We’ve all heard the term ‘super foods,’ but what does that really mean? Although there’s no exact list of super foods, those in this category can be described as nutritionally dense – containing a variety of nutrients like antioxidants that are thought to ward off cancer. They also have fiber that helps with digestive issues and works to prevent diabetes. Some of these foods also have healthy fats that are associated with good heart health. When it comes to eating a healthful diet, the first rule is to consume a wide variety of foods.
As we learn more about how what we eat affects our health, the benefits of a plant-based diet are clear. Plant based does not mean vegetarian or vegan. But it does emphasize eating whole fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds as the basis of your typical, daily diet. Most meals fill us up and give us energy to make it through the day, but these super foods go beyond our basic needs to help you live a longer and healthier life (not to mention reducing your risk for cancer and keeping your weight in check).
Fruits like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries have high antioxidant levels, making them the perfect, slightly sweet snack. Blueberries in particular appear on many super food lists because they deliver a powerful punch of vitamins, phytochemicals and soluble fiber in a tiny package!
Fish varieties that are high in omega-3 fatty acids are helpful in lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke, including sardines, mackerel, salmon and herring. Because of the low levels of mercury in salmon, it’s also safe in limited quantities for children and pregnant women. Salmon offers the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids, delivering the most artery-clearing bang for your buck. Luckily you can find it year round – fresh, frozen or canned.
Leafy GreensYou’ve likely heard about the benefits of kale – it’s loaded with vitamins A, C and K, as well as fiber, calcium and other minerals your body needs to function at its best. But it’s not the only heavy hitter when it comes to upping your vitamin consumption. Any type of dark leafy greens, cruciferous veggies like broccoli or Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radishes, turnips are also great choices.
Nuts and Nut Butters
Even though they are relatively high in calories, nuts are an excellent source of minerals and healthy fats, fiber and protein. They also include magnesium and vitamin E and are a source of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. One option is pistachios, the bright green nut that’s loaded with heart-healthy fats and antioxidants. This super food has even been shown to fight inflammation and stabilize blood sugar. Almonds many also help improve your risk factors for heart disease – like managing your weight and stabilizing blood pressure levels.
Black, red, garbanzo, kidney. These are just a few of the choices when it comes to legumes, an excellent source of plant-based protein, fiber and folate, one of the B vitamins responsible for the making of our DNA. Not only have studies shown they help reduce the risk of heart disease, they’re also contain insoluble fiber that helps reduce cholesterol levels keeps you feeling full longer. Whether you add them to salads, soups or casseroles, make batch of chili or scoop up some hummus with veggies, this category of super foods will do your body good!