Are you working to improve your eating habits this year? One way to accomplish this is to make sure you include some of the so-called “superfoods” in your diet. This article will explain what superfoods are, give you some examples of good ones to look for (some of which are probably already in your refrigerator and pantry), and suggest ideas for how to make them part of your daily routine.
Superfoods: Hype and Reality
You have surely heard the superfood buzz over the last few years. One food after another has been promoted as that one “magic bullet” food that will keep you healthy forever. Kale, quinoa, acai berries…each seems to have its moment and then is replaced by a new trend.
The first thing to know about superfoods is to ignore this hype. Skip the expensive supplements, the mysterious fruit that only grows on a mountain in Chile, and anything that includes the phrase, “one weird trick,” especially if “doctors hate” it!
On the other hand, understand there really are foods that are better than others. What makes them better? They are nutritionally dense, meaning they have high amounts of nutrients your body needs. You don’t just get a particular vitamin or mineral when you eat a superfood – you get a lot of that nutrient.
Superfoods also often combine a variety of healthy substances, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. Eating these foods is efficient because each serving packs a big punch, nutrition-wise. Moreover, most superfoods are low in calories and high in fiber, two key factors in a healthy diet, especially if you are trying to lose weight.
Superfoods Don’t Have to Be Exotic – or Expensive
If you are put off by talk of goji berries and chia seeds, don’t worry. Superfoods don’t have to be strange and exotic. You probably already eat and enjoy many of them without realizing how powerful they are. Once identified, you can build more of your daily food intake around them. Some examples of everyday superfoods include:
- Grains: Expand your grain intake beyond wheat products to include barley, buckwheat, and oats. Simply changing your morning cereal from highly-processed cold cereals to oatmeal made from plain oats (avoid the sugar-filled instant packets) will start your day with a nutritional boost.
- Legumes: Legumes are beans and peas. One of the healthiest is chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans. Hummus is a spread or dip made from chickpeas that is tasty and widely available, and easy to make for yourself as well. Lentils, black beans, and kidney beans work well in everything from soups to burritos, and all provide a variety of vitamins and other nutrients, as well as plenty of fiber.
- Nuts: Ditch the chips and candy, and try reaching for nuts when you have midafternoon munchies! Almonds, walnuts, and cashews all contain multiple vitamins, fiber, and protein. Walnuts also contain Omega-3 fatty acids that can help lower blood pressure and fight inflammation. A small handful will satisfy your hunger better than an entire bag of chips or pretzels. Look for plain nuts without salt or other coatings.
- Fruits and Vegetables: Do you enjoy blueberries and oranges? How about spinach and sweet potatoes? Then you already have some superfoods in your regular diet. Simply replacing a typical mashed or baked potato side dish with sweet potatoes cooked the same way will give your diet an instant upgrade. For a healthier dessert, try making oatmeal cookies with dried blueberries or cranberries instead of raisins.
Getting More Superfoods into Your Diet
Here are five ways you can include more superfoods in your daily food intake:
- Plan your daily menu for a week in advance, before you make a shopping list and do your grocery shopping for the week. Look for recipes that include superfoods among the ingredients. Consider having one dinner a week with a fish or vegetarian entrée.
- Replace typical snack foods like chips, crackers, or sweets with seeds, berries, and nuts. They are delicious and do a better job of satisfying your hunger. Buy in bulk and make your own snack packs with small plastic bags or containers. You can also add nuts and berries to Greek yogurt or oatmeal for a substantial breakfast or late-morning snack.
- If you enjoy sandwiches regularly, switch to whole-grain breads. If you prefer wheat bread, choose bread labeled “100% whole wheat” rather than simply “wheat” or “honey wheat.” If you already use 100% whole wheat bread, try taking it up another notch with multigrain bread or bread made from rye, buckwheat, or sprouted grains.
- Add green tea to your daily habits. If you are a dedicated coffee drinker, you can keep your morning coffee, but try drinking green tea for mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-ups. Along with caffeine, you’ll get a generous helping of antioxidants.
- Try one new superfood each week. You may discover that you like kale or chia seeds on their own or blended into foods like smoothies where other flavors dominate, but you still get the nutritional punch from the superfood.
You don’t have to eat all superfoods, all the time, and you can still enjoy occasional less-than-healthy treats. Variety is important. But by adding known superfoods to your regular food routine, you’ll make sure you are giving your body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.