How many are you already eating?
When you hear the term “superfoods,” you may think of foods like acai, goji berries and chia seeds. These foods do have nutritional attributes, but they also tend to be tough to find, expensive and difficult to incorporate into everyday meals. Fortunately, there are plenty of less exotic foods that are also super. Better yet, they’re easy to find, inexpensive, nutrient-rich and easy to throw into meals and snacks. Start with these seven:
“Barley is a whole grain and one of only two foods with ample beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that sweeps cholesterol from the digestive tract, helps your body use insulin better and lowers blood sugar levels,” says Jill Weisenberger, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of “Prediabetes: A Complete Guide.” She says barley is a terrific choice for people with prediabetes, diabetes or high cholesterol levels, or simply anyone who wants to keep their heart and body in good health.
“This tuber vegetable makes the perfect swap for high-carb foods while being packed full of nutrients and fiber,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, a registered dietitian and author of “Belly Fat Diet For Dummies.” One medium raw jicama contains 58 grams of fiber, which is almost two times the daily recommendation for this critical nutrient. “Since the average adult consumes only 14 grams of fiber per day, adding even a small amount of jicama to your plate can help you reach your daily goals,” Palinski-Wade says. This versatile vegetable is also an excellent source of both potassium and folate. Although most people are familiar with eating jicama raw in salads, Palinski-Wade recommends eating cooked jicama as a delicious high-fiber substitute for traditional French fries with far fewer calories. You can also mash them as a low-carbohydrate substitute for mashed potatoes.
According to Amy Goodson, a Dallas-based registered dietitian and nutrition communications consultant, peanut butter is a superfood because of its combination of healthy fat, protein and essential nutrients like iron and potassium. “It is a tasty way for a carnivore or vegetarian to add protein and healthy fat to their day,” she says. Goodson also points out that “one super component [about peanut butter] is that it does not have to be hot or cold, and easily travels on business trips, to soccer games or as a snack on a road trip.” What’s more, peanut butter is inexpensive and easily found at any grocery store. Goodson recommends eating it with fruit, veggies or whole grains.
“Watermelon is a summertime refresher and the ultimate snack food, but it’s also a nutrition powerhouse,” since it’s filled with cell-protecting antioxidants like vitamin C and lycopene, says Dana Angelo White, a registered dietitian and author of “First Bites: Superfoods for Nutrition and Toddlers.” What’s more, she adds, “it’s 90 percent water, which helps you keep you hydrated. You’ll also find nutrients like choline and L-citrulline that aid in neurological and muscle health.” Angelo White recommends using watermelon in salads, salsas, frozen treats or good old fruit salad.
Manuel Villacorta, a registered dietitian and author of “Flat Belly 365” says beans are his superfood of choice since they’re packed with nutrition. “They are rich in fiber, iron, magnesium and B vitamins,” he says. “Plus, they are a gut-healthy food, since they feed the good bacteria in your gut and rev up your immune system.” Beans are also packed with fiber, which can help lower the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, and can improve weight loss by enhancing satiety. They are also excellent for anyone looking for a non-animal source of protein.
“Broccoli may seem basic, but it deserves superfood status,” says Atlanta-based registered dietitian nutritionist Marisa Moore. The green veggie “is high in vitamin C and folate, a good source of fiber to keep the belly full and gut bacteria happy, and a source of glucosinolates, which may help reduce the risk of certain cancers,” she adds. Moore keeps broccoli in her refrigerator as a staple and loves to roast it with olive oil, salt and pepper. She then enjoys it as a side, tossed into pasta or as the base for a hearty salad.
“Lentils are one of my favorite superfoods because they’re a delicious plant-based protein food bursting with nutrients,” says Michelle Dudash, a registered dietitian and creator of 4RealFoodReboot.com. Besides brimming with nutrients (one half cup of cooked lentils contain 115 calories, 9 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber and plenty of iron and folate), they also have a low-glycemic load. To prepare lentils, Dudash recommends simmering them on the stove in just 20 to 30 minutes or tossing them into a slow cooker.