The Top Five Healthiest Foods

Top ten lists abound. When it comes to food, however, I’m often dissatisfied with the top tens. These lists often don’t include some of the most well researched healthy foods. Even if a food isn’t a “super food”, it may deserve a spot on the list.

Top ten lists typically include a food that is part of an entire category that deserves recognition. Broccoli makes the list. In reality, the family to which broccoli belongs should be included. I’m all about eating for health and pleasure. What if you don’t like broccoli? Finding an equally healthy alternative you like is important.

And many lists don’t explain why a food is on it. What can these foods do for me? When people understand the “why,” they are more likely to make the effort to include healthy foods.

Below you’ll find the first five on our Top Ten Healthiest Foods to Eat Now. Tune in next week to get numbers six through ten on our list!

The Top Ten Healthiest Foods To Eat Now: One through Five

1. Cruciferous (Brassica) vegetables

The cruciferous category includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, chard, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, collard and mustard greens, turnips, bok choy, kohlrabi, rutabaga, horse radish, and a few other vegetables. Cruciferous veggies deserve the top because they are master detoxifiers. (1)

The cells in our body, especially in the liver, have “detoxification factories” in them called enzymes. The factories constantly work to process the things that can damage the body.

Cruciferous vegetables can speed up enzyme processing of toxic compounds. They make the body a more efficient detoxifier. Plus, cruciferous vegetables balance hormones in a favorable way. (2) This may reduce risk of hormone-related cancers, such as breast and prostate cancers.

2. Berries

No matter the color or shape, you can’t go wrong with berries. Blueberries often make the list, but don’t forget about blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries. All berries are loaded with anthocyanins (an-tho-sigh-ah-nins).

Anthocyanins limit cellular damage by blocking inflammation and oxidation in the body. (3) This is key to preventing a host of chronic conditions including heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and chronic pain. Would you rather pop an ibuprofen tablet or eat a daily handful of juicy, delicious berries?

3. Apples

Unfortunately, apples often don’t make the list, but they should. Want to shed a few pounds? Eat apples! Adding apples to your weight loss plan can help you eat less and lose more weight than if you didn’t eat apples. (4)

Apples contain pectin, a soluble fiber that selectively lowers LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol. This improves the cholesterol ratio. Cholesterol ratio is more important than total cholesterol when it comes to heart disease risk. (5)

Apple peels are rich in polyphenols (pahl-ee-fene-ols), including one called quercetin (kwer-seh-tin). Quercetin is a potent antioxidant. It encourages damaged cells to die, lessening the chances they develop into cancer. (6)

4. Citrus

Nutrients in oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and tangerines are anti-inflammatory and help support the integrity of the connective tissue in the joints. (7) Got arthritis? You’ll want to make citrus a regular part of your diet. Plus, the vitamin C in citrus is more easily absorbed by the body than isolated vitamin C. (8)

If you are eager to reduce your chronic disease risk – and who isn’t? – look no further. Citrus has a mind-boggling number of healthful actions in the body. Nutrients in citrus suppress new cancer formation, block carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds from reaching vulnerable cells, and transform carcinogens into less toxic substances. (9)

Citrus flavonoids have anti-blood clotting, antioxidant, and pro-blood vessel relaxing actions. All of these lead to lower heart disease risk. And through their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions, citrus flavonoids appear to ward off degenerative brain diseases. (9)

5. Green Tea

The latest studies show that green tea polyphenols rev up metabolism to aid weight loss, regardless of the caffeine content. This beverage also has been linked with reduced risk of everything from heart disease to osteoporosis and obesity.

Green tea has a double benefit for battling obesity as well. It seems to promote body fat loss from the mid-section. This is the type of fat most closely linked with metabolic syndrome and diabetes. (10)

And for beating cancer, you can’t beat green tea. Studies associate regular green tea consumption with reduced risk of many cancers, including those of the breast, prostate, and ovary. (11)

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Suzanne Dixon

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, is an internationally recognized expert in nutrition, chronic disease, cancer, health and wellness as well as the Executive Editor of Nutrition Intelligence Report, a free natural health and nutrition newsletter. 

Suzanne Dixon

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  1. ZedeZ says

    Pineapple and Melon are both loaded with enzymes, which are fast climbing to the top of the most valuable nutrients today.
    Both are digested very fast and easy, both are anti-inflamatory and ofcourse are antioxidant rich.
    AVOCADO is important.
    Cinnamon, Turmeric, Cayenne, Oregano – are most valuable spices .

  2. Anonymous says

    Sorry… But all these are not real food. Either the described list can be put in the salad category or in the dessert one.
    I think the best food is a chicken egg if you want to get the most complete protein content and very important nutrients. Are you all vegetarians?

  3. Rolf says

    Hi Suzanne, your articles are typically very good and balanced; however I am not sure that top 5 or top 10 lists are really the answer to many people’s nutritional needs. To condense the very complex process of nutrition into a top ‘whatever number you choose’ doesn’t cut it in my opinion. People’s needs are much different too and metabolic differences among races, backgrounds and individuals are most often not considered by those who want to simplify where oversimplification isn’t progressive. Green tea is an example here. So many studies were done and most of them are likely correctly in touting the benefits of consumption. However there are numerous herbal concoctions which are more potent and healthy that green tea but very few if any studies were conducted.
    A list makes only sense if the major beneficial nutrients are listed in a top 5 or 10 and those foods are enumerated which have the greater content of them or blend them synergistically. Your list doesn’t do justice to this.

    A better list would be to do a top 10 or 20 of foods to absolutely avoid. Another top 10 or so list should be which food additives to absolutely avoid. As we all know, not all processed food is bad (especially if consumed in moderation) and not all ‘natural (or even organic) food is good (especially if consumed as a main staple).
    Perhaps the above suggestions give some ‘food’ for thought?

  4. Robbie van der Walt says

    Hi Suzanne

    i believe it is personal preference and interpretation.
    i do not see oats on your top 5 as well as nuts and oils.
    Citrus causes sinus.
    green tea is debatable, it contains caffeine.
    i feel cocoa (also contains caffeine) from Africa is even better because it contains high magnesium levels.
    what about the sulphur family onion and garlic.

    kind regards

    South Africa

  5. Anonymous says

    Also peppers are even higher than citrus in vitamin C. They should be organic because they are one of the dirty dozen — as are apples, berries and cruciferous veggies. See for a full list of the produce to buy organic and the ones that you can buy conventional.

    Tea also should be organic because non-organic tea is very high in fluoride which is not good for us in high amounts.

  6. Anonymous N says

    Suzanne, your suggestions are very good. When People find what agrees with them from among these healthy choices they will have a high level of health. But food itself is not all the answer, because we must have sufficient exercise, sunshine, pure water and air to make the best use of what we eat. Even our temperament is influenced for the better if we get the balance correct.
    All those searching for a better way are exercising good sense. We all need more of it!

  7. Gertrude "Trudy" says

    Love it–so many minds, all in high gear. Hope someone has an answer for me. What foods can fit the needs of benign tremor & thyroid? Tremor-reduction crucifers vs thyroid-inhibiting crucifers. Same foods. Benign tremor gone with daily mustard greens (per Earl Mindell’s Vitamin Bible, 1st ed.). BUT–crucifers cause thyroid inhibition (per On mustard greens, tremor left, but got low-thyroid symptoms of hair loss in outer 1/3 of brows, “bikini”, & thinning scalp. Went off crucifer, tremor returned & hair loss slowed (didn’t grow back, just quit falling out so fast). What can I eat that suits both needs without see-sawing each one in turn? Ideas welcome.

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