Your 20s require a lot of energy. You have ten years to choose and establish yourself in your career, decide whether to go to grad school or not, start saving for retirement, date enough of the wrong people that you finally start dating the right ones, stay up late enough that you don't feel you wasted your youth, and periodically stave off a quarter-life crisis by reviewing all of the celebrities whose 20s were way worse than yours. You also have to make sure you're in top shape for all of the dates, happy hours, brunches, late nights at work, and spin classes that make up this golden decade.
If there's any one thing you can do to keep yourself going and make all the above easier, it's paying attention to what you put in your body. We've rounded up a list of the seven most important foods to eat in your 20s. They all boost your health and fill you up, without adding to your grocery store bill.
Not only could salmon protect against skin cancer, this fatty fish is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that may help amp levels of serotonin, a key feel-good neurotransmitter, in the brain. "This boost is so great because women in their 20s are often susceptible to depression," says Brooke Alpert, MS, a New York City-based nutritionist. So load up on lox during your next bagel run or try these super simple salmon cakes.
This Uncle Jesse-approved snack is an excellent source of protein, vitamin D, and calcium, a well-known bone-boosting nutrient. "Your 20s are a great time to strengthen your bones. In fact, it’s the last push you can give before your 30s, when you can’t change skeleton density anymore," says Alpert.
Fiber rich and crazy cheap, you get tons of nutritional bang for your buck. "They're a really good vegetarian source of protein, plus full of potassium which helps keep your blood pressure in check," Alpert says. Skip canned beans — recent research suggests that they could contain BPA, a chemical linked to heart problems — and go for dry beans instead.
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries: you really can't go wrong here, people. "All berries are loaded with fiber, antioxidants and tons of vitamins," says Alpert. And you don't have to wait 'til summer when they're in season to indulge. Frozen organic berries are just as healthy, so keep them on hand to have a quick smoothie for breakfast, she says.
No shame if your post-grad budget calls for a breakfast-for-dinner situation a couple times a week. "Eggs are perfect for breakfast or a quick, healthy dinner," says Alpert. "They're extremely versatile plus loaded with protein and hard-to-get B vitamins." Scrambled eggs post 3pm are now justified.
Sub in this ancient grain for brown rice or potatoes. It's a better-for-you carb that comes with two additional perks: "Quinoa is loaded with all the essential amino acids, plus a great source of protein," says Alpert. Cook up a big batch that will last all week: it's the perfect addition to a savory brunch but also works as a filling side dish at dinner.
Besides the fact that they're cheap and super portable, apples are low in sugar, high in fiber and filled with antioxidants, says Alpert. You can grab and go for a mid-afternoon or post-workout snack or add chopped bits to your next kale salad to liven it up a little.