fifty foods for health

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thought that this might be of interest to members, given that this hobby is arguably not the healthiest activity on the planet. 

Eat for health: the top 50 foods for brain, heart and joints

Is your diet packed with the most nutrient-dense foods possible? From sage to strawberries, we ask the experts for the best things to eat



1 Broccoli

This is a powerhouse of nutrients, including fibre and vitamin C. It also has high levels of glucosinolates, a class of phytochemicals that may reduce the risk of prostate, breast and colorectal cancers. It is best eaten raw or lightly steamed.

2 Kale 
Keeps your cells young

Like other leafy green vegetables, it is rich in fibre and antioxidants such as lutein, carotenoids and beta-carotene that fight cell damage. Last year a study at the University of Illinois involving middle-aged participants found that those with higher levels of lutein — a nutrient found in abundance in kale and spinach — had brain responses more like younger people than their peers. However, with four times as much vitamin C and significantly more vitamin A, kale beats spinach on other nutrients.

Beetroot is good for cardiovascular healthGETTY IMAGES

3 Beetroot
For healthy blood pressure

Beetroot’s benefits stem from it being a good source of nitrates. A growing body of evidence suggests that these play a role in improving blood flow, maintaining immune function and cardiovascular health. The American Heart Association suggests that a cup of beetroot juice a day might help to reduce blood pressure and shots have been shown to help recovery after exercise.

4 Onions 
Great for your gut 

A review of 64 studies by researchers at King’s College London, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found onions to be among the most gut-friendly foods thanks to the prebiotic fibres they contain, which feed good bacteria in our digestive systems. They are also rich in vitamin C and folic acid.

5 Sweet potatoes 
Boost your immunity

With high amounts of beta-carotene — the antioxidant carotenoid that is transformed into vitamin A in the body — sweet potatoes can contribute to eye health and boost the immune system. Boiling them ensures that the nutrient is more absorbable. Their high potassium content is enough to significantly lower blood pressure if eaten regularly.

Artichokes are great probioticsGETTY IMAGES

6 Artichokes
For better sleep

Artichokes are one of the best prebiotic foods — dietary fibres that serve as food for good bacteria inside the gut. A study at the University of Colorado last year found that their prebiotic powers might also improve sleep.

7 Pak choi 
Great for your bones 

This cruciferous vegetable is packed with health benefits. It contains folate, which helps with DNA repair and production, and selenium, which fights inflammation, along with fibre for feeding good gut bacteria. It also contains bone-friendly nutrients, including magnesium, calcium, phosphorous and zinc.


8 Turmeric
An excellent anti-inflammatory

Its active ingredient, curcumin, which is the bright yellow chemical produced by some plants, is a natural anti-inflammatory, linked to better joint health and improved memory. Latest studies, including one in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry in January, suggest that daily use of turmeric can boost memory and general mood in people with mild, age-related memory loss. Adding black pepper helps the body to absorb it.

9 Cinnamon 
The fat-fighting spice

Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties, and assists blood-sugar control, so can help to prevent type 2 diabetes. Last year a preliminary study by the American Heart Association also suggested that it might reduce the damaging effects of a high-fat diet by slowing the fat-storing process.

Garlic: antimicrobial and cardioprotectiveGETTY IMAGES

10 Garlic 
Good for your blood 

Garlic has antimicrobial properties thanks to the presence of allicin, an active compound released when a bulb is crushed. Garlic also has superb cardioprotective effects — it’s thought that hydrogen sulphide, a chemical formed after garlic is cut or crushed, acts as a signal to relax the blood vessels. Freshly crushed garlic has most benefit.

11 Ginger 
Eases muscle pain, fights nausea

Traditionally used to treat nausea and colds, ginger also has anti-inflammatory effects that can ease muscle pain caused by exercise. At the University of Georgia researchers measured the inflammation and pain experienced by a group of exercisers who performed arm exercises with a heavy weight over 11 days. Those given a daily dose of ginger had significantly less muscle soreness.

12 Sage 
Great for your brain

Clinical tests have proven that eating sage, rosemary or peppermint can fire up the neural pathways. David Kennedy, professor of biological science and director of the brain, performance and nutrition research centre at Northumbria University, says: “We have consistently seen immediate improvements in brain function with sage and other herbs.”

13 Oranges 
Protect your heart and preserve your eye health

We know they are packed with vitamin C — adults need 40mg daily of the vitamin and a single orange can provide 46-69mg — but they also contain potassium, which helps to regulate fluid levels in the body, and folate for healthy blood cells. A report in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association a few years ago found that flavonoids in citrus fruits, of which oranges were the greatest source, seem to have a protective effect on the heart. In July an Australian study of 2,000 people reported that those who had at least one orange every day had more than a 60 per cent reduced risk of developing macular degeneration, the most common cause of sight loss among older people, 15 years later.

Apples lower cholesterolGETTY IMAGES

14 Apples 
Lower your cholesterol and burn calories

Rich in vitamin C and fibre, apples have been dubbed a “miracle fruit”. Scientists at Florida State University found that older women who started eating the fruit daily experienced a 23 per cent drop in LDL (bad) cholesterol after six months. Always eat with the peel on, not just for more fibre and antioxidants, but because it contains ursolic acid, a compound that has been shown to fuel calorie burning.

15 Avocados 
Ward off metabolic syndrome

Avocados are packed with healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and vitamins, including the antioxidant vitamin E that protects cells against damage. These and other compounds — fibre and phytosterols — in the flesh of avocados mean they have lipid-lowering effects and have been shown to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors, including raised cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. In a 2015 paper in the Journal of the American Heart Association, people who ate a moderate fat diet including an avocado every day had significantly lower LDL (bad) cholesterol after five weeks than those who didn’t include the fruit.

16 Strawberries 
Improve your cognitive function

A serving of eight strawberries provides more vitamin C than a medium orange. They are also a concentrated source of the beneficial plant compounds flavonoids and have been dubbed a brain food for their ability to ward off age-related neuro-degeneration. In August a team of researchers from the University of Massachusetts reported to the American Chemical Society how one serving might help to alleviate the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. They were also highlighted as a food to improve heart health by experts reporting in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, who said we should aim for at least three servings a week.

Tomatoes halved skin cancer ratesGETTY IMAGES

17 Tomatoes 
Protect against skin cancer

Carotenoids — the antioxidant compounds that give tomatoes their colour — are responsible for many of the beneficial effects of the fruit, including their ability to protect against ultraviolet light damage. Daily tomato consumption was found to cut skin cancer rates in half in one study. Of tomatoes’ carotenoids, lycopene is the most potent and is linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Cooking tomatoes boosts the disease-fighting power of lycopene.

18 Chilli peppers
Boost longevity

Rich in disease-fighting antioxidant carotenoids, chilli peppers also contain capsaicin, an active ingredient that provides the fiery heat along with a host of health benefits. Last year a study in the journal PLOS One involving more than 16,000 people showed that those who ate red chilli peppers had a lower risk of death from all causes over an average of 18 years than those who did not add chillies to food. Capsaicin has been shown to activate receptors of cells lining the intestine, helping to reduce the risk of gut tumours.

19 Blueberries 
Great for your memory

Blueberries get a big tick from cardiologists as a heart-healthy food, but they also have proven benefits for the ageing brain thanks to their rich antioxidant and flavonoid content. Last year researchers at the University of Exeter found that healthy people aged 65-77 who were given 30ml of concentrated blueberry juice daily (the equivalent of 230g of the fruit) experienced improvements in brain function while carrying out a series of cognitive tests. An earlier University of Cincinnati study found that people with mild cognitive impairment who ate a serving of blueberries every day for 16 weeks experienced improved memory.


20 Brazil nuts
Cut your prostate cancer risk

As one of the best sources of selenium, Brazil nuts can play a role in prostate cancer prevention, according to a recent study funded by the World Cancer Research Fund. Selenium, needed for the production of a range of enzymes and hormones, is key to keeping the immune system in check and can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the prostate.

Eat almonds with the skin onGETTY IMAGES

21 Almonds 
Help to lower blood fats 

A regular handful of almonds will help your body to clear bad cholesterol from your bloodstream more effectively, according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition last year. Eat them with the skins on because that’s where much of the beneficial fibre is stored.

22 Chia seeds 
For better digestion

High in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, phytonutrients and a range of vitamins and minerals, chia seeds are also a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body. They are packed with almost 11g of fibre per 25g, making them a filling, low-calorie (121 calories per 25g) digestive aid.

23 Walnuts
Improve your colonic health

Research published in the Journal of Nutrition this year showed that eating a small handful of walnuts daily improves gut health and possibly helps to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Walnuts have higher antioxidant levels than most other nuts and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, important for heart health.

24 Sunflower seeds
Help to fight stress

The B-complex vitamins these seeds contain will help to strengthen a healthy nervous system and ward off the effects of stress. They are a good source of minerals, including phosphorus, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, and of vitamin E for healthy skin.


25 Lentils
Lower your blood sugar

These high-protein pulses contain plenty of important minerals such as manganese and folate. They can also slow digestion and the release of sugars found in starch into the bloodstream, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes in the long term. Canadian researchers found last year that replacing half the white rice in a meal with lentils meant that blood glucose levels dropped by up to 20 per cent after eating.

Lose weight with red beansGETTY IMAGES

26 Kidney beans 
Help with weight loss

Eating a daily 130g serving of kidney beans could help to keep weight off. A meta-analysis of 21 clinical trials involving 940 adult men and women found that people who added pulses, including kidney beans, to their daily diet, but made no other changes, lost an average of 0.34kg (0.75lb) over six weeks. Findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

27 Chickpeas 
Boost your cardiovascular health

Hummus and the chickpeas from which it is made were highlighted as a heart-healthy food in a review published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology recently. Trials have shown that adding just one daily serving (130g) of chickpeas to your diet encourages the consumption of fewer unhealthy saturated and trans fats, and leads to a 5 per cent lowering of cholesterol levels, in the process.

28 Mung beans 
Muscle repair

These legumes contain plenty of magnesium, useful for muscle repair after exercise, as well as potassium, folate, fibre and vitamin B6. A 2011 paper in the Journal of Chemistry revealed that “mung beans have biological activities, including antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory” and other properties.


Eggs cut the risk of strokeGETTY IMAGES

29 Eggs 
Stroke reduction

Eggs have been shown to have beneficial effects for health, including the heart. Eating an egg a day could even cut your risk of suffering a stroke by as much as 26 per cent, reported a recent study carried out in China and the UK and published in the journal Heart. Eggs contain high-quality protein, many vitamins and cardiovascular-friendly bioactive components such as phospholipids.

30 Greek yoghurt 

With more protein and slightly fewer carbohydrates than regular yoghurt, Greek yoghurt contains all of the essential amino acids needed for muscle-building. Much of the protein is casein, which is slowly released and digested. Studies have shown that eating a small pot before sleeping (and after exercising) can help to promote lean muscle development. It’s also a good source of calcium, important for bone strength, and there’s good bacteria for your gut too.

31 Whole milk 
Thyroid health

Milk is the main source of iodine, needed to make thyroid hormones and important for normal foetal brain development during pregnancy. Switching to non-milk alternatives puts us at risk of iodine deficiency, according to studies at the University of Surrey last year. A 200ml glass also provides protein, calcium and B vitamins. Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Centre found a correlation between milk consumption and the levels of a naturally occurring antioxidant called glutathione in the brains of older people.

The riper the cheese, the betterGETTY IMAGES

32 Roquefort cheese 

A UK-based biotech company reported that Roquefort’s anti-inflammatory properties increased the longer the cheese was ripened. “Moulded cheeses, including Roquefort, may be even more favourable to cardiovascular health,” they wrote in the Medical Hypotheses journal. Blue cheese also contains dietary spermidine, associated with reduced blood pressure.

33 Parmesan cheese 
Microbiome boost

An excellent source of calcium — it contains 300mg in a 30g serving, more than cheddar and many other cheeses — it’s biggest plus is that being fermented it contains lactic-acid bacteria that can create gut-friendly probiotics for a healthy microbiome.

34 Cottage cheese 
High in calcium

Cottage cheese is relatively low in fat but high in calcium, which is important for strong bones. It also contains 12g of protein per 100g, which is more than yoghurt, and helps to fill you up.


35 Salmon 
Heart health

We should be eating oily fish twice a week because of the omega-3 fatty acids it cointains, which reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and strokes — and salmon is among the richest sources.

36 Canned sardines 
Great for bone health

Sardines deliver more calcium per serving than most other foods, largely because of their soft edible bones. A 100g serving of sardines canned in olive oil provides 382mg of calcium, about 40 per cent of the amount an adult needs in a day. They also provide vitamin D, critical for bone health.

37 Venison 
The healthy meat choice

With one third of the fat in beef and fewer calories than chicken, venison is a healthy meat choice. Its iron content means it’s also a wise choice for the estimated four million Britons at risk of iron deficiency. Venison is the highest source of iron in all meats, containing 4.5mg of iron per 100g, compared with 0.7mg in chicken and 3.5mg in beef.


38 Oats 
Relieve skin conditions

A soluble fibre called beta glucans in oats is known to reduce blood cholesterol when eaten regularly. They also contain 20 unique plant compounds, called avenanthramides, that have a powerful antioxidant effect and can help to relieve irritating and itchy skin conditions, according to research at Tufts University’s Human Nutrition Research Centre in the US.

39 Wheatgerm 
Boosts gut bacteria

This is the most nutritious part of wheat that is often removed before it is made into flour, but which is best served sprinkled on breakfast cereal or into yoghurt. With high amounts of the powerful antioxidant vitamin E and fibre, it has been shown to help to lower blood cholesterol and, in a study at the University of Bologna, to increase levels of the beneficial gut bugs lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.

40 Quinoa 
Reduce blood triglycerides

It is popular due to its high protein content, but it also has specific health benefits. Last year, a study in the journal Current Developments in Nutrition found that overweight people who ate 50g of quinoa as part of their normal diet had significantly lower levels of serum triglycerides after 12 weeks. High levels of these triglycerides are a risk factor for heart disease.

41 Brown rice
Diabetes protection

Brown rice is a wholegrain with nutritious germ and fibrous bran intact, whereas white rice is milled and processed with nutrients discarded. Harvard scientists showed that whereas eating five or more servings of white rice a week led to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, eating at least two servings of brown rice every week was associated with a lower risk.

42 Barley
Helps with weight loss

It’s almost fat-free, but also filling (thanks to the fibre) and has a low glycaemic index (GI), which means it doesn’t provide unhealthy spikes in the blood sugar that cause cravings. Adding barley to the diets of obese patients helped them to lose weight in one study published in the Journal of Nutrition.

Extra virgin olive oil protects the memoryGETTY IMAGES

43 Extra virgin olive oil
Protects brain cells

A staple in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, extra virgin olive oil has high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids that can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It can also boost brain health, reported a 2017 paper in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology. Using extra virgin olive oil was found to protect memory and reduce the formation of damaging plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, which are markers of degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

44 Walnut oil
Aids stress relief

A diet rich in walnut oil may prepare the body to deal better with stress, according to Penn State University researchers. They found that walnut oil lowered resting blood pressure and blood pressure responses to stress in their laboratory. It also has cardio-protective benefits, primarily from its high concentration of the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid. The antioxidants, specifically ellagic acid, in walnut oil have been linked to the prevention of some cancers.

45 Apple cider vinegar

The acetic acid in vinegar aids digestion and the acid it contains may help to fire up fat metabolism and stabilise blood sugar. Consume no more than four tablespoons daily.


46 Porcini mushrooms

In a study at Penn State University last year scientists found mushrooms to be not only low in fat and high in fibre, but the best food source of two anti-ageing antioxidants — ergothioneine and glutathione — with porcini topping the lot.

47 Dark chocolate
Improves focus

A rich source of flavonoids that support cognitive, endocrine and cardiovascular health. Most recently research at Loma Linda University in California found that 70 per cent cocoa chocolate improves brain health and focus.

48 Red wine
Heart health

Evidence has shown that the antioxidant compounds found in red wine are beneficial to heart health. Just stick to healthy amounts (no more than 14 units of alcohol a week).

49 Coffee
Longer life

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland announced recently that people who drink up to seven cups of black coffee a day can cut their risk of early death and are less likely to die of some cancers and cardiovascular disease.

50 Kefir
Intestinal health

With a wider range of beneficial bacteria than yoghurt, this fermented drink has a well-deserved reputation as a gut-health enhancer.


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  • 1 year later...

Wow, thanks for the great list. It is a pity that I did not know that food affects a person's life so much. I ate fast food for a very long time and it was delicious but very harmful. Over time, I ran into the fact that I simply could not get up from the chair normally.I say overweight. It happened very quickly. Because of this, I also started having problems with testesterone and potency. I decided to stop it and started taking hormones, exercising. I decided to completely change my life and I did it. It was problematic to track changes in testosterone levels, but very high quality and accurate tests helped me.

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