There’s virtually no chance you haven’t heard the ubiquitous nutrition buzzword “superfood.” But what does it mean exactly? Do superfoods help you survive your first dust storm at Burning Man? Do they magically give you the ability to pass judgment on the diets of others? Will they make you live forever?
I like to think of superfoods as foods that confer some health benefits beyond your average lettuce leaf. Here are some of my favorites, with their benefits and some ideas on how to incorporate them into your everyday eating habits:
The benefits: Loaded with antioxidants; great for your heart
The best ways to eat it: Legend has it that the pomegranate was the forbidden fruit responsible for the downfall of Eden, which seems like a harsh punishment for a fruit so difficult to peel and eat. Once you get through the skin (or just buy the seeds), sprinkle a few tablespoons into your yogurt and oatmeal, or throw some into your favorite salad for some added crunch and sweetness. Chug some pomegranate juice if you like, but for the added fiber opt to munch on the seeds.
The benefits: Anti-everything: anticancer, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory
The best ways to eat it: If raw garlic is a bit too pungent for you, roast some to bring out its sweetness. Add sea salt and olive oil to your roasted garlic, then spread on toast for some delicious garlic jam. If your taste buds prefer a punch of flavor, chop a few fresh cloves and add them to your salad dressing; now, when your breath smells like someone let an animal die inside you, you’ll know that you’re protecting your body from every disease ever.
The benefits: Aid cognitive functioning; high in antioxidants
The best ways to eat them: Blueberries are great to eat fresh on their own; when ripe, they should be firm, plump, and dry, with a dusty blue color. During the winter months you can buy frozen blueberries and toss them into your warm oatmeal for a comforting breakfast.
If you want to be more adventurous, make a basic blueberry jam. Throw a cup of frozen or fresh blueberries in a saucepan. Add the zest and juice of one orange, a teaspoon of vanilla, and cook until the blueberries bubble and pop. The pectin contained in blueberries helps naturally thicken the jam, and you’ll be left with a sweet, tasty spread -- just make sure you use it properly
The benefits: High in fiber, “good” fat, and vitamin C
The best ways to eat them: Avocados can be incorporated into just about any meal or snack -- you can even get avocado beer (thank god). Spread a ripe avocado on a baked sweet potato, blend into your smoothie, slice some into your salad, or mash it up with some sea salt and lemon juice to make a dip. Any way you slice it, dice it or mash it, you can’t go wrong with this superfood. If you crave even more avocado information, we’ve got you covered.
The benefits: Anti-inflammatory; anticarcinogen; digestive aid
The best ways to eat it: Forget the sugar-loaded ginger ale and gingerbread cookies. Choose the real deal. Kick up the flavor of sauces by adding some sliced ginger or blending some into your favorite marinade. Add a few knobs into your smoothie for a spicy boost that will keep your stomach feeling sane for the whole day.
The benefits: Antibacterial; boosts immune system
The best ways to eat it: The key to harnessing honey’s health benefits is in which honey you buy; opt for raw, unfiltered honeys, ideally harvested from local bees. If you buy high-quality honey, you’re going to want to avoid heating it; spread it on whole-grain toast (bonus: add cinnamon!) for breakfast, or just swallow a spoonful before a workout for a shot of energy. Remember that honey can spike your blood sugar, so those with diabetes should take note.
The benefits: Anti-inflammatory; may help prevent and alleviate arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer
The best ways to eat it: Powdered turmeric doesn’t have much flavor, so you can use it in virtually any dish to brighten up your meal’s color. Add a couple of tablespoons to your favorite spice rub, and dump a spoonful or two in your smoothie. Roast cauliflower with turmeric, sea salt and coconut oil for an easy, healthy snack.
The benefits: Helps control blood sugar
The best ways to eat it: If you want to add some sweetness and spice to your meals without dumping in extra sugar, cinnamon is the perfect spice. Jazz up your nut butter, yogurt or whole grain cereal, or add some to your hot chai on a cold winter morning or night.
The benefits: High bioavailability of calcium; insanely high in vitamins A, C, and K
The best ways to eat it: Sorry, but you knew kale would be in here. And there’s a reason kale is still high up on the superfoods list -- just 100 grams gives you more than your daily value of several vitamins, and it’s a member of the super-healthy cruciferous vegetable family that includes broccoli and cabbage. You can eat it raw as the base of a salad, but if you’re a novice to kale, the simplest thing you can do is to add a handful to your homemade smoothie, or bake with some oil, sea salt, and garlic until just crispy for homemade kale chips.
The benefits: Protects the heart; lowers cholesterol; improves blood sugar
The best ways to eat it: Don’t stock your kitchen with highly processed, sugary milk chocolate. Choose chocolate with at least 72% cocoa listed on the label, and try not to eat more than an ounce daily, or you might risk packing on the pounds. Nothing fancy here; we’re not going to tell you how to eat chocolate. It’s a great pick-me-up afternoon snack with enough caffeine to boost your energy slightly right at the point when you may want to slump.
Let it melt in your mouth, and soak up all the health benefits that come along with it.
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Jacqueline is a dietitian based in NYC. When she is not stuffing her face with dark chocolate and kale you can find her shimmying, schmoozing, or in a downward dog. For more information about Jacqueline visit www.icravenutrition.com.