7 Foods Worth Eating Every Single Day (and How to Make Sure You Actually Do It)

I know, nobody needs another “25 Can’t-Miss Superfoods” slideshow that makes you click “Next” 24 times.

Because as far as actually helping us to eat better, lists like these are pretty worthless.

The problem? None of them helps you to eat these foods habitually. We see the list, we make a mental note to eat more X, Y, and Z, and then we forget we ever read it as soon as someone sends us a cat video.

With that in mind, I present my version of the ubiquitous list — with a twist.

Although the foods here are the ones I actually do try to eat every single day, more importantly, I explain how I make sure to eat each one. And by making these foods a regular part of certain daily meals — salad, smoothie, etc. — you can make it an automatic habit that each and every day, the diet you eat is built around not just a random assortment of whole, plant-based foods, but the healthiest ones you can possibly eat.

With something as important to me as my diet, I don’t make choices based on hunches. This list is heavily influenced by what I’ve learned from the evidence-based approaches of Dr. Michael Greger (and his book, How Not to Die) and Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Eat to LiveSuper Immunity, and many others.

So here they are: in no particular order, the seven foods to eat … Every. Single. Day. (And some tips to help make sure you do.)

1. Berries and other fruits

Berries’ vibrant color is a dead giveaway of the nutrition within, a theme that’s repeated throughout this list.

Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, acai berries, and goji berries are perennial favorites on “Top 10 Superfoods” lists, so I’m sure this won’t be the first time you’ve heard that they’re packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants, and that they can slow the aging process and prevent heart disease, among many, many other good things.

And almost without exception, they’re delicious, like so many other fruits. And by the way, those other fruits are really important too: according to the 2010 Global Burden of Disease study, not eating enough fruit is the number one factor in the Standard American Diet that leads to premature death and disability.

Know: 

  • Berries are expensive. I almost always use frozen, which aren’t much worse than fresh in terms of nutrition (and sometimes better, actually, because they can be picked and flash-frozen at the peak of ripeness, rather than ahead of time like fresh). But when they’re in season and you can get them at the farmers market, go for it.
  • Strawberries are #1 on EWG’s Dirty Dozen list, so buy those organic. For the rest, I usually save my money and get the conventional ones.

Eat them: In a morning smoothie or bowl of oatmeal, as a snack between meals, or for a healthy dessert.

2. Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables

A two-for-one, no-brainer! Leafy greens aren’t the same as cruciferous vegetables, but there’s a lot of overlap so I’ve combined them to keep this list manageable.

Greens are the healthiest foods you can eat, in terms of micronutrients per calorie. This measure is what the popular ANDI scale you see at Whole Foods is based on, and greens (particularly some cruciferous varieties) top the list with scores of 1000.

So what are cruciferous vegetables? They’re a family named after the four-leafed flower they produce (hence the prefix cruc, like “cross”). But they’re probably better tied together by the fact that you used to hate them when you were a kid: kale, mustard greens, collard greens, bok choy, arugula, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, and the like … all of which have a distinctive bitterness that other vegetables don’t.

Cruciferous vegetables offer twice the protection against cancer that other vegetables do in one important sense, as Dr. Fuhrman points out in Super Immunity:

In population studies, a 20 percent increase in plant food intake generally corresponds to a 20 percent decrease in cancer rates, but a 20 percent increase in cruciferous vegetable intake corresponds to a 40 percent decrease in cancer rates.

Sold.

Know:

  • It’s good to eat both cooked and raw versions of greens and cruciferous vegetables. Eating them raw will preserve some of the nutrition destroyed by cooking, but anyone who has ever wilted a big box of spinach in a pan knows how much more you can pack into a meal when it’s cooked!
  • The protection against cancer that cruciferous vegetables offer is thought to be due to the isothiocyanates (ITCs), the best-known of which is sulforaphane, that are produced after they’re chopped or chewed. The problem is that if you cook them too soon after chopping them (within 40 minutes), the enzyme required to produce ITCs is destroyed. So either eat them raw, chop them early, or serve cooked cruciferous alongside raw to re-introduce the enzyme.

Eat them: Greens like spinach are easily added to a smoothie without ruining it. Otherwise, I make sure to get mine (along with a big serving of a few cruciferous vegetables) in a daily giant salad. And a side of kale or collards makes for a good dinnertime two-for-one.

3. Flax seeds and other nuts & seeds

Flax seeds offer a bunch of nutritional benefits and are relatively high in protein, B-vitamins, and phytochemicals, but mainly, I eat them for the omega-3 fatty acid ALA (also found in substantial amounts in walnuts).

As a bonus, flax seeds are anti-angiogenic, meaning they help to “starve” cancer cells by inhibiting blood vessel growth in tumors, a property shared with several other foods on this list. (See Dr. William Li’s TED talk on anti-angiogenesis.)

As for nuts in general, our friend the Global Burden of Disease study found that not eating nuts was another one of the main problems with the Standard American Diet, after “not enough fruit” and “too much salt.”

This is backed up by other studies pointing to nuts as a longevity food: just a quarter-cup per day increases average lifespan by up to two years!

Know:

  • You’ve got to grind flax seeds if you want your body to absorb their nutrients; otherwise they’ll pass right through your body. Ground flax seeds go rancid pretty fast in the fridge though, so it’s best to buy them whole and grind as needed (or just throw them into a smoothie, where a high-speed blender will handle it).
  • Raw nuts provide extra nutrients that are destroyed when nuts are roasted, but many of the studies linking nuts to longevity don’t distinguish between raw and cooked. Nuts are good, whichever way you eat them (watch the salt though).
  • Several prominent plant-based doctors argue that people at risk for heart disease, and those who want to lose weight, should avoid nuts. I understand the reasons behind these arguments, but based on evidence like the above, my opinion is that once the acute issue is handled (and continually monitored thereafter), nuts are too beneficial a food to avoid for long.

Eat them: Where else? As a matter of routine, the daily smoothie is the easiest way to get them. I like to include a tablespoon each of flax seeds and walnuts in each single-serving smoothie I make. Flaxseeds can be ground and sprinkled on a salad, and other nuts work well as snacks. And don’t forget nut-based dressings on salads!

4. Onions and garlic

Onions and garlic are two members of allium family, which also includes leeks, scallions, and the like.

Most of us who eat plant-based diets have no trouble getting them on a near-daily basis, and it’s a good thing: Dr. Fuhrman highlights a 2006 study which found that, compared to eating no onions, a daily serving of just half a cup lessened the risk of five different types of cancer by 50 to 88 percent!

There’s lots to know about onions and garlic in order to get the most nutrition from them, though …

Know:

  • In terms of nutrition, it’s the same story: the more colorful, the better. So red onions are better than yellow onions are better than white onions. Use red as often as possible, and since yellow are usually the cheapest, there’s really no reason to ever buy white onions unless a dish absolutely depends on their flavor.
  • The eye-burning that occurs when you chop onions is due to a chemical reaction that’s taking place, during which ITC-like organosulfur compounds are released … not unlike what we talked about with cruciferous vegetables. So chop onions and garlic 15-20 minutes ahead of time.
  • Raw is even better, but difficult, I know. Chopped scallions on salad or as a garnish are one way get at least some raw allium in your life.

Eat them: In almost every dinner, as a condiment (scallions or pickled onions) at lunch, and as a salad garnish.

5. Beans

“…the better you feel, so let’s have beans in every meal!”

Turns out those little brats got it right, because a 2007 American Institute for Cancer Research study concluded exactly that: for maximum protection against cancer, we should eat beans in every meal.

Not that surprising. They’re also a Blue Zones food, meaning that in studies on the diets of the world’s longest-lived populations, beans show up time and again as prominent fixtures.

Know:

  • Tofu gets you partial credit. According to Dr. Greger, it’s about half as beneficial as beans, and half of a huge amount is still a lot, making it a good choice. Tempeh is better though, as it’s closer to whole-food form.
  • If you’re buying canned beans (which, also according to Greger, are about as nutritious as home-cooked), look for reduced sodium or “no salt added” varieties, as well as BPA-free cans.

Eat them: In almost every dinner, on top of a giant salad for lunch, and as hummus or bean dip for snacks. Try this simple white bean spread on a whole-wheat bagel if you need help getting them for breakfast.

6. Turmeric

If there’s a trendy food in my list, it’s this one … turmeric is everywhere these days. And in my opinion, that’s a good thing.

The numerous health benefits of turmeric — most prominently cancer prevention and anti-inflammatory properties (of particular interest for athletes) — are mostly due to curcumin, the pigment that gives turmeric its vibrant color (there’s that, again).

But it’s not entirely the curcumin: in research comparing curcumin alone with whole turmeric from which the curcumin was removed (!), the real food fared as well or better in terms of anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activity than the isolated curcumin.

Whether it’s the curcumin or the whole turmeric that’s responsible, this is a food that’s worth serious consideration in everyone’s diet … with just a few possible exceptions listed below.

Know:

  • Fresh turmeric looks a lot like fresh ginger, and you’ll probably find it in the same place in healthy grocery stores.
  • Just a small amount of black pepper eaten alongside turmeric increases the bioavailability of curcumin by 20 times!
  • Eating turmeric can increase pain in people with gallstones, and too much may contribute to kidney stones.
  • Dr. Greger recommends just a one-quarter inch slice of fresh turmeric, or one-quarter teaspoon ground, each day. It’s so potent, he says, that we should avoid consistently eating more than that until further research is done, but that a typical Indian diet contains about a teaspoon a day and there are no apparent health problems that result.

Eat it: If you don’t eat Indian food or other food that tolerates turmeric daily, it’s probably easiest to get turmeric fresh alongside a meal that contains black pepper. Its not a bad flavor, but a very strong one, so usually I try to mask it in a big bite of something else. I use my salad as a daily trigger that reminds me to eat a slice of turmeric, since it’s another one of those foods that’s easy to miss if you don’t deliberately make it a habit.

7. Green tea

Besides being an antioxidant powerhouse, green tea is another anti-angiogenesis food (reminder: that means it helps to cut off the blood supply to cancer cells).

In addition, some extremely beneficial phytochemicals like ECGC are exclusive to the tea bush, so you won’t find them in herbal teas. Still, herbal teas (hibiscus, for example) are often packed with antioxidants, so if caffeine is a no-no for you, they’re a great bad alternative.

Know:

  • While tea aficionados worry about not steeping at too high a temperature or for much longer than a minute, you’ll extract the most micronutrition from the leaves into your cup if you steep it in boiling water for four minutes or so.
  • White tea is almost as good as green in terms of nutrition.
  • Green tea happens to be delicious and extremely interesting, in the same way that wine is, and I’m on a bit of a green tea journey myself. Dragonwell is still my favorite, but I often drink Sencha and Liu’an Gaupian too.

Drink it: As a beverage anytime. Green (and especially white) tea has much less caffeine than coffee, so for some people it can even work as an afternoon or evening beverage. And even if tea isn’t your drink, you can blend whole leaves into your smoothie to get even more benefits than you would from steeping them (and a bit of a caffeine boost!).

Want to learn more about the 7 Foods to Eat Every Day? I put together a printable guide that goes a step further, introducing three meals that make it easy to get these foods in your daily diet, automatically:

Other Foods to Eat Several Times a Week

The seven foods above are worth eating every day, but there’s still a lot more to jam into a healthy diet. There are many others that I eat several times a week, or even every day, but not as a matter of habit like I do the ones above.

  • Whole grains
  • Mushrooms
  • Brazil nuts (usually just one per week, rarely more than one per day)
  • Assorted fruits, mostly oranges, apples, and bananas
  • Fresh ginger
  • Avocado
  • Tomatoes (usually cooked but sometimes raw in salads)
  • Lemons or their juice
  • Dates (usually only while I’m running)
  • Dark chocolate

A Word on Supplments

Even with all this micronutrient-rich food in my diet, I still take a few supplements, like Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3, DHA/EPA, and sometimes others.

(More on what supplements vegans should take.)

P.S. One Point to Note

I didn’t include obscure superfoods here. There are lots of foods out there that blow away most of these in terms of certain nutrient contents, but I tend to eat pretty simply. If you’re into superfoods and don’t mind searching high and low for them, the list to check out is the one Rich Roll posted on Tim Ferriss’ blog: 10 Uncommon Superfoods from the World of Ultra-Endurance.

So, am I missing one of your favorites here? Disagree with any I included? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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Comments

  1. Eliot W. Collins says:

    What were the symptoms of your B-12 deficiency? Did you have your B-12 levels measured to confirm your suspicions? Why not inject your B-12? Some say that injection is the only way to guarantee absorption. Often those who lack the intrinsic factor inject B-12.

    • Eliot, the symptoms I had were digestive problems (not to get overly detailed here, but in addition to abdominal discomfort, nuts and seeds seemed to pass right through me without being digested at all), and a tiny bit of mild tingling in extremities. The funny thing is I had read about (and even written about) these very symptoms as signs of B-12 deficiency, but it took me several weeks to recognize them in myself!

      No, I didn’t have this confirmed by lab tests, but as soon as I started supplementing with B-12 again (through a multivitamin, and later from a straight B-12 supplement), they symptoms went away. So I can’t say with certainty that it was a B-12 issue, but it would make sense.

      Why not inject B-12? Because taking a pill seems much easier and less stressful and has worked for me.

      • Eliot W. Collins says:

        Thanks Matt.

        I take a 100 mcg tablet of Cyanocobalamin (1668% RDA) each day. My most recent vitamin B-12 serum level was 1137 pg/mL (reference range 200-1100 pg/mL).

        For those who do not get adequate B-12 from their food or oral supplement, here is some info on B-12 injections – http://www.b12-shot.com/aboutb12.aspx . Again, I personally take a 100 mcg tablet, and that is more than sufficient for me.

        • susan g says:

          Studies have shown that B-12 in sublingual form is as effectve as injected B-12. Sublinguals are absorbed throught the mucus membranes of the mouth and go directly to the bloodstream, so intrinsic factor is not involved.

      • Allergic_Vegan says:

        I got my B12 levels checked over a year ago, because I was having issues with deficiencies and food allergies, and wanted to be sure that I was actually digesting the B12 from the sources I was getting it from. My B12 levels were fine. My Vitamin D was turned out to be the culprit ihn part. However, it was the Choline (that we didn’t think to test for) that was the culprit giving me the leg cramps and tingling fingers. Most sources that I’ve found, do not mention Choline as a having cramps as a symptom of a deficiency. However, as soon as I took a Choline supplement, the cramps went away. Usually, choline deficiency is only found in Vegan with the wrong food allergies and intolerances or don’t eat enough variety in vegetables (broccoli, quinoa, soy). I can have only the soy.

        Magnesium is another one that can cause leg cramps if deficient.

        About the link to the “other top 10 list”. The only thing on that list I’d eat is Tumeric. Personally, I don’t trust much of what comes out of China as some studies have found some issues with quality or dangerous side effects, depending on the specific ingredient. Gingoa Bilboa has been the most controversial.

        My top 10 list would include 1. Kale or Spinach, 2. Tofu, 3. Walnuts and Pecans (fights Colon cancer), 4. Prunes and Raisins (fiber) 5. Legumes (Chickpeas are my fave) 6. Rice (Brown rice is best, but I prefer white due to texture. I’m slowly getting used to brown rice.) 7. Chia Seeds (obvious reasons, even though I hate the “gel” taste) 8. Romaine (nutrious, fiber) 9. Tomatoes (cooked) 10. Tumeric and Ginger (technically, this is 11, but I use these together so often, its hard to separate them).

    • My b12 symptoms got pretty out of hand. I was under the popular belief that you can get all nutrients from a vegan diet and a daily vitamin.
      My symptoms were:
      VERY moody, VERY forgetful, pins and needles in my extremities, constant lack of energy, passing out on occasion, digestive issues.
      My doctor confirmed the deficiency and I gave myself injections for a long time. Now, I simply take the lozenge and feel great. I MUCH prefer the lozenge.

  2. Amen to the notion that “happiness is a pretty big part of healthfulness!” I’m not much of a morning person, but coffee is a drink I enjoy and I don’t like the notion that I’m not a healthy person because I kick my day off with a tasty cup. Ditto for beer or wine on the tail end of the day (though some days, I could use one with lunch!)– there are few things better sitting on the patio with my husband doing the “how was your day” routine.

    Another way to get some yummy avocado in your day is a bit in your smoothie. I made the mistake of adding too much once– never thought I’d ever say “too much avocado”– so a little goes a long way.

    Enjoy!

    • It’s a slippery concept, because one might make the argument that it takes 3 beers each night to make them “happy,” (and therefore healthy) instead of 1. Or someone who gets so addicted to coffee they need 6 cups to feel normal and awake (aka happy). And at that point, it’s tough to argue that happy = healthy. I’m not sure where you draw the line, you know? So I almost didn’t put this line in the post, but I do believe it. Just haven’t fully thought through the argument.

      • Keith Winkler says:

        It’s all about balance. My coffee drinking habit is like an accordion. It goes from none, to a little bit occasionally, to too much so that I need it to wake up… and back again to none. I don’t drink alcohol every day but do enjoy it occasionally in moderation. We all have to find a balance that works for us and to do that, must be honest with and true to ourselves.

    • Jennifer says:

      I was going to write in with almost the EXACT words Leah has written – so I’ll just write “Ditto to Leah’s”!

  3. Excellent post, thanks for the information. I am going to add some pumpkin, flax, and chia seeds and broccoli to a smoothie each day!

    • Great! That’s why I love smoothies so much — you can put just about anything in there that you want to get more of in your diet, and it usually doesn’t ruin the taste.

  4. I love this post! It’s so helpful to help us see how you change your habits to get those foods in every day. I’m a vegan triathlete, and I have really enjoyed following your advice as I train for my first Ironman race. You’ve also inspired me to get into blogging myself. I’m still new to it, but so far it’s been a fantasic adventure. Keep up the great work!

  5. This reads like my diet! This is much better than those ’10 foods you HAVE to eat’ articles.

    I had low B-12 as well – funny my meat-eating husband’s B-12 levels were MUCH lower than mine. Many people think meat is the quick fix for B-12 deficiency, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

    A few years ago I began starting each day with a green smoothie and toss in most of the things you mention, chia, broccoli stems, flax, nuts – it has definitely been my favorite way to ‘buy insurance’, making sure I start my day on a healthy note, and ending it with dark chocolate of course 🙂 Adding a green smoothie with the ingredients you mentioned will change your life!

    • Yes, I like the “buy insurance” idea. A lot of people treat their multivitamin as that, but obviously if you can make it work with whole foods, you’re better off.

  6. If you have a blendtec/vitamix, making your own nutmilk is another great place to sink chia, flax, brazil nuts, and pumpkin seeds. I usually do 1 cup soaked/drained nuts, 4 cups water, and 1 tablespoon chia; the chia also helps give it a nice viscosity. Most people seem to favor almond milk, but I love walnut milk or pecan milk (with a few brazil nuts thrown in).

    • Great idea! I haven’t tried making nutmilk much in my Blendtec (I did make almond milk a few times and it was DELICIOUS), but I like the idea of mixing nuts and seeds. I guess you lose out on some of the fiber when you strain the milk, but for most healthy plant-based eaters that’s not a problem. I wonder how much of the other nutrients make it into the drink?

      • You can save the fiber/pulp you strain off and use it somewhere else…like in a smoothie!

      • Lucian Bogdan says:

        The pulp from almond milk I make I find it useful to mix it with hemp seeds walnuts oat flakes raisins cinemon and some sirup for a great dehidrator granola or in the stove …

  7. Great post!!!

    Can u do a post on what ur typical daily diet and macros consist of? There are so many ways to “do vegan” and a lot of them ain’t too balanced. Seeing ho u cconstruct ur meals and snacks (and with portion sizes and macronutrient average) would be so helpful

    Thanks a bunch

    • Thanks Stacy! I’ve stayed away from writing too much about how I particularly eat (this post was an exception, of course!), but you’re not the first to have suggested a post like this, and I’ll give some thought to writing one. One of the articles in my free e-course (http://www.nomeatathlete.com/plant-based-endurance) is about what a typical day’s diet looks like, but I wrote it two years ago or so and I need to update it.

  8. David Nagel says:

    While I appreciate posts like this, I think it is important to be mindful that our food choices have global ramifications and aren’t always as healthy as we may think. So-called “superfoods” like chia berries or quinoa are touted as some of the most healthy foods one can consume. However, current demand is having detrimental effects on the small communities responsible for harvesting and supplying them (the demand/price being so high that local consumers can not afford them). I am a huge proponent of healthful eating, but being mindful of source, actual cost, and impact are pieces often overlooked or not considered when making food choices.

    I would also say that in the world of health and nutrition, especially for the faithful die-hards, a great temptation exists to establish a diet based on the foods identified above and to promote those foods as the healthiest options available to us. Call it “health nut superstition”, if you will. And while you list healthy foods, the subversive side-affect is that we neglect that nutrient dense and locally sourced foods available to us in our own communities.

    I am a huge fan of this blog and I know this comment is somewhat outside of the scope of info you (Matt) aim to provide. I also do not believe that you are advocating for the consumption of those foods only. I believe that your encouragement to all of your followers is to be good stewards of our bodies by sharing your insight and experiences. So it is in that spirit that I wanted to interject about having awareness and thoughtfulness about the impact of our food choices in much the same way you encourage your readers to consider the impact of food choices on our bodies.

    • Hey David, this is a good comment. I appreciate your fairness in recognizing the issues are a little outside the scope of what I write about here. But you’re right that those issues are important, and only in the past year or two have they started to become part of my own consciousness. I’m sure as I start to think about them more, I’ll take more of it into account with the foods I write about.

      You’re right that the 10 foods in this list do NOT make up the bulk of my calories — fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and grains do that, and I get locally grown versions as often as is possible (and it’s been much easier to do that since I moved to Asheville, NC).

    • Hi David,

      I agree that we need to be aware of the implications of our food choices. But the media has really blown things out of proportion, particularly on the issue of quinoa. It is definitely not as simple as it has been portrayed. Yes, it is true that the price increase of quinoa due to Western demand has made it harder for some of the Andean people to afford the pseudo-grain themselves. But this is a known result of the free market, and it happens everywhere with almost any imported good.

      Also, the lower consumption of quinoa can be at least partly attributed to factors such as changing food tastes of the younger generations, which prefer white rice and white bread over their native foods.

      Overall, the net effect on these people has been positive. The farmers get paid much more for their quinoa crop than before, and can therefore afford some necessities that we in the West take for granted. The price surge is bringing moderate prosperity to some of the poorest parts of South America.

      It’s certainly a complex issue, but I don’t think it’s a reason to avoid foods such as these. Here are a few articles to read if you are concerned.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/world/americas/20bolivia.html?_r=0
      http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2013/01/quinoa_bad_for_bolivian_and_peruvian_farmers_ignore_the_media_hand_wringing.html

  9. Allister says:

    Great article! I don’t know a whole lot about foods, but I know that when I eat an avacado I get so much more energy on my runs. I love avacados. One question though, how do you keep avacadoes fresh once you open them? I’ve had avacadoes that went bad within a day of opening them.

  10. Great info, nutrition is key! Here’s another suggestion, eat green tea versus just drinking liquid seeped from it. I put 1/4 c. organic green tea leaves in my shakes every morning!

    • Interesting. I’ve heard Brendan Brazier (I think) talk about putting whole tea leaves (ground) into different energy bars and things like that. I’ve heard that dramatically increases the caffeine you take in though (like in the case of matcha, where you dissolve the powder in hot water). Do you notice that?

  11. Great post Matt and it really makes it so much easier for people to see how to include these foods in their diet as opposed to a slideshow that they click next on while they then run out to the local McDonald’s.

    Once you start incorporating them into your diet you do realize how simple it is. Every night I have rice cakes with homemade nut butter sprinkled with turmeric, cinnamon and nutmeg. I will then top that with goji berries, hemp seeds and shredded coconut. On occasion some dark chocolate bits find their way on to that as well. I have now been doing this for nearly a year and it started with just one taste.

    Keep it simple, do it often!

    • I love rice cakes! I’ve been cutting back on them since I found about the arsenic issue though, trying to limit rice to 1x/week. 🙁 Load it up with nut butter and superfoods though, and maybe one will you up (and I’m sure there’s not all that much rice in one rice cake).

      • Do you have any links to the arsenic issue? I had not heart about this but will certainly research. I will say that I make sure that they are GMO and the only companies I will purchase from are Lundberg as well as a company that makes Suzie’s Thin Cakes.

        In addition to that I have almost eliminated rice from my diet as well in a typical rice form and instead use barely, millet, quinoa, lentils, amaranth, etc as I find them to be a great substitute for rice and better tasting.

        Thank you for your information and if you don’t readily have the links I can do the research myself. Thanks again.

  12. Great post. I have been having trouble with weight control while training. My appetite is through the roof so I have been cutting back on fats. Your post is making me rethink it though (flax, chia, and avocados). Maybe one a day is enough for me though. I have been doing a B-12 supplement though. Just had my physical since being vegan for 2+ years. Hopefully everything is good.

    • Jaime, hard to say if cutting back on fats is the right thing to prevent weight gain — for some it works, for others it actually makes the problem worse. The flax seeds and chia seeds are such small amounts that they won’t contribute a lot of fat to your diet; brazil nuts and avocados will though.

  13. Ha ha… love that cat reference; oh how fickle is our attention.

    Matt, when I checked my blog stats earlier today I thought the traffic looked a bit high, and then I noted all the inbound traffic from No Meat Athlete. Thanks for the link (and I hope none of your readers were offended – the “NSFW” was a smart caution, although I had to ask a much younger friend what it meant.)

    Some comments re this post…

    Broccoli – great idea to use the stems in smoothies, as it’s a big waste to throw them away. Haven’t tried that, but what I do is add them to my juicing recipe.

    Smoothies – I’d like to underscore the value of these, for as you indicate, a person can dramatically upgrade his/her diet by substituting a well-stocked smoothie for a meal. It’s fast, filling and you can dial in whatever nutrients/supplements you want simply by adding the appropriate ingredients.

    Brazil nuts – my use of these were intermittent till I read Tim Ferriss’ (as you say, of “4 Hour” fame) remarks about them, which you express. I now, consume three to six first thing in the morning. If you’re on a low-fat diet, be aware that an average B nut holds about 3 grams of fat, so it can add up if you make your breakfast outta them. Note, if you have low testosterone, eating B nuts should be part of your testosterone restoration effort, but will be insufficient to boost it much. Actually, it takes quite a bit of study and effort to boost testosterone naturally, but, fellas, it’s so worth it!

    Avocados – These can save the day when you feel that you new diet, though spectacular, may be depriving you of some nurturing. Avos give you that full mouthy feel, are a good source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and help with satiation.

    Coffee/Alcohol — I think you’re spot on with your connection btwn coffee and alcohol, Matt, pointing out that what may be OK in limited amounts is not when consumed in excess.

    Coffee has gotten good marks lately, but in my view it needs to be organic, grown at high altitude, air dried, have no myotoxins and be limited to one cup per day (drink green tea the rest of the day). Even one cup in the morning will spike your cortisol levels till the evening. Cortisol is called the “Death Hormone” for a reason. It overworks the adrenals, stresses you out and can actually shorten your telomeres over time by disrupting the capacity for telomarase to do its job of protecting the telomeres length during cell division.

    And yes, one glass of red wine is good, particularly due to its resveratrol content, but to get enough resveratrol to matter would require you to drink your body weight in red wine, so just drink one glass and supplement with resveratrol if you think it may be useful.

    So, those are my thoughts… and thanks again, Matt, for the link.

    -Joe

    • More great stuff, Joe! A lot of my thoughts about coffee have been formed by what I’ve read in your posts about it. I always like your stuff and am happy to link to it!

  14. I agree completely with you! You seem to balance everything nicely and you´re down to earth so to speak! The glass of wine, or whatever is not my cup of tea, but every saturday I indulge in 1 meal that can be anything. Usually it´s the old pizza, a kebab, or something along those lines. I might quit doing it one day, but so far I find the enjoyment I get from it, far outreaches the downsides.

    – Peace from Norway!

    • Cheat day! I’m not strict enough with my day-to-day diet to need a cheat day now, but when I first started paying attention to fitness (about 12 years ago), I was doing the Body for Life program and really closely following the guidelines. And I loved the cheat day then! Tim Ferriss is also a big proponent; I think his cheat days are pretty epic, too. 🙂

      Doug and I discussed cheat days in our recent podcast episode with Leo from Zen Habits, check it out: http://www.nomeatathlete.com/nma-radio-11/

  15. Thanks for the practical suggestions. I also enjoyed your interview.

  16. I absolutely love this post!

  17. I am so glad you posted about B-12! I just recently became a full vegan after being vegetarian for several years. I also started training for races (just ran my first 5K a few weeks ago!). I had not given B-12 much thought until I read your post, but it explains why I’ve started to get fatigued and foggy lately. I went out and bought a bottle of supplements as soon as I read this post. Thanks so much, your blog is extremely helpful, and I enjoy listening to your podcasts while running. I’ll start training for my first half marathon soon, the race is in November and I’m excited to use your information!

    • One thing I learned about B-12 recently was that even though non-vegans vegetarians can get it through dairy, they’re still far more likely to be deficient than people who eat meat. I was vegetarian for 2 years before I went vegan, and I think since I didn’t pay any attention to B-12 during my vegetarian years, it set me up to run out quickly (2 more years) once I went vegan. Glad you’re cognizant of it. Good luck with training for your half marathon, and thanks for listening to the podcast!

  18. Thanks for doing the interview with us, Matt. You’re one of the good guys!

    • Hey Brian, it was an absolute pleasure, and very cool for me to be featured on Copyblogger after reading it every day and learning so much from you guys over the past 4 years. Thanks!

  19. leaves pc and retrieves brazil nuts from the freezer! Thanks for the reminder Matt – we’re a strictly plant-based family but things do slip in and out. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of iron but I can’t get my 7-year-old to eat them UNLESS they’re ground up into bliss balls which works well. Molasses and greens are my fall back re iron for him. Great post thanks.

  20. CBusRunner says:

    I notice you said “when I used to take a multivitamin”. I was just curious why you choose to stop taking one. Thanks and keep the the great posts. Your a true inspiration!

    • I stopped taking my multivitamin once I got serious about B-12. Over time, I had come to question why I was taking the multivitamin — I think I do a pretty good job with getting a variety of whole foods in my diet and I think taking the multivitamin to “cover my bases” seems like hitting a nail with a sledgehammer. Besides the cost, I don’t want to get 200% (or even much more) my daily needs of anything; I’ve heard too much recently about large doses of vitamins in certain forms having potential links to cancer and other health problems.

      I kept thinking about this, but out of inertia, kept taking the multivitamin because it was my B-12 source. Once I decided to switch to a different B-12 form than my multivitamin provided, I did away with the multivitamin. This isn’t that uncommon, I don’t think — I’ve heard Brendan Brazier say he doesn’t take one — but I will monitor things and get a blood test after a few months (it’s only been a month or two).

  21. Great list man. And the “How I get them each day” is very very good. I already bookmarked this post and I will make sure I review it at least once a week.

    Thank you so much!

  22. Avocados are a gift from God. Sprinkled with just a hint of sea salt… heaven!

  23. I have no interest in becoming a vegetarian, but I do follow a Paleo regimen and wanted to find more alternatives to add to my diet. I drink a veggie smoothie most days, but adding chia, pumpkin and flax seeds to it sounds like a great idea. I usually put 1/2 of an avocado and spinach plus an apple & berries in it. Brazil nuts were always my favorite although I seldom eat them. I have to admit I was completely ignorant about their good and bad attributes. Finally while I don’t drink it every day, I do love my beer. Thanks for all the good tips and info

  24. There were a lot of comments above and I didn’t read through all of them so this might have been said before, but the frozen berries (and vegetables) contain more nutrients than fresh. Because they are flash frozen on site, versus losing nutrients via travel time to the markets, they hold in more nutrients than fresh. The problem is that fresh tastes so much better!

  25. Hey Matt,

    I’m not a vegetarian but I love reading your blog as your advice is spot-on and your style non-preachy.

    Loved your piece on Copyblogger too. Very inspirational. I’m aiming to go down the same kinda path as yourself!

    Thanks,
    Matt

  26. Awesome post. I did have that “I already eat that” moment several times, but the B12 thing is something I’ve been thinking about as I’ve been experiencing some of the more minor symptoms as my diet leans further and further away from meat. And the brazil nuts tip will be included as well. Even though I’m not vegan, or even vegetarian, I’ve been a fan of this blog since I fount it a couple of months ago. Thanks for the info.

  27. Carolyn in NC says:

    Matt, thanks for the list. I think I get 5 of these in my morning smoothie each day, too. A great way to start the day that my body actually craves the nutrients while I’m on vacation and don’t get the “power punch” to the diet.

    I will note that even though I think green tea is good for you for females it can lead to bladder irritation if you drink too much.
    As a cancer survivor who has lost 35 pounds and kept it off by running I will continue to read this blog to get ideas for eating the healthy stuff while training for half marathons.

    Thanks again for the recipes and useful info!

  28. Rebecca says:

    I’m also not a big broccoli fan. I buy the broccoli slaw packs at Trader Joe’s and sprinkle a generous amount on top of my salad, or sometimes just top with an Asian dressing for a crunchy side. Never any wasted!

  29. Matt G. says:

    Isn’t 1000 mcg daily for B-12 overkill? Jack Norris recommends 25-100 if taken daily and 1,000 if taken twice a week.

    http://veganhealth.org/b12/rec

  30. Sue Atkins says:

    Are you aware of the anti-angiogenic full food list at eattodefeat.org? As I understand this list, it is an extension of Dr. Li’s Ted Talk. Many things on your list are on the full anti-angiogenic food list: all the berries, flax, dark chocolate, dark leafy greens, and the green tea you mentioned. http://www.eattodefeat.org/foodlist

  31. Thank you so much for this article! I have been vegan for about a year but I still feel like I am figuring things out. I have one question about green tea. Do you drink it caffeinated or decaffeinated. I have read a lot of controversial things regarding caffeine and running performance.

  32. OMG all of my favorite foods! Though the pepitas are new for me, and I JUST got turned onto the whole chia seed thing 😉 But the rest are daily staples in my house. I’m a new vegan (vegetarian for 20+ years) so I really appreciate the work you do on NMA! Thanks!

  33. Clean eating is not a new concept! Nor is it a fad diet to shed weight. Clean eating is about sticking to what is closest to natural products and avoid processed foods that come out of a box. It’s not about restricting what you eat, but rather about making conscious choices to eat better quality foods. This means more natural products and less chemicals and additives. Although some people may be able to jump right into clean eating and never look back, most need to ease into this lifestyle. A sure way to get started is to firstly drink more water; secondly eliminate processed foods; thirdly balance your meals; and finally control portion size.

  34. How did you find such a low-dose B12 lozenge? I’ve been looking everywhere and can’t find something around 2-4 mcg. Thank you so much for this; I love your blog.

  35. Great Post! Thanks for sharing. though there are many more to add, like new superfood Yacon Root. Incorporating these into a diet is so important for healthy living. For me, I lost the most weight when I started adding some of them into a green smoothie. Lose weight and have tons of energy too!

    John Wallingford

  36. Michael Dowling says:

    Nice ideas for my smoothies.I am a Vitamix user.One other thing: the latest thinking on antioxidants is they protect not just your normal cells,but also protect cancerous cells (http://www.healthline.com/health-news/cancer-antioxidants-may-speed-lung-tumor-growth-012914 ).So eat your blueberries for the flavor,not for their antioxidants.

    • The study tested only a Vitamin E SUPPLEMENTS (and no other foods) against a drug called N-acetylcysteine. It did not test any whole food anti-oxidants — a very narrow study. Other studies have already shown Vitamin E use in supplement form is detrimental, not helpful. Anyway, supplements are not well regulated and often do not contain what they claim. Get your nutrients and anti-oxidants from whole foods, not single elements isolated from foods. Keep eating blueberries for the flavor AND all the healthy qualities…including the anti-oxidants available in this extraordinary whole food.

  37. steve lord says:

    The author of this website is taking 2.5 mg of b 12 per day but my researching the issue has told me that such a miniscule percent of b 12 is absorbed that one must take a much higher dose. Please read more on the percent absorbed and determine how much to take to get the right dose absorbed. By the way, I believe the vegan diet we ate in the jungle during our original evoution is the healthiest diet, and I read a paper out of the antropology dept at UC Berkeley that said that that diet in early man got their B 12 from the insect larvae that was in the fruit. Without that fact we might doubt that being vegan is the diet our genes have evolved to prefer. Steve Lord

    • Hey Steve, thanks for your comment. It’s really difficult to sort through all the recommendations and find the truly optimal amount of B12 to take on a daily or weekly basis. I tend to default on Dr. Fuhrman with stuff like this, and he used to put 2.5 micrograms (mcg, different from mg, for the record) in his daily multivitamin. But recently that amount increased to 40 mcg! Still small by some standards (a lot of what I see in vitamin stores is 1000 mcg daily). I don’t know the answer to what amount is best (keep in mind we don’t know what effects taking too much has), but for now I’m sticking with the multivitamin from Dr. Fuhrman.

  38. LOVE this…thank you!

  39. My way of ensuring I get a variety of veggies in my diet: I food process slice carrots, celery, onion, zucchini. Then chunk chop asparagus and tomatoes. I microwave steam French green beans, broccoli and cauliflower florets slightly. All goes in a container in the fridge. I can choose to add to juice, smoothie, salad greens, or just make those veggies the salad. If it’s cold weather, I can add to a stir fry or quick cup of soup (veggies and vegetable stock in a large mug and microwave). The other thing I do is keep a live watercress growing in the kitchen window and a bunch of parsley in the refrigerator. Easy to add a few leaves to salads or smoothies.

  40. Jill Rohlfs says:

    I’d love to see a post about what your wife ate regularly on her oil free weight loss mission!

  41. Be careful of the Brazil nuts. You can overdose on selenium even in small quantities. My friend started experiencing significant hair loss snacking on Brazil nuts. One ounce, about six nuts, gives you 544 mcg of selenium, and the upper tolerable level is 400 mcg. So your limit of four is about on target. But someone who is small or is eating Brazil nuts every day might find that their body’s personal ‘tolerable level’ is lower than that. Hair loss and thinning nails, or nausea, fatigue, irritability, and a host of other symptoms mean back off on the Brazil nuts!

  42. Fantastic list! I love the way it’s presented- thoroughly informative and easily digestible.
    Although I try to keep a keen eye on my diet, and already knew about the superpowers of these foods, it’s way too easy for me to slip into lazy, compulsive eating habits.
    So glad I took the time to read though this list as a reminder of how important solid nutrition is for my body and brain!

  43. This is a great list and I try to incorporate many of those foods everyday! I know this is an older post, but I just wanted to say I am so glad to have found this blog a few years again when I went vegetarian! I had a question about the b-12 supplement, which one do you take/where do you buy it? I have only seen as low as 5 mcg, not 2.5. Thanks!

  44. Angela Fitton says:

    Hi! I have started including your 10 foods into my family’s diet. I can not eat avocado (or banana) so could you recommend a replacement? Thanks!

  45. I mean this as a compliment when I say your blog has to be one of the most underrated blogs on plant based nutrition out there. I have been receiving your content for a while now and thoroughly enjoy it.

  46. Lori Catan says:

    Just made the best smoothie EVER today; apple, pear, pines apple, frozen mix of peaches/strawberries/grapes with 1/4 cup silken tofu–fluffed it into a pink drink, then added fresh spinach which took away the pink but still retained sweetness. Apple, pear and pineapple were very ripe.

    I can’t recommend Teff as a whole grain to mix in with steel cut oats for breakfast. My runs are super speedy and my energy endurance AMAZING with this grain. I use about 1/8 cup toasted first then boiled with about 3 cups of Oats, add a handful of walnuts and berries and sprinkle flax seed and hemp seed on top. A MUST try for any vegan athlete!

  47. You did not mention the Aronia berry. Its even more powerful than blueberries.

  48. Thank you very much for your post. The past 6 months I made a big mistake and forgot to include protein in my diet. I had made some little tweaks in my daily habits. I am now including beans and nuts every day. My thinking is clearing up and my immune system. I don’t know what you think about molasses, but this was my acupuncturists suggestion on getting my iron levels back up. Thank you for your blog.

    • Lori Catan says:

      @Laurel
      If you eat a whole grain cereal and ingest either a Vit C rich juice (real juice not a cocktail) or eat a Vit C rich fruit, the body will absorb the iron in the grain better.

  49. Nice post BUT I am not that sure though, if onions and especially garlic is a food I would recommend eating every day.

    I would consider them more like medicine that should be used more for the body when it really needs it. Medicine is usually a poison that stimulates immune reactions in certain places in the body. So you use them to basically command your body to work harder at that area and neglect others.

    When you consume garlic or onion, it is quiet obvious how poisonous they are as your body seems to put a big effort to get it out of its blood fast, what can be literally smelled form one’s breath as even the lungs have to aid the detox.

    As you wouldn’t take medicine when you are healthy you might shouldn’t do that on a daily basis with garlic or onion.

    An easy test to see if garlic or onions are healthy and not toxic for you, would be to test if you would enjoy eating a whole bowl of them.

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