The term "superfood" is thrown around a lot these days with promises that they will help you lose weight and prevent disease, and like most health trends, there seems to be little research to back it up. There is no official or legal definition of a superfood, but basically it is a nutrient-dense food loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and/or phytonutrients. Most of us know the common "superfoods" like salmon, spinach and walnuts but there are tons of ridiculously healthy foods, some of which you have not tried or even heard of. I put together a list of 10 of these foods, why they are healthy and how you can incorporate them into your diet. These "superfoods" are not the only step to a healthier lifestyle but they can be a start to help you add key nutrients to your diet and explore foods outside your comfort zone!
Selenium is essential for humans and plays a role in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis and protection from oxidation damage. Brazil nuts have more selenium than any other food and one of them can provide you with the daily recommended intake of selenium.
Add a couple unsalted brazil nuts to a handful of unsalted almonds or walnuts for a healthy, energy boosting snack.
Watercress is packed full of nutrients. A serving of watercress has 312% of the daily recommended Vitamin K, which helps form and strengthen bones and limits neuronal damage in the brain. It is also a good source of Vitamin C and Vitamin A.
Watercress can be used as a salad green just like Romaine lettuce or spinach or can be added to sandwiches to add a tangy, peppery flavor.
These berries are harvested fruit from the açai palm trees in South America. They have more antioxidant content than the more commonly eaten berries such as cranberries and blueberries.
Fresh açai Berries are hard to find in the States, but frozen berries or pulp can be found at most grocery stores. Try and avoid açai juices or processed smoothie drinks as these tend to have tons of added sugars.
ACAI PURÉE SMOOTHIE
1 cup fresh spinach
1 cup fresh kale
1/2 small banana
1 3.5-oz package frozen unsweetened acai berry pulp (I use Sambazon brand)
1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
Blend ingredients above, add coconut water or filtered water if too thick.
Optional: Add a nutritional boost with one of the following: chia seeds, flax seed oil, hemp seeds or a scoop of your favorite protein powder.
Lentils are a small but nutritionally mighty member of the legume family that are a great source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. They are also a good source of seven important minerals, B-vitamins and protein. All of this with only 230 calories per cup of cooked lentils.
Lentils can be added to soups or stews and can replace in bean in recipes. Try the website below for lentil recipes to try at home.
Like quinoa, this nutrient packed seed is native to the Americas and was a staple of the Incan diet. Gram for gram, few grains can compete with amaranth’s nutritional portfolio. It’s higher in fiber and protein than wheat and brown rice, it’s loaded with vitamins, and it’s been shown in studies to help lower blood pressure and harmful LDL cholesterol.
Amaranth can be cooked similar to other grains and makes a great side dish. You can also find ground Amaranth flour that can be used for healthier, gluten-free alternative for baking or as a thickening agent.
When sliced or chopped, the many antioxidants leeks provide begin converting to allicin. Allicin provides an abundance of important attributes to the body, such as anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal activities, and reducing cholesterol by impeding harmful enzymes in liver cells. Another major benefit is the 52% daily requirement of vitamin K, and a more than 29% daily requirement of vitamin A.
Leeks can be used similar to onions or garlics to add flavors to recipes. One of my favorite healthy recipes can be found at:
Raw cacao is made by cold-pressing un-roasted cacao beans which keeps the living enzymes in the cacao and removes the fat. Cocoa powder, although it looks the same, has been roasted at high temps which lowers the overall nutritional value. Raw cacao has been shown to lower insulin resistance, reduce blood pressure, boosts mood and is rich in minerals.
Tip: Research shows that dairy inhibits the absorption of antioxidants from raw cacao, so you are better off using a non-dairy milk like almond or coconut. Raw cacao is perfect for smoothies and added to a non-dairy milk for a chocolate fix. Or try a Raw Avocado Cacao Mousse, recipe below:
Spirulina is a micro-alga that has been cultivated and consumed by the indigenous people of Mexico and Africa for thousands of years. Spirulina is highly digestible, protects the immune system, can help reduce cholesterol, and can even help control blood sugar levels. It contains around seventy percent complete protein, which means it has all of the essential amino acids and ten non-essentials. Spirulina is also loaded with zeaxanthin and lutein. These antioxidants are extremely important for good vision and overall eye health.
You can purchase spirulina at speciality food stores or health food stores. The powder can be added to smoothies, yogurt or juices for an added health benefit.
Goji berries are native to China and are a bright orange-red berry packed full of antioxidants, particularly carotenoids such as beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. They contain all eight essential amino acids, up to 21 trace minerals, iron, polysaccharides, B vitamins, vitamin E, and many other nutrients.
Look for dried goji berries in the bulk section or speciality food section of most grocery stores. I usually put them in yogurt or they make a delicious salad topper.
Everyone knows the health benefits of beets but we usually cut the greens off and throw them out! Besides supplying good amounts of protein, phosphorus, and zinc, beet greens are also a great source of fiber. Packed with antioxidants, they’re high in vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese and daily values of beet greens contain: 220% of vitamin A, 60% of vitamin C, 16% of calcium, and 15% of iron.
It’s best to use beet greens within two or three days after refrigeration. Enjoy beet greens by themselves as a salad or with other leafy vegetables, or sauté them in a bit of olive oil or balsamic vinegar and salt for a delicious side dish.
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