Top 10 Superfoods – The Key To A Vibrant Healthy Life

The term “superfood” is pretty overused these days. It’s supposed to indicate a food with a particularly high nutrient content or medicinal quality, however, it’s a term with no legal definition and can be used in a variety of ways, including as a misleading marketing tool.

I’ve seen superfood lists that included items as mundane as turkey, tomatoes, and oats (not that they are not good foods mind you), advertizements that tout their products as superfoods (that fall SO short of the mark it’s ridiculous), and entire companies built around some particular fruit, berry, root or flower that try to lock buyers into long and expensive buying contracts.

To make it a bit simpler to make some best-practice choices, here are my top 10 picks for almost everyone. You might have to learn how to use some of them, but once you do, it is easy.

Keep in mind that food has healing properties and even medicinal qualities. Some foods are particularly rich in nutrients you might need more of. Depending on your specific needs there may be some items well worth including in your own personal top 10 list.

1. SEA VEGETABLES

Most of the American population consumes sea vegetables daily without even realizing it.

Unprocessed sea vegetables are a wonderful food and should really be consumed by all. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein, yet low in calories. Sea vegetables are delicious in soups, stews, salads, side dishes, or for making sushi. Look for them in Asian markets and natural food stores.

Try: agar, nori, wakame, arame, hiziki, kombu, and dulse. Nori snack packs are now widely available at major stores like Trader Joe’s and Costco.

2. BERRIES

Berries are loaded with vitamin C, folate, fiber and phytonutrients. Indeed, fresh berries are some of the most powerful disease fighting foods available. They are great as a dessert, a snack, or sprinkled on top of your morning porridge.

Try: Goji (dried), raspberries, blueberries, cherries, and blackberries.

*Goji, acai, and mangosteen are often found as concentrated juices.  A few ounces per day can be enough to make a big difference in overall health.

3. LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES 

Green vegetables such as kale, chard, collard greens, watercress, arugula, bok choy, and dandelion greens are packed with vitamins A and C, iron, folate, beta-carotene, calcium and phytonutrients. They are very filling, high in fiber and low in calories. They are very alkalizing, good for the blood and chlorophyll helps the body cleanse itself.

4. NATURALLY FERMENTED PICKLES/FERMENTED FOODS

Rich in probiotics, pickles stimulate the immune system, improve the digestion process, and act as anti-oxidants. In addition, they also facilitate the synthesis of certain vitamins, such as vitamin C, and B12.

Try: rice bran pickles (nuka), sauerkraut, and Kim chi. There are more and more options on the store shelves–at least in natural food stores–and whole foods.

5. UMEBOSHI PLUM

Often called ‘the king of alkaline foods’, umeboshi plums are an ancient Japanese health food used to balance and strengthen. Highly valued for its antibacterial properties, a digestive aid, and also for hangovers or whenever the body feels depleted. A convenient way to consume it is to use umeboshi plum vinegar, which is not true vinegar but a fuchsia hued brine, ideal for sushi, dips, sauces, and salad dressings. Sold in Asian and natural foods markets.

6. SARDINES

This slender fish is packed full of important nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and calcium. Cold-water fish, such as sardines, contain the highest amounts of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. One of the world’s first canned foods, the sardine is rich in phosphorus, iron, potassium, vitamin B6, and niacin.

Get the ones packed in water without salt added if using canned. Also fresh and salt packed are really delicious! (rinse the salt off of course)

7. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

Numerous studies have shown that those who consume the traditional Mediterranean diet low in saturated fat, are at decreased risk of developing heart disease and cancer. And epidemiological studies show that they also live longer. Recent data suggests that olive oil has anti-inflammatory benefits. Avoid over heating the oil and do not use for frying. Use Grape seed oil for higher temperature cooking. Also make sure that your olive oil is the real deal since there are lots of counterfeit olive oils out there now.

8. RAW CACAO

There’s plenty of research available to suggest that cacao is indeed really good for us. It has an extremely high concentration of anti oxidants such as polyphenols, catechins and epicatechins. It also has the highest levels of magnesium found in nature, as well as manganese, zinc, chromium, and iron, and more. Compounds in chocolate also help boost serotonin and endorphin levels which alleviate stress and depression, help with menstrual symptoms, reduce pain sensitivity and increase alertness. http://myrawyear.com/the-truly-raw-cacao-smoothie/

Try Raw cacao nibs in smoothies, trail mix, cereal, or plain.

9. MACA  

Maca root has been consumed by the people of the Andes for thousands of years. Scientists are now recognizing it for its immense nutritional value and the health benefits it offers. It is used to increase stamina and libido, help the endocrine system function properly, and is known to help women deal with menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings.

Maca root is usually a dried powder and can be consumed as part of smoothies, teas, milk or coffee.

10. MUSHROOMS

The most commonly known and studied medicinal mushrooms include reishi mushroom, agaricus mushroom, Maitake, Shitake, and Coriolus mushroom.  Some of these medicinal mushrooms could be used culinarily, but most are made into teas, powdered mushroom extracts, or tinctures, so that people can take them in their most potent form (i.e., in an “extract” form) for their specific healing effects on the body/mind/spirit. Shitake is easy to find at most grocery stores.

Try shitake in any recipe that calls for mushrooms. Also look for teas. Available as extracts that will boost your immune system in times of need.

Other honorable mentions:

  • Coconut – is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is classified as a “functional food” because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content.
  • Liver – richest source of B12 and many other essential nutrients. Read more.
  • Salmon – rich in omega 3 fatty acids
  • Apricots – extremely high in vitamins A & C
  • Onions & garlic – rich in sulfur-containing compounds and an outstanding source of polyphenols, including the flavonoid polyphenols and are a standout source of quercetin.
  • Beans – High in fiber and protein, low in fat, and very versatile. The darker the color, the more rich in phytonutrients.

For more information on what foods belong on YOUR own personal list visit My Superfoods

10 Nutrition Tips For Busy Families

“What am I going to make for dinner?” Is a daily question. If you are like me, the answer has to fit in with a pretty hectic schedule. Between homework, sports, and picky eaters, coming up with healthy meals can be tough.

Fast food and prepackaged dinners just don’t have the nutrition that growing children–or healthy adults– need.

According to one statistic, 95% of Americans are deficient in at least one essential nutrient. The testing I do in my practice more than confirms that. This is alarming considering we have access to the best quality food in the world.  The fact is that most people are eating nutrient deficient diets–ironically, while eating too many calories. Essential vitamins and minerals are vastly under represented in the average diet, and especially in children.

Here are 10 simple steps will help you feed your family–and yourself–right!

  1. Make your own frozen meals for simple dinner prep. Use high quality ingredients and healthy recipes. Make salads and fresh vegetables to round out the meal.
  2. Try new foods. If you tend to go with old standbys, it is time to be adventurous and try new things. Variety is the spice of life, and also a good way insure you are getting a broad range of nutrients. This is one of my favorite recipe sites http://www.simplyrecipes.com/.
  3. Eat more vegetables. This is where it really falls apart for busy families. Cooking them ahead of time so that they just need to be reheated is a good way to go. Also homemade vegetable soups and salads are good meal-additions. At least 1/3 of a meal should be vegetables so be sure to have variety.
  4. Switch to healthier products. If you use white rice, switch to brown.  If tuna salad is a stand-by, try salmon salad instead (less mercury and more omega 3’s). Upgrade your breakfast cereal, use sea salt instead of refined salt, etc. There are lots of ways to up the overall quality of your food.
  5. Reduce the amount of processed foods your family eats. More whole grains, less flour products, more fresh food, less packaged, more homemade, less store bought…You will be so much healthier for it (and save money too)!
  6. Make sure superfoods are on the menu. Berries, sea vegetables, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, are easy to add to salads, soups, breakfast cereal–and even deserts.
  7. Eat whole grains. Brown rice, quinoa, Bulgar wheat, barley, are easy to make once you know how. (Whole wheat bread is still a processed food with a glycemic index not much better than that of white bread.)
  8. Use organic produce whenever possible, local is best. It is good for your body and good for the local economy. Most towns have farmer’s markets. The produce there is often picked same day and tastes SOOOO much better than it’s store bought counterpart.
  9. Reduce sugar. Rather than resorting to artificial sweeteners, which are toxic, use natural, nutritious, unrefined sweeteners like agave nectar, raw honey, maple syrup, and turbinado sugar; just use them sparingly.
  10. Eat together as a family whenever possible. Take time to reconnect as a family. Health is as much about how we eat, as what we eat.