Although I’m a bit obsessed with following trends, basically I’m a traditional gal. When it comes to choosing powerhouse foods to feed my family, I’m not looking for something that will be hot on the plate today and passé tomorrow; I want foods I can count on every day. Many health professionals have their own lists of the foods they believe to have the most healing powers, and if you put each list side-by-side, some foods would even overlap. For the most part, there are certain foods that truly stand out from the rest.
Those are the foods that are superfoods; healthy picks that are packed with vital nutrients that please your body and mind. These foods should also be easily accessible, affordable, and, of course, enjoyable.
As a nutritionist, many people ask what I eat on a daily basis and why these items are my go-to choices. It might seem obvious that fruits and vegetables would rule most lists, but superfoods can be found in every aisle of the supermarket and at any price range. These superstars won’t break the bank and they can be purchased all year long in one form or another, whether frozen, fresh, or canned. Though I could compile a list that would look more like a book than a blog…here are just a few of my personal faves:
High in healthy unsaturated fat, protein, and fiber, almonds appear in my house in all forms including whole, sliced, slivered, crushed, or almond butter and almond meal. Studies have shown that as a part of a low calorie diet, eating almonds is associated with lower body weights and BMIs as well as reduced blood glucose levels for those with type 2 diabetes. These heart-friendly nuts are rich in vitamin E, magnesium, and iron. Almonds can appear throughout your day when sprinkled on your breakfast cereal, topped on your lunchtime salad, popped in your mouth as a snack, crunched as a crust for your fish for dinner or baked into a yummy muffin for dessert!
2. Sweet Potatoes and Yams
Those watching their weight or suffering from diabetes are often falsely told to stay away from starchy vegetables, but let’s debunk this myth once and for all! A medium sweet potato (with the skin) clocks in at about 100 calories, and it’s full of fiber, beta-carotene (vitamin A), potassium, and vitamin B6. Purple sweets supply a healthy dose of anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that fight inflammation. Contrary to popular belief, sweet potatoes and yams may actually help insulin metabolism, boost your energy, and keep you feeling satiated. Try my Sweet Potato Smoothie as an afternoon pick-me-up today!
Here’s a good reason to be blue: blueberries are full of antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, and are lower in sugar than some other fruits. Enjoy a cup of nature’s candy for just 84 calories, 4g fiber, almost no fat, and even 1g protein to help improve memory and fight off cancer. Freeze fresh blues in a single layer and store to enjoy them in smoothies and baked goods all winter.
New sources of omega 3 fatty acids are constantly popping up, but my favorite food source has to be wild salmon. Omega 3s can lower cholesterol, protect against UV damage, prevent age-related eye disease, and reduce cognitive decline. Studies have shown that ⅔ of Americans know salmon is good for heart health, but they don’t realize that even canned salmon is a powerful choice. Try replacing your beef burger with a salmon burger!
If it isn’t obvious by now… I am a big avocado fan! Too many of us are fat phobic and miss out on the benefits of those foods that contribute healthy fat and lots of flavor. This heart-healthy, decadent fruit has been shown to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and contribute nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds in a satisfying fashion. An avocado’s creamy texture makes it a perfect substitute for traditional baking ingredients, like butter or shortening. Check out my Guac-Humm-Mole recipe for your next party or for a delicious afternoon snack to share with your family.
We’ve all heard the expression “shop the perimeter of the store.” But if you skip the middle, you’re missing out on a wealth of wholesome, delicious food choices. Beans, one of the most neglected and under-valued items, come in all shapes and sizes including black, red, kidney, cannelloni, black-eyed, or garbanzo types. Rich in fiber, these superstars help regulate your digestive tract, lower LDL and triglycerides levels, and can even help you lose weight by keeping you feeling full. Clocking in at about 125 calories per half cup, you’ll also be getting 15% daily value of plant protein and 25% of your daily value of fiber! Just remember to start slow if you’re not already a regular bean eater – you could get a little gas and bloat as a side dish if you eat too many, too quickly.
What’s on your superfood list?