7 Healthy Foods to Eat Right Now

They're anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, mood-boosting, and weight-loss-inducing. No, we're not talking about weight-loss medications or supplements; we're talking about entire, fresh plant meals that are packed with superpowers. That's right—superfoods don't have to be hard-to-find berries from specialty stores. Your neighborhood grocery store has foods that can have a significant impact on your health.

Here's a list of the healthiest produce to eat right now, along with some ideas on how to get the most out of it. Please read them, consume them, and gain from them.

1. Olive Oil

For their athletic achievements, the world's first Olympians were honored with jars of olive oil in 776 BC. Today's health experts regard frequent consumption of the "liquid gold" to be just as beneficial. Virgin olive oil, a monounsaturated lipid included in the Mediterranean diet, has been linked to a lower risk of cancer, heart disease, and other obesity-related issues, as well as a lower risk of stroke.

A new study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that firemen who followed a Mediterranean-style diet rich in olive oil had a 35 percent lower risk of metabolic syndrome and a 43 percent lower risk of weight gain. Firefighters are known to have a high prevalence of obesity. Olive oil's oleic acid helps to lower abdominal fat.

There is a genetic basis for the health benefits. According to studies, phenols in virgin olive oil can efficiently "switch off" genes linked to metabolic syndrome inflammation.

Get the Advantages: The term "extra virgin" refers to olive oil that has been cold-pressed from olives and is the freshest and fruitiest. Additionally, seek a dark can or bottle, an estate name, USDA organic stamp, and a date (nothing pressed more than two years old should be purchased).

2. Lentils

Lentils are the Chuck Taylors among nutrition all-stars, old-school, a little shabby in appearance, but tremendously popular worldwide. Humans have consumed the pulse for about 13,000 years. They're a low-cost source of vegetarian protein and fiber that health experts recommend to reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, promote fat metabolism, and suppress appetite.

Lentils are a resistant starch, a sort of slow-digesting fiber that serves a purpose. Resistant starch causes the release of acetate, a chemical in the gut that informs the brain when it's time to quit eating, as it goes through the digestive tract.

In fact, according to a systematic analysis of clinical trials on dietary pulses, those who ate a daily portion of lentils (about 3/4 cup) felt 31% fuller on average than those who followed a control diet. According to a second study, a diet high in blood-sugar-stabilizing foods like lentils can reduce disease-related inflammation by 22%!

Get the Benefits: Substituting lentils for meat in a recipe can boost fiber content while lowering saturated fat. If you replace four ounces of ground beef (280 calories) with a cup of cooked lentils (230 calories), your chili will gain 16 grams of fiber while losing 22 grams of fat.

3. Walnuts

According to a new scientific study, a handful of walnuts has nearly twice as much disease-fighting antioxidants as any other nut. Walnuts are beneficial for the heart as one of the best dietary sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. According to a study published in the American College of Cardiology Journal, eating walnuts one or more times per week was linked to a 19 percent lower risk of total cardiovascular disease and a 23 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease.

Get the Advantages: Walnut's volatile oils can be destroyed by high heat, and extended exposure to air can cause the nuts to go rancid. For a heart-healthy snack that loves you back, buy raw walnuts and store them in an airtight container in the fridge (or freezer).

4. Oats

Oats are high in beta-glucan, a form of soluble fiber, and avenanthramide, an anti-inflammatory chemical that helps reduce obesity-related health concerns like heart disease and diabetes. According to a 10-year study published in the American Journal of Public Health, consuming one serving of oats (1 cup cooked) two to four times per week reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 16 percent. A daily bowl resulted in a 39 percent reduction in risk. A second study found that eating three servings of whole grains per day, including oats, was as beneficial as taking medication in lowering blood pressure, with a 15% reduction in the risk of heart disease after just 12 weeks. Oats are more effective than wheat at reducing "bad" LDL cholesterol levels. According to research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Oatmeal may be a full breakfast in the cereal aisle, providing more significant and longer-lasting sensations of satiety than ready-to-eat morning cereal.

Get the Advantages: Steel-cut or rolled oats are the least processed and provide the most nutrients for your money; the nutrition facts are nearly comparable, with steel-cut oats somewhat lower on the glycemic index. Beyond the breakfast bowl, rolled oats can be used as a breadcrumb substitute or ground into flour for baked items.

5. Watercress

Watercress was placed first in a study report produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that assessed 47 fruits and vegetables based on levels of 17 disease-fighting components. Kale was not even in the top ten! This mild-tasting, flowery-looking green has four times the beta carotene of an apple and 238 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin K per 100 grams—two components that keep skin appearing glossy and youthful. A daily intake of 85 grams of raw watercress (about two cups) could reduce DNA damage associated with cancer by 17%.

Get the Benefits: Watercress has only 4 calories per cup. So go ahead and consume the entire bag. Watercress should be eaten raw in salads, cold-pressed juices, and sandwiches to avoid inactivating PEITC.

6. Apple

An average apple has 4.5 grams of fiber, but the health benefits don't end there. Polyphenols in the peel, non-digestible substances capable of everything from boosting the growth of friendly bacteria in the stomach to aiding weight loss and lowering cholesterol, are thought to be responsible for the apple's robust defense, according to a growing body of research. Compared to an identical amount of notoriously fiber-rich prunes, 75 grams of apple (the equivalent of two medium-sized apples) lowered "bad" cholesterol levels by 23%.

Get the Benefits: Slice your favorite apple with peanut butter or cheese for a quick snack, cube it to add to your morning oats, or eat it whole after a workout.

7. Tomatoes

Tomatoes and tomato products are consumed significantly more than any other non-starchy "vegetable" in the United States. An antioxidant that rises after boiling and processing because tomatoes are exceptionally high in lycopene, unlike most nutrients in fresh fruit. Several studies have linked regular consumption of lycopene-rich tomatoes to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, skin damage, and some malignancies. According to a recent study, men who eat more than 10 servings of tomatoes per week have an 18 percent lower risk of prostate cancer. A second study found that raising levels of adiponectin—a hormone involved in controlling blood sugar and fat levels—can help protect postmenopausal women from breast cancer.

Get the Benefits: If you're going to cook your tomatoes, go for organic instead of regular. Organic tomatoes may have more disease-fighting polyphenols and vitamin C than conventionally farmed types.

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