DRiP Investing also cites "dividend contenders" as companies that have paid and increased dividends for 10 to 24 years in a row. DRiP Investing lists 212 "contenders" and the following eight are REITs: National Retail Properties ( NNN), Tanger Factory Outlets ( SKT), Essex Property Trust ( ESS), Realty Income ( O), Urstadt Biddle Properties ( UBA), WP Carey ( WPC), National Health Investors ( NHI) and Omega Healthcare Investors ( OHI). In my opinion, intelligent investors should consider REITs as a core food group. Because of the attractive dividends, the power of compounding offers an optimal investment model rooted by a disciplined practice that forces REIT investors to defend against what Ben Graham described as "squandering and squirreling" away of precious cash flow. That means that your money is always working hard for you and "that most persuasive test of high-quality" is simply an "uninterrupted record of dividend payments." In conclusion, REITs are becoming increasingly main-stream and that's why they deserve to be more than a snack food but instead a "sleep well at night" alternative that is powered by the "breakfast of champions" known as increasing dividends. At the time of publication the author held positions in O, ARCP, STAG, CSG, GPT, VTR, HTA, UMH, ROIC, DLR.Follow @swan_investorThis article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.