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Notes from Youville: Simple Superfoods

Just because you've eaten them -- and pronounced their names correctly -- for years, doesn't make them any less "super."


Walk into a health food store and you’ll likely see all kinds of exotic, hard-to-pronounce products on the shelves: foods with names Iike “quinoa”, “goji” or “kombucha,” each product harvested from a far off land and promising extraordinary health benefits. Most of these foods pack in unusually high amounts of essential nutrients, earning them a place in the catalogue of “superfoods.”

But what you eat doesn’t have to come from a specialty store or an exotic climate to be great for you. Many “ordinary” foods you’ve eaten your entire life are today considered among the healthiest options by health experts. These old favorites pack in unusually high amounts of vitamins, antioxidants, omega 3s, protein and other good stuff. They are available in any grocery store, and you certainly won’t have any trouble pronouncing their names.   

Listed below are nine easily available, highly nutritious superfoods you should have no trouble incorporating into your diet:

  1. Low-fat Dairy. One study showed that people who consumed 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy per day were 50 percent less likely to develop heart disease than people who had no dairy in their diets. Yogurt has a high amount of protein, potassium, and especially calcium, while skim milk is a great way to get your recommended serving of dairy without the calories.
  2. Cinammon is loaded with calcium, iron, fiber and manganese, and has been shown to effectively reduce LDL cholesterol in people who take ½ teaspoon per day.  Also a blood-thinning agent, cinnamon acts against clotting in the bloodstream and can reduce heart disease.   Sprinkle some on your hot cereal in the morning, in your coffee or tea, or whatever suits your fancy.
  3. Salmon  is one of the richest natural sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.  Our brains are made up largely of Omega-3s; by consuming these multi-tasking fatty acids directly from salmon, we fuel not only our brains, but also our heart health and vision. Salmon and other fish are excellent low calorie, low cholesterol sources of protein – try to make fish a regular meal option.
  4. Broccoli is full of vitamins and nutrients:  fiber, vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin A. It’s also available any time of the year, and takes no time to prepare. Be sure to add some in your diet.
  5. Spinach combines high doses of antioxidants including lutein and zeaxanthin. These are two of the best known weapons against the onset of macular degeneration. Just one cup of spinach will also give you twice your daily dose of Vitamin K. Sautee or use the raw leaves for your daily salad.
  6. Sweet Potatoes. Packed with vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and vitamin A, sweet potatoes can help you maintain a healthy blood pressure and strong bones, with just a fraction of the calories you would get from a regular baked potato. Try other dark orange vegetables, like carrots and butternut squash for your daily vitamin A needs.
  7. Beans. A great source of carbohydrates, magnesium, protein and potassium, beans may also help protect against cancer growth, according to a Michigan State University Study.  Thanks to their high content of insoluble fiber, beans can also help lower cholesterol. 
  8. Berries. Full of fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and water, blueberries can help preserve memory as you age, and just one cup of strawberries will supply you with a day’s worth of vitamin C. Try a bowl of berries after dinner, and satisfy your sweet tooth with a light, nutrient-rich dessert.
  9. Eggs contain antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which help prevent the onset of macular degeneration.  They can improve cognitive performance thanks to their high content of choline, an essential nutrient that fuels your brain and memory.  One study showed that a regular egg and toast breakfast helped people control their appetites throughout the day.  

There’s always a health fad out there – whether it’s a revival of interest in wheatgrass or a new found devotion to acai berries, most “in vogue” superfoods seem to gain as much popularity from their novelty as they do from their actual nutrient content. This is all good and well for adventurous eaters, but it’s also good to know that you can count on a few old-fashioned standbys for a super healthy diet. 

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