If the “New Year, New You” mentality has you working out seven days a week and restricting your favorite foods (only to fall off the wagon a few weeks in), 2024 may be the year to try something different. Dietitians agree that the biggest health changes often come from what you add to your diet, not what you take away.
While no one food can make or break your health, including more nutrient-dense foods that are high in antioxidants, fiber, lean protein, and essential micronutrients can make a significant difference in your health and how you feel each day. Whether you’re trying to lower your cholesterol, maintain or manage a healthy weight, reduce your blood sugar, boost your immune system, or just feel more energized each day, the foods you regularly eat can help you reach your goals.
Here are 10 foods dietitians want you to eat more of to turn your health around in the new year. Read on, and for more healthy eating tips, check out the 20 Best High-Protein, Low-Calorie Foods.
“Adding a serving or two of beans each day may make a significant impact on the diet by adding nutrients such as iron, magnesium, and folate,” says Sarah Pflugradt, MS, RDN, CSCS. You get plenty of protein and fiber from beans, making them a great addition to anyone trying to eat more plants in their diet. Just one-half cup of black beans has 7.5 grams of protein and 7.5 grams of fiber.
“Regular bean consumption has also been shown to improve glucose control and lower cholesterol,” Pflugradt adds. In a 2021 study in the Journal of Nutrition, people with high LDL-cholesterol reduced their total and LDL-cholesterol by eating 1 cup of beans (any variety) daily for four weeks.
“Oats are budget-friendly, shelf-stable, and versatile, which makes them a highly accessible food for overall health,” says Wan Na Chun (she/her), RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition consultant for Health Insiders.
Whether you enjoy them as hot oats, overnight oats, granola, or baked into muffins and breads, eating more oats can make a big difference. While they’re a good source of nutrients like iron and magnesium, their star nutrient is soluble fiber. “Oats are rich in soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease,” Chun adds.
“Whether it’s walnuts, almonds, peanuts, or pistachios, nuts are a great source of fiber and plant-based protein,” says Patricia Kolesa MS, RDN, owner of Dietitian Dish LLC. Just one ounce of almonds (about a small handful) has 6 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber, and is a good source of magnesium, copper, and riboflavin.
“While some people are concerned about eating nuts due to them being high in calories, I encourage them as a great snack,” says Bess Berger, RD, a registered dietitian specializing in PCOS and menopause at Nutrition by Bess.
In fact, a 2019 review of the diets, health, and weight of almost 145,000 adults found that an increased intake of nuts by just 0.5 servings per day resulted in lower rates of obesity and weight gain over the 20-24 years that participants were followed.