Superfood is the term used to describe foods that have components beyond basic nutrients to make them extra healthy. Health Canada refers to these foods as functional foods and defines them as foods that are similar in appearance to conventional foods, are consumed as part of a usual diet, have demonstrated physiological benefits and/or reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions. Not surprisingly, some of the foods considered to have super properties are those Grandma and Mom always told us should be staples in our diet: whole grains such as flax, oats, quinoa, barley and kamut; nuts, olive oil, fatty fish, yogurt, soy, legumes, apples, grapes, pomegranates, oranges, berries, leafy greens, broccoli, bok choy, turnips and other vegetables in the cabbage family, sweet potatoes, winter squash, pumpkin, tea and even cocoa.
Increasingly, products will enter the marketplace with superfood ingredients and superfood claims. Although some of these products will be fantastic, many others will be sugary treats like granola bars or not-so-healthy fruit beverages in disguise simply because they have acai berries or whole grains added. As always, reading labels carefully is important when determining if these foods fit into your diet. Super nutritious or not, variety remains a key principle of healthy eating. Below is a list of 10 foods, in no particular order, that are in fact super healthy. With each one are a three user-friendly suggestions for how to enjoy them in your meals and snacks. Be sure to include these foods along with a wonderful variety of other fresh and healthy choices, especially vegetables and fruit, as a regular part of your food intake.
- Add fresh berries to a bowl of cereal, pancake or muffin batter.
- Add frozen berries to smoothies or thaw, heat and thicken berries with a little cornstarch for a sauce for pancakes, waffles or even ice cream.
- Add dried blueberries (avoid those with added sugar) to a homemade trail mix-type snack.
- Cut into thick cubes, marinate and thread onto a skewer with vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, mushrooms or peppers. Grill and enjoy.
- Use canned or fresh leftover salmon to make a salmon salad-style spread for sandwiches. Serve open face on soft, fresh buns or whole grain crackers.
- Spread a little light cream cheese and smoked salmon on a mini bagel. A caper, olive or small pickle slice make it extra tasty.
- After age 2, for variety, enjoy soy milk as a beverage choice occasionally instead of cow’s milk. Read labels and stick to natural flavours without extra sugar added. Try soy milk smoothies by blending plain soy milk with frozen fruit.
- Snack on toasted soy nuts. Available in bulk foods and unsalted, they offer a variety option from sunflower or pumpkin seeds which are also superfoods.
- Steam, cool and serve edamame. Available in frozen foods it’s a quality snack that offers protein.
- Keep a supply of homemade yogurt-fruit popsicles on hand. Simply blend milk or soymilk with yogurt and fruit and freeze.
- Look for yogurts that are free of artificial sweeteners but ideally are also below 10 grams of carbohydrate per serving. These make a great dip for apple and melon wedges. Many yogurts have excessive added sugar.
- Combine plain yogurt with fresh herbs or even a little ranch salad dressing to make a dip for vegetable sticks or chicken fingers.
- Visit the bulk bins to discover that lentils come in brown, green, yellow and red. Try yellow lentils (chanadal in Indian meals) cooked as you would rice.
- Cook, puree and add lentils to pasta sauces.
- Add about half a cup of cooked lentils to your next batch of oatmeal-raisin cookies. How noble you’ll feel serving these to your family. You don’t even notice the lentils.
- Find this in bulk and cook exactly like rice as a substitute.
- Use cooked quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) in salads with chopped or grated apple, walnuts and raisins.
- Look for muffin recipes using quinoa or other super nutritious whole grains.
- Make it easy to eat by peeling and breaking into segments. Bring to work or school as a snack for variety from an apple or banana.
- Make freshly-squeezed OJ. Although too much juice is not advised, freshly-squeezed homemade is a nice treat once in a while.
- As an occasional treat, if you like to make Jell-O, mix in tiny pieces of chopped orange, pineapple or other fruit.
- Every oatmeal from steel-cut to instant is considered a whole grain. They key is to minimize those with added sugars. Serve warm oatmeal topped with chopped apple and cinnamon.
- Make homemade oatmeal cookies and enjoy with a cup of black, green or herbal tea.
- Add oats when making meatloaves or meatballs.
- Remove the core, add raisins, a little brown sugar and cinnamon and bake.
- Serve fresh apples but vary the texture. Try coarsely grated apple for a snack one day, paper-thin apple slices or apple cubes another day.
- Make or buy unsweetened applesauce. Everyone loves it straight up as a snack but it’s also a great side to roasted pork.
10. Dark leafy greens
- Grate or chop lettuce as you would cabbage for a coleslaw.
Steam spinach and serve with a little peanut sauce or dip. Kind of like the gomae you find in Japanese restaurants.
- Make lettuce wraps. Serve cooked ground chicken and grated raw carrot in lettuce cups.
Patricia Chuey is a registered dietitian and Senior Nutrition Consultant to SportMedBC. She can be reached at www.patriciachuey.com.
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