The list of super foods is long, and you may be wondering which foods pack the biggest nutritional punch. Or maybe you’re just getting started with super foods, and you want to choose a few that can make the biggest impact on your health.
Here, we list the best of the best: our top ten super foods. We chose these ten foods based on nutritional content, versatility, availability, and ease of storage
The rich dark color in blueberries provides lots of antioxidants that protect the cells in your body from damage by free radicals. This damage can come from a variety of factors, including too much sun exposure, pollution, foods with unhealthy fats, and even as a by-product of normal metabolism. In fact, blueberries have more antioxidants than any other commercially grown fruit.
Being good for you is one thing, but in order for a food to become a regular part of your diet, it has to taste good, too. Blueberries rise to the challenge. They don’t require much preparation; just rinse them and enjoy. You can eat them plain or sprinkle a half cup of blueberries on your morning cereal. Blueberries add flavor and extra nutrition to warm, whole-wheat muffins, too.
Blueberries are available year-round, but the best time to buy them is during the summer months, when you can find them at local farmers’ markets and sometimes at pick-your-own blueberry farms. Blueberries keep for a few days in the refrigerator, and they freeze very well.
Many of the super foods contain healthy fats, especially fish. Salmon stands head and shoulders (or should that be fins?) above the others because salmon has the most omega-3 fats of all the super foods in the fish category. Salmon is also a source of several vitamins and minerals and has plenty of protein.
Grill or broil your salmon steaks to serve as a main dish. Salmon chunks work well in salmon cakes or in salmon sandwiches (just take care not to overdo the high-fat mayonnaise).
Fresh salmon may be available in the seafood or meat department of your local grocery store, or you can buy frozen salmon steaks from the freezer section. You can buy cans of salmon chunks, too.
Some canned salmon contains skin and bones. If you don’t mind, you can eat the salmon bones because they’re a good source of calcium. Or you can check the label for cans of salmon meat only.
The deep green pigments in spinach contain several antioxidants, including lutein, which helps keep your vision clear . You also get your daily dose of vitamins A and K and most of the manganese (an important trace mineral) and folate (water-soluble B vitamin) you need. Eating spinach even provides calcium and iron. And the calories in spinach are so few that they hardly count.
You can use raw spinach leaves in place of iceberg lettuce in your salads or on sandwiches. Spinach makes a delicious side dish, or you can use it to boost the nutritional value of spaghetti, pizza, and even macaroni and cheese.
Fresh spinach leaves are available at your grocery store in the produce section, and you can buy canned or frozen spinach, too. In the summer, you can find spinach at local farmers’ markets, or you can grow it yourself in your own super foods garden.
The luscious red color of red tomatoes (especially in the form of heatprocessed tomato sauces) contains an antioxidant called lycopene that helps keep your heart healthy. Eating one tomato gives you half the vitamin C you need for the day. Tomatoes are also a good source of fiber, which helps keep your digestive system healthy.
Slice a big tomato and serve it with mozzarella cheese, basil leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil for a salad, or add chunks of tomatoes to a traditional garden salad. Tomatoes are the base for many sauces, soups and stews, and condiments.
Your grocery store is likely to carry some interesting varieties of tomatoes. Large, round tomatoes can be sliced or cut into chunks and are very versatile, while plum tomatoes are smaller with less juice. There are several types of cherry or grape tomatoes — cute as can be, and perfect for perching on a salad. Whole, sliced, or stewed tomatoes (in the canned vegetables aisle of your grocery store) are useful for recipes.
You can grow many different varieties of tomatoes in your garden or in a large pot on your deck.
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, which take care of your heart by decreasing your LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and raising your HDL cholesterol (the good kind). Virgin olive oil also contains polyphenols (natural substances that have health benefits), making it even better for your heart.
Use olive oil to make salad dressings (just combine a little balsamic vinegar with the olive oil) or to add flavor to vegetables. You can use olive oil infused with herbs or peppers to add interesting flavors to many dishes — but don’t attempt to make your own flavored oils, as botulism is a concern. Olive oil is good for cooking, too, because it has a high smoking point.
Olive oils differ in flavor (and even in color) depending on the varieties of olives used and even where they’re grown. Virgin and extra virgin olive oils contain less acid than regular olive oil and have a much better flavor (and more of those polyphenols).
Almonds contain vitamin E, minerals, and monounsaturated fats (like the kind found in olive oil) that fight bad cholesterol. Eating almonds may help to keep your heart healthy and protect you from diabetes.
Grab a handful of almonds to eat as a snack, or sprinkle sliced or slivered almonds on a salad. Almonds add a nice crunch to a bowl of berries and make a tasty topper for green vegetables.
Your grocery store should have both raw and roasted almonds. They may be whole, sliced, slivered, or chopped, which makes them very versatile. Some specialty stores also carry almond butter, a delicious alternative to peanut butter. Store your almonds in airtight containers or bags to keep them fresh.
If you only have whole almonds and you need smaller pieces, you can use your coffee grinder to chop them up.
Oats are our favorite whole grain. Eating oatmeal helps control cholesterol levels because it contains beta-glucan, a type of soluble dietary fiber that binds to and removes cholesterol from your body. Oats may also help to keep your blood vessels healthy.
Start your morning with a bowl of hot oatmeal or a whole-grain oat cereal, such as Cheerios. Choose low-fat and low-sugar oatmeal muffins and cookies. Substitute oats for breadcrumbs or part of the wheat flour in some of your recipes.
You can find a variety of oats in the cereal section of grocery stores — steel-cut, old-fashioned (rolled), quick-cooking, and instant. Steel-cut oatmeal takes the longest to cook. Old-fashioned oatmeal takes less time because the oats are rolled thin compared to the steel-cut variety. Quick-cooking oats are even thinner than old-fashioned oatmeal. Instant oatmeal has been cooked and dehydrated and is ready almost as soon as you add hot water.
When you buy instant oatmeal, be sure to read the label on the box. Some brands contain quite a lot of sugar and extra calories you may not want.
Garlic may be best-known for keeping vampires away — at least in some old B movies — but in reality, garlic helps to ward off heart disease and cancer. Garlic lowers cholesterol and helps to lower your blood pressure if it’s too high. Eating garlic regularly may also help you fight infections.
Make garlic bread by first drizzling olive oil on whole-wheat bread, then spreading some roasted garlic on the bread. Top off with a little parmesan cheese, and toast in the oven until golden brown.
Fresh garlic is available in the produce department. You can also buy prepeeled and -chopped garlic in jars — talk about convenient. Garlic is easy to grow and can make a nice addition to your superfoods garden. Just be sure to let the garlic dry (or cure) for about two weeks after you harvest it.
Fresh garlic is easy to peel if you first put the cloves into the microwave for about 5 to 10 seconds. The papery skin slides right off.
The rich red color in strawberries provides antioxidants, and one serving gives you all the vitamin C you need for the whole day. Strawberries also contain folate — an important B vitamin — and potassium to keep your heart healthy. The phenols in strawberries may help to protect you from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Strawberries are very sweet, so they don’t need extra sugar. Add strawberries to cold or hot cereal or make them part of a salad. Combine fresh strawberries with blueberries and raspberries and top with light whipped topping for a sweet and healthy dessert, or dip some large strawberries into dark chocolate for a decadent treat.
Fresh strawberries are available year-round in the produce section of the grocery store, but they may be best during the spring and summer months, when, like blueberries, they’re available at pick-your-own strawberry farms or local farmers’ markets. You can also find strawberries in the freezer section (look out for added sugar), and you can grow strawberries in your own backyard garden.
These little seeds come from Mexico and are members of the mint family. Chia seeds are very high in omega-3 fatty acids (even higher than flax seeds) and rich in antioxidants. Chia seeds form a gel when exposed to liquids in your stomach. Experts believe eating chia seeds slows down carbohydrate absorption to keep you feeling full longer. This gel formation can also soothe heartburn and keep your stomach calm.
Chia seeds have a nutty flavor that goes well with many other foods. Sprinkle chia seeds on salads, vegetables, and cereals, and add them to recipes for baked goods, like muffins.
You may not find chia seeds in your local grocery yet, but look for them to be hitting major chains in the near future. In the meantime, you can find them online or in specialty health food stores. We know this requires a little extra effort, but chia seeds are so beneficial to your health, they’re worth it.
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