Power Up Your Plate with 13 ‘Super Foods’
How healthy is your diet? If you’re like most of us, you probably tend to eat the same meals day after day—maybe cereal and fruit for breakfast, a roasted turkey sandwich for lunch, chicken or pasta for dinner, and maybe something sweet for dessert.
Nothing wrong with that—all foods (yes, even chocolate!) can be part of a healthy eating plan. But the fact is that some foods pack more nutritional punch per serving. Add more of these “super foods” to your regular eating regime, and you’ll boost your vitamin and mineral intake.
Incorporating these kinds of nutrient-dense foods is particularly important if you’re trying to lose weight, says registered dietitian Joan Carter of Houston, Texas, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
“It’s the nutritional bang for your calorie,” says Carter. “If you’re watching your weight and can consume 1,600 calories, for example, you want to be sure that those calories are spent wisely.”
So, the next time you’re dining out or shopping for groceries, give these 13 “super-foods” a try:
Super Food: Spinach
Spinach is a much better choice than iceberg or leaf lettuce for salads.
“You get much more bang for your calorie with spinach because you get vitamin A, iron, and folic acid,” says Carter. In general, the darker the greens, the more nutrients they contain.
Super Food: Collard Greens
A cup of collard greens, a Southern staple, contains as much calcium as a cup of milk. Try cooking them in chicken broth, adding a small amount of ham or prosciutto for taste—you may find that you love them.
Super Food: Strawberries
Strawberries aren’t just delicious; they’re loaded with folic acid and are high in vitamin C. A cup of strawberries contains only 45 calories, yet almost 4 grams of fiber, too. Add some to your cereal in the morning, eat them with your lunch, or serve them with yogurt for a light dessert.
Super Food: Asparagus
Asparagus is high in folic acid, and research suggests that foods like asparagus play a role in preventing heart disease, says Carter. It’s also a natural diuretic and can help prevent pre-period bloating.
Super Food: Oats
You’ve probably heard that oatmeal is a healthy way to start your day, and for good reason.
“Oats are high in soluble fiber, which is what makes it gummy when you cook it,” says Carter. “It mops up cholesterol and helps keep your [blood] cholesterol low.”
Try steel-cut oats for extra iron, or packaged single-servings for a speedier meal.
Super Food: Walnuts
Walnuts are a good source of essential omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. They are high in calories, but try adding chopped walnuts to your salad or oatmeal to add nutritional punch.
Super Food: Skim Milk
You get 302 mg of calcium and 8.4 grams of protein in a cup of skim milk, with no added fat. When you’re cooking, however, you may want to try evaporated skim milk.
“It’s got double the calcium of skim milk and you can use it to make soups, casseroles, and anything that you would add milk to,” says Carter.
Super Food: Yogurt
Yogurt contains live cultures, which are considered “probioitics.”
“Probiotics essentially colonize your intestine with happy bacteria that are good for you as opposed to bad bacteria,” says Carter.
Greek yogurt contains more protein than regular yogurt, but either low- or no-fat versions are high in calcium and low in calories.
Super Food: Broccoli
Broccoli is high in vitamins A and C, and it’s naturally filling—a cup of chopped, raw broccoli will provide you with almost 2.5 grams of fiber for only 80 calories.
Super Food: Kiwi
The modest kiwi is high in vitamins A and C, and two kiwifruits have more potassium than a banana! Too tart for you? Add it to a fruit salad instead of eating it alone.
Super Foods: Grapes
Grapes, particularly dark grapes, have polyphenolic compounds, the phytonutrients that help your body repair and maintain its cells. A cup of grapes has about 58 calories, and they’re a good source of potassium as well.
Super Food: Beans
Beans are a good source of folic acid and make a great substitute for meat-based protein; they’re also high in fiber and relatively low in calories.
For example, a cup of chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, contains 269 calories and nearly 5.7 grams of fiber; a cup of black beans, 227 calories and 7.2 grams of fiber; and kidney beans, 225 calories and 6.4 grams of fiber.
Super Food: Tomatoes
Tomatoes are loaded with vitamins A and C and they contain lycopine, a phytochemical that appears to help prevent macular degeneration, a condition that can cause blindness. And at only 26 calories for a medium-sized tomato, you’re getting a lot of nutrition per serving.
Remember that the better you eat, the better you’ll feel. Include more “super foods” in your regular diet, and you should notice an improvement in your health and your performance both on the job and off! BW
Eat Better, Easily
Looking for other ways to improve your nutrition? Try these easy methods:
- Add more whole grains to your diet. Instead of choosing white bread, opt for mixed-grain or multigrain breads and for brown rice over white.
- Hard-boil some eggs at the beginning of the week and slip one into your lunch for a quick, easy protein source—or slice them for a quick sandwich.
- Toss garbanzo beans (chickpeas) or kidney beans onto your salads. You’ll boost the fiber and nutrient intake and make it a more filling meal as well.
- Vary the types of fruits and vegetables you eat. At the grocery store, aim for a wide variety of colors in your cart—yellow, red, dark green, purple, and orange.
- Try fruit smoothies to get more fruit servings into your day. Add protein powder, skim milk, and ice, and you’ll have a quick and nutritious morning meal.