We always hear about a number of exotic foods with superfood status; however, they're not always easy to find and if you can find them, the cost might be prohibitive. Let’s look at 10 of the most nutrient dense everyday super foods that are readily available in most grocery stores. When possible, select organic foods.
Swiss chard is very rich in a broad spectrum of nutrients. Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and shares a similar taste profile: it has the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavor of spinach leaves. A nutritional superstar, it can be used just like spinach. Chard contains specific phytonutrients known for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification properties. Use the tender smaller leafs raw in salads. You can wilt, steam or boil the larger leafs so they are tender. On the larger leafs remove the stalk center, it can be a little tougher. Learn more about Swiss chards many health benefits.
Butter Nut Squash (winter squashes)
If you've never tried this vegetable, you've been missing out! Although there are many different types of winter squash, such as spaghetti, delicata, hubbard, sweet dumpling, acorn and butter cup, the butter nut is one of my favorites. It tastes very much like a sweet potato, but with a much lower sugar content, excellent for those watching their blood sugar levels. Winter squash is as an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), a very good source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese. In addition, winter squash emerged as a good source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin B6, niacin-vitamin B3 and pantothenic acid. Winter squashes offer many health benefits and are very easy to store.
Researchers have identified at least 13 different flavonoid compounds in spinach that function as antioxidants and as anti-cancer agents. (Many of these substances fall into a technical class of flavonoids known as methylenedioxyflavonol glucuronides.) Glucuronides are a very important part of our detoxing pathways. The anticancer properties of these spinach flavonoids have been sufficiently impressive to prompt researchers to create specialized spinach extracts that could be used in controlled studies. These spinach extracts have been shown to slow down cell division in stomach cancer cells (gastric adenocarcinomas), and in studies on laboratory animals, to reduce skin cancers (skin papillomas). A study on adult women living in New England in the late 1980s also showed intake of spinach to be inversely related to incidence of breast cancer.
Broccoli (cruciferous family)
Broccoli is a great addition to our diets, raw or cooked. Broccoli is a powerful anti-inflammatory and detoxing food. Most vegetables are not considered good sources of omega 3 fatty acids, but broccoli is! Broccoli contains compounds that are necessary for our body’s detoxing pathways. In addition, it's rich in many vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients. Many studies have shown broccoli to be protective against cancers and it can help in the metabolism of vitamin D due to its high content of vitamin K.
Although avocados are very creamy due to their abundance of heart healthy monounsaturated fats, they're also a very rich source of fiber, vitamin K, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C and copper. They're also very rich in antioxidants. Avocados may offer a delicious dietary strategy for the prevention of oral cancer. Phytonutrients in Hass avocados, the most readily available of the more than 500 varieties of avocados grown worldwide, target multiple signaling pathways, increasing the amount of free radicals (reactive oxygen species) within pre-cancerous and cancerous human oral cell lines. Earlier research by UCLA scientists also indicates that Hass avocados may inhibit the growth of prostate cancer.
Strawberries are the most popular fruit in the world and it’s not just due to their wonderful, unique flavor. Strawberries are rich in many nutrients and phytonutrients including vitamin C, manganese, fiber, iodine, potassium, folate, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B5 and omega 3 fatty acids. Strawberries’ unique phenol content also makes them a heart-protective fruit, an anti-cancer fruit, and an anti-inflammatory fruit, all rolled into one.
I'm a chocolate nut, really, I am! I'm so glad dark chocolate also happens to be healthy. Cacao - or dark chocolate in its rawest form - is one of the richest sources of flavonoids and has one of the highest antioxidant ratings of any foods. It's actually richer in antioxidant power than green tea and red wine. Dark chocolate provides brain protection, heart protection, lowers blood pressure, improves skin health and bone health and is anti-inflammatory. Raw cacao has much less caffeine than coffee or tea. But keep in mind - chocolate with added sugars is unhealthy. Look for 100% organic dark chocolate or raw cacao.
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds improve brain health, heart health, reduce high cholesterol, and are anti-inflammatory. They also tend to be high in antioxidant value and detoxing power. Nuts and seeds are very rich in fiber, minerals, phytonutrients, and heart healthy oils. They can be used and eaten in a variety of ways: snacks, salads, nut butters, you name it! Raw is best for optimal nutritional intake. Many people soak their nuts before eating to remove the external protein coating that can make digestion a little more difficult for our bodies. Nuts and seeds are very satiating and help curb hunger. In fact, many studies have shown that people who regularly consume 1 to 2 ounces of nuts and seeds per day seem to lose weight and keep it off.
The Allium Family
Garlic, onions, leeks and chives contain flavonoids that stimulate the production of glutathione, one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants. Glutathione enhances elimination of toxins and carcinogens, putting the Allium family of vegetables at the top of the list for foods that can help prevent cancer. For maximum nutritional value mash, mince or chop them and let sit for 5 minutes before consuming. This allows air to activate some of the healthy compounds they contain.
Sprouts are edible seeds that are germinated. They are a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins A, C and E and are a good source of selenium. They also contain calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, zinc, folate and vitamin B. They're low in sodium, but high in potassium. Most seeds, nuts, pulses, beans and grains can be sprouted. Sprouted alfalfa, broccoli, chickpeas, kidney beans, fenugreek seeds, wheat and barley are popular for their medicinal and nutritional properties. The many health benefits of sprouts result from the process of sprouting and the composition of sprouts. They can add a nutty and earthy flavor and a crunchy texture to salads and sandwiches.
Variety is the key. Be adventuresome with the foods you select. Try something new! There are hundreds of healthy vegetables, fruits , beans, grains and nuts and seeds to enjoy. Eat healthy, eat a variety and enjoy them with friends.