Superfoods: The Next Generation
I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately at the pharmacy about getting the most bang for your buck when purchasing nutrient dense food. Superfoods by definition are foods that have multiple, over the top nutritional benefits. We all know about salmon, almonds, eggs, and spinach; but many of their lesser known counterparts can add a real boost to your meal options. Here are few options to check out the next time your headed to the grocery store!
Acai (pronounced ah-SIGH-ee, in case you had NO clue like me) is a small, purple berry that is making waves as a weight-loss aid and anti- aging product. The berry has very high levels of anthocyanins, which help heart disease and cancer by fighting free radicals in the body. Oddly enough, it is also a source of oleic acid, which is the same heart-healthy fat found in olive oil. Acai is popping up all over the grocery store in the forms of frozen berries, dried berries, powders, and juices. Avoid the juices (packed with added sugar) but a few options are:
-Added to a smoothie with other berries, greek yogurt, and some hidden veggies. Add a little honey for sweetness.
-In a bowl with bananas, homemade granola, and fresh strawberries/blueberries.
-In a baked dish, like this recipe for acai truffles
Maca is a root vegetable that is grown in the Andes Mountains. It’s picked, dried, and then processed into powder. Maca has been used to boost energy, endurance, and libido (yes please ). It’s known as an adaptogen, which means it can undo fatigue and helps with regeneration and repair. It has a rich, nutty flavor and lends itself best to:
-incorporating into baked goods, like this mexican chocolate maca bark (what a great holiday treat!)
-mixed into a post workout protein shake or smoothie
-homemade energy bars for during those long runs when you need a little boost!
Goji berries are super easy to find in just about every major supermarket. They have tons of vitamin C and are great for vision, poor circulation, and to boost the immune system. Look for them in the dried food bins.
-Sprinkle them over oatmeal or yogurt
-Make a homemade trail mix with almonds and shredded coconut
Kefir is similar to yogurt, but is made from fermented milk. It is a huge source of probiotics, which are excellent for immune health and good digestive health. It can be found in the refrigerated dairy aisle (usually with the yogurt) or you could try making it yourself!
Cacao, like its cousin chocolate, contains flavonoids, which are known to help lower blood pressure and increase circulation to the brain and heart. It has less than 15 calories/tablespoon, has no fat, but tastes very, very much like chocolate(!). Make sure and choose the raw/non-alkalized versions to get max nutritional power. Mix into a smoothie or try these amazing brownie batter balls.
FYI, not psychoactive ingredients here. These seeds are super high in protein and contain all the essential amino acids needed for growth and repair. They also contain the right balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. They have a very neutral taste, so you can add them to just about anything; like soups, salads, or rice dishes. This pesto sauce sounds really fun!
Kale has taken a back seat to spinach for many years now, but it is making a HUGE comeback. Kale is actually a member of the cabbage family (a cruciferous vegetable aka see Sheldon’s theory from BBT ). Kale is packed with vitamins, is super high in fiber, and is incredibly nutrient dense while being very low in calories. It makes a great salad, but it is also amazing sauted with some garlic, crushed red pepper, and balsamic vinegar over the top. Blend it in with a smoothie and you will never even know it is there. Try this recipe for a great green smoothie. It’s my personal favorite
Nutritional yeast is actually deactivated yeast and has no leavening agent left. It’s a great source of protein, fiber, and B12 (which is really hard to find outside of beef). It has a super cheesy flavor, so sprinkle it on top of anything to get back that cheese taste without all the fat and calories. This can also be found in the bulk dry bins, easy to try just a little to get you started. Try it as popcorn topping for your kids, sprinkle it on top of a baked potato, or on top of a pasta dish. Try a lasagna recipe and replace the top layer of cheese with this, you will see the calories drop!
This article was long winded, but hopefully it gives you some great ideas for incorporating a few new foods into your diet. Spontaneity fends off cravings and helps keep everyone on track!
Do you have any favorite superfood recipes? What are your favorite brands?