(DougCookRD.com) Superfoods, ugh, there, I said. As many may know, I hate the word. It’s meaningless, undefined, not regulated or standardized and it suggests that a food, in and of itself, can somehow save the world and your health. Anyone with some idea of how food, nutrients and nutrition in general works, knows that it’s the majority of choices, overtime, that influences your health and risk for chronic disease, positively or negatively, and not one any one food in particular.
The following foods are some of the more nutritious ones that, when included as part of an overall healthy lifestyle, can help you get the nutrients your body needs for optimal health.
Canned, wild caught salmon – one of the richest sources of omega-3s, one 200 g, or 7 oz can, has over 4g of these superstar fats. Salmon is also an excellent source of much needed vitamin D and while the whole can has 1600 IU, it’s not enough to reap the full benefits of vitamin D, so be sure to supplement. Salmon is also a good source of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, choline, vitamin A, and B12 and the nutrients in animal foods is absorbed much more efficiently that they are from plant foods. Sardines are also a great choice.
Pulses: chickpeas, lentils, dried peas and beans - they super nutritious, keep for months and months, are full of protein, fiber and some key minerals like potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. When paired with a vitamin C-rich food like peppers or tomatoes, the iron absorption from these little nuggets is enhanced immensely. They are easy to prepare and pretty much impossible to screw up. They are super versatile too, check for recipes ideas at Lentils Canada and Pulse Canada
Olive oil – olive oil is a must. It’s rich in vitamin E, chlorophyll, polyphenols [plant compounds that have many health promoting properties, like the polyphenols found in tea, apples, onions, grapes, chocolate etc] and a great source of monounsaturated fat. The phtyo-nutrients help to protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, or damage, which is the critical first step in atherosclerosis, or plaque formation. Olive oil has also been show to significantly lower blood pressure. Despite what you’ve hear, olive oil, with its high smoke point of 410F, can be used for low and medium heat sauteing.
Intact grains – not to be confused with whole grains. Even whole grains can be processed, i.e. minute oats, thereby changing the way in which they are digested. It’s intact grains, those that remain unaltered like they are in nature, that have the better effect of not raising blood sugar etc. Aim for steel cut oats, wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat, Cavena oats, kamut, millet etc. Intact grains have more B vitamins, vitamin E, chromium, magnesium and protein.
Frozen vegetables – why? Because they are harvested, washed and frozen typically within 4 hours thereby preserving maximum nutrient content. Many see fresh as being, well fresh, and someone better but fresh is best when its local and in season. Full of antioxidants and other goodies, vegetables eating has been shown to reduce the risk for a ton of chronic disease. Frozen vegetables are easy to store and they will keep much longer than fresh. Throwing some into soups, stews, cooked intact grains is an easy way to boost your vegetable content.
Frozen fruit – ditto with fruit. Add frozen fruit to smoothies, or letting some thaw in the fridge overnight, they can be thrown on top of cooked cereal, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with chia seeds and ground flax, as a side to scramble eggs or tossed into a small Tupperware container to be eaten as a mid-afternoon snack at work. Like their vegetable cousins, fruit consumption has been shown to reduce the risk for many diseases like cancers and cardiovascular disease.
Nuts and seeds – they are super easy to eat! As is for a snack, part of homemade trail mix, chopped and used as a topping for cooked cereals, yogurt or cottage cheese fruit bowls, in salads, or on top of chicken, fish or meat dishes. Nuts and seeds have monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, magnesium and plant-based omega-3 fats. The calories add up though, you don’t need a lot to get the benefits.
Eggs – without a doubt, eggs are a nutritious food. With 14 essential vitamins and minerals, including the much needed vitamin A, B12, and choline, eggs are like a micro nutrient supplement. There are a great source of protein and lutein, a carotenoid that helps to lower the risk for macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in those over 55. Eggs are versatile and easy to use, and there’s a solid body of research that has shown that regular consumption of eggs does not increase the risk for heart disease.
Photo credit: istockphoto, Laura Taylor, Artizone