calories, 0 g fat Not only does a cup equip you with three day’s worth of vitamin A but it fulfills nearly 10% of your daily calcium needs.
(51) Tomatoes 1 tomato:
26 calories, 0 g fat Technically considered a fruit, tomatoes are loaded with cancer-fighting lycopene and are great sources of vitamin C.
(52) Turnips 1 cup, cooked, cubed:
32 calories, 0 g fat Neglected members of the cruciferous family, turnips provide both indoles and isothiocyanates and 3 g fiber.
(53) Watercress 2 cups:
8 calories, 0 g fat One of its compounds detoxifies a major carcinogen in tobacco and as such may help prevent lung cancer. Also contains carotenoids.
sweet potatoes 1/2 cup, mashed:
103 calories, 0 g fat They win the carotenoid prize, with astonishing levels amounting to six times the RDA for vitamin A.
(55) Chives 1 tbsp:
1 calorie, 0 g fat A member of the same family as garlic, chives contain cholesterol-lowering organosulfides.
(56) Cinnamon 1/2 tsp:
3 calories, 0 g fat Recent research found that 1/4 tsp to 1 tsp of cinnamon daily improves insulin function and, in turn, blood-sugar control.
(57) Ginger (5) 1 inch slices:
8 calories, 0 g fat Helps quell nausea and may reduce joint inflammation in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
(58) Horseradish 1 tsp prepared
2 calories, 0 g fat Whether it’s fresh, jarred or in the sharp green wasabi served with sushi, horseradish is infused with anticancer isothiocyanates.
(59) Mint 2 tbsp:
5 calories, 0 g fat Spearmint, the type normally found in the fresh herb section of your grocery, is rich in covone, an antioxidant and anticarcinogen.
(60) Mustard 1/2 tsp mustard seed:
8 calories, 0 g fat Both prepared yellow mustard and mustard seed contain health-protective isothiocyanates.
(61) Parsley 2 tbsp, chopped:
3 calories, 0 g fat Parsley is a great source of several carotenoids: beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Try it in tabbouleh.
(62) Rosemary 1/2 tsp dried or
1 tsp fresh
h:1 calorie, 0 g fat Test-tube studies found that carnosol, a compound in rosemary, thwarts the action of carcinogens.
(63) Sage 1/2 tsp ground:
1 calorie, 0 g fat Contains a variety of monoterpenes, substances that prevent the spread and progression of tumors.
black or green 1 cup:
2 calories, 0 g fat Tea (regular and decaf) and its antioxidant catechins are linked to reduced heart-disease risk. Tea may also help inhibit cancer.
(used in curry
spice) 1/2 tsp:
4 calories, 0 g fat This spice gets its yellow color from compounds called curcumins, which have reduced the size of tumors in animals 50%.
Beans & Soy
navy) 1 cup, cooked:
220 to 270 calories,
0 g fat A super rich fiber source, ranging from 6 g to 16 g per cup, depending on the variety. Also high in iron.
(67) Soy milk 1 cup:
81 calories, 4 g fat A cup has 20 mg to 25 mg of health-promoting isoflavones.
powder 1 oz:
95 calories, 1 g fat studies show that it takes 25 g of soy protein daily (the amount in just 1 1/4 oz to 3 oz of the powder, depending on the brand) to get a 10% drop in cholesterol. Try blending it in a smoothie.
(69) Tofu 1/2 cup:
97 calories, 6 g fat A rich source of isoflavones. Studies indicate that 90 mg of isoflavones daily improves bone density; 1/2 cup of tofu has 30 g.
protein 1/2 cup, rehydrated:
60 calories, 0 g fat This is the stuff that mimics meat in vegetarian chili. TVP is one of the richest sources of isoflavones, at 40 mg per 1/2 cup.
(full fat) 1 oz:
70 to 110 calories,
6 g to 9 g fat One ounce packs 210 mg of calcium and a dose of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). It’s high in saturated fat; eat with low fat foods.
milk 1 cup:
90 calories, 0 g fat Our calcium lifeline at 300 mg per cup, and one of the few dietary sources of vitamin D, which is vital to calcium metabolism.
(plain low fat
or nonfat) 1 cup low fat:
150 calories, 3.5 g fat Those friendly bacteria (called probiotics) in yogurt help boost immunity and prevent yeast infections.
(74) Beef 3 oz, cooked:
150 to 280 calories,
5 g to 20 g fat Beef is a good source of both CLA and iron, but since it’s also high in saturated fat, have it no more than three times a week.
without skin 3 oz, cooked:
162 calories, 6 g fat Remove the skin and you’ve got an excellent, low fat source of protein. And 3 oz provides 38% of the RDA for the B vitamin niacin.
(76) Lamb 3 oz, cooked, trimmed
175 calories, 8 g fat Lamb, like beef, is also a good source of CLA. Ditto beef’s saturated fat warning and weekly consumption recommendation.
pork 3 oz, cooked, trimmed
140 calories, 4 g fat Fat-trimmed pork tenderloin has one-third less fat than even lean beef. And it boasts 71% of the RDA for thiamine.
(78) Fatty fish
(salmon, mackerel) 3 oz, cooked:
155 to 225 calories,
5 g to 15 g fat The richest source of the heart-protective omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, considered the most potent.
fish 3 oz, cooked:
about 100 calories,
1 g fat Omega-3’s comprise the little bit of fat found in fish, plus fish are a good source of selenium, which is essential for immunity.
(80) Lobster 3 oz, cooked:
122 calories, 2 g fat Try lemon juice instead of butter and you’ve got a virtually fat-free way to meet your daily selenium and copper requirements.
(81) Mussels 3 oz, cooked:
146 calories, 4 g fat Mussels have two to three times as much iron as a burger, and completely cover you for selenium.
Eastern 6 medium, steamed
(1 1/2 oz):
58 calories, 2 g fat Just six oysters give you nearly five times the RDA for zinc, which is critical for immune function.
Nuts, Seeds, Oils
(83) Almonds 1/2 oz (11 nuts):
83 calories, 7 g fat A recent study showed that a daily 3 1/2 oz serving of almonds can lower LDL cholesterol 14%.
nuts 1/2 oz (4 to 4 nuts):
93 calories, 9 g fat Just three to four nuts deliver an astronomical 420 mcg of selenium, eight times the recommended daily amount.
butter 2 tbsp:
200 calories, 16 g fat Eating five ounces of nuts weekly reduces heart-disease risk. Buy peanut butter without partially hydrogenated oils.
seeds 1/4 cup:
205 calories, 18 g fat One of the richest sources of vitamin E (besides oils), with an impressive 6 IUs in just 1/4 cup.
(87) Tahini 1 tbsp:
89 calories, 8 g fat Amazingly, 1 tbsp of the stuff has got 64 mg of calcium, 1.3 mg of iron and nearly one mg of zinc. And it’s a good source of protein.
(88) Walnuts 1 oz (14 halves):
182 calories, 17 g fat Walnuts are exceptionally rich in an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, which helps protect against heart disease.
oil 1 tbsp:
124 calories, 14 g fat The only cooking oil that’s rich in the two healthiest fats: monounsaturated and omega-3’s. It’s a good all-purpose oil.
oil 1 tbsp:
124 calories, 14 g fat It’s rich in the vegetarian form of omega-3 fatty acids. Mix with balsamic vinegar for a tasty salad dressing.
oil 1 tbsp:
120 calories, 14 g fat Besides its extremely high monounsaturated fat content, olive oil also contains a heart-healthy compound called squalene.
(92) Barley 1/2 cup, cooked:
97 calories, 0 g fat Barley is a great source of a soluble fiber called beta-glucan (also found in oats, below), which helps lower blood cholesterol.
cereal Varies by brand. 1/2 cup:
80 calories, 1 g fat The easiest way to make inroads into that 20 to 30 g fiber recommendation. These cereals range from 2 g to 9 g of fiber per serving.
(94) Flaxseed 1 tbsp seeds:
60 calories, 4 g fat One of the richest sources of health-protective lignans and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids
(95) Oats and
oat bran 1 cup:
88 calories, 2 g fat Studies show that a cup of cooked oat bran or 1 1/2 cups oatmeal daily lowers cholesterol 5%.
crackers (1) 4 1/2 x 2 1/2" cracker (.5 oz):
37 calories, 0 g fat Rye crackers are one of the few foods containing rye bran. The bran has lignans and 2.5 g of fiber per 1/2 oz of crackers.
germ 1/4 cup wheat germ:
103 calories, 4 g fat Wheat germ is rich in fiber, provides your daily selenium dose and is one of the few foods rich in vitamin E (7U of E per 1/4 cup).
grains such as
bulgar 1 cup, cooked:
150 to 220 calories,
0 g to 2 g fat Besides the lignans and vitamins, these grains supply complex carbs that mete out a slow, even supply of energy all day long.
bread 2 slices:
138 calories, 2 g fat Each slice of 100% whole wheat bread has 1.5 g of fiber, plus other nutrients. Forget regular “wheat” bread.
wheat pasta 1 cup, cooked:
174 calories, 1 g fat It’s got all the nutrients of whole wheat bread, and it’s a great source of selenium as well.
by Janis Jibrin, R.D.
American Health, May 1999