If you're like most people, you want to maximize your nutrition, improve your health, slow the aging process, fight disease, and control calories, all while eating food that's flavorful and enjoyable! While this may seem like a difficult task, there are everyday foods that can do just that. They're known as superfoods.
"Superfood" is an unscientific term used to describe foods that possess extraordinary nutritional properties...and many taste great too! Here are our top five favorites:
1. Tomato Products
Tomatoes are not only low in calories, high in fiber and potassium, but they also contain lycopene, beta-carotene, B vitamins, folate, vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, and zinc. Tomatoes are linked to cancer protection, reduced cardiovascular disease risk, and even raising the sun protection factor of the skin. To get the most from tomatoes, purchase processed tomatoes like sauces and pastes. In raw tomatoes, some of the nutrients and antioxidants are bound up in the cell walls, but once heated and processed these are more easily absorbed by the body.
Besides being low in calories, oatmeal provides fiber, protein, magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc, manganese, and thiamine. The soluble fiber found in oats has been linked to reducing cholesterol, assisting blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes, and preventing cancer. Instead of sugary oatmeal, get plain and add fruit to it.
3. Green/Black Teas
Evidence shows that tea decreases the risk of stomach, prostate, breast, colorectal, esophageal, pancreatic, lung, and bladder cancers. Research also shows that tea consumption is associated with a lowered risk of heart disease and stroke. Additionally, tea fights cavities and bad breath! Replace health-degrading drinks like sodas, sports drinks, juice and energy drinks with unsweetened tea. You'll save yourself a ton of calories (tea has none), and you'll improve your health immensely.
Spinach is one of the most powerful of superfoods. Spinach contains lutein; beta-carotene; plant derived omega-3 fatty acids; vitamins C, E, and B; minerals - calcium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, and iron; and polyphenols. This combination has been shown to reduce risk for cardiovascular disease, various cancers, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration. Additionally, the antioxidants found in spinach protect our DNA, promote healthy cell growth, detoxify pollutants and reduce inflammation. Studies suggest that spinach has anti-aging properties as well. Add spinach to any meal whether it's pasta, a sandwich, salad, or pizza.
Yogurt contains live active cultures, calcium, protein, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Yogurt has a long list of benefits: reduces risk for cancer; can usually be tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant; regulates inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); reduces blood pressure and cholesterol; and may eliminate ulcers and diarrhea. Aim to eat 2 servings of yogurt a day - either as a snack or part of your meal. Instead of the sugary yogurts, try a low fat plain Greek yogurt and add fruit to it.
Mandy Seay is a bilingual registered and licensed dietitian who holds both a bachelor's degree in nutrition and in journalism. After gaining 30 pounds while living abroad, Mandy worked to lose the weight and regain her health. It was here that she discovered her passion for nutrition and went on to pursue a career as a dietitian. Mandy currently works as a nutrition consultant and freelance writer in Austin, Texas, where she specializes in diabetes, weight management and general and preventive nutrition. She recently published her first book, Your Best Health, a personalized program to losing weight and gaining a healthy lifestyle. Please visit Mandy's website at Nutritionistics.com.