Doesn’t it seem like every six months a new super food hits the headlines as the be-all-and-end-all cure for some common or chronic health ailment? Think acai berry, pomegranate, coconut water, goji berries for some of the latest trends or salmon, blueberries, oats and walnuts for the old timers. If food is what we consume to provide nutritional support for our bodies, then super foods are touted to go beyond basic nutrition with claims to lower cholesterol, control diabetes, fight heart disease, strengthen the immune system, and generally help us live longer.
Since we all want to live healthy lengthy lives, these new and old ‘discoveries’ and their so-called healing properties can be pretty alluring. Kind of like the silver bullets for health. But you’ve got to wonder if these claims amount to, well, a hill of beans. Unfortunately, this is where things get a little murky. For instance, last year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the health claim that omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. But when used on a label, the claim has to say that the research is not conclusive. Kind of confusing, huh?
So what is a savvy shopper to do? Well one approach is to simply not worry about eating specific foods for specific ailments until the FDA gives the final word. Another option is to go ahead and add a variety of these calorie sparse and nutritionally dense super foods to an overall healthy diet. Why not? It may not be the quick fix you are looking for or even the magic answer, but it just might be something worth eating for.
Here are some everyday super foods to put on your grocery list:
Beans – the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend three cups weekly of these fiber-filled nuggets. They are also a good low fat source of protein, carbohydrates, magnesium and potassium. Edamame (whole soybeans) also contain omega-3 fatty acids for an added bonus.
Blueberries – the darker the better. These small berries are packed with antioxidants, phytoflavinoids, vitamin C and potassium. Berries in general are low in calories, high in water and fiber, and can satisfy sweets cravings with a lot fewer calories than typical baked goods. Frozen berries are said to be just as good, nutritionally, as fresh ones.
Broccoli – this may be one of America’s favorite veggies. It appeals to all ages and is available year round. It is a rich source of Vitamin A, C and K and has plenty of fiber.
Dark orange vegetables – sweet potatoes, carrots, orange bell peppers, butternut squash and pumpkin are all super high in vitamin A. Sweet potatoes, unlike white potatoes, also are loaded with vitamin C, calcium, and potassium.
Eggs – the incredible edible egg contains 12 vitamins and minerals, including choline, while also providing quality protein.
Low fat or fat-free yogurt – believe it or not, low or fat-free yogurt is actually higher in calcium than some other dairy products. It is a top quality source of protein and potassium and can contain probiotics, which help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the intestines.
Nuts – the key to nuts is how much you eat. They rate well due to their protein, antioxidant, high fiber and heart-healthy fat content, but watch the quantity. Go for small portions, about 100 calories a day.
Oats – naturally! Rolled oats or even food that contains a lot of oat bran are the rare super foods with an FDA approved label that they may reduce the risk of heart disease when combined with a low fat diet.
Quinoa – this ancient grain is high in protein and is a good source of iron, zinc, vitamin E, selenium and fiber. In addition to quinoa, try these whole grains: barley, buckwheat, millet, wild rice, and whole wheat.
Salmon – the American Heart Association recommends eating cold water fatty fish like salmon twice a week because they are chock full of the omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is low in calories and saturated fats, high in protein and is a good source of iron. Choose wild over farmed salmon when possible as farmed salmon may contain elevated levels of contaminants and artificial coloring.
Dark Chocolate – a super food? Really? Yes, really. Dark chocolate with 60% or higher cocoa content is a potent antioxidant. And the darker it is, the lower the fat and sugar content. Oh, and did we say it’s yummy?