Imagine that the foods you were eating today were actually lowering your cholesterol, promoting healthy fat loss, reducing your risk of heart disease and cancer – and even putting you in a better mood!
Foods that contain an abundance of essential nutrients, are easy to find – and easy to cook – top my list for foods with “super” benefits – and will fuel your body with everything it needs for optimal health.
Here are the top 5 foods that I include in my daily (and/or weekly) diet, some tips for including them in yours, and why they are so awesome for our health!
Blueberries have repeatedly been ranked in the U.S. diet as having one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings (wow!).
Antioxidants are essential to optimizing our health by combating free radicals that can damage cellular structures and DNA.
They’re also low on the glycemic index when compared to other fruits – meaning that eating them will add sweetness to your day, and won’t spike your blood sugar (I often use them in green smoothies) – which will help keep you lean.
Other antioxidant-rich fruits that share some of the same benefits of blueberries include: blackberries, strawberries and cherries.
Betty’s Tips: When blueberries are in season, I buy them in abundance, but I always keep a bag of frozen blueberries on hand too for protein shakes, and as a topping to pancakes.
Melting the frozen berries produces a lovely “blueberry juice” that I use in place of syrup.
Buy organic whenever possible.
Along with being an excellent protein source, salmon is one of the best sources of essential Omega-3 fatty acids – in a form that is readily absorbed and utilized by our bodies.
We have to get our omega fats from food, because our bodies can’t make them on its own.
Unfortunately, many people are eating way too many Omega-6 fats each day (in processed foods, vegetable oils, corn and soy products), throwing off their Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio (which ideally should be between 1:1 and 5:1 but has been found to be as high as 20:1 to 50:1 in most Americans).
Other omega-3 rich foods I include: olive oil, chia seeds, walnuts and whole, organic eggs – and I personally take a high-quality fish oil supplement daily to make sure I’m getting enough of the essentials. However, I don’t just get one off the shelf – because many fish oils have been shown to be contaminated with mercury, or aren’t formulated in a readily absorbable way. Always go with high quality and a trusted source like the EFA Icon from Prograde that I use daily.
Betty’s Tips: contamination from mercury, pesticides and other pollutants have become widespread issues, and may make you wary of purchasing even wild-caught fish. Wild Alaskan salmon seems to top the list of the lowest risk for contamination and greatest sustainability in practices.
According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, “Southeast Alaskan chum, sockeye, coho, pink, and chinook salmon, together with Kodiak coho, pink and chum salmon have all been evaluated for contaminant consumption risk involving many POPs (including dioxins, dioxin-like compounds (DLCs) and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs) and have been found to be the lowest risk category of wild-caught salmon for regular consumption.”
Kale is one of my favorite daily detoxifiers as it contains dietary fiber, and sulfur that promotes liver health. It’s rich in vitamin K, excellent for healthy bones and protective against various cancers.
Kale has plenty of folic acid and B6, which provide cardiovascular support and help prevent heart disease. It’s also a great source of Vitamin C, that powerful antioxidant that strengthens our immune system, prevents inflammation and helps us stay hydrated.
There are many different kale varieties (dark green dino kale, light green curly kale, dark red redbar kale, baby kale, flowering kamome red kale, red russian kale, walking stick kale, siberian kale and premier kale), and I recommend trying different kinds throughout the month to enjoy the spectrum of phytonutrients each variety provides. My local store carries about 3 different kinds typically.
Betty’s Tips: I love adding kale to my daily green smoothies, sauteeing it in a little olive oil and garlic – and it’s great with a little sea salt and olive oil broiled for a few minutes into kale chips.
Another incredibly healthy fat source, almonds are high in healthy monounsaturated fats – the kind that help lower LDL cholesterol (LDL is the form of cholesterol that has been linked to atherosclerosis and heart disease).
A quarter cup of almonds contains 99mg of magnesium (24.7% of your recommended daily value) of magnesium – an important mineral that improves the flow of blood, nutrients and oxygen throughout the body.
Eating almonds can decrease after-meal rises in blood sugar, and provide antioxidants to soak up small amounts of free radicals (Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Journal of Nutrition).
Other nuts that contain high levels of health-protecting antioxidants include: walnuts, chestnuts and pecans. Peanuts, though technically a legume, also contain high levels of antioxidants.
Betty’s Tip: I do a lot of my gluten free baking and cooking with almond meal flour (or ground almonds). I also love almond butter. I’ve got a little tutorial on how to make your own nut butter and flour on the site. I also enjoy almonds chopped up on my oatmeal, in a mixed greens salad or simply as a snack.
Turmeric is a root that’s commonly used as a spice in Southeast Asia, but is available worldwide and gives mustard its yellow color.
It contains a powerful antioxidant called curcumin that has a spectrum of awesome health benefits.
Curcumin has been shown to help increase the flow of bile, an important component in the breakdown of dietary fat. Ayurvedic (the traditional medicine practice of India) practitioners have used it for its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to treat arthritis and other ailments.
Researchers from the University of South Dakota have found that pre-treatment with curcumin makes cancer cells more vulnerable to chemo and radiotherapy, and epidemiologists hypothesize that the turmeric that is part of daily curries eaten in India may help explain the low rate of Alzheimer’s disease in that country. Among people aged 70 – 79, the rate is less than one-quarter that of the United States.
Other food sources that contain similar benefits include: ginger, a close cousin to turmeric.
Betty’s Tip: The best way to harness the health benefits of turmeric is to get turmeric powder or the root itself. I love including it in my curry dishes and stir-fries, and it makes a regular appearance in my kitchen alongside ginger.
More Super Foods
There are so many, many more health-promoting whole foods that I would classify as super – including:
avocados, cacao nibs, dark chocolate, walnuts, bok choy, raspberries, ginger, spinach, kiwi, eggs, sweet potatoes, grass fed bison, chia seeds, hemp seeds, acai, goji berries, sprouted mung beans, natto, green tea, broccoli, black strap molasses, cod, pomegranate, peppermint – and so many more –
Which ones do you include?
I bet you’re already eating some, or all of them! If there’s one you haven’t had lately, be sure to look for it at your local grocery store or farmer’s market, and if there is a food you’d like to know more about be sure to write me a comment and let me know!