The 15 Foods (and 5 Beverages) I Can’t Do Without

People often ask me to list my personal favorite healthy foods. Since the 10th anniversary, updated and expanded edition of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth is coming out this June, I figured this would be a great time to answer that question in print.

Hence this list.

These are the foods that I have in my house all the time and I eat on a regular basis. I know I’ve probably left a few out, but this is my own personal version of culinary “heavy rotation”. If I stocked my house with nothing but these foods, I could live very well. I might be bored with my choices after a while, but I definitely wouldn’t be malnourished!

1. Eggs (free-range)

Really, one of nature’s most perfect foods, and, during the idiotic low-fat craze, one of the most unfairly demonized. If you’re still eating egg-white omelets—for any reason other than that you actually like the way they taste—you’re making a mistake. The yolk is a great source of choline (brain food), plus the twin superstars of eye nutrition, lutein and zeaxanthin.

2. Wild Salmon (all of mine comes from Vital Choice)

In The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth there’s a two-page essay on the difference between farmed salmon and wild salmon and why you should choose the later. Trust me, wild is where it’s at. I’m no cook, but I probably make wild Alaskan sockeye salmon at least twice a week—it’s one of the easiest dishes to make perfectly.

3. Grass-fed beef (My favorite source, nationally, is US wellness meats)

There are two huge differences between grass-fed beef and factory-farmed meat. One is health. Grass-fed has anti-cancer CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), more anti-inflammatory omega-3, less inflammatory omega-6, no antibiotics, steroids or hormones, etc.). The second is how the animals are treated. If health matters to you, grass-fed is a slam dunk. And if fair and human treatment matters to you, then forget about factory farmed meat.

4. Kale OR spinach

Almost any member of the brassica family could go in this slot—broccoli, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, etc.—but we’d be here all day and the list would be very long. The two I eat regularly are spinach and kale. Either I make spinach at home (which I do several days a week), or I buy the prepared kale salad at the market (with pine nuts and cranberries). I eat one or the other almost every single day.

5. Berries (especially blueberries)

All berries are loaded with compounds that are anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and in many cases anti-cancer. They’re also high in fiber and relatively low in sugar. I just happen to like blueberries the best, which also have some nice animal research showing that they support healthy memory.

6. Nuts

Minerals, fiber, and fat with a tiny sliver of protein– what’s not to like about nuts? Every epidemiological study I’ve ever seen shows that people who eat nuts regularly have improved numbers in important health metrics, including BMI.

7. Cherries

Recent published research has confirmed the value of this old traditional food remedy for gout. Loaded with antioxidants, cherries help lower the risk for gout attacks largely due to their concentration of powerful anthocyanins which are strongly anti-inflammatory.

8. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is great for you for many reasons, not the least of which is its association with lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The really high-quality bars, with 60% or higher cacao, don’t create cravings for more. It’s really easy to put the bar away after eating just a square or two, which is just about equal to the amount found in research to give you a nice health benefit.

9. Oatmeal

I know my grain-hating friends don’t hold oatmeal in very high esteem, but I like it. It has fiber and fat and a little protein and if you mix it with the right stuff, it’s pretty good tasting. Sure, it has carbs, but when you add butter, nuts, blueberries and a dollop of Dave Aspery’s Brain Octane Fuel, the overall glycemic load is pretty low. (I even sometimes add a spoonful of probiotic-rich locally produced raw unprocessed honey. Don’t hate.)

10. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are pretty much my favorite starch. And since I frequently put them in the fridge and eat them cold the next day, I was happy to learn recently that cooled off potatoes are a great source of resistant starch , a kind of superfood for good bugs in your gut.

11. Lemons

Seems a strange food to add to a favorites list, but the truth is I use lemons for a lot of things. I always put a slice or two into the juicer when I’m making a quart of fresh made juice (much more than that overwhelms the taste of the juice). And I throw in the rind because it contains a powerful antioxidant called limone. I also use lemons in tea and sometimes infuse a quart of water with lemon and ginger, keep it in the frig and drink it all day.

12. Ginger

Next to turmeric, ginger is like the greatest spice ever! It’s staple in all my fresh vegetable juices, and since I make them so frequently, there’s always a supply of fresh ginger in my kitchen.

13. Yogurt. (and Kefir, though I eat yogurt more often)

Needless to say I wouldn’t touch no-fat or low-fat yogurt, a totally ridiculous idea if there ever was one. But real, fermented yogurt—full-fat of course—is a tremendous food (if you don’t have a sensitivity to dairy). And a great way to get probiotics into your diet, though I usually sprinkle additional probiotics on as well. My favorite way to eat: with frozen cherries, frozen blueberries, a sprinkle of nuts, coconut flakes, and a splash of pomegranate juice. Seriously. I call it “Dr. Jonny’s Berries and Cherries” and I can’t think of a “dessert” that’s better for you.

14. Avocados

I’m such a fan of avocados that Dr. Masley and I chose to put one on the cover of our book, Smart Fat: Eat More Fat, Lose More Weight, Get Healthy Now. Besides having a lot of fiber and monounsaturated fat, avocados are the secret to making an extra-creamy shake or smoothie.

15. Apples

Just file this with the ever-growing list of “things grandma was right about after all”. If ever there was ever a single food that could actually keep the doctor away, it would be apples. It’s also all-purpose. I sauté apple slices in butter with scrambled eggs, cheese and spinach; I slice them and eat them with peanut or almond butter; and I use them in juicing. Apples are the bomb.

Then there are my five favorite drinks:

1. Green tea (also black and other varieties)

Green tea is an anti-aging metabolism tonic in a glass. I make it with leaf tea. I also sometimes make matcha, complete with the little bowl and the whisk.

2. Pomegranate juice

Pomegranate juice is a superfood. Period. Israel researchers also called it “a natural Viagra” due to its effect on their lab rats. Questions, anyone?

3. Fresh made vegetable juice

Given that I’ve written many times that eating the whole fruit/vegetable is so much better than drinking its juice, I sometimes take heat for my love for the Hurom juicer and my newly acquired juicing habit.

But here’s the thing. You may not get all the fiber when you make fresh juice, but you get a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, polyphenols, flavonoids, and other healthy plant compounds plus all the good stuff in the ginger I add to it. It’s about as healthy a beverage as I can imagine sipping.

4. Raw milk (full-fat, unpasteurized, non-homogenized)

I always keep a few quarts in the freezer, and defrost them in the frig as I need them, which is constantly. Raw milk—really cold, just barely defrosted– is something about which I can honestly say, “They will have to pry it from my cold, dead hands”. I just love this stuff.

5. Coffee

I drink coffee a lot—Bulletproof mostly, but also regular garden-variety organic. I’ve had many “coffee arguments” with my health conscious friends about this, but I believe that if you don’t have a genetic sensitivity to caffeine, it’s a perfectly good “food” which actually contains a number of the same healthy antioxidants found in cocoa.

And a zillion studies show coffee drinkers have lower risk for all kinds of things from pancreatic cancer, to diabetes, to… well, death! (I haven’t put links to all the research I mentioned in this article but I’ll put a link into this one, because it’s likely to raise eyebrows.

As you may have noticed, I didn’t include spices or oils in this list. Things I use to make foods taste better, or to garnish, or to cook with, would have taken us beyond a mere list and into book territory—(did I mention the 10th anniversary edition of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth is coming out in June? I know I did. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.).

So that’s why you don’t see grass-fed butter (I like Kerrygold), extra-virgin olive oil, Malaysian palm oil, ghee, avocado oil, coconut oil, flaxseeds, chia seeds, coconut flakes, turmeric, and all the other spices, oils and specialty items that make food delicious and gorgeous.

I’d love to know what your favorite foods are. Share your list with me and everyone else in our community on Facebook! It’s always fun to see what other people really eat when no one’s looking.

And if we’re really coming clean about what we eat when no one’s looking. I should probably add ice cream to the above list.

PS, I mentioned the ice-cream thing to a tennis friend of mine who lives on pizza, donuts, fast food and Ben and Jerry’s. “See?” he said, triumphantly, “even you eat ice cream!”

“Tru dat”, I said. “But look at all the other things I eat on the very same day.”

I rest my case.




  1. Doug

    According to my dietitian, pears are very high in fibre (he refers to them as fibre bombs) and plums are very high in anti-oxidants (and they are less expensive than berries).

  2. doug

    PS I am surprised that olive oil is not on your list.

  3. Merridee

    I noticed you had Raw Milk on your list,lucky you, we lost the ability to have raw milk in Melbourne (all of the state of Victoria actually) Australia a couple of years ago when they passed legislation requirring all raw mil to have a bittering agent added so we couldn’t drink it, SUCKS.

  4. Marcella F Forton

    Jonny, I read your list of favorites, and I approve. My low budget diet tries to emulate yours. Since you wonder about our diets, I want to respond with a partial list. There are few boxes or cans, no sugars but stevia (and raw local honey once in a while). About half my grocery bill is for organic and grass fed. I am 91 and my son is 67 – – many health problems he was born with. I must keep a small weedy garden and shop and cook very carefully.

    Breakfast is organic whole milk Nancy’s yogurt unsweetened, with chia, hemp, sesame, and pumpkin, sunflower seed mix. He adds banana and small scoop Garden of Life Raw Meal.
    Lunch is left over, a big salad, or huge plate of veggies. I need greens but he is on coumadin for A Fib. Two separate meal plans sometimes.

    Dinner is heavy on good meat from local farmers, beef that I have looked in the eye and called by name, tiny bit local pork or none at all, lamb from New Zealand at the big grocery. I wonder if it is safe, so use it once in a while. I cannot afford good fish but i use kippers and sardines on cracker once in a while. At Thanksgiving the local turkey farm closes for winter and I put 4 turkeys in the freezer, cut to my specifications, and buy whole local farmer’s frozen chicken for four dollars a pound at the health food store. I simmer the whole icy chicken all day on low heat and we have a few meals. Then I save bones in the freezer til i have bone broth material.

    I am pre diabetic and watch my 140 to 160 blood pressure so I truly cook two different pots at times.

    God, Jesus Christ, gives me the strength I need. No sugar, no wheat or grains, but a slice of Ezekiel sprouted bread once in a while, toasted with cheese, or honey, no bad oils, just EVOO, coconut oil, many, many avocados and farmer’s eggs.

    I soft fry eggs over easy and put on a pile of pumpkin seeds instead of toast, and mop up with a sweet potato or diced beets Favorite meal !!! My list is not complete.
    Twenty years ago I discovered that a teaspoon of turmeric and a teaspoon of MSM took away my body ache and pain . Did not like the taste, but it stopped the pain! I trust this brand more than capsules. Since then every day I take a heaping teaspoon of Frontier Turmeric powder, so i am looking for more inventive ways to get it down. I melt coconut oil, toss in mix of nuts, add all the turmeric I can force to adhere and add sea salt and Spice Islands black pepper med grind. My friends love this. I make enough for a week or so, to have a snack anytime, or give to company. If I were younger and had time I would open a business with this nut mix or with my pampanks. They ask me
    quite often how my hair is still not white. it is a mix of black and grey and white, and I am 125 pounds and take no prescription drugs but thyroid. I study supplements, and zero in on Berberine and Hawthorn berry. My first 45 years I was terrible sick, had maybe 20 surgeries, and pneumonia and candida, and a crooked leg and foot to cause great pain. A miracle happened but that is another story, and I have been getting more healthy ever since. In that unhealthy time I bore three sons who have all sorts of birth and inherited problems. I have spent my life trying to find good health for them. That is the story of Jesus in our lives. Lord bless you, Jonny and all your readers. After reading your comments on oatmeal I think I have been missing a food I love, but was afraid to eat. I will buy some oats soon!
    marce forton

  5. Tim Kennedy

    Dr. Johnny, I’ve read 4 of your books and I am reading ” The Great Cholesterol Myth” right now. I just wanted to get your take on the latest news about coconut oil not being good to get to ingest. Or USA today article of a couple of months ago and friends have told me that coconut oil is only good topically, And should not be ingested .

  6. hermes belt

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