New year, new diet, right? But which foods should we be eating in 2019 to optimize our health? We asked UC Davis Health experts which foods they recommend to help us all glean health benefits in the new year.

Photo of beets
The dietary nitrates in beets can be converted to nitric oxide and improve endurance exercise.

1. Mangoes. “They are low calorie, high in fiber and vitamins A and C. They also have other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and have been linked with multiple health benefits. Plus, all my kids like them, so it is something we can all agree on,” said Bob Canter, professor of surgery in the UC Davis Division of Surgical Oncology.

2. Fish. “Eat plenty of fish, which are high in healthy omega 3 fatty acids, and smaller portions of red meat to reduce your risk of diseases like stroke, heart disease and cancer," Canter said.

3. Broccoli or any of the cruciferous vegetables. “These foods are rich in nutrients including glucosinolates, which are key in detoxification processes. These are best served raw or quick-steamed for five to ten minutes,” said pediatric registered dietitian Alex Nella.

4. Blueberries. “Blueberries are excellent frozen because they will cool down your oatmeal with bonus fiber and antioxidants. They contain resveratrol, like red wine without the alcohol, hangover or extra calories,” Nella said.  

5. Beets. “No matter which color – red, yellow, golden – or which part – root or greens – they contain a wonderful variety of protective carotenoids. Evidence suggests their dietary nitrates can be converted to nitric oxide and improve endurance exercise,” Nella said.

6. Spinach and other leafy green vegetables. “These are packed with lutein and zeaxanthin: nutrients that can help protect against macular degeneration,” said Jeffrey Caspar, professor of ophthalmology at the UC Davis Eye Center.

7. Almonds.“Almonds have a lot of vitamin E, which protects against macular degeneration as well as cataracts. I recommend eating just a handful a day,” Caspar said.

8. Peanut butter. “My favorite food is peanut butter. It has protein, carbs and sugars. It’s a great recovery food and my kids love it!” said Brian Davis, clinical professor of the UC Davis Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 

9. Chocolate milk.“It’s the greatest recovery drink,” Davis said.

10. Mediterranean diet. "We know that physical fitness helps your mental health, so in general, eat throughout the day and don’t miss meals or depend on snacks too much. Ideally, eat a Mediterranean-style diet with lean meat and lots of vegetables and make sure you keep your weight within a healthy range," said Peter Yellowlees, professor of general psychiatry and chief wellness officer at UC Davis Health.    

11. Chocolate. "There is nothing wrong with an occasional dietary reward, which is why chocolate is so often thought of as a ‘health food’ as long as you don’t get into the habit of comfort eating!” Yellowlees said.

12. Quinoa. It is a tasty grain you can cook in savory or sweet dishes. It is high in fiber and protein and has a low glycemic index compared to some other carbs,” said Brandee Waite, director of the UC Davis Sports Medicine fellowship.

13. Kale. “It’s a green leafy veggie that I love chopped in salad or cooked with onion and garlic. It is nutrient dense, has lots of antioxidants and can help lower cholesterol,” Waite said.

14. Legumes. "Legumes such as chickpeas (garbanzo beans) are a great healthy snack item that can actually provide a lot of flavor depending on how you prepare them. I like making jalapeño-cilantro hummus or even roasting whatever peppers are in season and incorporating those into a hummus. Using the hummus as simply a healthy dip or to add a flavor profile to any wrap or sandwich instead of a mayonnaise-based spread can result in a healthy, savory meal," said UC Davis Health executive chef Santana Diaz. Download his recipe for jalapeño-cilantro hummus.

15. Pickled vegetables. "Pickling vegetables like cucumbers is pretty traditional, but stepping out of the box and pickling carrots can be different and tasty! Spicing up your snack world with some chipotle-pickled carrots is another way to provide a flavorful profile to a vegetable that can get boring from time to time,” Diaz said. Download his recipe for chipotle pickled carrots.

Related links

15 fab foods for feeling fit - Capital Public Radio's Insight

Top healthy foods for 2019 - Fox 40's Studio 40