Despite their delineation as "super" all superfoods are not created equal. What makes a food "super" in the first place? While not a regulated or certifiable nutritional claim (yet), food experts define a superfood when the nutrient density outweighs caloric intake. Think a zero-calorie cup of green tea that's loaded with catechins and other potent antioxidants.
Mealtime is a perfect opportunity to indulge in superfoods-be they fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans or grains. Need a little help? Check out our top superfoods picks:
1. Kale: It tops quite a few lists for good reason. This dark, leafy green vegetable is a hearty superfood and an excellent choice for any meal. It's a great source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, amino acids, and antioxidants. Plus, it's very affordable and versatile.
2. Hemp: The hemp seed has risen to popularity in the last several years as a super source of vegan protein and omega fatty acids as well as fiber, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and potent antioxidants. Use it in a number of ways: atop cereals (hot or cold), salads, soups, desserts or straight out of the bag.
3. Coconut oil: After debunking myths that coconut's saturated fats were unhealthy, the creamy spread has become a superfood darling. It provides healthy omega-6 fatty acids including the rare lauric acid. Its versatility and ability to withstand high heat makes it an excellent choice for any healthy food meal preparation. Choose Fair Trade options and you're supporting a changing global economy focused on empowerment and environmental balance in undeveloped parts of the planet.
4. Flax or chia seeds: Like hemp seeds, flax and chia are both great sources of fiber and omega-fatty acids. Chia are higher in protein and can absorb a large amount of liquid-making them extra hydrating. They both can be used in a number of ways: by themselves, as egg replacers, in baked good recipes and more.
5. Maca: This Peruvian superfood was prized as "warrior" food for its history of providing energy for soldiers before battle. Not only is maca energizing, but it's balancing too. This is especially helpful for individuals with hormonal issues. It's also rich in protein, minerals and vitamins making it an excellent addition to smoothies, shakes or taken as a supplement.
6. Almonds: Dr. Mercola says, "Almonds in particular are rich in phytochemicals; plant components that promote heart and vascular health." They're a great source of nutrients like vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, fiber and protein. Just make sure they're raw and organic!
7. Chocolate: Yeah, I thought you’d like that one! But it's not on this list for a smile; it's here for good reason… pure, dark chocolate is loaded with vital nutrients including the important mineral magnesium. Raw cacao contains more than 1, 200 unique compounds, many of which are powerful free-radical fighting immune-boosting antioxidants. Of course, it matters what type of chocolate you eat. Don't try to justify that bag of M&M's! Stick with the really dark stuff-70 percent or higher, or try including raw cacao beans into your diet. Mix them into cereal, baked goods, trail mixes; add them to smoothies or shakes, and they're even delicious straight out of the bag!
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Image: Nick Harris 1