Everyone knows they should eat fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds and whole grains for good health. But do you know which are among the healthiest? Below are among my favorite Super Foods and some suggestions for incorporating them into your diet! These foods aren't only delicious, but eating them can add years to your life!
QuinoaWhy it's healthy: It has enough protein to make it equivalent to eating beef or egg whites, it has no fat, and it's lower in carbs than most other grains. Grains? Yup, but technically it is a seed. This is not protein from meat but rather Quinoa, an ancient grain native to the Incas and also known as a nutritional powerhouse and complete protein because it contains all the essential amino acids. It's delicate in flavor but high in fiber and also has ample amounts of magnesium, potassium, zinc, Vitamin E, riboflavin, copper, and more iron than true grains. Quinoa also contains lysine, an amino acid that is essential for tissue growth and repair and its good source of magnesium which helps prevent migraines by constricting blood vessels. How to eat them: Quinoa might look small but when cooked it more than quadruples in size. You can use it as a side dish instead of rice or make a salad out of it by chopping and adding onions, scallions, celery, peppers, carrots and chickpeas.
BulgurWhy it's healthy: If you haven't heard about it before it's often used in Mediterranean cuisine as a replacement for rice or couscous and has a yummy nutty flavor. It's high in fiber and protein, and low in fat and calories. Its insoluble fiber content, just like whole wheat can help absorb water, promoting faster elimination of waste, which prevents the formation of an environment that promotes the development of carcinogens. Therefore it adds nutrients to fill you up without filling you out. How to eat them: Like Quinoa, It makes as a great side dish to roasted chicken, turkey, or pork and you can even use it in your stuffing.
FlaxseedWhy it's healthy: This tiny nutty-flavored seeds from the flax plant are a notable source of omega-3 fatty acids and lignans, which may block hormone related cancers. They pack plenty of protein and fiber, one third of which is cholesterol lowering soluble fiber.
How to eat them: Sprinkle one to two tablespoons of ground flaxseed into your yogurt, cereal, salad, soup or cake batters.
ParsleyWhy it's healthy: Regarded as little more than a garnish, parsley actually packs a powerful nutrition punch. Just 1/4 cup provides more than 300% of the Daily Value for Vitamin K and contains an excellent source of vitamins A and C. Parsley is also a top source of the antioxidant flavanoid apigenin, which, in addition to protecting the prostate, may also help support breast, colon, skin, and thyroid health. Parsleys abundance of phytonutrients-beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin-can help safeguard your sight, and chewing on a sprig can help freshen your breath.
How to eat them: You can enjoy parsley as a garnish to your salads, fish or chicken or you can even use it as a seasoning and cook your meals with it for added flavor and health benefits.
AcaiWhy it's healthy: Studies show that this little berry is one of the most nutritious and powerful foods in the world! Acai is the high energy berry of a special Amazon palm tree. Harvested in the rainforests of Brazil, acai tastes like a vibrant blend of berries and chocolate. Acai is packed with antioxidants, amino acids and essential fatty acids. Acai has monounsaturated fats, fiber, and phyosterols to help promote cardiovascular and digestive health.
How to eat them: The juice and pulp of acai fruits are frequently used in various juice blends, smoothies, sodas, and other beverages. In northern Brazil, aASSaA is traditionally served in gourds called "cuias" with tapioca and sometimes sugar. Acai has become a fad in southern Brazil where it is consumed cold as aASSaA na tigela ("aASSaA in the bowl"), mostly mixed with granola - a fad where acai is considered as an energizer. Acai is also widely consumed in Brazil as an ice cream flavor or juice.
GingerWhy it's healthy: Studies found that ginger reduces morning sickness and ginger tea is used many times to help ease an upset stomach or runny nose. Ginger could also help relieve arthritis and migraine headache. Researchers speculate that ginger works like aspirin, blocking the production of natural substances that cause inflammation and pain. How to eat them: Since fresh ginger is strong, make the herb into a tea to dilute it. Add 1/2 -1 tsp freshly grated gingerroot (or 1/4 tsp of the powdered version) to a cup of hot water. Let it steep for 10 minutes, strain the ginger, and drink.
PistachiosWhy it's healthy: Pistachios actually have the biggest serving size of all nuts. Approximately 49 pistachios make up the one oz serving size and have 160 calories. Like all nuts, pistachios are relatively high in monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to lower blood cholesterol, possibly reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. What's more, pistachios are low in saturated fat. "Scientific evidence suggests that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, including pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease." - FDA. Pistachios also have no cholesterol making them an excellent heart-healthy snack! In addition, pistachios are an excellent source of dietary fiber. One ounce contains 3.1 grams of fiber--more than many recognized high fiber sources such as raisins, potatoes, wheat bread and celery. Pistachios are a good source of vegetable protein and with only 5 grams of carbohydrates per ounce, pistachios are an excellent source of complex carbohydrate energy. Pistachios also contain significant amounts of important vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin B-6, Copper, Phosphorus, and Magnesium. How to eat them: The serving size for pistachios is one ounce, approximately 49 pistachios. This makes for a great afternoon snack since it's full of fiber and protein. Another tasty idea is to make Pistachio Crusted Tilapia--where you crush pistachios and coat them over the tilapia. You can use egg whites or mustard to coat the tilapia and have the pistachios stick. Yummy!
Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto www.FFactorDiet.com.