Best Foods To Put In Your Shopping Cart

Published:  08/08/2016

Most supermarkets stock more than 50,000 items, however every time we shop, we toss same 25 foods into our cart. Which isn't such a bad thing, as long as you're taking home the right foods--ones that will keep you healthy.

Why would you even want to consider making the effort to include healthy food in your diet?

Weight loss, increased energy, to be a role model for your children? Yes, and because foods rich in certain nutrients can reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and prevent premature aging!

Aging, and diseases that occur more frequently with advancing age, are caused by structural damage to cells.

One cause of this damage is from free radicals, which are chemical compounds found in the environment and also generated by normal chemical reactions in the body.

Free radicals are thought to greatly increase the severity of—or perhaps even cause—such life-shortening diseases as diabetes mellitus, strokes, and heart attacks.

Increasing human life span may depend on our ability to prevent free radical damage.

Antioxidants are chemical compounds that play a role in preventing and possibly reversing cell damage in the aging process. Antioxidants are found in some foods.

I've created a list of foods that will help you build your diet around the most powerful, disease-fighting, nutrient-dense, muscle-growing super foods.

So add the following foods to your must-buy grocery list. Use my tips and recipes to easily get them into your diet and onto your menu. You will find recipes on my website.

Let's get specific about what the most important foods are that everyone should include in their diet for maximum health.

Turkey Breast
Buy it skinless and you get seven grams of protein per ounce. Turkey is high in B vitamins, zinc, and the cancer fighter selenium. There are little or no saturated fats. Plus, it's one of the most versatile cuts of meat around, so you can easily eat it throughout the week and never have the same thing twice. Cook a turkey breast in a crockpot and you have dinner and enough left over for turkey sandwiches the next day.

Olive Oil
Olive oil is rich in good monounsaturated fat, making it an ideal food for heart health.

Olive oil also has potent anti-inflammatory properties, meaning it can help reduce pain and swelling just like a dose of ibuprofen.

Cook with olive oil and use it as a dressing for your salad.

Chances are you may not be familiar with this exotic whole grain grown in the Andes mountains. But you should be. It has a light, mild flavor-making it ideal for those who dislike other whole grains. Even better, it's higher in protein than any other grain around, and packs a hefty dose of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Quinoa is also a great source of fiber and B vitamins.

Black Beans
Beans can help you feel energized and fuller longer than almost anything else you can eat. Black beans have more fiber per serving than any other member of the legume family. And, they're stuffed with a highly complex form of carbohydrate that can take your body a long while to convert into energy. Eat 2 servings per week

Like meat, they're also packed with protein. But unlike meat, they've got no saturated fats. Black beans also contain antioxidants, and researchers theorize that this fiber-folate-antioxidant trio is why a daily serving of beans appears to lower cholesterol levels and heart-disease risk.

Add to your diet: For a quick, hearty soup, open a can of black beans and pour into chicken or vegetable stock along with frozen mixed veggies and your favorite seasonings. Mash beans with salsa for an instant dip for cut veggies, or spread onto a whole-wheat tortilla for a great recovery meal. Add beans to cooked pasta or rice for extra fiber and protein.

Green Tea
From cancer prevention to weight loss to potentially slowing the development of Alzheimer's, green tea has been shown to help fight almost every major medical ill. Hot or cold, there's almost nothing better you can drink.

An egg a day is OK. Here's why: Egg protein is the most complete food protein short of human breast milk, which means the protein in eggs contains all the crucial amino acids your hard-working muscles need to promote recovery. In addition to boasting some of the highest naturally available doses around of a vitamin called choline, which is thought to help enhance memory. They're the gold standard in terms of providing all the right nutrients for muscle growth.

Eat just one of these nutritional powerhouses and you'll also get about 30 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin K, which is vital for healthy bones. And eggs contain and leutin, a pigment needed for healthy eyes. Don't worry too much about the cholesterol: Studies have shown that egg eaters have a lower risk for heart disease than those who avoid eggs.

Add to your diet: Whether boiled, scrambled, poached, or fried (in a nonstick skillet to cut down on the need for additional fats), eggs are great anytime. Use them as the base for skillet meals such as frittatas. Or include them in sandwiches, burritos, or wraps as you would meat fillers.

There are components in dairy that help turn on your body's fat-burning system and slow down the storage of fat. And although other forms of calcium supplements are great, this is one case in which the real thing works the best.

You know you need to be drinking more water, and for good reason. Water flushes toxins from your system, regulates body temp, acts as an insulator for joints, prevents kidney stones, and supplies the body with other crucial minerals. Without water, none of the other super-foods would matter.

Getting in all that water each day seem like a drag? Try making a sugar-free lemonade or buy a pack of calorie-free flavorings to add to your water bottle at work.

Sweet Potatoes
A 100-calorie sweet potato supplies over 250 percent of the DV for vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, the powerful antioxidant. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, E, potassium, iron, manganese and copper. Together, these nutrients work together to protect your body against cellular damage of all types. They're also one of the best foods for muscle recovery after a tough workout.

Add to your diet: And there are more ways to eat them than just baked, boiled, or topped with marshmallows. Try stirring cooked, diced sweet potato into chili, soups or your favorite potato-salad recipe. You can also grate them into hamburgers or meatloaf, or use them to make your own oven-baked fries. Sweet potatoes can be baked, boiled, or micro waved. You can fill them with bean chili, low-fat cheese, and your favorite toppings. Baked as wedges or disks, sweet potatoes make delicious oven fries.

Whole-Grain Cereal with Protein 250 calories a serving
Look for whole-grain cereals that offer at least five grams of fiber and at least eight grams of protein. For example, one cup of Kashi GoLean cereal, which is made from seven different whole grains, including triticale, rye, and buckwheat, fills you up with a hefty 10 grams of fiber (that's 40 percent of the DV) and is loaded with heart-healthy phytonutrients. It also contains 13 grams of protein per serving. If you pour on a cup of milk or soymilk, you'll get 30 to 40 percent of your protein needs as a runner in one bowl. Other high-protein/high-fiber cereals include Nature's Path Optimum Rebound and Back to Nature Flax & Fiber Crunch.

Of course whole-grain cereal is excellent for breakfast--a meal you don't want to skip since research indicates that those who eat breakfast are healthier, trimmer, and can manage their weight better than nonbreakfast eaters. Cereal also makes a great postrun recovery meal with its mix of carbohydrates and protein. Or you can sprinkle whole-grain cereal on top of your yogurt, use it to add crunch to casseroles, or tote it along in a zip bag.

Soy is a "perfect food." It has the protein of meat, the fiber of a whole grain, and the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals of the best vegetables and fruits. If you don't like tofu and soy milk-there are easy ways to boost your soy intake. Soy nuts and edamame.

It's not only high in muscle-building amino acids, it's also a powerhouse of iron and zinc, which aid circulatory health. In fact, beef is so nutrient-dense that a three-ounce serving supplies more than 10% of your recommended daily intake of a number of nutrients, including protein, B6 and B12, selenium, phosphorus, niacin, and riboflavin. Worried about the fat? According to USDA data, today's beef is up to 20% leaner than it was a decade ago. In fact, 19 cuts of beef meet government guidelines as being a lean meat. To keep the meat you're buying lean as well as tender and flavorful, opt for cuts with the words round or top in the name-things like eye round roast, top round, or top sirloin steak.

Whole-Wheat Bread
Even if you're cutting carbs, there's still a place for complex whole grains in your diet. They leave you feeling fuller longer, and they provide the longest possible supply of sustained energy. Just watch out when you're buying something that claims to be whole grain. It may only look brown because it's colored with molasses. Rather than buying based on color, check the ingredient list. The only true whole-grain products are those that contain 100% whole wheat or whole grain listed as the first ingredient on the packaging.

One study showed that women who eat whole-grain bread weigh less than those who eat refined white bread and other grains. Whole-grain eaters also have a 38 percent lower risk of suffering from metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by belly fat, low levels of the good cholesterol, and high blood sugar levels. All this raises the risk for heart disease and cancer.

Add to your diet: Bread is versatile, portable, and ready to eat right out of the wrapper. Spread with peanut butter or stuff with your favorite sandwich fillings and plenty of sliced veggies for a one-handed recovery meal. Coat with a beaten egg for French toast, or use as layers or crumbled in a casserole.

High in protein, fiber, almonds are great for your heart, digestive system, and skin.

How to add to your diet: keep a bag of dry-roasted or lightly seasoned almonds in your desk drawer at work-and snack on a handful. You can also use it in place of peanut butter. Almond butter is perfect spread over whole-grain toast or on a whole-wheat tortilla, topped with dried fruit, and rolled up. Add almonds and other nuts to salads or pasta dishes, use as a topping for casseroles, or throw them into your bowl of hot cereal for extra crunch. Combine with chopped dried fruit, soy nuts, and chocolate bits for a healthy and delicious trail mix.

Besides being a good source of protein and calcium (one cup provides 13 grams of protein and 40 percent of the DV for calcium), low-fat yogurt with live cultures provides the healthy bacteria your digestive tract needs to function optimally. Just look for the live-culture symbol on the yogurt carton.

The active cultures boost the number of germ-fighting bacteria along your intestinal walls. That helps keep you from getting sick. Studies show that people who eat yogurt most often are less likely to catch a cold than people who rarely eat the stuff. Try to buy yogurt that is less than a week old to ensure you're getting the most benefit from the active cultures.

Like milk, yogurt contains calcium that not only boosts fat-burning but also helps you feel satiated, making it an ideal food for weight loss.

Add to your diet: Low-fat yogurt is great topped with fruit, granola, or nuts, or used as a base for smoothies. Plain yogurt can be mixed with diced cucumber and herbs like dill and spread over grilled tofu, chicken, fish, and other meats. Yogurt can also double as a salad dressing with vinegar and herbs. Or mix it with fresh salsa to stand in as a dip for veggies and baked chips.

One serving of these leafy greens is loaded with fiber, calcium, and virtually your entire day's recommended dosage of beta carotene, a nutrient vital for immune-system health and good vision. Spinach offers a blend of phytonutrients that research suggests may fend off age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer's, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. These phytonutrients also act as antioxidants, warding off muscle damage brought on by tough workouts.

How to add to your diet: If you can't stand spinach plain, try dropping it into pasta dishes and canned soup. Toss a spinach salad with tomato, cucumber, scallions, and an olive oil-based dressing (the fat from the oil helps your body absorb the phytonutrients). You can also stuff spinach in your sandwiches, wraps, burritos, and tacos. Or place spinach in a heated skillet, toss lightly until wilted, and use as a bed for grilled salmon, chicken, or lean meat.

This green should be at the top of your list when it comes to vegetables. It's rich with a healthy supply of iron, calcium, fiber, and vitamin C, meaning it's good for the circulatory system, bones, and fighting colds. As far as vegetables go, this is the one I try hardest to get more people to eat.

Brocco-phobic? Try it on the sly: Slip it into stir-fries, onto pizza, or use raw chunks as a vehicle for your favorite low-fat dip.

Yes, it's true that tomatoes used to be called"love apples" and have a reputation as a powerful aphrodisiac. But that lore has nothing to do with why I picked the tomato as the best food for sexual health. Rather, tomatoes win their high ranking because of a single nutrient: lycopene.

This powerful antioxidant, which comes from the pigment that gives tomatoes their red color, may actually help fight off a number of diseases and ailments-most important for men, prostate cancer. Numerous studies show that men who have the most tomatoes and tomato-based products in their diet are less likely to develop prostate problems than men who rarely eat the stuff. Tomatoes are also that rare food that's more nutritious when cooked than when eaten raw. Lycopene becomes more bio-available to the body after it's been heated. You can start off the day with a glass of tomato juice and have a tomato-based sauce a couple of times a week.

When it comes to eating breakfast in the morning, there's nothing better than a bowl of oatmeal to spike your energy levels and provide you with an hours-long supply of fuel. Oatmeal is also filled with stress-fighting and immunity-boosting zinc.

If that weren't enough to convince you to pop a bowl in the microwave, keep in mind that oatmeal can also help promote weight loss and lower your risk of heart disease. Oatmeal is filled with high levels of soluble fiber that protect your heart and arteries by trapping and expelling cholesterol, dropping levels by up to 30 points or more in some cases.

The best oatmeal may not be the most convenient, however. Those flavored, single-serving packs are often filled with added sugar-and therefore excess calories. Instead, stick with the big tub of oatmeal and add your own fruit and calorie-free sweeteners, if you need them.

Of all the fruit you can eat, blueberries may be the absolute best. Whether you're getting them raw, tossed into cereal, mixed in fruit salad or a smoothie, blueberries pack more fiber, vitamins, and minerals per ounce than any other fruit in the produce aisle. Chief among those nutrients are free-radical-fighting antioxidants.

Need another reason to eat them? How about your memory? Those same antioxidants that fight disease are also effective in helping keep connections between cells in your brain and nervous system healthy, ensuring clearer, quicker thinking and the best memory possible.

The colorful compounds that make blueberries blue, blackberries deep purple, and raspberries a rich shade of red are called anthocyanins--a powerful group of antioxidants that may help stave off Alzheimer's disease and some cancers.

Add to your diet: Frozen berries are just as nutritious as fresh ones, but they keep far longer (up to nine months in the freezer), making it easier to always have them ready to eat. Frozen berries make a great base for a smoothie and there's no need to thaw them. Once thawed, eat them straight up or add to some vanilla yogurt with chopped nuts. Or liven up your hot or cold cereal with a big handful. You can also bake berries with a nutty topping of oatmeal, honey, and chopped almonds for a sweet treat after a long weekend run.

Nutrition-wise, salmon is the king of fish. Besides being an excellent source of high-quality protein (you get about 30 grams in a four-ounce serving), salmon is one of the best food sources of omega-3 fats.

These fatty acids are thought to slow memory loss as you age and boost heart health by regulating heart rhythms and keeping arteries and veins supple and free of blockages.

While saturated fats lead to obesity, the polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish appear to correct and prevent obesity, according to a study published in Clinical Science.

These essential fats help balance the body's inflammation response, a bodily function that when disturbed appears to be linked to many diseases including asthma. If you've been limiting seafood due to possible mercury or PCB contamination, simply aim for a variety of farm-raised and wild salmon for maximum health benefits.

Add to your diet: Bake, grill, or poach salmon with fresh herbs and citrus zest. Gauge cooking time by allotting 10 minutes for every inch of fish (steaks or fillets). Salmon should flake when done. Precooked (leftover) or canned salmon is great in salads, tossed into pasta, stirred into soups, or on top of pizza. Fresh fish keeps one to two days in the fridge, or you can freeze it in a tightly sealed container for about four to five months.

Eat enough oranges and you may experience less muscle soreness after hard workouts. Why? Oranges supply over 100 percent of the DV for the antioxidant vitamin C, and a recent study from the University of North Carolina Greensboro showed that taking vitamin C supplements for two weeks prior to challenging arm exercises helped alleviate muscle soreness. This fruit's antioxidant powers also come from the compound herperidin found in the thin orange-colored layer of the fruit's skin (the zest). Herperidin has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels and high blood pressure as well.

Add to your diet: Add orange sections to fruit and green salads, or use the orange juice and pulp for sauces to top chicken, pork, or fish. And to benefit from the antioxidant herperidin, use the orange zest in baking and cooking.

Frozen Stir-fry Vegetables
Research shows that eating a combination of antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamin C, may lessen muscle soreness after hard interval workouts by reducing the inflammation caused by free-radical damage. Most ready-to-use stir-fry veggie combos offer a potent mix of antioxidants by including red and yellow peppers, onions, bok choy, and soy beans. And frozen vegetable mixes save lots of prepping time but still provide the same nutrition as their fresh counterparts.

Add to your diet: Dump the frozen vegetables right into a hot wok or skillet, add tofu, seafood, or meat, your favorite stir-fry sauce, and serve over brown rice. Or throw them into pasta water during the last few minutes of cooking, drain, and toss with a touch of olive oil. You can also mix the frozen veggies right into soups or stews at the end of cooking, or thaw them and add to casseroles. Vegetables store well in the freezer for about four months, so make sure to date your bags.

Whole-grain Pasta
Pasta has long been an athlete's best friend because it contains easily digestible carbs that help you restock spent energy stores. Whole-grain versions are a must over refined pastas because they contain more fiber to fill you up, additional B vitamins that are crucial to energy metabolism, and disease-fighting compounds such as lignans. And even better, pastas such as Barilla Plus offer whole-grain goodness along with heart-healthy omega-3 fats from ground flaxseed and added protein from a special formula of ground lentils, multigrains, and egg whites to help with muscle repair and recovery.

Add to your diet: Pasta makes a complete one-pot meal when tossed with veggies, lean meat, seafood, or tofu. Or combine pasta with a light sauce, a bit of your favorite cheese, and turn it into a satisfying casserole.

People who workout need more protein than nonexercisers to help rebuild muscles and promote recovery after tough workouts. And just one four-ounce serving of chicken can supply about half an athlete's daily protein needs.

Add to your diet: Chicken's versatility makes it perfect for runners with little time to cook. You can bake, broil, grill, or poach chicken in broth. Leftover chicken works well on top of salads, mixed into pasta, or stuffed into sandwiches and burritos.

Red Bell Peppers

Red bell peppers supply nearly 20% of your daily need for alpha-tocopherol vitamin E. This potent antioxidant heads off cell damage by busting free radicals that roam throughout your bloodstream.

Red bell peppers have more immune-boosting vitamin C than oranges and almost twice as much as their green cousins.

The beta-carotene in red peppers provides the raw material your body needs to manufacture vitamin A. Raw peppers are good, but cooked ones are an even better source, since heat makes beta-carotene more available to your body.

A compound called lycopene in red peppers is one of the best things you can eat to lower your chances of developing prostate cancer.

Stick it on the grill
Cut off the top of the pepper (the stem side), and scoop out the seeds. Slice peppers lengthwise into strips, and place on the grill over an open flame until soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Or broil whole peppers on a baking sheet in the oven, about 15 minutes each side. When cool enough to handle, peel off the charred skin, slice the pepper, and discard the seeds. Use the cooked pepper strips in salads or on sandwiches, or eat them plain as a side dish.

Make a kebab
Cut 1 lb of 1-inch-thick boneless beef top sirloin steak into 1 1z2-inch pieces. Toss meat with a combination of 1 tsp each of sweet paprika and salt, and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Thread beef pieces onto four 12-inch metal skewers, alternating with 1-inch pieces of red bell pepper. Grill kebabs; serve with wild rice and green salad.

Blend up a sauce
Puree prepared or home-cooked red peppers in a blender or food processor to use as a sauce over cooked meat. Add the puree to canned soups to boost their nutritional content and flavor-or mix with an equal amount of sour cream, and add salt, pepper, and onion powder to taste for a quick and healthy dip.

Stuff it
Steam raw bell peppers for five minutes, then cut them open, remove the seeds, and fill them with a combination of cooked ground beef and quick-cooking brown rice. Bake at 350 degrees until hot.

Eat it raw
Throw slices of raw pepper on burgers and sandwiches, or into any cooked or cold pasta dish. (Store-bought, jarred roasted red peppers work great in these settings as well.) Or just snack on raw pepper strips by the handful. They taste great dipped into almost anything you'd eat with a potato chip or tortilla chip.

Active Nutrition is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a way for websites to earn advertising revenues by advertising and linking to Amazon. If you click on one of my recommended item links and then place an order through Amazon, I receive a small commission on that sale, at no extra expense to you of course. This is a way to support me and my work every time you shop at no cost to you.

Connect with Maria