Published 25th January 2024
Here’s 4 foods our scientists recommend you try
Which foods do experts in nutrition science think you should add to your shopping list?
At ZOE, we firmly believe in the benefits of adding to your plate rather than subtracting in a quest for a healthy diet.
But knowing what to add can be tricky.
That’s why we’ve asked some of our top scientists to recommend foods that are well worth your time if you’re not eating them yet.
Read on to find out why fermented foods, nuts, beans, and sprouting veggies all get the stamp of approval from ZOE’s science team.
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1. Fermented foods: Prof. Tim Spector
Tim is ZOE’s scientific co-founder and a professor of epidemiology at King’s College London, in the United Kingdom.
“I opt for a daily dose of fermented foods as my natural probiotics,” he says. “Research shows that 3 small portions a day is a good starting point for change.”
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can increase the diversity of your gut microbiome. They may also support your immune system and keep your blood sugar and cholesterol levels in a healthy range.
ZOE’s own research has also found that fermented foods can help keep your gut healthy.
You can find many types of fermented foods in stores, such as live yogurt, kefir, and aged cheeses. But you can also prepare some of your own at home.
“Making your own kimchi is so simple, and it makes great use of any scraps of vegetables that don't make it to the dinner table,” says Tim.
“Pop these in a jar and leave them to ferment for a few days, and you'll have a delicious addition for your soups, salads, and sandwiches, packed with fiber and live ferments."
2. Nuts: Dr. Sarah Berry
Sarah is ZOE’s chief scientist, and she thinks that many people are overlooking the humble nut.
“Lots of people aren't eating nuts because they think they're high in fat and therefore will make them put on weight,” she explains.
“But research has shown that about 30% of the calories in nuts are excreted in our poop, which means that, actually, they're not as energy-dense or high-energy as we think. And trials show that people who eat more nuts do not put on weight.”
While nuts are high in fat, they’re particularly high in monounsaturated fats, which are good for your heart health.
For a tasty way to start your day with nuts, have a look at our granola recipe on Instagram.
And if you want to hear more about Sarah’s thoughts and research into nuts, check out the ZOE Science & Nutrition podcast on the topic.
3. Beans: Dr. Federica Amati
Federica is ZOE’s head nutritionist and a huge fan of beans.
If you’re looking for a way to eat more beans, Federica has a great suggestion.
“My Roman ribollita has plenty of vegetables and flavor, and it makes an affordable, hearty meal for the whole family."
You can find Federica’s ribollita recipe on ZOE’s Instagram page.
4. Sprouts: Dr. Will Bulsiewicz
Dr. B is ZOE’s U.S. Medical Director and a board-certified gastroenterologist. He’s also a big advocate for sprouting vegetables.
“There's something exciting and special about sprouts,” he says.
Rather than Brussels sprouts, we’re talking about the sprouting form of vegetables, such as broccoli, lentils, chickpeas, and onions.
But why are they so special?
“When a seed or legume sprouts to life, it rapidly increases its protein, fiber, vitamin, and antioxidant content — while often offering high concentrations of beneficial phytochemicals,” Dr. B explains.
“For example, broccoli sprouts have 10–100 times more sulforaphane, a cancer-fighting phytochemical, than mature broccoli.”
You can find many sprouts at the grocery store, but you can also grow them at home (and save some money).
To make sprouted lentils, just soak some dried lentils, drain them, and then rinse and drain them repeatedly for a few days. You can find more detailed instructions here.
Why not try some sprouts along with our Green Goddess sandwich filling for a delicious lunch?
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Hopefully, these suggestions will encourage you to try some new foods, if you’re not eating them already.
If you’re increasing your fiber intake, it’s important to do it slowly. If you up your amounts too quickly, you might experience some discomfort. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water to avoid constipation.
And don’t worry if any of these foods aren’t for you. No single food will make your diet healthy. It’s the combination of foods day to day, week to week, and month to month that matter.
But if you’re looking to expand your food horizons, the four options above are great starting points.
Are fatty nuts a weighty concern? A systematic review and meta-analysis and dose-response meta-regression of prospective cohorts and randomized controlled trials. Obesity Reviews. (2021). https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/obr.13330
Dietary legume consumption reduces risk of colorectal cancer: Evidence from a meta-analysis of cohort studies. Scientific Reports. (2015). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4350074/
Discrepancy between the Atwater factor predicted and empirically measured energy values of almonds in human diets. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (2012). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3396444/
Factors influencing sulforaphane content in broccoli sprouts and subsequent sulforaphane extraction. Foods. (2021). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8394606/
Gut-microbiota-targeted diets modulate human immune status. Cell. (2021). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867421007546
Intake of legumes and cardiovascular disease: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis. Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases. (2022). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36411221/
Legume consumption is inversely associated with type 2 diabetes incidence in adults: A prospective assessment from the PREDIMED study. Clinical Nutrition. (2018). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28392166/
Microbiome connections with host metabolism and habitual diet from 1,098 deeply phenotype individuals. Nature Medicine. (2021). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-01183-8
Nutritional and health implications of legumes. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research. (2013). https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/document?repid=rep1&type=pdf&doi=977be8ec2699b4c1403b2449745bc7039b48e750
Sprouted lentils. (n.d.). https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sprouted-lentils/
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