12 foods every healthy eater should have in their kitchen — and why they're good for us

Photo: Getty Images. Design: Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Lifestyle

Our collective obsession with healthy eating shows no signs of of slowing. Experts agree that a better way to achieve a goal — especially as it pertains to health — is via small increments as opposed to the bigger, more ambitious resolutions we make around New Year’s. So what’s the easiest way to make small, steady changes to your lifestyle that can have majorly beneficial impacts on your health? Through your diet. Here are 12 foods to eat that help support a healthy body. Keep these in stock at home — they won’t let you down. 


Cruciferous vegetables have health benefits that are well-known and wide-ranging. Cauliflower regularly receives praise as a low-carb substitute, but it’s also important for brain health: It’s replete with the compounds choline and phosphorous, which work to repair cell membranes. It’s also high in flavonoids and polyphenols, which protect brain health. As a good source of plant protein and fiber, cauliflower has also been linked to serotonin, meaning it can help you physically feel better, happier, and calmer. Because this is necessary for the brain and the nervous system to operate efficiently, cauliflower is a smart addition to your diet.


Photo: Getty Images. Design: Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Lifestyle

Delicious nearly every way you prepare them, tomatoes are brimming with a wide variety of nutrients. These include beta carotene, lutein, and lycopene, which have been shown to support ocular health by helping protect eyes from cataracts, light-induced damage, and macular degeneration due to increased age.


Whether you opt for green, yellow, white, or red, onions are nothing short of nutritional powerhouses. Packed with immune-system-boosting nutrients, onions are also great at reducing disease-causing inflammation, fighting infections, and eliminating damaging free radicals. Yet onions have some significant lesser-known health benefits as well. The minerals and oils in onions help boost metabolism. Likewise, onions help maintain the body’s production of collagen (for youthful skin and thick hair and nails) and also help regulate mood and sleep — meaning you’ll sleep, look, and feel better!


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All nuts are protein-packed, and each offers its own unique health benefits. Walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help support not only heart and arterial health but cognitive function as well. Similarly, Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, a nutrient that is vital to optimal thyroid health. Cashews are so rich in mood-boosting magnesium, tryptophan, and zinc that they’re known as “nature’s Prozac.”


Garlic is well-known for its healing properties, which also extend to one of our most important organs: the liver. Because virtually every nutrient we consume passes through the liver on its way to a different biochemical form, the liver does significant work daily — so keeping it healthy is imperative to overall good health. Garlic is rich in the compounds allicin and selenium, which help cleanse the liver and flush out toxins.  


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Mushrooms are more than just a versatile source of low-calorie, cholesterol-free protein — they can also help keep teeth and gums at optimal health. Shiitake mushrooms, in particular, are packed with lentinan, a polysaccharide with potent antibacterial properties that fights plaque-building bacteria between the teeth and along the gum line.

Red grapes 

Red grapes are chock-full of the antioxidant resveratrol (the same one that makes red wine a healthier adult beverage), minus the alcohol. Resveratrol is renowned for boosting mental agility and memory — something no alcohol could ever boast on its own. It does this by increasing neurological blood flow, which helps speed mental response. The high level of antioxidants also has an added benefit: it helps dispel toxins, including uric acid, from the body, hastening muscle recovery time post-workout!


Whether it’s from stress, environment, or a mixture of the two, sleep problems are a common problem for many Americans. Delicious, low-calorie, fiber-rich tart cherries have a surprising health benefit: They’re great at battling insomnia. Studies have found tart cherry juice to be just as effective at helping people fall and stay asleep as the popular sleep-aid supplement melatonin.


Photo: Getty Images. Design: Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Lifestyle

 Sure, the bright, energizing smell of citrus fruits has been found to reduce stress — but did you know eating them can also work to ward off anxiety? The same immune-system-boosting vitamin C citrus fruits are known for has also been found to minimize stress and anxiety, making citrus an ideal addition to any diet.

Sweet potatoes  

A bright orange, heart-healthy complex carbohydrate, sweet potatoes give your body long-lasting energy while keeping blood sugar levels stable. Yet there’s another reason sweet potatoes can increase energy levels: They’re an excellent source of niacin, part of the B complex of vitamins. Studies have linked the niacin in sweet potatoes to reduced fatigue and increased energy levels — something all of us can benefit from.  


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Popeye credited spinach with his physical strength, but spinach is also known for strengthening the body’s largest organ: our skin. Spinach has been shown to support skin health in myriad ways, such as combating acne, wrinkles, and dullness. It’s also been shown to help protect the skin against damaging UV rays by boosting its natural sun protection. This is especially important given that deadly skin cancer rates in America are on the rise.


When it comes to total body health, it doesn’t get much better than berries. Their rich assortment of nutrients and antioxidants supports the entire body, including the kidneys. Because the kidneys filter waste from your blood en route to your bladder, maintaining their health is important to overall health and wellness. Berries fight free-radical damage across the body (including the kidneys) and help flush out toxins so kidneys can work optimally.  

By incorporating these foods into your balanced diet, you can be assured your total body health will improve.

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