Eating well doesn’t have to involve endless calorie-counting and deprivation. A chef and a dietitian at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont share 14 delicious superfoods that offer numerous health benefits and are easy to include in your meal plan.
What are superfoods?
“To me, superfoods are things that are accessible – everyone can find them in their local grocery store,” says Nancy Waldeck, a chef at Cancer Wellness. “They should also be affordable and easy to prepare.”
Superfoods are also some of the most colorful.
“The more color you eat, the more power you’re going to get from your foods,” says Shayna Komar, a licensed and registered dietitian at Cancer Wellness. “More color usually means more nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants*.”
Not only are superfoods full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, they can help boost your immune system, especially during cold and flu season.
Combine these ingredients when preparing your meals – it will boost their power even more, says Komar.
Apples. Apples contain the antioxidant quercetin*, are high in fiber and are lower in sugar that other popular fruits, such as grapes and bananas.
Avocadoes. While higher in calories than other fruits and vegetables, avocadoes are a great source of healthy fats. Instead of using mayo on your sandwich, try slathering a piece of bread with avocado. You’ll get all the benefits of antioxidants without unnatural ingredients.
Capers. “If you like pickles or olives, you’ll like capers,” says Waldeck. Capers have anti-inflammatory properties, are easy to find and are inexpensive. Try them in salads, tapenades or dishes cooked with lemon juice.
Cruciferous vegetables. “We should be eating cruciferous veggies every day in some form,” says Waldeck. This group includes Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage, as well as root vegetables. Try them roasted or raw.
Dark berries, such as blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. These have the highest concentrated amount of flavonoids*. Try to get half a cup of berries four times a week. “For a powerful breakfast, put half a cup of berries on oatmeal with walnuts,” says Komar.
Dark greens, especially kale. Other dark greens include Swiss chard, spinach and collards. Aim for at least three cups per week. Greens essentially have no calories and carbs, but are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Try sautéing them with olive oil and onions, or use them in a salad.
Greek yogurt. “I couldn’t be in my kitchen without it,” says Waldeck. Greek yogurt has more protein than regular yogurt and can be used as a mayonnaise and sour cream substitute, or to make a creamy sauce.
Green tea and white tea have food enzymes and chemicals that have the potential ability to fight cancer and heart disease. Tea contains antioxidants, including EGCG*, which is a unique catechin. “It helps fight free radicals in our body that damage our DNA and potentially cause cancer,” says Komar. Drink tea unsweetened or add a small amount of honey, agave nectar or stevia. To get extra health benefits, try cooking with green tea. Drink 12 to 16 ounces daily.
Mushrooms. Mushrooms are a great substitute for meat and are a good source of vitamin D and antioxidants.
Olive oil. This versatile oil can be used for everything from sautéing vegetables to making salad dressing. It is full of omega 3s instead of omega 6s and is a great source of monounsaturated fat. “It’s something I could not cook in my kitchen without,” says Waldeck.
Onions. Onions are part of the Allium family, which also includes scallions, shallots, leeks and chives. They are a great source of antioxidants.
Nuts have antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties and fiber. They’re easily portable and make an excellent snack. “You can have 40 unsalted pistachios, for example, for only 160 calories,” says Waldeck.
Quinoa is a vegetable seed that is high in protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. It is high in fiber, fat-free, gluten-free and has a low glycemic index, meaning it won’t spike blood sugar. “A really cool trick is to boil it in green tea water – then you combine two super foods in one dish. It doesn’t change the taste, but ramps up antioxidants and nutrients,” says Komar. Eat half a cup two to three times a week as a side dish.
Tomatoes. Tomatoes can be used in many ways, both cooked and raw. They are full of vitamins, antioxidants and the cancer-fighting nutrient lycopene. Enjoy a bowl of tomato soup, fresh tomatoes sliced on a salad or tomato sauce with pasta.
For superfood recipe ideas, visit HealthWatchMD’s Tips & Tools.
*Flavonoid – a plant pigment with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiviral properties.
*Antioxidant – a vitamin, mineral or other nutrient that fights and repairs cell damage caused by free radicals.
*Quercetin – a flavonoid found in many plants and foods. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
*Catechin – A type of antioxidant.
*EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate) – A catechin found in tea.