The term “superfood” gets tossed around a lot in the health and fitness industry. If you’re not sure what a superfood is, Oxford Dictionary’s definition is: “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” There are countless foods deemed “superfood,” however I decided to create a list of 10 superfoods (in no particular order) that you can easily incorporate into your diet, starting today!
1.Coconut oil. This one may sound counterintuitive since it is a saturated fat, however, it has a different composition than other saturated fats like those found in animal products. Coconut oil is made up of MCT’s (medium chain triglycerides) which metabolize differently in the body than a saturated animal fat (long chain triglycerides).
Studies have shown that consuming coconut oil can help our bodies fight off certain illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses. Coconut oil also contains lauric acid, which is known to help reduce cholesterol levels. As mentioned previously, coconut oil is made up of medium chain triglycerides which break down and lead to a more efficient burning of energy, aiding in weight loss. A study from 2009 showed that women who consumed coconut oil for 12 weeks hadn’t gained weight and had smaller amounts of abdominal fat.
You can incorporate coconut oil into your diet in various ways. Some use it to make bulletproof coffee (aka ketogenic coffee), cook your foods with coconut oil, or you can add it to smoothies, put it on toast, etc.
Although coconut oil has many health benefits, it’s still important to use in moderation. 1-2 tablespoons a day is a good guideline to follow when adding coconut oil to your diet.
Added bonus: coconut oil is a great moisturizer, I love using it for a heavy-duty moisture hair mask and it’s great for your skin too!
2. Turmeric. Turmeric is a plant that is part of the ginger family. It is commonly used in Asian food, most notably in curry.
Turmeric reportedly can be used to decrease swelling, arthritis, heart burn, joint and stomach pain, liver problems, digestive problems such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, headaches, colds, weight loss, improved sleep, cancer prevention and can also be used topically for certain skin conditions. Phew! Please excuse me while I go to the store to buy some turmeric…
Turmeric is easily found in grocery stores where they sell other spices. It can be added to vegetables, soups, rice, eggs, even teas and smoothies. If you don’t care for the taste, you can also find it in pill form and take it as a supplement.
Just a little side note, turmeric is extremely pigmented and can leave a yellow tint on the skin if used topically, so be careful!
3. Chia seeds. Chia seeds are related to the flowering plant of the mint family… and yes, they ARE the same seeds that grew fur in those animal shaped vases way back when… However, they are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Why should you eat them? Chia seeds have been spreading across the health industry like wildfire. They have been reported to help stabilize blood sugars, aid in weight loss, prevent certain disease conditions, provide energy, and help with food cravings.
The secret behind chia seeds is that they have the capability to absorb liquids up to 9 times their own weight. Expanding the size of the chia seed leads you to feel fuller after consuming them; feeling fuller leads to eating less which leads to weight loss… you see where I’m going with this.
Chia seeds are flavorless and when put into liquid, the seed will develop a gel- like coating. They kind of remind me of really tiny tapioca bubbles. I personally like the texture, so I just add them to water, let them sit for a few minutes and drink them. If you have food texture issues, you may find it easier to incorporate them in your diet by adding them to baked goods.
Note: just a tip from previous experience… put the chia seeds in a water bottle that you can shake; when the chia seeds develop their gel-like coating they will clump together.
Keep in mind that chia seeds do have macronutrient values (about 2 Tbsp will provide 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbs and 11 grams of fiber!) so as with everything, moderation is key.
4. Cocoa. Cocoa is a powder made from roasted seeds of the cacao (a small, tropical evergreen tree). The fat is squeezed out (hello cocoa butter!) and the left over product is made into powder. The chocolate that we frequently buy in stores has sugar, butter and other flavorings added.
“Heart health” has been a big topic of conversation when it comes to eating chocolate. This claim comes from the flavonoids contained in the chocolate which play a role in cardiovascular health. Dark chocolate contains higher levels of flavonoids than milk or white chocolate which is why you’ve probably heard that dark chocolate is healthier for you than other chocolate varieties.
Tip: read the food label, if you see “dutch” or “alkalized”cocoa that means it has been processed and the majority of the antioxidants have been removed.
Flavonoids are compounds that are responsible for giving fruits and vegetables their color. Some studies show that they may prevent heart disease and some cancers. Some other foods rich in flavonoids include oranges, blueberries, grapes, green tea, and bananas.
Now, I probably don’t have to tell you how to add cocoa into your diet, but I’ll throw a few suggestions out there just in case you’re having a brain fart. Smoothies are one of the best things to add cocoa to: you already have sweetness from the fruit in the smoothie so you won’t need to add any extra sugar. You can also easily add it to baked goods.
5. Lignonberry. Featured as one of Dr. Oz’s favorite superfoods, the lignonberry (also known as a “mountain cranberry”) has approximately 30% more antioxidant power than a blueberry and is often referred to as the “Queen of Berries.” They are also high in omega-3 fatty acids (the healthy fats!)
Lignonberries reportedly aid in cures for liver ailments, gastric ulcers, help fight cancer and diabetes, promote cardiovascular health and also have natural antibiotic properties. Of course being a super antioxidant gives them fountain-of-youth super powers, and the good news is that you only need a small amount to get those anti-aging benefits. Also, like its relative, the cranberry, the lignonberry has shown to help cure UTI’s by preventing infection-causing bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.
Though personally I have never tasted a lignonberry, my research leads me to believe they are tart, similar to a cranberry. Lignonberries are most commonly used in jams, although they can be found in juice, and powder or frozen forms in some health-stores. I did find the powder form on Amazon.com which you can find here.* You can also try this smoothie recipe recommended by Dr. Oz.
6. Eggs. I probably don’t have to tell you what an egg is, but for the sake of thoroughness, let me define it for you. Merriam- Webster defines it as: “the hard –shelled reproductive body produced by a bird and especially by the domestic chicken; also: its contents used as food.” That actually sounds kind of gross… moving on.
Most of us know how healthy egg whites can be, but what a lot of people don’t realize is how nutritious the yolk can be as well. The egg yolks seem to have gotten a bad reputation over the years relating to their cholesterol and fat content. Nutritionally, an egg is roughly 77 calories, 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat. They also contain micronutrients including vitamins A, D, E, K, B2, B5, B6, B12, calcium, zinc, folate selenium, phosphorus, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah (Seinfeld reference!) The point is, they contain a lot of good-for-you stuff. All of these nutrients provide cardiovascular benefits (heart healthy), reduce risk of stroke, aid in weight loss and even contain antioxidants to promote eye health.
So what about the cholesterol? Well, there is a difference between cholesterol in the blood, and dietary cholesterol. I know this may sound confusing, but just because you are eating cholesterol doesn’t guarantee your blood cholesterol levels will rise. The occurrence of higher blood cholesterol levels is actually more closely related to the amount of saturated and trans-fatty acids consumed in the diet.
7. Beets. Beets are vegetables that are the edible root of a plant, more specifically, the amaranth family.
As with many other superfoods discussed, beets contain a large amount of antioxidants. This enables them to have cancer-fighting qualities along with dilating the blood vessels so blood can flow more easily and deliver oxygen throughout the body, helping battle anemia.
Beet salads are one of my favorite things to eat. They’re so pretty and with a little bit of goat cheese… ah-may-zing. For this particular food, juicing the beet will yield a greater amount of nutrients since some nutrients are lost through the cooking process. Luckily for you, I found a nice beet juice recipe once again from the wonderful Dr. Oz.
8. Sweet potato. As defined by the Oxford Dictionaries, a sweet potato is “an edible tropical tuber with pinkish orange, slightly sweet flesh.” Growing up I never understood the concept of adding brown sugar or marshmallows to a vegetable so I tended to steer clear of those dishes. However, as I got older and began cooking for myself I’ve discovered that I like sweet potatoes and that they can actually be quite versatile.
Sweet potatoes are high in antioxidants along with various vitamins and minerals, most notably vitamin C and vitamin A. Sweet potatoes are also very rich in beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A) which gives it that nice orange pigment. Vitamin C is important for immune support to help keep you healthy all year ’round! The vitamin A provided by the sweet potato is also helpful in immune support but promotes eye health and cell growth as well.
Comment below to let me know your favorite sweet potato recipe!
9. Kefir. Kefir is a drink that is made from fermented milk. It has a similar taste to yogurt and is slightly sour. You’ve probably seen this popping up in your grocery stores lately.
Kefir slipped into the limelight with the focus of probiotics being pushed in the health industry. Probiotics are known to promote digestive health and provide immune support. You may have also heard of “the good bacteria” when referring to the bacteria in the gut. Probiotics are helpful in treating certain conditions specific to the gut and digestion such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), and diarrhea caused by antibiotics or acute illness.
Kefir is pretty widely available. I see it all over the grocery stores, and if you really want to you can make your own at home. An easy way to incorporate kefir into your diet is to use it as a base for your smoothies instead of milk or yogurt.
10. Red Wine. Okay so I know I said these were in no particular order, but I did save the best for last. If you’ve ever watched ‘The Real House Wives of Orange County’ I’m sure you already know why this makes the list. Does ‘resveratrol’ sound familiar?
Resveratrol is an antioxidant that has reported abilities of preventing blood clots and inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. It is a natural compound found in red grape skin, as well as other foods such as peanuts and some berries.
If you don’t drink alcohol don’t worry, you can get resveratrol by drinking grape juice or taking a resveratrol supplement. For those of you who do drink, get comfy, pull out a good book and pour yourself a nice glass of red wine. 🙂 As with anything, don’t over-do it. 😉
Disclaimer: Always consult your physician before starting any new supplements, especially if you have underlying health conditions or take any medications.
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