26 Whole Foods That Start With A

Looking for an extensive list of foods that start with the letter A? 

Look no further, we’ve got you covered!

Browse this list of 26 foods that start with A to get some new cooking inspiration, learn more about where each food comes from, and understand the health benefits of each food.

Let’s dive in!

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Acai powder and berries - Euterpe oleracea

1. Acai berries

Pronounced ah-sigh-ee, these small, dark purple berries are harvested from the Acai palm tree found in Central and South American rainforests (1).

Their flavor is often described as earthy and similar to a cross between blackberries and dark chocolate.

Acai berries are especially high in anthocyanins (a type of antioxidant) and oleic acid (a form of monounsaturated fat) (2, 3). Acai may help lower cholesterol levels, protect against cancer, and improve cognitive function, but more research in humans is needed (4, 5, 6, 7).

Unfortunately, fresh acai berries aren’t available in the United States because they are extremely perishable, but they can be found as frozen purees and freeze-dried powders at most health food stores.

Use acai puree to make smoothies (and smoothie bowls) or add the powdered form to baked goods for a fruity kick.

Pile of acorns

2. Acorns

Traditional Native American diets relied heavily on acorns, a type of nut produced by oak trees (8).

These unique nuts are high in fat and carbohydrates, as well minerals such as magnesium and potassium (9).

In their raw form, they also contain very high levels of tannins, a group of bitter-tasting chemicals that can make you sick if consumed in large quantities. For this reason, it’s recommended that acorns be soaked or boiled (for at least 5 minutes) before eating (x).

When roasted, they have sweet, nutty flavor and can be ground into flour to make bread, cakes, and cookies. Ground, roasted acorns can also be used to brew a hot beverage that serves as a caffeine-free coffee substitute.

Unfortunately, they aren’t widely available at grocery stores (or online), but some people choose to forage for acorns in the fall.

Acerola berries in woman's hands

3. Acerola

Acerola (also called Barbados cherries or West Indian cherries) are a small, bright red fruit produced by the Acerola shrub in Central and South America (11).

These cherry-like fruits are one of the richest sources of vitamin C in the world, with a whopping 1640 mg per cup — that’s 20 times more than an orange (11, 12, 13). Plus, the vitamin C from acerola may even be better absorbed than the synthetic form found in supplements (14).

Although some varieties are sweet, most acerola fruits have a tart, acidic taste that’s perfect for making jams and jellies (11).

Powdered and pureed acerola can be purchased online and used to make smoothies, gummies, and even ice cream.

Achiote seeds on wooden spoon

4. Achiote seed 

Achiote is a tree native to the Amazon basin in Brazil that is best known for its seeds, which are used to make annatto (a natural food colorant) (15).

Annatto has a bright, red-orange color and is used in cheeses, margarine, butter, meats, ice creams, and condiments (15).

Achiote seeds have powerful antioxidant properties due to their high concentration of carotenoids (a chemical found in red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables) (16). 

To use achiote as coloring, the seeds are soaked or simmered in vegetable oil and then removed, leaving behind a bright red oil that can be added to other foods in small amounts.

Ground achiote or achiote paste (available at health food stores and online) can be used in larger quantities to add an earthy, peppery flavor to rice, marinades, and sauces.

Acorn Squash Cut in Half

5. Acorn squash

This acorn-shaped fall vegetable is native to North America and has a thick, dark green skin with patches of bright orange (17).

Acorn squash is one of the best sources of carotenoids (a group of vitamin A precursors) and also contains large amounts of magnesium and potassium (18). 

When selecting acorn squash at the grocery store, choose one that feels firm and heavy with a hard, dry stem.

To cook it, slice the squash in half and place it on a baking sheet (cut-side up), then brush with oil and bake in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes.

The flesh has a sweet, nutty flavor that pairs well with roasted meats, whole grains, and other seasonal vegetables (brussels sprouts, beets, etc.).

Adzuki Beans close up

6. Adzuki beans

These small, red beans (also called azuki, aduki, or red beans) are very popular throughout East Asia, where they originated (19).

Adzuki beans are packed with protein and fiber and contain at least 25% of the daily value for magnesium, potassium, zinc, and folate per cup (cooked) (20). 

A 2018 trial found that participants who regularly ate adzuki beans had lower levels of inflammation compared to those who did not (21). 

Dry or canned adzuki beans can be purchased at most Asian markets and health food stores.

In many Asian countries, the beans are boiled with sugar and mashed to form a paste (known as red bean paste) that can be used in pastries, cakes, and other desserts (19).

These versatile beans can also be added to soups and chilis, blended to make hummus, or mixed into meatballs as a meat replacement.

Agave plant being harvested

7. Agave 

The agave plant (native to Mexico) is a succulent with long, prickly leaves that form a rosette shape and can grow to be several feet tall (22). 

Its leaves are cut to extract the sap, which can be processed to make pulque (a fermented beverage), Mezcal (a type of alcohol), or agave syrup (a liquid sweetener) (22).

Agave syrup (also called agave nectar) is an amber-colored liquid that is often promoted as a “healthier” alternative to sugar because it has a lower glycemic index (22).

However, it also contains about 90% fructose, a type of sugar that may contribute to insulin resistance and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes when consumed in large quantities (22, 23).

Due to its neutral flavor, agave syrup is ideal for sweetening drinks and cocktails but can also be substituted for white or brown sugar in baked goods.

Bottled agave syrup can be found at most grocery stores.

4 aji amarillo peppers on white background

8. Aji amarillo 

In Spanish, aji amarillo translates to “yellow chili pepper.” This bright yellow-orange pepper grows to be about 4-5 inches long and has a spicy, slightly fruity flavor.

It is considered a medium-hot pepper, measuring 30,000-50,000 SHU on the Scoville scale, a system that evaluates the spiciness of peppers and other foods (24). 

In the United States, aji amarillo is most commonly available at Latin food markets and online in the form of a jarred paste, consisting of peppers that have been blended with salt.

The paste can be stirred into sauces, added to marinades, or tossed with roasted vegetables.

Aleppo Peppers spilling from a measuring spoon

9. Aleppo pepper

The Aleppo pepper, which gets its name from a city in northern Syria, is a dark red chile commonly used as a spice in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.

It has a rich, slightly fruity flavor and is considered a medium-hot pepper, measuring 5,000-10,000 SHU on the Scoville scale (24). 

Interestingly, the cooking process makes Aleppo peppers even spicier and enhances their antioxidant levels compared to raw peppers (25).

You can purchase dried or ground Aleppo pepper at Middle Eastern markets, specialty spice stores, or online.

Ground Aleppo pepper can be added to marinades for grilled meats, used as a way to add mild heat to dishes, or sprinkled on foods like hummus, roasted vegetables, or deviled eggs.

Hands with homegrown organic alfalfa sprouts.

10. Alfalfa sprouts

Alfalfa is a type of legume that originated in Asia and is now grown throughout the world, mainly to be used as animal feed (26). 

Humans typically eat alfalfa in the form of alfalfa sprouts – seeds that have been sprouted and grown to be about 3 inches in length.

Compounds found in alfalfa seeds may help lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation, but unfortunately, alfalfa sprouts are easily contaminated with pathogenic bacteria and have been the source of many Salmonella outbreaks in the past (27, 28, 29, 30, 31).

Proper food handling and hygiene can help reduce contamination, but people who are pregnant, elderly, or have compromised immune systems may need to avoid sprouts altogether (31).

Alfalfa sprouts can be found in the refrigerated produce section at some grocery stores and may also be sold at your local farmers market. 

To grow your own: simply soak the seeds overnight in a jar covered with a mesh lid, then drain and rinse 2-3 times a day for 5-6 days until sprouts are fully formed (32).

Fresh alfalfa sprouts are delicate with a mild, nutty flavor and make a great addition to salads, sandwiches, and wraps. 

Allspice berries in a wooden spoon

11. Allspice

Allspice (also known as Jamaican pepper) refers to the dried, unripe berries of Pimenta dioica, a tree native to Jamaica (33).

The British chose the name “allspice” because it tastes similar to a combination of cloves, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg (33).

This versatile spice contains a compound called eugenol (also found in cloves), which has powerful antioxidant properties (34).

Ground allspice is used to season baked goods and meat, while whole allspice can add flavor to soups, stews, pickles, and mulled beverages.

Whole or ground allspice can be found at most grocery stores or online.

Small pile of almonds on a white background

12. Almonds

Although often thought of as nuts, almonds are actually seeds of the almond tree (Prunus dulcis) fruit (35). 

They’re high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and a single (1 ounce) serving provides 79 mg (19% DV) of magnesium (36).

According to several large meta-analyses, consuming almonds on a regular basis improves cholesterol levels and reduces blood pressure (37, 38).

Almonds can be enjoyed raw for a lightly sweet taste or roasted for deeper flavor and a crunchier texture. 

Sliced or slivered almonds can be used as toppings for cereals, parfaits, salads, casseroles, and baked goods, and almond flour can serve as a gluten-free replacement for all-purpose flour in cakes, cookies, and muffins.

Almond butter can be purchased at the grocery store or made at home using a food processor or high-powered blender.

Raw Organic Amaranth grain on wooden spoon
amaranth leaves on white background

13. Amaranth

Amaranth is a plant with edible leaves and seeds that was once a staple food of the Mayans (39). 

It is classified as a pseudocereal, a group of seeds that have similar properties to grains, both nutritionally and in their culinary uses (40).

Because it is gluten-free, amaranth seed is becoming more popular among people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity (39).

One cup of cooked amaranth seed contains 9 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, along with significant amounts of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus (41).

Amaranth seeds have an earthy, nutty flavor and are available for purchase online or in the bulk bins at many health food stores. They can be used as a replacement for most grains and are especially wonderful in pilafs and porridges.

Amaranth leaves can be found at some Asian markets or farmers markets. They look somewhat similar to spinach and can be added to soups and stir-fries (42). 

Greater amberjack fish on white background

14. Amberjack 

Amberjack is a species of fish found along the South Atlantic coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea (43).

It is named after the dark amber stripe that extends from its nose to its back fin and can grow to be 6 feet long (43).

With only 2 grams of fat per (4 oz) serving, amberjack is very lean and has a flavor often described as a cross between tuna and mahi mahi (44).

Amberjack can be pan seared and paired with vegetables, or grilled and used to make fish tacos.

Depending on where you live, amberjack may be difficult to find. It is most readily available in the southeast United States.

Fresh Anaheim Green Chiles in Ceramic Bowl on Clay Tiles

15. Anaheim chile

The Anaheim chile, named after a city in California, is a type of spicy green pepper typically used in Mexican and Southwestern cooking.

It is considered a mild pepper, measuring 500-2,500 SHU on the Scoville scale. For reference, jalapenos range from 2,500 to 8,000 SHU (24, 45).

Just two tablespoons of Anaheim chile (cooked and diced) provides 9 mg (10% DV) vitamin C and 200 IU vitamin A (46).

The availability of fresh Anaheim chiles varies depending on where you live, but most grocery stores carry the canned version (labeled simply as “canned green chiles”).

Due to their mild flavor, Anaheim chiles are a versatile ingredient and can be added to soups, chilis, casseroles, and dips. They can also be stuffed with seasoned rice and beans, topped with cheese, and baked.

Closeup pile of anchovies

16. Anchovies

Anchovies are a type of small, oily fish known for their rich umami (savory) flavor (47). 

They are a common ingredient in fermented fish sauce, Caesar dressing, and Worcestershire sauce.

Like other oily fish, anchovies are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, with 343 mg EPA and 581 mg DHA per 2-ounce serving (48).

Most grocery stores carry anchovies that have been salt-cured and canned in olive oil, making them very high in sodium (1650 mg per serving) (48). 

Anchovy paste is another popular product since many recipes only use a small amount of anchovy. Simply squeeze out what you need and store the rest in the fridge.

Canned anchovies can be added to salads, pasta sauces, and pizza, while dried anchovies are perfect for stir-frying or flavoring soup stocks.

Anise seed on wooden spoon

17. Anise seed

Anise (Pimpinella anisum) is a flowering plant that belongs to the Apiaceae family, which also includes carrots, parsley, and fennel (49). 

Its small brown seeds, which look similar to fennel seeds, are utilized as a spice due to their sweet licorice flavor (50).

Although they share similar names and flavors, anise and star anise (Illicium verum) are actually two different plants (51).

Anise seed (found at most grocery stores) is used to flavor certain alcoholic beverages, such as absinthe and ouzo, and can also be added to baked goods like biscotti.

Pile of juicy red apples

18. Apples

Apples are one of the most popular fruits grown worldwide (52).

They are a good source of pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers cholesterol and slows digestion to help you feel full longer (53, 54).

The peel contains most of the apple’s polyphenols, including quercetin — an antioxidant more powerful than vitamin C (53, 55).

Research suggests that people who eat apples regularly have a lower risk of certain cancers as well as fewer cardiovascular risk factors (56, 57). 

When cut, apples begin to brown due to the activity of an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase, which reacts with oxygen to form melanins (reddish-brown pigment) (58).

To prevent this from happening, try brushing the flesh of the apple with some lemon juice — it contains vitamin C, which will slow down the browning process (59).

Pair apples with nuts or cheese for a balanced snack, or add them to salads, desserts, and even savory dishes.

Large bowl of fresh apricots

19. Apricots

Apricots (a relative of the peach) are small, round stone fruits that range in color from pale yellow to golden orange and have a sweet tart flavor (60).

They originated in China, but are now grown in most temperate climates, including the United States (60).

Apricots are especially high in beta carotene (383 mcg per fruit), a carotenoid that is converted to vitamin A within the body (61, 62).

At most grocery stores, apricots are available fresh (in season from May to August), dried, canned, or preserved as a fruit spread.

Dried apricots can be added to trail mix or granola, while fresh fruit makes a great addition to yogurt, salads, or slow-cooked meats.

Arame seaweed on a white plate and dish over bamboo with chopsticks.

20. Arame

Arame (pronounced “ah-rah-may”) is a type of Japanese seaweed that comes in narrow, dark brown strands.

It has a firm texture and a mild, slightly sweet flavor that makes it a great choice for anyone who is beginning to consume edible seaweed for the first time.

A single serving (10 grams) of arame provides an impressive 460 mg (110% DV) of magnesium, as well as 100 mg (8% DV) of calcium (63, 64).

You can find dried arame at some Asian food markets and health food stores, but it’s also available online.

To use arame, soak it in cold water for five minutes, then toss into salads, stir fries, or grain bowls with roasted vegetables.

Fresh artichokes on a light wooden background

21. Artichokes

Artichokes are the flower buds of the globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) plant, a member of the thistle family (65).

Although they share similar names, Jerusalem artichokes and Chinese artichokes are two different types of unrelated root vegetables (65).

Globe artichokes are very high in fiber (10 grams per cup) as well as potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamin K (66). 

Whole artichokes can be roasted, boiled, or steamed and eaten by using your teeth to remove the soft, fleshy part of the tough outer petals (usually after dipping in a creamy or buttery dipping sauce).

Once the leaves have been eaten, the fuzzy choke can be scooped out to reveal the tender, meaty portion called the “heart” that can be enjoyed as-is or used in salads, pastas, casseroles, and dips.

Baby artichokes may also be available during the spring and can be consumed whole (after a bit of trimming) since they have not yet developed the fuzzy “choke” at the center of the bud.

Fresh artichokes are available at most grocery stores, along with canned, jarred, and frozen artichokes hearts.

Pile of raw arugula leaves on white background

22. Arugula

Arugula (also called rocket) is a bright leafy green vegetable from the Brassica family, which includes other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale (67).

It gets its slightly bitter, peppery flavor from glucosinolates, a class of sulfur-containing compounds (68). Arugula also contains a high concentration of erucin, a chemical that has shown cancer-preventing properties in cell studies (69, 70, 71).

One cup of raw arugula includes 22 mcg (18% DV) of vitamin K, a nutrient needed for proper blood clotting (64, 72, 73).

Add arugula to salads, sandwiches, and pizza for a spicy kick, or blend with pine nuts and parmesan cheese to make a peppery pesto.

This versatile vegetable can be found in the packaged salad section of most grocery stores.

Asafoetida cake and powder

23. Asafoetida 

Asafoetida is a gum-like substance that is extracted from the roots of the Ferula plant (part of the celery family), then dried and ground into a spice (74).

Although it is native to Iran and Afghanistan, asafoetida is most commonly used in India, where it is also known as “hing” in Hindi (75). 

It contains a high concentration of sulfur compounds, which are responsible for its strong, pungent flavor (75). To mellow the flavor, the spice is cooked in hot oil or ghee (usually with other fragrant spices), transforming it to a mild leek or onion-like taste.

Asafoetida powder can be purchased online or in health food stores and used to flavor many Indian (and some Middle Eastern) dishes or as a substitute for garlic and onions.

Asian pears whole and cut into slices on wooden cutting board

24. Asian pear

Asian pears (Pyrus pyrifolia) originated in China and are very different from the European pear varieties, such as Barlett and D’anjou, that are commonly available in the United States (76).

They’re sometimes also called apple pears, because they have the shape and crisp texture of an apple with the flavor of a pear (76).

Asian pears are especially high in fiber, with 10 grams in a single fruit, along with more than 300 mg of potassium (77). Asian pear juice may even help reduce the symptoms of a hangover in some individuals because it helps detoxify alcohol and lowers blood alcohol levels (78).

Depending on where you live, you may be able to find Asian pears in your local grocery store, at Asian markets, health food stores, or online.

To enjoy raw Asian pears, simply dice and add to salad or slaw, or slice the fruit and pair with cheese for a tasty snack.

They are also a common ingredient in bulgogi, a Korean barbecue beef in which the pears are pureed and used in a marinade with soy sauce and other seasonings.

Bundle of raw asparagus on wood background

25. Asparagus

Asparagus (A. officinalis) is a vegetable known for its long, pointy spears and bitter, earthy flavor (79). 

The green variety is the most common, but there is also a type of white asparagus that is grown underground and harvested before being exposed to light (79). 

Asparagus are incredibly nutrient-dense, providing nearly 50% of the daily value for vitamin K, along with high amounts of potassium, folate, and beta carotene (64, 80).

After eating asparagus, you might notice that your urine has a pungent odor — that’s caused by metabolites that are formed when asparagusic acid and other sulfur compounds are broken down (79).

Due to genetic variations, some people actually have “asparagus anosmia,” meaning they can’t smell these asparagus metabolites (81). 

Although spring is the peak season, most grocery stores carry fresh, frozen, canned, and pickled asparagus year-round. Try using asparagus in salads, pastas, soups, stir-fries, and frittatas.

Avocado cut in half on white background

26. Avocado

Although sometimes thought of as a vegetable, avocados are the fruit of the Persea americana tree, a tropical evergreen native to Mexico (82).

Hass avocados (grown in California) have a pebbly textured skin that turns almost black when ripe, while Florida varieties are larger and have smooth, bright green skin.

Avocados are a rich source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, as well as fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, and folate (83). 

They are best enjoyed fresh, because the bright green flesh begins to brown when exposed to oxygen in the air. 

Add them to salads to increase absorption of carotenoids (a type of antioxidant) from vegetables, or spread mashed avocado on top of toast and season with salt and pepper (84).

Try placing firm, unripe avocados in a brown paper bag for a few days along with some bananas — they produce ethylene gas, which helps speed the ripening process (85). Once ripe, store in the fridge to stop them from becoming over-ripe!

Final Thoughts 

From acai berries to avocados, there are plenty of delicious foods that start with the letter A.

We hope this list has inspired you to be adventurous and try some new foods, or to gain a new appreciation for some of the foods you already eat every day. 

Comment below to let us know which of these foods are your favorites, and how you use them in the kitchen!

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