Superfoods: Nutrient-Rich Foods to Eat Every Day
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Turns out Popeye was onto something, downing cans of spinach for power. This sweet leafy green is literally packed with nutrients, including vitamins A, C and E, folic acid and calcium. (Spinach has plenty of iron, too, though not as much as the cartoon creators originally believed in 1870.) Extremely versatile, spinach can be eaten fresh, steamed, boiled, sautéed or baked into any number of dishes. We love using spinach as a base for a salad, and you'll reap the greatest nutritional benefits when it's raw.
Get the Recipe: Mushroom Spinach Thai Salad
The best thing about sweet potatoes is that they're naturally, well, sweet. Simply steaming the tubers (skin on!) readies them for eating while preserving maximum nutritional value, but they're delicious when baked, boiled or even stir-fried. Great sources of vitamin B-6 and dietary fiber, sweet potatoes top the charts in vitamin A concentration, offering up to 90 percent of one's daily recommended intake in one serving. (Vitamin A and beta-carotene are essential for both eye and skin health.)
Get the Recipe: Sweet Potato Salad
Whether eaten directly from their pods (aka edamame), topping a salad or mixed into a grain-based dish, soybeans offer tremendous healthy benefits, including complete plant-based proteins, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. The lean, readily available protein source (the most widely grown utilized legume in the world) is inexpensive, and you only need to consume a small amount to reap the nutritional benefits. (One ounce of soybeans contains 5 grams of protein.)
Get the Recipe: Edamame Salad
Wild salmon is one of the best-known sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to improve the body's cell functioning, reduce inflammation, aid immunity, and decrease risk of cardiovascular problems and cancer. Salmon is also a wonderful source of vitamins D and B-12, selenium and protein. Aim to eat a 6-ounce fillet of salmon two to four times a week to reap these many health benefits.
Get the Recipe: Roasted Salmon with Shallot Grapefruit Sauce
This juicy citrus fruit a cross between an orange and a pomelo is extremely high in vitamins A and C, making it a great immunity booster. Segmented and tossed into a dish, or simply scooped out of its skin with a spoon, grapefruit is a bright addition to winter plates, and we particularly enjoy pairing the tart-sweet fruit with fish and savory salad ingredients.
Get the Recipe: Grapefruit, Onion, and Basil Salad
Kale, the hot new star of the cruciferous vegetable group, boasts similar high-nutrient content to broccoli and cabbage (vitamins K, C, A and B-6, fiber and potassium), but it also contains three times more lutein and zeaxanthin than spinach. Steaming the mildly peppery greens yields the greatest nutritional benefits, but it may also be sautéed or boiled. It is widely believed that consuming kale lowers one's risk for cancer and aids in the body's detoxification system.
Get the Recipe: Spicy Parmesan Green Beans and Kale
This buttery green fruit contains more protein than any other fruit and is high in healthy monosaturated fats, folate, potassium, vitamin E and the antioxidant lutein. Those healthy fats contribute to better blood flow and reduced blood pressure, which yields better brain health. Beware their high calorie count and fat content, though no matter how healthy and limit intake to no more than half an avocado a day.
Get the Recipe: Baby Spinach, Avocado, and Pumpkin Seed Salad
In recent times, sugary flavored yogurts have been pushed aside in favor of plain Greek yogurt, which contains no added sweeteners or preservatives. The naturally thick, tart yogurt is a tremendous source of protein, topping 10 grams per serving, which aids in muscle development and helps keep you fuller longer. It's also loaded with probiotic bacteria, which promotes digestive health. If it's too tart for your tastes, pair the plain, low-fat or fat-free yogurt with natural sweeteners like honey or agave syrup, or top it with fresh fruit, cereals or nuts for additional flavor, texture and nutrition.
Get the Recipe: Homemade Mango-Agave Granola with Greek Yogurt
Quinoa lovers know that the small dried seeds develop a wonderful nutty flavor and a texture that's both fluffy and slightly crunchy when cooked. A rare plant-based source of complete proteins, quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids, which aid tissue growth and repair. It also contains a significant amount of magnesium and phosphorus. Try subbing in quinoa where you'd serve pasta or rice, or mix it with nuts, dried fruits, vegetables and herbs for a sweet or savory side dish.
Get the Recipe: Butternut Squash with Quinoa, Spinach and Walnuts
This ancient fruit, which figures prominently in history and mythology, is rich in vitamins C and K, potassium, dietary fiber and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. Its juice is widely consumed as a powerful antioxidant or used in sauces, marinades and dressings, and its bright red sweet-sour seeds (or arils) are delicious eaten raw, mixed into salads or garnishing entrees. Extracting those seeds is a labor of love, though one you shouldn't attempt when wearing light clothes.
Get the Recipe: Pomegranate Quinoa Pilaf
Oats, often consumed in the form of oatmeal, bars and cookies, are low in calories and high in both fiber and protein, which makes them an energizing and filling breakfast or snack food. They've also been widely revered for their ability to lower cholesterol, which promotes heart health.
Get the Recipe: Vanilla Spice Oatmeal
This cruciferous veggie has long been known to be a high source of vitamins A, C, K and B-6, as well as folate. To preserve as many nutrients as possible (and avoid turning it too bitter) steam the vegetable for three to five minutes or, even better, eat it raw. Broccoli can enhance detoxification and is believed to reduce inflammation.
Get the Recipe: Broccoli and Green Beans
Consider swapping out that mug of coffee for a bag (or few) of green tea. Green tea is a powerful source of antioxidants, which expunge the body of free radicals that can lead to cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. It's believed that drinking green tea can lower one's blood pressure, risk for stroke and cholesterol. To brew a cup that has a strong polyphenol concentration, be sure to steep bags or loose leaves for at least three minutes (though know this will also increase caffeine content).
Get the Recipe: Lowfat Green Tea, Honey and Nutmeg Smoothies
Though we pointed out the specific benefits of soybeans, it's worth mentioning beans as a whole class of nutrient-packed lean plant-based proteins. Since beans are a high-fiber protein, they are digested more slowly than meat-based proteins (which have little to no fiber), which means they actually stabilize blood sugar and keep you satisfied longer. Furthermore, thanks to phytochemicals from plant growth, beans are high in antioxidants. Try red kidney beans, black beans and black-eyed peas to reap these benefits.
Get the Recipe: Three Bean and Beef Chili
Blueberries are best known for being powerful antioxidants with a number of phytonutrients, and they are low on the glycemic index scale, which makes them a fruit that won't spike one's blood sugar level. Rich in vitamin K and dietary fiber, blueberries are believed to promote brain health and reduce cancer risk. By protecting the brain from oxidative stress, blueberries may also help prevent the onset of age-related diseases. The extremely versatile fruit makes an excellent breakfast complement, a sweet salad addition or the basis for many favorite desserts.
Get the Recipe: Blueberry-Almond Griddle Cakes
When cooked, red juicy beets are as sweet as candy which makes their relative health benefits an added bonus. In fact, that bright red color (or yellow, depending on the variety) signifies the presence of betalains, or powerful antioxidant pigments. Additionally, beets are a great source of folate, fiber and vitamin C.
Get the Recipe: Roasted Beet Salad
A whole papaya contains more than 300 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, plus a significant amount of folate, potassium, and vitamins A and E. Papaya are also known for containing the enzyme papain, which is believed to aid digestion. Papaya is delicious eaten raw and is prominent in Southeast Asian cooking, such as salads, curries and stews.
Get the Recipe: Papaya Chicken
Almonds are one of the healthiest nuts and a great source of protein, healthy fats, calcium, magnesium and vitamin E. Enjoy them whole, unroasted and unsalted to reap the greatest nutritional benefits (half their antioxidant power is in the skin). A handful of almonds makes a great snack but keep it to that. Even those healthy fats add up.
Get the Recipe: Tangy Almond Garlic String Beans
An age-old remedy for aiding digestion, sticky-sweet prunes actually have mild natural laxative compounds. The high-fiber, antioxidant-containing dried fruits are delicious eaten as-is, stewed or pureed to make juice.
Get the Recipe: Moroccan Chicken with Squash and Dried Plums
This superfood needs to be enjoyed in moderation, but when limited to an ounce a day (about 100 calories), dark chocolate is, in fact, a powerful antioxidant. It can also help lower blood pressure, increase blood flow and ultimately support heart health.
Get the Recipe: Apricot-Dark Chocolate Trail Mix