How to Benefit From 10 Common Superfoods

How to Benefit From 10 Common Superfoods

How to Benefit From 10 Common SuperfoodsNutrient-Rich Foods for Women

“Superfoods” aren’t just exotic plants such as acai, chia or goji berries. Nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables are as close as your neighborhood grocery store. Read on for a top dietitian’s list of the ultra-healthful items you should be eating this year, along with delicious ways to serve them…

So you’re finally ready to keep that New Year’s resolution about eating healthy. Great! That means cutting back on sweets and processed foods, and replacing them with nutrient-rich items that give your body what it really needs.

 

But you don’t have to search out trendy, exotic items like hemp seeds or acai to get your health fix. Affordable items you can find in any market are packed with the same nutrition.

 

The foods are also multi-taskers, providing health benefits beyond their basic dietary value. For example, some are great energy boosters, while others can lower cholesterol levels and prevent or delay disease, she says. And if you’re looking to lose weight in the new year, these foods will help.

 

Here are the Top 10 Superfoods for 2014

Superfood #1: Eggs
Nearly anyone starting a weight-loss plan should consider the ordinary egg. One whole egg has just 70-80 calories, and gives you 12 essential vitamins and minerals. Among the most beneficial is choline, a member of the B vitamin family that improves brain function and memory. It also reduces chronic inflammation.

Eggs have vitamins B12, D and folate, which help lower the risk for heart disease, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. In pregnant women, folate reduces the risk of low birth weight and birth defects, the National Institutes of Health found.

 

Each egg also has 6 grams of protein. Women ages 19 to 70 should get 46 grams daily, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it’s a complete protein, meaning it provides all the essential amino acids needed for good health. But eggs get a bad rap because the yolks contain high levels of cholesterol.

Generally, cholesterol in food has far less impact on your body’s LDL (“bad”) cholesterol than trans-fats, the hardened oil in some processed and fried foods.

 

Diet Rx: Have eggs a couple of times a week. And include the yolks, not just the whites. Eat the whole egg – that’s where the nutrients are.

 

Superfood #2: Greek yogurt
Why get on board with this new food fad? For starters, a 6-ounce serving has 17 grams of protein, twice the amount in regular yogurt. It also contains calcium, potassium, vitamins B6, B12 and zinc. And there’s good news for dieters: It has only 100 calories. That’s because Greek yogurt is strained, which removes most of the liquid whey (a milk byproduct) and lactose (milk sugar). Yet it’s as thick and rich as a dessert food.

Diet Rx: Add fresh fruit to Greek yogurt, and it’s a very healthy way to start your day.

 

 

Superfood #3: Peanut butter
You don’t have to be a kid to love peanut butter. Aside from giving you protein – 8 grams per 2 tablespoons – it’s a heart-healthy snack. Its fats are monounsaturated, so they help reduce LDL cholesterol levels in blood and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. These fats also are high in natural vitamin E.

Diet Rx: A little peanut butter is filling, so you won’t be tempted to overeat. One tablespoon has only 94 calories.
Stay away from “fat-free” varieties, she suggests, because they’re stripped of healthful monounsaturated fats. And some brands have a lot of added sugar. “Natural” peanut butter, which is mostly just peanuts, is best.

 

 

Superfood #4: Kale
This dark, leafy green is found in any produce aisle. Why has it become so trendy?

Because 1 cup of kale contains:

  • Just 33 calories
  • 9% of your daily calcium requirement
  • 134% of your daily vitamin C; 206% of vitamin A; and 684% of vitamin K (which helps build bones and prevent excessive bleeding, according to the Harvard School of Public Health)
  • Copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus
  • Antioxidants
  • Fiber

Kale is a cruciferous vegetable, like broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, and is linked to decreased cancer risk and overall good health. Foods with deep colors have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on your body. Kale is one of the best in that category. For the best nutrition boost, eat fresh kale, not kale chips or powder. Don’t cook it to death, though.Eat it raw in salads, massage it with avocado and olive oil, or cook it with garlic, onions, tomatoes and beer.

 

Superfood #5: Blueberries
Sweet and tasty, blueberries are great on cereals and in salads, smoothies and yogurt. They’re also fantastic as a stand-alone snack. A half-cup of fresh berries has only 40 calories and provides 15% of your vitamin C and 2 grams of fiber.
The deep color means they’re also rich in chemical compounds called anthocyanins, which improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and making blood vessels more elastic, according to a 2013 Harvard report published in the journal Circulation. Researchers followed the eating habits of 93,000 women, ages 25 to 42, for 18 years, and found that women who ate the most blueberries and strawberries were 34% less likely to have suffered a heart attack than those who ate the least.

 

Blueberries have the most antioxidant power of all the berries too. It’s also a ‘brain berry,’ [meaning] it helps with memory, mood and brain function. Another Harvard study, from 2012, found that regular blueberry consumption postponed memory decline in older women by 2-1/2 years.

 

Diet Rx: The people with heart benefits had three or more servings of a half a cup of blueberries or strawberries each week. If fresh blueberries are hard to find, frozen varieties are just as healthful, according to a 2013 British study that tested antioxidant in different foods.

 

 

Superfood #6: Apples
People tend to take apples for granted, but they’re filled with nutrients – including antioxidants, beta-carotene, riboflavin, magnesium and fiber. They may help reduce the risk of hypertension, 8 types of cancer, diabetes and heart disease, according to a two-decade international study of more than 187,000 participants, published in the August 2013 British Medical Journal.

 

Participants who ate at least two weekly servings of apples and other whole fruits reduced their risk for type 2 diabetes by as much as 23%, compared with those who ate less than one serving per month, the study found. Previous research has shown that high-fiber fruits, including apples, are digested more slowly than other fruits, which slows the rise in blood sugar. A bonus: Apples help improve your breath.

 

Diet Rx: Wash apples thoroughly, and eat the peels. Two-thirds of the fiber and antioxidants are found there.

 

 

Superfood #7: Sweet potatoes
These wonderful-tasting root vegetables are chock-full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients.

 

A member of the morning glory family, the sweet potato comes in 600 varieties, according to the Library of Congress. It can have white, yellow or orange flesh, and a firm or soft consistency. While it’s often confused with its starchier cousin, the yam, you’re most likely to find sweet potatoes in U.S. markets. Just half of a large sweet potato delivers 450% of a woman’s recommended dietary allowance of vitamin A, which improves vision, boosts the immune system and promotes cell growth. Sweet potatoes also contain potassium, a mineral that aids muscle contraction, bone health, healthy blood pressure and nerve transmission.

 

Diet Rx: It’s the most versatile vegetable. You can mash it, put it in soup or just eat it baked, right out of the skin. It’s naturally sweet, so you don’t need marshmallows.

Superfood #8: Walnuts
The ancient Greeks called them the “king of nuts,” and with good reason. Walnuts have almost twice the antioxidants of the same amount of other nuts. You also get alpha-linolenic acid, a source of brain-boosting omega-3 fats.  Walnuts are linked to decreased risk of heart disease, gallstones, type 2 diabetes and other health problems, according to a 2011 report presented to the American Chemical Society. All in all, walnuts give you the most bang for your nut buck.

Diet Rx: You’ll get health benefits from just 7 walnuts (about 1 ounce) daily, according to the 2011 report.

 

 

Superfood #9: Edamame
These roasted whole soybeans look like peas in a pod and have been an Asian food staple for centuries.

 

Soybeans give you almost every nutrient your body needs. You get 20%-40% of your daily protein, fiber, iron, magnesium and thiamin requirements. They’re also a good source of folate.Unlike most vegetables, edamame contains complete proteins; 1 cup provides 37% of an average woman’s daily needs. And they fill you up quickly – so if you’re trying to lose weight, they’re a perfect food.

 

Soy also has isoflavones, estrogen-like chemicals that can lower cholesterol, improve bone health and reduce hot flashes, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. But they may be ill-advised for anyone avoiding estrogen, so talk to your doctor if you have concerns.

 

Diet Rx: Four tablespoons of shelled edamame daily can help improve cholesterol levels, according to a 2013 report in the journal Nursing Standard.

 

Superfood #10: Steel-cut oats
This is the best kind of oatmeal – it’s less processed and digested more slowly than “instant” or “quick” varieties. It keeps you full all morning. That’s because steel-cut oats use the whole toasted oat grain. High in fiber, they may decrease your risk of heart disease. And even though they’re a grain, they’re unlikely to cause unhealthful spikes in your blood sugar, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

 

Diet Rx: Eat 1/2 of a cup of cooked oatmeal daily, the ADA recommends. These slow-cooking oats can also be made in a hurry. You can prepare it before bed. Add water to the oats and soak it overnight, then microwave it in the morning.
Add blueberries and walnuts to make this a super superfood.

 

Want to add more exotic foods to your diet? Try these Superfood Smoothie Recipes.

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