Superfoods to the rescue! Packed with vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and fiber – as well as antioxidants, flavonoids, and phytochemicals – superfoods offer a wide variety of benefits. When you add several of these mega-healthy ingredients and whole foods to a weekly shopping list, you bring yourself closer to optimal health.
Packed with with phytochemicals, flavonoids and soluble fiber, choose organic, dark-hued berries highest in potassium and vitamin C. Blueberries (strawberries and raspberries contain similar properties) may help reduce inflammation in the body and contain properties that may help maintain a healthy heart and cholesterol levels. This study also points out that further and more extensive studies are needed.
2. Leafy greens
Swiss chard, spinach, collard greens and other slightly bitter lettuce leaves an abundance of phytonutrients and should be consumed daily. The darkest greens contain fiber and calcium to improve digestion. High in calcium and folate (vitamin B9), leafy greens also enhance bone health.
3. Cruciferous vegetables
While broccoli always gets top billing as the ultimate member of the Brassicaceae family, many other cruciferous vegetables also contain sky-high amounts of nutrients and high doses of calcium; vitamins A, C, K, E; and the B vitamins. Try Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, kale and cauliflower for a cruciferous change up!
4. Wild-caught salmon from the Pacific or Alaska
The richest, fatty fish like mackerel, bluefish and wild salmon are vital sources of omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients that can support cardiovascular health. The American Heart Association recommends getting at least two servings of fatty fish a week.
Dried beans, peas, and lentils are excellent sources of vegetarian proteins. In addition,legumes are high-energy foods that increase satiety, therefore serve as natural appetite suppressants. Legumes provide low-fat protein and heart-healthy insoluble fiber as well as potassium, folate, and the B vitamins. As a side dish in place of bread or potatoes, they can keep you full longer.
6. Whole grains, brown rice, oats, barley, spelt
There are so many edible ancient grains, that a quick stroll down any health food aisle also includes these healthy grains: rye, faro, wild rice, and some forms of sprouted unrefined wheat. To be a whole grain, the carbohydrate must retain the all-important bran and germ of a kernel, where nutrients live. Whole grains contain more phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamin E, magnesium and iron than white rice. Try avoiding less healthy packaged grains, like white rice from a box.
The ultimate powerhouse produce, avocados are jam-packed with potassium, fiber, and healthy monounsaturated fats that protect the heart. Your future guacamole contains protective nutrients such as oleic acid, lutein, folate, and vitamin E which can benefit eye health, low (healthy) cholesterol, and even has potential benefits for your skin.
8. Dark chocolate
You heard that right – dark chocolate is a superfood! A one-ounce serving of high-quality, dairy-free dark chocolate is made of 70 percent cocoa, which is one of the richest sources of flavonoids, which have a variety of health benefits. Eat a morsel or two several times a week to promote blood circulation. This type of dark chocolate in moderation may help to reduce inflammation and LDL (bad) cholesterol and it’s also chockful of antioxidants.
Marsha Nunley, M.D. is board-certified in internal medicine, geriatric medicine, and palliative care. She specializes in functional medicine, a systems-based approach to treating the whole person. Read more about Dr. Nunley here.