25 Superfoods for 2012
Make eating clean easier and tastier this year by adding a variety of new proteins, carbs, and healthy fats to your meal plan. The 25 foods below are packed with disease-fighting nutrients and unique flavors from around the world. Add one or two of these foods to your shopping cart each time you hit the market to make this year your healthiest ever.
1. Adzuki Beans
An East Asian staple for centuries, adzuki beans are an excellent source of fiber, protein, iron, vitamin B, magnesium, copper, zinc and potassium. This nutty bean is naturally fat- and cholesterol-free. Use it in soups, mixed with rice, or as a healthy salad topping.
A leaner alternative to beef, a three ounce serving of buffalo meat has only 1 g of saturated fat. It also provides similar amounts of protein, vitamins, and nutrients to beef. Try substituting buffalo for beef in burgers, meatballs, spaghetti sauce, and tacos. Choose grass-fed buffalo, if available.
3. Chia Seeds
These tiny black seeds, cultivated by the Aztecs during pre-Colombian times, are slowly working their way into American markets. Similar to flax, chia seeds are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, fiber, phosphorous, and manganese. Sprinkle them on cereal, oatmeal, or salad for some crunch.
Lentils are a fiber powerhouse and an excellent source of iron, zinc, and other nutrients. They're a great choice for vegetarians to get their protein needs. Lentils have been shown to reduce heart disease risk and help control blood sugar. Add lentils to soups, curries, or salads.
Found frequently in Mediterranean cuisine, these small fish are an excellent source of vitamin B12 and vitamin D, plus they're low in mercury. A single sardine has as much omega-3 fatty acid as some supplements. Mix sardines into pasta sauce or eat them whole on toast.
One of the hottest products in grocery stores, kefir is a creamy, fermented milk product. With twice as much good bacteria as yogurt, kefir is excellent for digestive health and high in calcium, protein, and vitamin D and A. Eat it for dessert or use it for a smoothie base.
6. Collard Greens
This Southern staple is one of the healthiest greens available. Collard greens are loaded with fiber, protein, calcium, and other nutrients. These leafy greens are associated with improved digestion and heart health, cancer prevention, and lower cholesterol. Serve this nutritional powerhouse as a side dish for your favorite protein.
Farro is a nutty, chewy grain used in Italian cooking. Farro is packed with fiber, protein, zinc, and magnesium. Compounds in farro have been linked to increased immunity, lower cholesterol, and balanced blood sugar levels. Mix it into soups or use it as a healthy side dish.
Featured in everything from stews to pasta sauces, artichokes are a staple in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. A half cup of artichokes is packed with 7 g of dietary fiber and more than 10 percent the daily recommended value of vitamin C and K and folate. Artichokes are also one of the most antioxidant-packed veggies available. Use them in salads, on pizzas, or stuff them.
Two of these fuzzy berries provide more potassium than a banana and more than twice the recommended daily value of vitamin C. Kiwi fruit is naturally fat- and cholesterol-free and a rich source of vitamin K and fiber. Eat a raw kiwi as a snack or slice it into yogurt.
Walnuts have more antioxidants than almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, and many other members of the nut family. They're also high in healthy fats and one of the few omega-3-rich food sources for vegetarians. Sprinkle walnuts into your favorite recipe or eat them raw for a healthy snack.
Oysters are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Six oysters have just 50 calories and provide 227 percent of daily vitamin B12 needs, 212 percent of daily zinc requirements, and a third of the recommended daily intake of iron. Eat them as an appetizer or mix them in with your favorite pasta.
A pungent, flavorful root, ginger is a natural anti-emetic used to alleviate motion and morning sickness. It's packed with anti-inflammatory compounds linked to increased immunity and a decreased risk of colorectal cancer and joint pain. Mix ginger into a stir-fry or steep a couple of slices in hot water for ginger tea.
14. Dark Chocolate
This delicious treat is loaded with flavonoids, antioxidants that have been shown to improve memory and blood flow. Dark chocolate has also been linked to lower blood pressure and improved heart health. Choose a chocolate with more than 60 percent cocoa and limit portions to two or three squares.
A single cup of cherries has just 90 calories and is packed with fiber and vitamin C. Cherries have been show to help alleviate inflammation, joint pain, and gout, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and enhance post-exercise muscle recovery. Top off yogurt, cereal, and desserts with fresh or frozen cherries or mix them in your recovery shake.
This dark yellow spice is used in Indian and Chinese medicine to treat jaundice, colic, toothaches, bruises, chest pain and more. It's powerful antioxidant properties have been shown to reduce the risk of some cancers, lower cholesterol, protect against Alzheimer's disease, and alleviate arthritis. Add it to rice and stews for a punch of flavor.
This colorful, sweet fruit is rich in fiber, vitamin C and K, and is naturally low in calories. Pomegranates are also packed with antioxidants linked to a healthier heart and decreased inflammation. Eat the seeds for a healthy snack or sip on 100% pomegranate juice in the morning.
18. Brussel Sprouts
These little cabbage-like veggies are packed with fiber, vitamin C, K, A, and B, and omega-3 fatty acids. They also supply a variety of antioxidants that are associated with cancer prevention, increased cardiovascular health, and lower cholesterol. Grill them for a healthy side dish or shred them into soups, salads and sauces.
19. Sunflower Seeds
These kernels are packed with more than 30 percent of the daily recommended value for vitamin E, phosphorous, manganese, and selenium and more than 20 percent of panthothenic acid and copper. Sunflower seeds have also been linked to a healthy heart and lower cholesterol. Add a crunch to your salad or use them to crust your favorite fish.
20. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, kumquats, lemons, and limes are not only loaded with vitamin C but also with folate, fiber and phytochemicals. These acidic fruits have been shown to protect against heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Squeeze citrus juice into your water for some flavor or eat the fruit whole.
Synonymous with Halloween and fall, pumpkin is more than just a celebratory symbol. This delicious veggie is packed with carotenoids, which have been linked to improved night vision, eye health, and joint protection. Plus, pumpkin is waistline-friendly at only 50 calories per cup. Roast, grill, or mash pumpkin as an alternative to potatoes.
Once considered more precious than gold, cinnamon is one of the world's oldest spices. Research has shown that eating cinnamon can help control blood sugar, boost brain power, reduce inflammation, and fight bacteria. So add a bit to your favorite yogurt or mix it into a fresh fruit smoothie.
These soybeans have a sweet, nutty flavor and are used in Asian cooking. Edamame is one of the few plant-based foods that contains all essential amino acids and is high in fiber, protein, potassium, and vitamin B and K. Research has linked edamame to a reduced risk of cancer and a healthier heart. Eat them as a snack or toss them in a salad.
24. Green Tea
Packed with antioxidants known as catechins, green tea has been linked to increased heart health, enhanced weight loss, and stronger bones. It's also been shown to help ward off some forms of cancer and lower cholesterol. Drink a cup in the morning or sip it throughout the day.
A single ounce of this nut provides 3 g of fiber, 6 g of protein, and less fat and more antioxidants than any other nut. Pistachios are also a good source of antioxidants and may protect against heart disease and assist in weight management. Sprinkle a handful over cereal or yogurt or enjoy alone as a snack.
About The Author
Edwina Clark – Edwina Clark is a nutritionist who works with employees as part of the Core Performance corporate wellness program.