What are “Super Foods?”

You’ve probably heard the term “Super Foods” recently, but what exactly are they? Super Foods are high-nutrition carbs, proteins, and fats packed with more vitamins, minerals, fiber, Omega 3 fats, lean protein, and/or other nutrients than most foods in their categories. Boost your health this year by including more of these nutrient-dense foods to your meals and snacks.

Salmon

All fish aren’t healthy, especially the types you typically find in casual dining restaurants. Read our blog post All Fish Aren’t Created Equal to learn which ones to avoid and which to eat more often. Salmon is a high-fat fish, but it contains the good fat that provides many health benefits – Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 helps promote heart, vision, and joint health, may improve brain function and can reduce the effects of inflammation. Salmon is also a rich source of lean protein and can be poached, broiled, sautéed or steamed for a healthy dish.

Very few foods contain natural vitamin D (although many foods are vitamin D fortified); salmon contains more than 100 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin D, as well as vitamin B12. Salmon also provides more than half your RDA of several other nutrients.

Other coldwater fish that are good sources of Omega 3 and lean protein include tuna, mackerel, sardines, halibut, cod, and trout. Choose wild-caught salmon instead of farm raised for the healthiest fish. If you’re served farm-raised fish, remove the skin, which is where fish process toxins and other impurities. Look for light tuna instead of albacore (chunk light and solid or chunk white), which contains up to three times more mercury.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are wonderful sources of lean protein, healthy fats, vitamin minerals, and dietary fiber. Keep a jar of seeds on your kitchen counter and sprinkle them on salads, into a stir-fry, onto desserts, and into soups. Nuts are calorie dense, so control your serving sizes. A handful of nuts with a glass of water makes a healthy mid-morning or afternoon snack of between 100 and 150 calories. Limit servings of peanut butter to around 2 tablespoons, which still comes in at almost 200 calories.

Whole Grains

Despite what low-carb and gluten-free proponents claim, whole grains are a healthy source of nutrition if you eat the right kinds and in the right amounts. Read up about healthy grain choices here to get the skinny on what types you should add to your diet.

Sweet Potatoes

Like their tasty white counterparts, orange and purple (on the inside) sweet potatoes are a rich source of complex carbohydrates; however sweet potatoes are also packed with antioxidants, beta carotene, vitamins C and A, several B vitamins, manganese, copper, phosphorus, and potassium. The skins provide a great source of dietary fiber. Don’t feel guilty about adding some butter or olive oil to your sweet potatoes. Some researchers believe that fat served with sweet potatoes increases the intake of the beta-carotene into your body.

Blueberries

Eating a handful of blueberries is like taking a supplement, according to fans of this sweet tasty berry. Blueberries are a good source of fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals known as flavonoids. There’s no definitive research on how helpful flavonoids are, but proponents believe they help reduce the impacts of inflammation and allergies, battle heart disease, memory loss, poor vision and cancer, and promote gut health, among other benefits. Blueberries also provide a good dose of vitamins C and K, manganese, and copper, and are a low-sugar berry.

Kale

You’re probably hearing more and more about kale, which is a leafy green vegetable like spinach or lettuce. Kale provides lots of vitamins C, A, and K, provides antioxidants and phytochemicals, and a wide variety of minerals. It’s also a very good source of dietary fiber. Kale is less researched than other super foods, but the vegetable’s fans say it’s an ideal food to add to your diet to help with “detoxing” your system, and it can improve blood cholesterol and heart health. It’s a favorite green to add to juicing recipes. Experiment with different varieties of kale, which can taste peppery, sweet, mild, or bitter.

Beans

Beans are another rich source of lean proteins, are low in “bad fats” and are a good way to get dietary fiber. They can make soups, salads, pastas, stir-frys, and stews more filling and reduce the amount of meat or fish you need to satisfy your protein craving. Click here for more information on this healthy Super Food.

Yogurt

Healthy yogurt (not the kinds loaded with sugar) is a good source of protein and healthy fats, and helps with gut health. Gut health is now recognized as something people should be paying more attention to because your intestines are the gateway to the rest of your body and play a significant role in your overall health. Yogurt contains probiotics, which are microorganisms that help with digestion and gut health. Other easy to find sources of probiotics include pickles and sauerkraut. Lean more about gut health here.

Oatmeal

You almost can’t eat too much oatmeal! It’s a great source of dietary fiber, a slow-digesting complex carbohydrate, a non-fat source of nutrition, and can help with a variety of health issues, including colon cancer and cholesterol. Avoid the little packets flavored with brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins or apples. If you read the nutrition label on those boxes, they contain a load of sugar. Opt for a box of steel cut or rolled oats.

Broccoli and Spinach

These refrigerator staples can be served so many different ways there’s no excuse not to eat them more often. In addition to providing dietary fiber, they also contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals. Spinach is a favorite go-to green for juicing fans, and it’s a healthier substitute for lettuce on your sandwiches and in salads. Broccoli is healthiest when it’s steamed, lightly microwaved, or eaten raw. Avoid boiling spinach and pouring the water down the drain.

Eggs

Once maligned because of their high dietary cholesterol content, eggs are now recommended as a protein-packed food with healthy fats and other nutrients. Now that dietary cholesterol has been found not to contribute to heart disease, add more eggs to your weekly diet.

Kiwi

This green fruit is fairly common in grocery stores and looks like a typical seeded citrus fruit when you cut into it. It won’t be an unusual or acquired taste– you can start enjoying this succulent treat without having to get used to it because it’s so sweet and mild. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals, especially potassium, which makes it a better alternative to bananas if you’re an athlete who needs a post-workout electrolyte replenishment. It’s packed with vitamin C and antioxidants and contains serotonin, which can help promote better sleep.

Garlic

Garlic not only wards off vampires, it can also help ward off unhealthful bacteria that can cause viruses and infections. Garlic might also help prevent or reduce the effects of a cold, inflammation, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and poor blood cholesterol. Garlic is a good source of vitamin C and antioxidants. There’s not enough evidence to support taking garlic as a supplement, but adding more to your diet will add both flavor and nutrition to your meals.

After you crush or cut fresh garlic, let it sit for 10 or more minutes. This will help activate and convert enzymes that provide healthy benefits. Microwaving or heating whole cloves can suppress these enzymes. So, if you’re cooking with fresh garlic, make cutting or crushing it your first prep task.

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