You can slather yourself from your forehead to your pinkie toe in organic lotions, but if you think that alone will make you glow, we have some bad news. From its well documented health benefits to its undeniable impact on physical beauty, good nutrition is the pillar of every kind of healthy lifestyle. That doesn’t mean you need to swear off bacon and beer or anything. The trick is finding the right balance.
But with new studies coming out every month about what we should put in our mouths—not to mention the unending discovery of mysterious superfruits from deep in the forests of wherever—it can be hard to keep track of what, exactly, we should be eating. To simplify things, here’s a can’t-go-wrong shopping list. Bon appétit!
1. Tomatoes. Organic tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, a powerful antioxidant shown to help fight illnessesof all stripes. They’re also loaded with vitamins C and A, and if you believe Dr. Oz, they could be as good or better than açai and goji, those trendy, expensive antioxidants you couldn’t stop hearing about for a few years.
2. Green tea. In a nutshell, people who drink green tea have about a dozen health advantages over people who do not—from cancer prevention to longevity to gentler skin aging—thanks to its antioxidant polyphenols. Organic green tea is preferable (nothing undoes positive health effects like a load of pesticides) and can be found in bulk for cheap at large grocery stores.
3. Broccoli. This is the item on the list you’d be best off learning to love if you don’t already, because its nutrition profile beats out all other veggies according to a Harvard University study. It has well-documented anti-inflammatory effects, which can help with everything from eye health and arthritis to heart disease and sun damage. Eat it a couple of nights a week if you can. A favorite simple recipe is broccoli steamed with olive oil, salt, and garlic.
4. Salmon. You obviously want to be careful about sourcing when it comes to any fish choice—check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s new recommendations for salmon here—but the short version is, wild Alaskan is a good bet. Salmon is loaded with anti-inflammatory omega 3s, healthy fats, and vitamin B12. Bonus side effect: Glowing skin.
5. Extra virgin olive oil. It’s gotta be EV: Eat it for heart-disease prevention, cancer prevention, its cholesterol-lowering good fats, its antioxidants, and because it’s completely and utterly delicious and frankly, a good olive oil tastes better than butter.
6. Dark leafy greens.Yes, they can be bitter and less than exciting at first, but they are loaded with vitamins and iron and can be snuck into meals easily (omelets, pasta, salads, etc.). Prepared the same way as the broccoli suggestion takes five minutes and is super tasty with eggs for breakfast.
7. Walnuts. These shelled suckers are packed with good fats (the monounsaturated kind), which is great for heart health, lowering cholesterol, boosting brain function, and reducing inflammation. You don’t need many of these to reap the benefits, though. Go easy.
8. Blueberries. What gives these guys a leg up on other fruit is the fact that they’re super low in calories and very high in vitamin C, fiber, vitamin E, and other brain-boosting nutrients. A Tufts University study found that when they evaluated 60 other fruits and veggies for their antioxidant capability, the blues came out on top.
9. Dark chocolate. You should eat this because it’s delicious, and because a recent study also showed its capacity to protect skin from UV damage. The claims that its packed with antioxidants have been recently called into question—you can read more about that here and here—but for now? Might as well go for it.
10. Avocados. As if anyone needed another reason to eat avocados, it’s encouraging to know that in addition to being nature’s unadulterated butter, they’re also loaded with cholesterol-lowering power, potassium, folate, carotenoids, vitamin E, and happiness-inducing monounsaturated fats. (And yes, guacamole counts.)