Most trendy diets share a list of off-limit foods, which can range from beans and dairy to whole grains and sugar. However, there are some foods considered so nutritious they make practically any approved list. Thinking in those terms can be more helpful for reaching health goals. “Thinking about what you can’t have feels restrictive. But shifting your perspective to what you can add in is a healthier mindset,” says Jill Keene, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer in New York City.
Google anything from keto to Paleo to Mediterranean and the biggest thing you’ll see is a push to focus on fresh, whole foods. “The big-three types of foods that can make up most any diet are lean proteins, healthy fats and vegetables,” says Keene.
Here are six go-to foods you’ll find on any approved list:
The Mediterranean diet is rich in leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, dandelion greens) and for good reason: Not only are they a non-starchy veggie (ideal for very low-carb diets), but they’re full of important vitamins and minerals like vitamins C, A and K, as well as iron.
Whether you’re on a high-, moderate- or low-fat plan, nutritionists advise honing in on healthy fats. Avocado fits the bill, as it’s rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) that are associated with cardiovascular health, says Keene. Plus, it’s a surprisingly rich source of GI-friendly fiber. One half of the fruit packs nearly seven grams.
Salmon is one of the top sources of omega-3’s, fatty acids that benefit the heart by slowing accumulation of plaque that gums up arteries and better lipid profiles and blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. The AHA recommends consuming two fatty-fish meals per week.
People who regularly consume nuts are less likely to gain weight over a five-year period or be overweight or obese, according to a study in the European Journal of Nutrition. Walnuts are particularly special because they contain a type of omega-3 called alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). They’re also a good way to eat more fiber and are rich in magnesium, which plays a key role in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.
In the era of coconut everything, olive oil is an important staple in some of the top-ranked diets including DASH and the Mediterranean diet. Incorporating it in your diet as one of your go-to healthy fats pays off: Research shows people who do so may lose weight and reduce belly fat.
As a source of natural sugar, people remain weary that eating berries may cause weight gain. The reality is that, in moderation, fruit — especially berries — can add a source of satisfying, subtle sweetness to any eating plan. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries are rich in disease-fighting polyphenols and are lower-carb.