Here, thirteen of the nation’s top chefs and wellness experts name the 13 healthiest foods.


Food 1:  Farro. This ancient strain of hard wheat, also known as emmer wheat, has a roasted, nutty flavor and a distinctive chewy texture reminiscent of barley.  Not only is farro nearly twice as high in fiber and protein as common whole-grain wheat,  it’s also richer in magnesium.  Instead of the kind known as perlato (or pearled, which means it’s been completely hulled), try either whole farro or the semi-pearled variety, since both have more of the fiber- and nutrient-rich bran intact.  Farro has long been a staple of Italian dishes (it’s said to have sustained the Roman legions) and works especially well in risottos, soups and hearty winter salads, where you can use it as you would rice, noodles or couscous.  (Andrew Weil, MD).


Food 2:  Tea. The concentrated flavors and aromas of various teas are ideal for healthy cooking.  For example, you can simmer dried or fresh fruit in chai-spiced tea with a touch of honey to yield a flavorful compote for chicken; use a smoky tea like Lapsang souchong as the base for a marinade or brine for chicken breast; or replace half of your cooking water with a berry-flavored tea when preparing whole grains like wheat berries, bulgur, or brown rice for pilafs and salads.  The best part?  Tea is high in flavonoids, a kind of antioxidant that has been shown to help protect against multiple types of cancer as well as heart disease. (Ellie Krieger; TV host and author)


Food 3:  Dried Seaweed. Typically sold at grocery and specialty stores in long, paper-size sheets, dried seaweed is used to wrap sushi and to flavor certain Japanese dishes.  Some recent studies have found that it is full of heart-healthy compounds like anti-oxidants, potassium and vitamins A and B complex. With a sweet, nutty flavor and a crunchy texture, dried seaweed makes a satisfying, low-cal snack (just 10 calories for a single two ounce sheet).  Break it into small pieces and eat it like potato chips!  (Sanjay Gupta, MD)


Food 4: Meatless Protein.  Americans are eating less and less meat, and that is opening the market for new protein sources.  Proteins derived from brown rice, hemp and peas are showing up as ingredients in shakes and power bars.  Expect to see more snack-food companies getting creative with protein-rich legumes like chickpeas, green peas, lentils, beans and peanuts.  (Joy Bauer, MS, RD)

Food 5:  Nordic Cuisine.  The Mediterranean Diet opened our eyes to the potential health benefits of traditional regional cuisines.  Now, thanks to the restaurant Noma in Copenhagen (ranked number one in the world by Restaurant magazine for the past three years) and other trendy Scandinavian eaters, Nordic cooking has been getting a closer look from nutrition experts.  This cuisine is delicious and good for you: It emphasizes omega-3-rich salmon, antioxidant-packed berries like lingonberries and blueberries, nutrient-dense vegetables such as beets and onions, and disease-fighting herbs like dill,
parsley cinnamon and cardamom.  In addition, the hearty Scandinavian way of eating relies heavily on grains like oatmeal, rye and barley, which have all been connected to lower heart disease risk.  (David Colbert, MD)

Food 6:  Eggs, Exonerated.  There are many reasons to continue consuming eggs.  They are an inexpensive source of high-quality protein (about 6 grams per egg, divided evenly between yolk and white); provide the nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, which may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (a cause of blindness); and serve up choline, which may enhance memory.  (Lisa Masterson, MD)

Food 7:  Chia Seeds.  A single serving of these flavorless Mayan seeds has more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than flax, along with good supplies of protein, fiber, antioxidants and essential minerals such as calcium and zinc.  Add ground seeds to a shake, yogurt, eggs or oatmeal.  (Frank Lipman, MD)

Food 8: Jazzed-Up Oatmeal.  As a breakfast food, oatmeal is tough to beat: Its high water-soluble fiber content stabilized blood sugar levels and helps clear cholesterol from the body.  Try oatmeal topped with herbs, cheese, vegetables or eggs.  (Chef Carla Hall)

Food 9:  Peruvian Cuisine.  Peru has a large Japanese community and this influence (think raw seafood, ginger, and peppers, and an emphasis on clean, pure flavor) can still be felt in this country’s brand of Latin cuisine.  Look for tangy, high-protein ceviches (seafood marinated in citrus, hot peppers and ginger).  (Chef Lorena Garcia)

Food 10:  Pineapple, Papaya, and Grapefruit Enzymes.  Healthy digestion is important for preventing disease and maintaining energy levels.  Enzymes break foods into blocks of molecules that can be used to fuel the body, giving you better access to the nutrients in the food you eat.  Pineapple, papaya and grapefruit are great sources of these enzymes and they’re easy to serve as a quick snack or a nice addition to a salad. (Ashley Koff, RD)

Food 11:  Green-Coffee-Bean Extract.  Want the health benefit of coffee without the bitter flavor?  Green-coffee-bean extract made from unroasted (that’s where the green comes from) coffee bean is everywhere.  It has high levels of chlorogenic acids, powerful antioxidant compounds that all but disappear when coffee beans are roasted.  Chlorogenic acids have been connected to weight loss and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.  Since green-coffee-bean extract is raw, it doesn’t taste like regular roasted coffee and is actually slightly sweet.  This means it can be blended into fruity drinks for a caffeine punch.  (Sirr Less, Whole Foods Market)

Food 12:  Fermented Products.  Probiotics (‘good bacteria’) help us digest foods, control inflammation, battle heart disease and more.  Yogurt is the classic source of probiotics, but now people are looking for less obvious possibilities.  Fermented foods like miso, tempeh, kimchi and sauerkraut are all rich sources, and they tend to contain high levels of food enzymes as well.  Be on the lookout for natto, a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans that you mix with rice or use as a condiment for vegetables.  It’s a good source of protein as well as vitamin K and an enzyme call nattokinase, which is purported to prevent harmful blood clotting.

Food 13: Black Garlic.  For centuries, Asians have been fermenting garlic at high temperatures to make this sweet, chewy delicacy.  Now you can buy black garlic online or at your local specialty grocery store.  Unlike the regular variety, it doesn’t have a pungent odor; therefore it’s less likely to give you bad breath.  What you do get are strong doses of antioxidants (more than from regular garlic), selenium, and, as a result of the fermentation process, probiotics.  Mix black garlic as you would regular garlic, or simply spread it on toast like peanut butter.


Sara Reistad-Long