The superfoods that top the list for nutrition really don’t come as a surprise. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish have always been known to be good for us but as time goes by we are given more evidence to support that fact. We are constantly learning how essential it is to our well being to incorporate these powerhouse foods into our daily menu.
Certain foods have been shown to aid in the prevention of some cancers, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and many others. They can also benefit our appearance adding shine to our hair, strength to our nails and a glow to our skin. A balanced, nutritious diet paired with regular physical exercise is the key to promoting a long, healthy, energetic life.
Make the following foods a part of your regular diet and experiment with new flavorful recipes to add some variety to you plate!
Berries are loaded with health protecting antioxidants. Blueberries top the nutrition list but are closely followed by cranberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. All of them are rich in an antioxidant that has been shown to neutralize free radicals which may help ward off illnesses such as cancer and heat disease.
Berries of all kinds are delicious in a smoothie or mixed with cottage cheese, added to oatmeal, atop a salad or on toast with a little bit of almond butter. Take advantage of the summer months and the abundance of fresh in season berries. During the other seasons, stock the freezer with mixed berries. Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutrient rich as fresh and are super convenient.
2) Fatty fish
Seafood like salmon, tuna, sardines and oysters are rich in Omega 3s. Omega 3 fats may help to lower blood fats and prevent blood clots associated with heart disease. A diet consisting of at least 2 servings of fatty fish per week can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Salmon and tuna are great when grilled on the BBQ with a little lemon, garlic, salt and pepper. Use a variety of herbs, spices and cooking methods. Serve fish along with wild rice, mixed greens grilled veggies or add to pasta. Enjoy a few oysters or smoked salmon as appetizers. Order some salmon or tuna sashimi at your favorite sushi restaurant or mix tuna with fat free mayo for a nutritious, delicious sandwich filling.
3) Dark leafy greens
Popeye wasn’t kidding! Spinach, kale, bok choy, Swiss chard and other dark lettuces are packed with a plethora of nutrients. Vitamins, minerals, beta-carotene, folate, iron, magnesium, phytochemicals and antioxidants abound in these versatile veggies.
Toss together a fresh crisp salad and top it with grilled salmon or tuna for a highly nutritious meal. Sautee dark leafy greens with olive oil and garlic for a tasty side dish. Include a variety of these greens in omelets, sandwiches, stir frys, frittatas, pasta or quiche or simply serve with balsamic vinaigrette dressing as an accompaniment to any of the above.
4) Whole grains
When I was a kid, I was told “Eat your oatmeal, it’s good for you. It’ll grow hair on your chest”. Thankfully since I was a little girl, it did not but it may have lowered my blood cholesterol levels. Whole grains are high in soluble fiber, contain folic acid, selenium, B vitamins and support heart health, weight control and reduce the risk of diabetes. The high fiber content helps keep you regular and promotes digestive health.
Choose a variety of whole grains and include 2 to 3 servings a day of brown rice, whole grain pasta, breads, cereals, quinoa or barley. The options for preparation of these heart healthy foods are limitless and they can easily be paired with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and low fat dairy products.
5) Beans and Legumes
These little morsels of inexpensive protein pack a wallop of nutritional advantages. Beans and legumes are dense with phytochemicals, folic acid, fiber, iron, magnesium and some calcium. Adding these to your menu plan can help reduce the risk of certain cancers, lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and keep blood sugar levels stable.
Serve homemade Hummus with fresh raw veggies or spicy black bean dip with salsa and whole wheat crackers as an appetizer. Add your favorites to soups, stews and salads. Kick your omelet up a notch with tomato, onion, chili powder and mixed beans or experiment with Tex Mex style recipes and vegetarian dishes.
Keeping your body well fed with nutritious meals doesn’t have to be boring or bland. Use your imagination and venture out to try new things, ethnic cuisine, different spices, flavors and seasonings. Have fun with your food and try to think outside the box. Incorporating a vast variety of whole foods will keep you feeling and looking your absolute best and extend an energized life!