The 20 best health foods in your supermarket

Updated May 11, 2017

Your local supermarket is packed with thousands of options, some of them good for you, others…not so much, despite what their labels might claim. To cut through the noise and help you get your shopping done faster, here’s a list of the 20 best foods you can buy – foods that are proven to help fight fat, build muscle, and prevent disease. Build your diet around these options, and you’ll take a big step towards living a healthier life.


Whether you’re adding them to a salad or eating them by the handful — these nuts are an excellent source of monounsaturated fat. They’re also considered an excellent source of protein, vitamins (such as thiamin, riboflavin, and E) and minerals (think: copper, iron, and zinc). And the benefits don’t stop there. According to study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, almond consumption lowers cholesterol.


Not only is this vegetable packed with anti-inflammatory nutrients, it contains high levels of folic acid — which can assist in the regulation of your moods by releasing a neurotransmitter called "serotonin" into your system. But if the feel good powers of asparagus aren’t enough to sway you, maybe its anti-cancer benefits will. Research published in the international journal Cancer Letters suggests that the consumption of asparagus may halt the formation of cancerous tumors.


Theses super fruits are packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and are excellent carriers for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Research has not only linked avocado consumption to improved cardiovascular health and blood sugar regulation, but a study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer suggests that avocados have anti-cancer benefits (specifically in the prevention of cancers of the mouth, skin and prostate).


Whether you’re eating black berries loaded with antioxidants that improve brain functioning, or blueberries packed with vision-protecting vitamin C, it’s hard to go wrong by adding one of these super foods to your diet. But if the high vitamin and antioxidant intake isn’t appealing enough, recent research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that berries (specifically strawberries, raspberries and blueberries) have properties that can help lower your risk of breast and cervical cancer.


In terms of conventional nutrients, peppers are packed with antioxidants (specifically vitamins A, C, and E). And according to research, consuming bell peppers can assist the body in neutralising free radicals, reducing your risk of disease.

Black beans

Nutrient-packed and cheap? That’s the one-two punch offered by these legumes. In fact, according to research from the University of Guelph in Canada, black beans have similar hearth healthy, cancer-preventing compounds typically found in berries, tea, and red wine. What’s more, you’ll receive a beneficial protein-fiber combination each serving.


This cruciferous vegetable is not only high in vitamins C and K, it’s stacked with the phytochemical indoles and sulforaphane, which many consider to be anti-cancer nutrients. But the benefits of broccoli aren’t limited to cancer. Research in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that broccoli has the potential for protecting the cardiovascular system.

Brussels sprouts

This cruciferous vegetable is packed with essential nutrients for your body (think: vitamins A, B6, C, E and K) as well as selenium, a mineral that helps the body battle free radicals. Numerous studies have also pointed to its potential for preventing cancer of the bladder, breast, colon and lung.

Butternut squash

Butternut squash is low in calories and high in vitamin C. But more importantly, it’s loaded with beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. That might be a mouthful, but according to research published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, those who consume foods rich in beta-cryptoxanthin have a lower risk of developing lung cancer.

Chicken breast

Boneless, skinless chicken breast is a timeless classic. Not only is it an excellent source of lean protein, but it’s a terrific source of coenzyme Q10, which essential for skin cell turnover. Its protein is composed of 18 amino acids and contains no carbohydrates, making it the perfect muscle food.


This popular Japanese soybean is not only rich in vitamins C and B, but it is one of the few natural sources of vitamin E. Edamame is also a great source of protein, says Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D. These beans are considered a natural source of antioxidants and isoflavones.


Consider this near the top of the list for ultimate super foods. After all, what else can brag about being low in price, high in protein and available year round. Studies have linked the consumption of eggs with increased brain health, decreased inflammation, as well as improved cardiovascular heath. In fact, research links the consumption of eggs to improvement in cholesterol levels, which also helps your cardiovascular health.


Whether you’re sprinkling it onto your cereal or blending it into your smoothie, this powerful plant can provide an abundant source of fiber, magnesium and calcium. These seeds also contain extremely high levels of lignans (which is an abundance of micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids) and have been linked to the prevention of numerous health problems. In fact, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, flaxseed, due to its high fiber content, can help prevent heart disease.


Although you may not snack on garlic cloves the way you snack on almonds, this herb is a must-have on your shopping list. This heart-healthy herb not only reduces your body’s cholesterol and triglycerides, it protects blood cells and blood vessels from inflammatory and oxidative stress. As an added bonus, research has found that compounds in garlic may prevent cellular changes that may lead to cancerous tumor development and inhibit tumour growth.


Onions, just like garlic, are both rich in sulfur-containing compounds — so they may not be good for your breath, but they’re good for your body. Multiple studies have shown that eating onion can have cardiovascular benefits (mainly protection against heart attacks) when being consumed in a diet packed with other vegetables.


“Whether it’s spinach is one of the most nutrient dense foods on earth,” says Chris D'Adamo, Ph.D. So toss it in your salad or serve it as a steamed side, as an excellent (low-calorie) way to get your daily dose of vitamin K. Still need convincing to eat your greens? According to research published in the International Journal of Cancer, consuming spinach protects against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer.


This fish is top of the class in terms of health benefits. Salmon is a great source of lean protein and packs a hearty dose of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, research has found that consumption lowers the risk of death from heart disease. “But if you can, try and purchase wild-caught salmon,” says D'Adamo. “Farm-raised salmon often has food colouring added to make it pink and is loaded with antibiotics.”

Sweet potatoes

Eating sweet potatoes can be an easy fix for packing in the nutrients for your diet. They’re not only loaded with complex carbohydrates and phytochemicals, sweet potatoes are an excellent source of fiber, beta-carotene, as well as multiple vitamins. And considering vitamin A is the most important vitamin for protecting you vision and keeping your eyesight strong, numerous studies have drawn a parallel between the consumption of this sweet vegetable and healthy eyes.


Loaded with antioxidants, low in calories, and packed with anti-cancer benefits — tomatoes can be considered a triple treat when it comes to fruits. They’re also high in lycopene, which may promote cardiovascular health and helps prevent skin from sun damage, says D'Adamo. And the benfits don’t stop there. Research published in the journal of Cancer Epidermal Biomarkers Prevention shows that regular consumption of this power fruit can help lower the risk of prostate cancer in men.


The best way to eat dairy and lose weight? Research points to yogurt as more potentially more powerful than milk. Numerous studies have linked the consumption of yogurt to better digestive health as well as an overall lower percent of body fat. “But make sure to check the labels” says D'Adamo. “Certain yogurts can contain a lot of sugar. So your best bet may be to buy Greek yogurt.”

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About the Author

Susy joined LIVESTRONG.COM at its inception in 2008. Focused on all things food, fitness and health related, her daily contributions as the LIVESTRONG.COM community manager is an asset to the site and the millions of community members. She has a M. A. in Clinical Psychology.