33 Healthy Foods That Are Way More Nutritious Than You Realized

Sure, apples, broccoli, olives, and yogurt make any healthy eating list. But the science behind these healthy foods shows they're so nutritious, they're practically medicinal.

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Apples

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This fruit bowl staple boasts so many nutritional perks, it's hard to even keep track of them all, so we rounded up all the health benefits of apples. Apples contain quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to protect brain cells from degeneration and may do the same in humans. Their high natural fiber content may help protect against colon cancer. And, of course, these healthy foods are heroes for your heart. Adults who eat apples are 37 percent less likely to have high blood pressure, and one group of researchers found that women who ate at least one apple a day were 28 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who ate none.

Apricots

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The deep color of these healthy foods indicates the presence of carotenoids, specifically the antioxidant beta-carotene, which are linked with cancer prevention. Apricots are also high in iron and potassium, a mineral essential for proper nerve and muscle function that also helps maintain normal blood pressure and balance of body fluids.

Artichokes

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Cutting back on your sunbathing time isn't the only way to lower your risk of skin cancer. This bulbous veggie is a great source of silymarin, an antioxidant that may help prevent the disease. Study up on these surprising causes of skin cancer to make sure you're not inadvertently putting yourself at risk.

Asparagus

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Yes, asparagus can make your urine stinky—if you ever wondered why that happens, here is the answer—but these spears are worth working in to your diet. Asparagus contains the natural diuretic asparagine, which helps your body get rid of excess fluid and salt. It's also high in folate, a B vitamin that helps combat stress.

Avocados

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This creamy fruit contains 60 percent more potassium per ounce than bananas and is an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Those are just a couple of the avocado's powerhouse benefits. Avocados are also rich in plant sterols, shown to lower cholesterol. Add some avocado slices to a sandwich, and the fat will slow the digestion of the bread, easing its impact on your blood sugar levels.

Bananas

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We're calling it: The banana is a food genius. It comes in its own sealed, portable container, which, by the way, you've been peeling wrong this whole time. One fruit has about 100 calories and is loaded with potassium and fiber while containing no fat. Bananas also boast tryptophan and 30 percent of your day’s vitamin B6, which helps the brain produce mellowing serotonin so you get through the day with less stress.

Barley

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Everyone goes straight to the quinoa recipes when they want a healthy grain, but this "Grandma" side dish is seriously underrated. Barley's big bonus is its soluble fiber, which has been shown to lower cholesterol and cut the risk of heart disease. Barley's fiber is found throughout the grain, so even refined products like barley fiber are beneficial. The niacin, vitamin B3, in unrefined barley can also protect against cardiovascular disease.

Beans and legumes

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The humble bean is a nutritional powerhouse in disguise—high in protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron, potassium, and other mineral, while low in fat. Plus, beans come with all of these other amazing health benefits. Legumes contain a range of disease-fighting phytochemicals, including isoflavones, which are especially protective against heart disease. Studies find that about 10 grams of soluble fiber a day—the amount in a half to 1.5 cups of navy beans—reduces LDL cholesterol by about 10 percent.

Lean beef

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Many kinds aren't the heart attack-causing culprits they've been made out to be and rightfully earned their place in the healthy foods community, especially if you stick to a healthy three-ounce serving. Many cuts are 20 percent leaner than they were a decade or so ago. These guidelines can help you sneak more lean protein into your diet. Beef is a good source of iron, which your body uses to carry oxygen in the blood. And a three-ounce serving provides more than 25 percent of your required selenium, a trace mineral essential in a healthy immune system.

Beets

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Next time you see a beet salad on the menu, order it and do your ticker a solid. Beets are a wonderful source of folate and betaine, nutrients that together help to lower blood levels of homocysteine, which causes artery-damaging inflammation. They're one of the foods that contain more potassium than bananas. Beets also help to produce nitric acid, which increases blood flow throughout your body. MRIs done on older adults showed that those who ate a high-nitrate diet (including beet juice) had more blood flow to the white matter of their brain’s frontal lobes, which could affect dementia risk.

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