A great, in-shape body starts in the kitchen, reports "Muscle & Fitness" magazine. Depending on where you are in your fitness routine and what your end goals are -- losing weight or bulking up on muscle -- several foods can help provide your body with the nutrition it requires to stay in shape. Because everyone's body is different, check with your doctor before you make any changes to your dietary regimen.
Dark Green, Leafy Vegetables
Dark green, leafy vegetables come recommended by Rutgers Cooperative Research & Extension as a super food, saying it has functional nutrients like phytochemicals that help you maintain "optimal health." Not only do such vegetables contain antioxidants and vitamins, but Rutgers states that they're also high in glucosinolates and organosulfur compounds that may help prevent cancer. Additionally, such vegetables are high in dietary fiber, which can keep you feeling full longer -- thus reducing caloric intake -- and help reduce water retention for a harder muscle appearance.
Low Calorie Foods
You need to burn or cut out 3,500 calories from your diet to lose just one pound, notes the University of Massachusetts. The university reports that it's much easier to simply reduce your dietary intake by 500 calories a day for a week than it is to try and burn up all those calories through exercise. Cut out high-calorie foods, such as unnecessary snacks or desserts, or reduce your portion sizes to help achieve the calorie reduction you need to reach or maintain your weight goals.
Whole Grain Foods
For proper energy levels and muscle growth, your body needs carbohydrates. Whole grain products, such as cereals, pastas and breads, are the best sources of carbs for athletes or people who simply want to stay in shape, according to the University of Georgia Health Center. Unlike refined sugars and refined flours, whole grains provide the fuel your body requires while also giving a healthy dose of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
High Protein Foods
The typical adult needs 0.8 g of protein for every 2.2 lbs. of body weight, advises Columbia University's "Go Ask Alice!" health website. However, those who are working out and exercising typically need more -- up to 2 g for every 2.2 lbs. of body weight. Some of the best food sources for healthy protein include eggs, lean cuts of beef, and whey protein products like protein shakes, reports "Muscle & Fitness" magazine.