Add These Disease-Fighting Superfoods To Your Grocery List

It’s no secret that eating poorly increases the risk of disease. For instance, at least 45% of type 2 diabetes diagnoses are caused by diet, according to the National Institutes of Health. But on the flip-side, the risk of major diseases can go down if we eat healthy foods.

Scientists have analyzed food’s impact on heart disease, cancer, and neural decline, and they reported which foods have the best effects. These “superfoods” offer many benefits that may keep people alive for longer. To discover which foods combat disease, read on.

A Handful Of Almonds Can Save Your Heart

Almonds are a tasty source of healthy monounsaturated fats. During an analysis of 57 studies in Nutrients, scientists noted that almonds have a positive effect on cholesterol. “Daily consumption of around 45 g of almonds can help reduce one the most important risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” the researchers said.

Packaged almonds sit on a shelf in a supermarket.
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Almonds also have powerful, disease-fighting antioxidants. According to 2007 research in the Journal of Nutrition, 3/4 cup of almonds relieves oxidative stress by up to 34%. This may lower peoples’ chances of developing inflammatory diseases such as cancer.

Mushrooms Keep The Brain Sharp

Recent research has linked eating mushrooms to brain health. In March 2019, scientists from Singapore reported that even a small portion of mushrooms lowers the risk of cognitive decline. These anti-inflammatory mushrooms included shiitake, golden, oyster, and white button mushrooms.

A chef sautees sliced mushrooms in a pan.
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Mushrooms can also lessen the chances of prostate cancer, according to Japanese researchers in the International Journal of Cancer. For older men, eating mushrooms consistently reduced their risk of cancer by 8%. But the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of mushrooms benefit people of any gender.

Drink Coffee, Live Longer

Drinking coffee every morning has a significant number of health benefits. In 2015, research linked coffee to a lower mortality rate. Drinking three to four cups a day (on average) lengthened participants’ lifespans, researchers say. This is because coffee delays the onset of certain diseases.

A woman drinks coffee at a cafe.

For instance, moderate coffee consumption lowers the chance of developing heart disease, according to a study in Circulation. Moderate intake equals three to five cups of coffee per day. It may lessen the risk of type 2 diabetes, cirrhosis, Parkinson’s, and uterine and liver cancer, says Harvard Health Publishing.

Why Bison Patties Are Better Than Beef

When it comes to the health benefits of bison, the proof is in the patty. Bison has lower cholesterol than a slice of chicken. In 2013, a study in Nutrition Research Study concluded that bison unclogs arteries. The meat lowers triglycerides, which can encourage heart disease over time.

Two burgers contain two patties made with bison.
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Bison has far fewer health risks than beef. Researchers found that bison has a low atherogenic risk, which makes people less likely to develop hypertension, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol. Plus, bison has a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids, according to the Journal of Animal Science.

Add Oregano To Kill Bacteria

Oregano, as a spice or oil, can combat several different kinds of bacteria. In 2001, scientists from Georgetown University concluded that oregano oil could fight bacteria–even drug-resistant strains. In a 2015 test-tube study, oregano was the second most efficient herb against bacteria (the first being thyme).

A chef sprinkles oregano on Greek fries.
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Derek Davis/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

In studies, oregano has been shown to combat at least 23 different strains of bacteria, according to the Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. During a 2009 study published in Nutrition and Cancer, oregano even killed cancer cells.

The Best Combo: Onions And Garlic

Onions and garlic don’t just taste great together, but they also fight diseases. The British Journal of Cancer called the combination “a matter of life and death.” Several studies have linked the two vegetables to a smaller risk of cancer. The two have several compounds that inhibit carcinogenic activity.

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The compound in onions and garlic, Allium, can combat many cancers. According to Cancer Prevention Research, these vegetables may delay stomach, esophageal, colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer. However, not everyone receives the same benefits, researchers say.

Protect Your DNA With Kiwi

More people should learn about kiwis’ health benefits, says the European Journal of Nutrition. Some kiwis contain three times the vitamin C of oranges. This vitamin can improve immune function and prevent damage to your DNA. Plus, several studies have linked kiwis to metabolic health.

A man holds up two halves of a kiwi.
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Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images

Kiwi can also improve sleep quality in adults. During a 2011 Asian study, participants with sleep problems caught more rest after four weeks of eating kiwis. Poor sleep dramatically raises the chance of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and depression, per the Centers for Disease Control.

To Lessen The Effect Of Sugar, Eat Quinoa

According to JAMA Internal Medicine, eating too much sugar can raise your chance of heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Fortunately, quinoa alleviates the effects of sugar on the body. In one 2004 study, quinoa bread significantly improved insulin, triglyceride, and blood sugar levels in participants.

Dried quinoa is inside of a heart-shaped cookie cutter.
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During a rat study in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, quinoa halted the effect of sugar. The grain prevented some sugars from affecting blood pressure and cholesterol. While quinoa doesn’t negate sugar, it can stop people from getting chronic diseases later in life.

Salmon, The Healthiest Fish

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association recommend eating fish twice a week, for good reason. Fatty fish, such as salmon, contain a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids. According to a Harvard study in JAMA, regularly eating salmon lowers your risk of heart disease by one-third.

Raw salmon filets are smoked on a grill.
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In 2013, an Indian review of 73 studies came to the same conclusion. Fish with high omega-3s reduces peoples’ risk of coronary heart disease, heart failure, arrhythmia, and myocardial disorders. And salmon has more omega-3s than most other fish.

Pumpkin Seeds Guard Against Cancer

Pumpkin seeds supply an impressive amount of antioxidants. In 2009, a study in Food Research International suggested that pumpkin seeds may combat lung, breast, prostate, stomach, and colon cancers. Most studies involving pumpkin seeds show that they can delay breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

A Palestinian man holds roasted pumpkin seeds.
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Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Pumpkin seeds can also reduce the risk of heart disease. According to research in Climacteric, pumpkin seed oil can lower blood pressure by 7%. It also raises HDL cholesterol (the heart-healthy kind) by up to 16%. Plus, you can easily add pumpkin seeds to meals.

An Apple A Day…

The phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is more accurate than many people know. In December 2019, researchers at the University of Reading analyzed what happens after eating two apples a day. Participants’ blood and cholesterol improved, which reduced the chances of heart disease by 4%.

A woman picks a red apple off a tree.

Apples also contain healthy flavonoids. Scientists at Edith Cowan University said that these flavonoids could guard both heart disease and cancer. Even those with substance abuse issues have better chances after eating apples (although diet doesn’t nullify bad habits).

Eat Broccoli For Your Liver

As with many cruciferous vegetables, broccoli can combat disease. In February 2020, research in Hepatology noted that broccoli has a healthy compound, indole. Over time, this compound can delay or prevent fatty liver disease, scientists say. It can also assuage symptoms in people with the illness.

Broccoli florets are wrapped in plastic and placed in plastic bins.

During another study, researchers from the University of Western Australia looked into heart disease. Broccoli opened up arteries and cleaned the blood, they said, and this significantly lowered the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Grapes Repair Damaged Tissue

Grapes naturally supply reservatrol, a nutrient that helps to repair damaged tissues. According to a 2015 scientific review, grapes may improve the prevention of several diseases. For instance, antioxidants in grapes have guarded against skin cancer and improve the enzyme function of the liver in studies.

An Israeli harvester eats green grapes.
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David Silverman/Getty Images

Because of their potent antioxidants, grapes are known to protect the heart. Research in The Journal of Nutrition reported that eating grapes can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Plus, grape powder healed some neural damage during a study, according to Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.

The Many, Many Benefits Of Green Tea

In 2018, a study in BioMed Research International concluded that green tea helps people live longer. The tea combated heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, oral infections, neural ailments, and cancer in Chinese participants. You can thank green tea’s antioxidants for this effect.

A woman looks at a glass of green tea.

Green tea is especially effective against heart disease and stroke, the two most common causes of death. According to a January 2020 study, drinking green tea three times a week lowers the chances of cardiovascular disease by 20%. Black tea did not produce the same effect in research.

Pop Some Peanuts

According to 2015 research, eating a handful of peanuts every day can lower your chances of mortality. These nuts fight several illnesses, including diabetes, brain disease, heart ailments, respiratory disease, and cancer, says the International Journal of Epidemiology. According to the Journal of Food Science and Technology, peanuts combat inflammation that sparks conditions such as gallstones and diabetes.

A white bowl contains salted peanuts.

Peanuts have similar nutrients to tree nuts, says Harvard professor of nutrition Meir Stampfer. In fact, a study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that peanuts are as nutritious as their more expensive cousins, including Brazil nuts and pine nuts.

Brain Health Comes From Papaya

Papaya, especially fermented papaya, displays promising healing effects on the brain. In 2015, researchers fed Alzheimer’s patients fermented papaya powder, and their biomarker count dropped by 40%. In other words, the fruit healed some oxidative stress in DNA, which may guard against Alzheimer’s and cancer.

A man holds two plates of sliced papaya.
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Because papaya contains vitamin C and lycopene, it also heals the skin. According to research in Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences, these nutrients soothe red sunburns more quickly. Over time, this may delay skin diseases caused by the sun’s UV rays.

Sweet Potatoes, A Food For Eye Health

Sweet potatoes contain anthocyanin, a water-soluble vitamin that gives the root its orange and purple colors. Anthocyanins have prevented inflammation and stress in several studies. For instance, a test-tube study in Food & Nutrition concluded that vitamins in sweet potato protect the eyes from damage.

A farm manager holds up a sweet potato he grew.
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During an animal test, scientists discovered that purple sweet potatoes might keep the brain healthy. The vegetable stopped inflammation from harming the brain, says Neurochemistry International. Plus, a diet filled with fruits and vegetables lowers a person’s risk of dementia, according to a 2016 study in Molecular Neurobiology.

Why You Should Drink Cherry Juice

Tart cherries are the ultimate inflammation fighters. According to a 2019 study in Nutrients, drinking tart cherry juice soothes oxidative stress in older adults. This stress can result in cardiovascular disease over time, researchers say. An earlier study from the University of Michigan correlated cherries with a lower risk of heart disease.

A woman eats a cherry.
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JOKER/Alexander Stein/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Cherries have many other benefits, says Nutrients. They can encourage enzymes in the liver that keep the organ healthy. They also lower blood pressure, which could delay diabetes. And cherries heal muscle tissue to assuage arthritic symptoms over time.

The Special Nutrients Of Beets

In 2015, scientists recorded beetroot’s effect on blood pressure in Hypertension. People who drank one cup of beet juice per day had significantly lower blood pressure, which reduced their chances of heart disease and diabetes. The root contains an antioxidant called alpha-lipoic acid that can protect many parts of the body.

A student holds up a beet from her elementary school garden.
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Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

According to a 2019 review in BMC Nutrition & Metabolism, beets can potentially subdue many illnesses. The antioxidants guard against diabetes, neural decline, and even oral infections. Plus, research suggests that beets may lower the risk of some cancers.

Flaxseed Is Promising

Flaxseed served as an ancient herbal remedy long before its effects were scientifically studied. In the Journal of Food Science and Technology, scientists reviewed over 200 studies about the seeds. In several studies, flaxseed reduced blood sugar in participants, which steers people away from diabetes.

A spoon full of flaxseed sits next to a jar of flaxseed oil.
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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In animal studies, flaxseed has protected rats against ovarian, breast, and colon tumors. Scientists noted that the seeds delayed breast cancer in humans. Finally, flaxseed’s effect on blood pressure and inflammation may guard against chronic kidney disease and heart disease. Flaxseed seems promising!

Watermelon Helps Ward Off Free Radicals

According to Medical News Today, the antioxidants in watermelon can assist the body in removing free radicals, which are naturally produced but can result in cell damage when there’s an abundance present.

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Yelena AfoninaTASS via Getty Images

This cell damage can lead to diseases like cancer and heart disease, and scientists now speculate that free radicals may be linked to asthma. A 2012 study also found that watermelon extract reduced the blood pressure of participants who suffered from obesity and hypertension.

Barley Is Great For Cardiovascular Health

Researchers at Poland’s Institute of Cardiology have found that consuming B-6 together with folate may help reduce your levels of homocysteine, a compound that researchers believe may increase your risk of heart disease.

A woman holds barley seeds in her hands.
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Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Barley not only has high levels of both of these ingredients, but also is naturally low in cholesterol. Additionally, barley contains beta-glucan fiber which reduces “bad” LDL cholesterol. A 2008 study published in Oxford Academy’s The Journal of Nutrition found that consuming a certain amount of barley could reduce cholesterol by 5-8%.

Black Beans Are Full Of Fiber And Selenium

One cup of black beans offers 15 grams of fiber, more than half the amount that the FDA recommends we should consume each day (this may vary depending on how many calories you eat). Research shows that those with diabetes have lower glucose levels if they eat more fiber.

Uncooked black beans sit in a bowl.
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Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Black beans also contain selenium, which is important for liver function and may help reduce the likelihood of developing cancer by decreasing tumor growth and detoxifying some dangerous compounds that are linked to the disease, according to Medical News Today.

Brussels Sprouts Are Full Of Vitamin K

Just half a cup of Brussels sprouts provides more than your total daily vitamin K requirement, which may help protect against osteoporosis, according to a study conducted by the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Human Biology.

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Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Like black beans, the fiber in Brussels sprouts may also help moderate blood sugar levels. They are also one of the best plant sources of ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid that’s highly present in fish that studies show may reduce insulin resistance, inflammation, and cognitive decline.

Cabbage Is Associated With A Lower Risk Of Cancer

Cabbage is a part of the cruciferous family of vegetables, which also include kale and broccoli. These vegetables are high in DIM, a compound that may help protect against radiation damage, according to a study by Georgetown University.

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NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images

Cabbage also contains sulforaphane, a compound that researchers deem cancer-fighting due to its ability to inhibit HDAC, an enzyme that participates in cancer’s spread. Researchers at the University of Missouri also found that a chemical in cabbage called apigenin decreased the size of tumors in cancerous mice.

Curry Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Curry is a mixture of spices, such as turmeric and cumin, that gives its yellow color and unique flavor. Its spices contain anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve the symptoms of inflammatory diseases like osteoarthritis.

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A study published in Nutrition Journal found that eating a curry-containing meal improved blood flow, which researchers attributed to its high levels of antioxidants. Another study published by Nutrition Research and Practice found that those who ate curry 2-4 times a week had lower triglyceride levels, a type of fat that can increase your risk of heart disease.

Alfalfa Sprouts May Help Lower Cholesterol

A study testing a group of 15 humans found that eating 40 grams of alfalfa three times a day lowered their LDLs by a whopping 18%, and lowered total cholesterol levels by 17% due to the high content of the compound saponin, which prevents cholesterol absorption.

Alfalfa sprouts are pictured against a white backdrop.
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Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Researchers at the University of Ulster found that alfalfa extract lowered blood sugar in tested mice by enabling the pancreas to produce more insulin. Alfalfa is also high in antioxidants, which reduce cell damage caused by free radicals.

Avocados Are Good For Your Heart

Aside from being higher in potassium than bananas are (per serving), avocados are also full of monounsaturated fatty acids, the same component largely present in olive oil. Studies show that this heart-healthy fat reduces inflammation and may have a helpful impact on cancer genes.

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Sebastian Kahnert/picture alliance via Getty Images

Numerous studies show that avocados also lower LDL levels while increasing HDL (the good cholesterol) levels, and reduce blood triglycerides by as much as 20%. If that wasn’t convincing enough, the NHANES surveyed nearly 18,000 US participants and found that those who ate avocados regularly weighed less and had a lower risk of metabolic syndrome.

Cranberries Are A Superfood

Cranberries are largely considered a superfood on account of their high levels of antioxidants and other nutrients. Medical News Today reports that research has linked cranberries to lower risk of cancer, urinary tract infections, and decreased blood pressure.

Three pairs of hands hold cranberries.
Kristine Lejniece/Pixabay
Kristine Lejniece/Pixabay

In 2019, researchers also found that cranberries may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by helping to manage its risk factors. A 2016 review of 34 studies found that cranberries helped diminish cancer cells and reduce inflammation.

Oranges Are Full Of Health Benefits

Oranges tend to be the go-to sick food on account of their high amount of vitamin C, but they also contain several other disease-fighting properties. One orange contains about a fifth of your daily fiber intake, which studies show has a positive impact on cholesterol.

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Aliona Gumeniuk/Unsplash

They also contain flavonoids, which researchers have found may help protect against heart disease. The citric acid in oranges may help your body absorb iron, preventing anemia, and may help prevent kidney stone formation, according to researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Pumpkins Are Vitamin-Rich

Pumpkin seeds aren’t the only nutritious part of the pumpkin; the flesh is also loaded with health benefits. They are full of beta carotene, which is what gives them their bright color. This antioxidant has been linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers, asthma and heart disease, and macular degeneration.

A person holds a large pumpkin in front of their face.
Olivia Kulbida/Unsplash
Olivia Kulbida/Unsplash

A 2019 study found that pumpkin polysaccharides helped to decrease blood sugar levels in mice. Additionally, a 2017 study found that consuming potassium may be just as important as avoiding sodium when it comes to blood pressure, and pumpkins are naturally a good source of the former and low in the latter.

Raspberries Have A Variety Of Antioxidants

Raspberries are full of disease-preventing antioxidants. They are also an excellent source of fiber, which researchers in 2018 concluded may help improve symptoms and lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

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Louis Hansel/Unsplash

Raspberries also contain the antioxidant zeaxanthin, which Medical News Today reports may help to prevent age-related macular degeneration that causes impaired vision. They also contain folate, which helps with cell division, and vitamins C and E, which may help with cognitive ability as a person ages.

Spinach May Keep You Seeing Longer

Spinach has high levels of zeaxanthin and lutein, two carotenoids that protect your eyes from sunlight damage. Multiple studies have found these compounds to prevent vision-impairing cataracts and macular degeneration, and suggest they may even be able to reverse some of the damage that’s already been done.

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Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A study published in ScienceDirect and another study published in PubMed found that MGDG and SQDG, two compounds found in spinach, help to slow tumor growth and decrease its size.

Turkey Is Good For Your Immune System

Four ounces of turkey contains half your daily value of selenium, a mineral that helps your immune system function. A popular belief is that turkey can make you drowsy due to its tryptophan, but Medical News Today states that all forms of meat contain this compound, not just turkey.

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Ashim D’Silva/Unsplash

Furthermore, turkey doesn’t contain enough tryptophan to actually make you drowsy. What it does contain in high amounts is niacin and vitamin B6, which actually benefit energy production and blood sugar stability.

Reach For Walnuts More Often

A study conducted by an Australian school of pharmacy found that walnuts may help to prevent heart disease and cancer due to their healthy fats and various bioactive components.

A bowl of walnuts sits on a wooden surface.
Zsuzsanna Tóth/Pixabay
Zsuzsanna Tóth/Pixabay

Additionally, studies have linked walnuts to brain health and show that they may help prevent cognitive decline associated with older age. The NYS Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities found that walnuts significantly improved memory and learning in mice who had Alzheimer’s disease. They are also highly rich in antioxidants.

Add Watercress To Your Salads

Watercress may be one of the more underrated leafy vegetables. Though it isn’t as popular in the US, watercress still has the benefits of its cruciferous relatives, including the cancer-preventing DIM compound and bone-healthy vitamin K.

A bunch of watercress is pictured.

Watercress also contains the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid, which two 2019 studies found to reduce symptoms of gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes. A 2013 study also suggested that the dietary nitrates in watercress may help reduce blood pressure and improve endothelial dysfunction.

Yogurt Is Good For More Than The Gut

Due to the probiotics in yogurt, it has many health benefits for the gut as it can enhance the good bacteria you need to break down food. Since yogurt comes from milk, it also has some of the same benefits such as protein, calcium, and vitamins that can protect your bones and teeth.

A bowl of yogurt is topped with mint.
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Micheile Henderson/Unsplash

Additionally, probiotics may boost the immune system by promoting better digestion, which in turn delivers the necessary antioxidants, vitamins, and other minerals to the rest of the body. A 2014 study also suggested that yogurt may help decrease the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, so long as it isn’t sugar-ridden.

Tomatoes Are Full Of Phytochemicals

A study published in the Molecular Cancer Research journal found that beta-carotene, which is found in tomatoes, was effective at preventing tumor growth with prostate cancer. Tomatoes also contain high levels of lycopene, which has also been linked with prostate cancer prevention.

A gardener and her husband hold a bowl of tomatoes.
Elaine Casap/Unsplash
Elaine Casap/Unsplash

Tomatoes also contain good amounts of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, folate, and choline, all of which researchers have found to have a positive impact on heart health. The antioxidants in tomatoes can also help to prevent eye damage, cataracts, and macular degeneration.

Eggs Have High-Quality Protein

Though eggs have been written off by some due to their high levels of cholesterol, in moderation eggs can be very beneficial. The vitamins and minerals in eggs are vital for brain, energy, and immune function, to name a few.

A young girl holds two eggs in front of her eyes.
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Hannah Tasker/Unsplash

Eggs also contain eye-health-promoting lutein and zeaxanthin, heart-healthy choline, and folic acid, which can prevent congenital disabilities. Their high amount of protein makes them a satisfying meal food while their micronutrients make them a well-rounded choice.

Blueberries Are Good For Your Bones

The iron, phosphorus, calcium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin K found in blueberries make them excellent for your bones. Research shows that they may also help protect against heart disease and manage diabetes as they are high in fiber and heart-healthy anthocyanins.

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Medical News Today reports that the nutritional composition of blueberries makes them powerful disease-fighters; researchers have found that their antioxidants may inhibit tumor growth, decrease inflammation, and prevent or slow down various types of cancer.