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Articles Fitness Nutrition

5 Best-Kept Secrets to Include in Your Diet

Mar 9, 2012

You always hear about foods that you need to avoid or eliminate from your diet. What about foods that you should be eating, but may not be aware of? Here are a few that may be easy to include in your diet. The local grocery store should carry all of these things, it just requires some searching.

Kale

Browsing through the produce department, you'll find a huge variety of green vegetables. Perhaps the most popular is lettuce. Nearby, you should catch a glimpse of kale. This green leafy vegetable is packed with antioxidants and nutrients. Primarily, it provides vitamin A (good for vision), vitamin K (helps blood clot), vitamin C (good for immunity), and is also packed with fiber (keeps your digestive system regular and helps you feel fuller longer). Add this nutrient-packed vegetable to your favorite dishes such as a salad, stir fry, or an omelet. Alternatively, spritz with olive oil, sprinkle on your favorite seasonings, and bake for 10 minutes to make crunchy kale chips - a quick and easy nutritious snack!

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Flaxseed

Flaxseeds are brown seeds that have been around for more than 5,000 years. While research is still being conducted on this little seed, we do know that it has plenty of fiber, lignans (similar to antioxidants), and omega-3 fatty acids (not as effective as the fish oils, but still beneficial). Since there is not a lot of concrete evidence on the use of a lot of flaxseed, it is recommended to consume a maximum of about 1 tbsp of ground flaxseeds (2 g of fiber) per day. Eating the whole seed may actually pass through your system without getting absorbed, so make sure you purchase ground flaxseed or grind it yourself. It is virtually tasteless, so add it to yogurt, baked goods, or any of your favorite dishes. The minimal amount may be beneficial to your health!

Quinoa

I first heard of quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) last year at a nutrition conference. While quinoa looks a lot like rice or a grain, it is related to vegetables, like spinach, but used as a grain. This nutty-flavored whole grain is cooked like rice: wash and soak quinoa and cook until water is absorbed. Contrary to rice, however, it has many more nutrients: it is a complete protein (contains an essential amino acid lysine, which is good for tissue repair and growth), high in iron and fiber, and contains Vitamin E, zinc, and selenium. Replace rice or pasta with quinoa, or try a new dish with vegetables, cheese, and quinoa for a great vegetarian meal!

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Miso

Soy products are pretty confusing. Some research will tell you that soy is good for you and is a good alternative for meat protein, while others will say that soy is toxic and could lead to health problems. While the verdict is still out on all the benefits of soy, having a small portion may be a way to change up your routine. It is a great source of protein, especially for vegetarians. Miso is no exception. This soy product is a salty fermented bean paste that is primarily used in Asian foods (such as miso soup). This paste can easily be included in any of your recipes and is a great way to increase flavor while adding extra protein and a probiotic (good for your digestive system) punch. Since it is high in salt, use only a small amount; but have no fear, the flavor will still be evident.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a common vegetable that is on everyone's radar, but do you know of all the health benefits of this little vegetable? Composed primarily of water, this low-calorie vegetable is a great source for Vitamins D and B, selenium, and potassium. It can also be used in all of your dinner recipes: add it to spaghetti sauce or make a "burger" with a Portobello mushroom. Some varieties of mushrooms may also have health benefits. Shiitake mushrooms, for example, have been shown to be good for immunity and heart health as well as possibly reducing your risk for cancer. So go for it and add mushrooms to your meal today!

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In sum, there are a lot of foods that are considered "superfoods." While those listed above all may not be "superfoods," they should still be incorporated into your everyday routine. Try kale instead of lettuce. Add flax to your favorite baked treat. Use quinoa instead of rice for your stirfry. Add miso to your favorite soup, or mix mushrooms and miso together for a great tasting meal!


Rhea Li is a Registered Dietitian who received her Bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Master's degree in Public Health from the University of Texas. She has a special interest in working with children and has received her certification in pediatric weight management. Currently, she is working on a research study to determine the importance of nutrition in pediatric cancer patients. In the past, she has worked with pregnant women and their children. In her spare time, she enjoys being with family, exercising, traveling and of course, eating. To contact Rhea, please visit dazzlingdietitian.blogspot.com or her Twitter account, Rhea_Li.

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