Soup Up Your Diet with Superfoods | Seventh Generation
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Soup Up Your Diet with Superfoods

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8 comments
Author: the Inkslinger

KaleAfter a season of indiscriminate feasting, we greet mid-winter as a time of nutritional resolution. Our minds -- and stomachs -- are ready for the culinary correction that will deliver us from the perils of unhealthy eating.

A great way to start is by crafting a diet rich in the most nutritionally-dense foods available. While there's no official "superfood" roster and every nutritionist has his or her favorites, a review finds that certain foods make virtually every Top 10 list. I've compiled them here, along with some easy-to-make recipes.

  1. Kale is the vegetable most likely to be relegated to garnish status. That's too bad because this king of all superfoods is hyper-dense with antioxidants, anti-cancer phytochemicals, detoxifying compounds, vitamins, minerals, iron, protein, and fiber. Chop and mix it with chopped toasted almonds, dried cranberries, matchstick carrots, lots of olive oil, and a sprinkling of coarse-ground sea salt for a tasty salad.
  2. Broccoli is a potent nutritional dynamo packed to the florets with cancer-fighting compounds, protein, fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamins C and A, folate, beta-carotene, and eye-boosters like lutein and zeaxanthin. Stir-fry cut heads, leaves, stalks and all with garlic and olive oil or steam it al dente for five minutes. Add a light cheese sauce and kids will crave it!
  3. Blueberries usually score highest on tests measuring total antioxidant power in fruit. They have been shown to boost memory and motor coordination, aid eye health, prevent arterial plaque, fight cancer, ease inflammation, and may even lower cholesterol. Plus they've got plenty of vitamins C and K, fiber, and other nutrients. Freeze them in bulk in season and add them to cereal, pancakes, muffins, and smoothies year round.
  4. Turmeric is a spice that deserves superfood status because of all the curcuminoids it contains. These compounds have demonstrated powerful positive effects on inflammation, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, cataracts, liver function, and viral infections. Sprinkle turmeric liberally on meats and fish, vegetables, grains, and eggs.
  5. Garlic keeps more than vampires away. When crushed or chopped, a compound called allicin is created that researchers say works to fight cholesterol, plaque, blood clots, viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, cancer, high blood pressure, and even the common cold. Remember to mince or crush your cloves so allicin can form, and eat it as raw as possible by adding it to dishes at the last minute.
  6. Yogurt is made by fermenting milk with probiotic bacteria -- the kind that live in our digestive system and help us process food. Without this bacteria, the digestive system malfunctions and immune issues and other troubles follow. Yogurts help us maintain these good bacteria. (But go only for the real stuff -- look for yogurt that contains live and active cultures.)
  7. Quinoa, which is pronounced "keen-wah," was considered sacred by the Incans, and here's why: It's extremely high in fiber, iron, and other minerals, and is a complete protein, meaning it offers our bodies all nine essential amino acids in nearly perfect proportions. Buy your quinoa in bulk and rinse it in a strainer to remove its bitter coating before enjoying its delicious nutty taste and creamy, yet slightly crunchy, texture in place of rice.
  8. Nuts are often shunned because of their fat content, but that's nutty! They contain "good fat" that has been shown to reduce coronary disease. They're also packed with health-boosting phytochemicals and brain-building omega-3s. Almonds, walnuts, and pecans are excellent choices with myriad benefits. A small amount a day will suffice.
  9. Salmon is another terrific source of critical omega-3s as well as protein, potassium, selenium, vitamin B12, niacin, and astaxanthin, a carotenoid researchers say has ten times the antioxidant power of beta-carotene. Choose wild-caught salmon over farm-raised, which hasn't nearly the nutritional punch.
  10. Eggs, which get an ill-deserved rap for high cholesterol, are actually high in choline -- a substance shown to inhibit cholesterol accumulation and one that is crucial to cardiovascular wellbeing! Choline is essential for brain, liver, and cell membrane health, too. Eggs are also one of the best sources of protein around, and they contain lutein and zeaxanthin as well as 15 vitamins and minerals. But only if you include the yolks!

Of course, these are only some of the superfoods available at the local market. But they're an excellent start. Pig out on these, and you'll be eating your way to a healthy lifestyle!

photo: Quinn Dombrowski
 

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Comments

WendyK33106 picture
WendyK33106
02/18/12
I thought that was a super food. So are nuts.
pep1530 picture
pep1530
01/29/10
Last night my husband and I had stir-fry. Because he knows I'm on a diet, he offered to use olive oil in it. I thought, Great! I had no idea it would cause problems with my heart!
osisis picture
osisis
01/27/10
I buy my salmon (and ALL my seafood) from whole foods. This is where they get most of their farm raised salmon: <a href="http://www.villaorganic.com/" target="_blank">www.villaorganic.com</a> hope this helps :)
mitcybyc picture
mitcybyc
01/27/10
I have to really question salmon as a recommendation on both health and environmental grounds. While the author says "Choose wild-caught salmon over farm-raised, which hasn't nearly the nutritional punch," the fact is that most people eat farmed salmon which pollutes the water, contaminates wild species with cross breeding and parasites and sea lice, uses lots of fish meal and fish oil to produce -- it takes 3 lbs of wild fish to produce 1 lb of farmed salmon according to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, and is so contaminated with PBC's (highly toxic industrial compounds) that the Environmental Defense Fund has issued a warning about eating it. As for wild salmon, the populations are severely depleted except for some Alaskan salmon which is the best choice. The situation for all fish is pretty dire and to read this recommendation on the 7Gen Blog is a bit disappointing.
slywlf picture
slywlf
01/27/10
Something to consider is that while both kale and sweet potatoes are nutritional powerhouses, individually they do not digest to their full potential, but together they unlock each others nutrient package. One of my favorite fall and winter dishes is so simple as to be less a recipe than a guideline. Saute some chopped garlic in olive oil (yep, most of my favorite recipes start like this ;-)) and depending on whether you are omnivore or vegetarian or vegan you can toss in bite sized pieces of kielbasa, sweet Italian sausage, chicken or turkey (whatever flavor appeals to you) or Tofurki sausage of choice (tried them all - all good) and gently brown it. Add kale in batches letting it also brown/caramelize just a bit, adding more as it cooks down, lowering the heat to cook gently without losing nutrients. When everything else is cooked down, toss in pre-cooked chunks of sweet potato or yams, whatever variety you like or have handy, and continue heating until the sweets are hot through. That's it! I tend to make it in huge batches, then package it in pint containers and freeze for quick reheat for lunch, or in my case, breakfast! YUM!!!
avullo22 picture
avullo22
01/27/10
I never realized how good quinoa is for you...I have to get some right away.
satya picture
satya
01/27/10
There was a study done that showed that olive oil specifically and significantly impaired artery function after consumption, even after 3 hours! So if you are going to the trouble to eat that nutritious bunch of kale (and more power to you!), then don't pile on the very stuff that will endanger your heart. The study found that canola oil does not seem to have the same effect. That said, loading low-nutrient saturated fat (same nutritional content as basically soda) onto your greens or salads is the worst way to go. Trying blending a small amount of walnuts or other nuts or seeds (high-nutrient fat) with some unsweetened soymilk and herbs or nutritional yeast to make a dressing that tastes good and actually protects your heart. Here's the reference to the study: Journal of the American College of Cardiology, vol. 36 (5), 2000, page 1455, "The postprandial effect of components of the mediterranean diet on endothelial function"
eejoy picture
eejoy
01/14/10
Raw milk, largely illegal in much of the United States, also contains live and active cultures. The pasteurization process removes these beneficial cultures, which in addition to be good for you health, are actually necessary for proper digestion of the milk itself. If you have safe access to raw milk or cheese or yogurt made from raw milk, go for it! It's a bit too far for me to access where I live, but in rural areas you'd have much better luck. Either cow or goat milk will do! Check out realmilk.com, it's a great database of info. They've also compiled a list of locations where you can find organic sustainably produced raw milk near you.