June 13, 2024

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12 Everyday Foods That Have Health Benefits, According to Science

You’ve probably seen ads or social media posts claiming that to be healthy you must be taking a “superfood supplement” or eating expensive and organic foods. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are plenty of staples you probably already have at home that provide you numerous health benefits. Whether it’s your favorite pasta or fruit, if you have a varied diet, chances are you’re already getting all of the nutrients you need.

We’re here to debunk the myth that the only way to achieve optimal health is through expensive and often inaccessible supplements. Here are some common, everyday foods that offer plenty of benefits.

Bread

You probably didn’t expect to see this one on the list. Bread is a staple in most households and can be packed with essential nutrients like folate, iron and fiber. While white bread can spike your blood sugar levels and doesn’t offer much nutritional value aside from carbohydrates (unless it’s enriched white bread, which is fortified with vitamins and minerals like thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2) and niacin (B3) to replace the nutrients lost during its processing), its whole grain counterpart has additional fiber and nutrients and can help manage blood pressure while lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease, according to Mayo Clinic. Consuming whole grains instead of refined grains is also linked to lower cholesterol and insulin levels.

Oats

Oats are one of my favorite foods on this list. They’re versatile, relatively easy to use and inexpensive. When we look at their nutritional offering, oats pack a punch.  According to the US Department of Agriculture, oats are loaded with complex carbohydrates, fiber and essential vitamins and minerals like B1, B3, B5, B6, folate and iron. Oats are also a whole grain, and a meta-analysis found that the highest whole-grain intakes were significantly associated with a 21% reduced risk of heart disease compared to those with the lowest intake. Another meta-analysis, including studies that followed people with type 2 diabetes, found that oat intake significantly reduced blood sugar spikes after eating a meal. Opt for steel-cut or rolled oats to reap the most benefits, as instant oatmeal is more processed and has a slightly higher glycemic index.

Sweet potatoes

This creamy, vibrant orange (although some may vary in color like beige or purple) root vegetable is also versatile — it can be fried, roasted, boiled, sauteed, mashed, baked or air fried. Sweet potatoes contain tons of fiber, vitamin C, potassium and beta-carotene (a natural orange pigment found in plants that the body converts into vitamin A). One large sweet potato contains 400% of the daily recommended intake for vitamin A. According to Mayo Clinic, vitamin A helps you maintain optimal vision and supports a healthy immune system

Pasta

You’re probably excited to see another fan favorite on this list. Pasta is made from wheat, which is a grain — one of the basic food groups in a balanced diet. Some types of pasta are stripped of their nutrients during the refining process. However, most are fortified with folate, iron and vitamin B. If you’re looking for a refined-free option, try whole grain pasta — which has been proven to satiate you for longer — or pasta made of vegetables. Chickpea pasta has become popular recently and is rich in fiber and protein, making it an excellent choice for those following a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Whole grain spaghetti with mushrooms, broccoli and tomatoes

fermate / Getty Images

Eggs

Eggs are a great source of protein, iron, selenium, phosphorus and vitamins B2, B5 and B12. They also keep you full for longer, which can be good for maintaining a balanced eating schedule. Eggs have gained a bad reputation because of their high cholesterol content. A large egg contains about 186 mg of cholesterol, which is a little more than half of the recommended daily intake (300 mg) if you’re not at risk for heart disease. If you are at risk for heart disease, one large egg almost hits the limit for recommended daily consumption (200 mg). Despite the amount of cholesterol found in eggs, some studies have found that it doesn’t seem to raise your body’s cholesterol levels like trans fats and saturated fats do.

Yogurt

Yogurt is another one of those foods that’s accessible, affordable and convenient. It’s a great source of calcium, protein and probiotics. Yogurt often starts as milk, which is then pasteurized and fermented with live bacteria. Yogurt can promote various health benefits like aiding digestion, managing irritable bowel disease and preventing osteoporosis. When shopping for yogurt, it’s best to opt for plain or Greek yogurt with simple ingredients and no added sugars to get the most benefits, according to Harvard Medical School.

Garlic

I’m a big fan of garlic. I add it to most of the savory dishes I make at home. Besides making your food extra tasty, garlic has many health benefits. It has been linked to reduced inflammation and cholesterol levels. As reported by Providence Health and Services, garlic has also been associated with improved heart health by protecting against cell damage and lowering blood pressure. If you have digestive issues, garlic may also help you aid digestion. However, it’s important to listen to your body since eating too much garlic can also cause bloating. Consuming garlic may also help lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of catching a cold or the flu.

Green tea

Fan of tea? Great! Because you’re likely getting a good amount of antioxidants from it, which can help protect against free radicals (pesky atoms that can cause cell damage). Green tea is a nutrient-rich beverage low in calories and a rich source of polyphenols, which can protect against oxidative damage and reduce inflammation. Green tea has also been linked to many health benefits, like reducing cholesterol levels and supporting heart health. As if that wasn’t enough, the National Cancer Institute reports that drinking green tea is also associated with reducing the risk of certain types of cancer.

Great tea in a white cup.

Luliia Bondar/ Getty Images

Berries

Berries are one of the most nutrient-dense foods to have in your home. They are rich in vitamins C and K, prebiotics, potassium, fiber and antioxidants. Berries also contain disease-fighting nutrients that may help reduce the risk of age-related conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Consuming berries is also linked to improved heart health, reduced inflammation and can boost your immunity.

Bananas

Bananas should be on your radar if you’re looking for a highly nutritious fruit with many health benefits. They are a great source of fiber, vitamins B6 and C, and minerals such as magnesium and potassium. Healthlines reports that bananas also make a great preworkout snack since they fill you with energy and keep you feeling fuller for longer

Nuts

Nuts boast plentiful nutritional benefits. They have tons of healthy fats, which can help regulate cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation related to heart disease. Nuts also contain essential minerals like magnesium, copper, iron, selenium and zinc, all of which play crucial roles in proper cell growth and development. Eating a handful of nuts daily can help boost energy and improve digestion. Because nuts are so calorie dense, a serving size is quite small — only an ounce, or about a handful. Nuts are your best friends if you’re looking for a nutritious snack.

Onions

Onions are not only versatile and delicious, they also offer many health benefits. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help boost your overall health, like improving heart health, boosting immune function, regulating blood sugar levels, reducing inflammation and preventing certain cancers. Onions also have prebiotic fiber, which promotes healthy digestion and can even help you sleep better.  

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.