People often ask me to list my personal favorite healthy foods. Since the 10th anniversary, updated and expanded edition of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth is coming out this June, I figured this would be a great time to answer that question in print.
Hence this list.
These are the foods that I have in my house all the time and I eat on a regular basis. I know I’ve probably left a few out, but this is my own personal version of culinary “heavy rotation”. If I stocked my house with nothing but these foods, I could live very well. I might be bored with my choices after a while, but I definitely wouldn’t be malnourished!
Really, one of nature’s most perfect foods, and, during the idiotic low-fat craze, one of the most unfairly demonized. If you’re still eating egg-white omelets—for any reason other than that you actually like the way they taste—you’re making a mistake. The yolk is a great source of choline (brain food), plus the twin superstars of eye nutrition, lutein and zeaxanthin.
In The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth there’s a two-page essay on the difference between farmed salmon and wild salmon and why you should choose the later. Trust me, wild is where it’s at. I’m no cook, but I probably make wild Alaskan sockeye salmon at least twice a week—it’s one of the easiest dishes to make perfectly.
There are two huge differences between grass-fed beef and factory-farmed meat. One is health. Grass-fed has anti-cancer CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), more anti-inflammatory omega-3, less inflammatory omega-6, no antibiotics, steroids or hormones, etc.). The second is how the animals are treated. If health matters to you, grass-fed is a slam dunk. And if fair and human treatment matters to you, then forget about factory farmed meat.
Almost any member of the brassica family could go in this slot—broccoli, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, etc.—but we’d be here all day and the list would be very long. The two I eat regularly are spinach and kale. Either I make spinach at home (which I do several days a week), or I buy the prepared kale salad at the market (with pine nuts and cranberries). I eat one or the other almost every single day.
All berries are loaded with compounds that are anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and in many cases anti-cancer. They’re also high in fiber and relatively low in sugar. I just happen to like blueberries the best, which also have some nice animal research showing that they support healthy memory.
Minerals, fiber, and fat with a tiny sliver of protein– what’s not to like about nuts? Every epidemiological study I’ve ever seen shows that people who eat nuts regularly have improved numbers in important health metrics, including BMI.
Recent published research has confirmed the value of this old traditional food remedy for gout. Loaded with antioxidants, cherries help lower the risk for gout attacks largely due to their concentration of powerful anthocyanins which are strongly anti-inflammatory.
Dark chocolate is great for you for many reasons, not the least of which is its association with lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The really high-quality bars, with 60% or higher cacao, don’t create cravings for more. It’s really easy to put the bar away after eating just a square or two, which is just about equal to the amount found in research to give you a nice health benefit.
I know my grain-hating friends don’t hold oatmeal in very high esteem, but I like it. It has fiber and fat and a little protein and if you mix it with the right stuff, it’s pretty good tasting. Sure, it has carbs, but when you add butter, nuts, blueberries and a dollop of Dave Aspery’s Brain Octane Fuel, the overall glycemic load is pretty low. (I even sometimes add a spoonful of probiotic-rich locally produced raw unprocessed honey. Don’t hate.)
Sweet potatoes are pretty much my favorite starch. And since I frequently put them in the fridge and eat them cold the next day, I was happy to learn recently that cooled off potatoes are a great source of resistant starch , a kind of superfood for good bugs in your gut.
Seems a strange food to add to a favorites list, but the truth is I use lemons for a lot of things. I always put a slice or two into the juicer when I’m making a quart of fresh made juice (much more than that overwhelms the taste of the juice). And I throw in the rind because it contains a powerful antioxidant called limone. I also use lemons in tea and sometimes infuse a quart of water with lemon and ginger, keep it in the frig and drink it all day.
Next to turmeric, ginger is like the greatest spice ever! It’s staple in all my fresh vegetable juices, and since I make them so frequently, there’s always a supply of fresh ginger in my kitchen.
Needless to say I wouldn’t touch no-fat or low-fat yogurt, a totally ridiculous idea if there ever was one. But real, fermented yogurt—full-fat of course—is a tremendous food (if you don’t have a sensitivity to dairy). And a great way to get probiotics into your diet, though I usually sprinkle additional probiotics on as well. My favorite way to eat: with frozen cherries, frozen blueberries, a sprinkle of nuts, coconut flakes, and a splash of pomegranate juice. Seriously. I call it “Dr. Jonny’s Berries and Cherries” and I can’t think of a “dessert” that’s better for you.
I’m such a fan of avocados that Dr. Masley and I chose to put one on the cover of our book, Smart Fat: Eat More Fat, Lose More Weight, Get Healthy Now. Besides having a lot of fiber and monounsaturated fat, avocados are the secret to making an extra-creamy shake or smoothie.
Just file this with the ever-growing list of “things grandma was right about after all”. If ever there was ever a single food that could actually keep the doctor away, it would be apples. It’s also all-purpose. I sauté apple slices in butter with scrambled eggs, cheese and spinach; I slice them and eat them with peanut or almond butter; and I use them in juicing. Apples are the bomb.
Then there are my five favorite drinks:
Green tea is an anti-aging metabolism tonic in a glass. I make it with leaf tea. I also sometimes make matcha, complete with the little bowl and the whisk.
Pomegranate juice is a superfood. Period. Israel researchers also called it “a natural Viagra” due to its effect on their lab rats. Questions, anyone?
Given that I’ve written many times that eating the whole fruit/vegetable is so much better than drinking its juice, I sometimes take heat for my love for the Hurom juicer and my newly acquired juicing habit.
But here’s the thing. You may not get all the fiber when you make fresh juice, but you get a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, polyphenols, flavonoids, and other healthy plant compounds plus all the good stuff in the ginger I add to it. It’s about as healthy a beverage as I can imagine sipping.
I always keep a few quarts in the freezer, and defrost them in the frig as I need them, which is constantly. Raw milk—really cold, just barely defrosted– is something about which I can honestly say, “They will have to pry it from my cold, dead hands”. I just love this stuff.
I drink coffee a lot—Bulletproof mostly, but also regular garden-variety organic. I’ve had many “coffee arguments” with my health conscious friends about this, but I believe that if you don’t have a genetic sensitivity to caffeine, it’s a perfectly good “food” which actually contains a number of the same healthy antioxidants found in cocoa.
And a zillion studies show coffee drinkers have lower risk for all kinds of things from pancreatic cancer, to diabetes, to… well, death! (I haven’t put links to all the research I mentioned in this article but I’ll put a link into this one, because it’s likely to raise eyebrows.
As you may have noticed, I didn’t include spices or oils in this list. Things I use to make foods taste better, or to garnish, or to cook with, would have taken us beyond a mere list and into book territory—(did I mention the 10th anniversary edition of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth is coming out in June? I know I did. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.).
So that’s why you don’t see grass-fed butter (I like Kerrygold), extra-virgin olive oil, Malaysian palm oil, ghee, avocado oil, coconut oil, flaxseeds, chia seeds, coconut flakes, turmeric, and all the other spices, oils and specialty items that make food delicious and gorgeous.
I’d love to know what your favorite foods are. Share your list with me and everyone else in our community on Facebook! It’s always fun to see what other people really eat when no one’s looking.
And if we’re really coming clean about what we eat when no one’s looking. I should probably add ice cream to the above list.
PS, I mentioned the ice-cream thing to a tennis friend of mine who lives on pizza, donuts, fast food and Ben and Jerry’s. “See?” he said, triumphantly, “even you eat ice cream!”
“Tru dat”, I said. “But look at all the other things I eat on the very same day.”
I rest my case.