12 Super Foods
Local experts reveal their top choices for getting the biggest nutritional bang for your caloric buck.
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While it may be fairly obvious that a home-cooked meal of grilled chicken, steamed vegetables, and brown rice trumps Family Meal #2 at KFC in the nutritional value department, it can be a bit more difficult discerning exactly which veggies in the produce aisle are better for you than others. In fact, some foods have such an exceptional nutrient profile, they should be considered for permanent inclusion in your weekly menus. So we turned to five local nutrition experts—Joy Bauer, Lisa Ellis, Mitchell Lee, Amy Peck, and Helene Rosenhouse-Romeo—and asked them to give us their top 12 “Super Foods.” Their picks? Read on.
1. Blueberries. “If there is a super food among super foods, the blueberry is king,” Mitchell Lee declares, for a myriad of reaons. There are many. The king of foods apparently is good for our hearts (blueberries lower our LDL—“bad”—cholesterol) and good for our memories. “Much of their power lies in their color: that deep blue hue is a product of flavonoids, natural compounds that protect the brain’s memory-carrying cells,” explains Joy Bauer. “Blueberries are one of the best sources of flavonoids around.” In fact, Amy Peck says recent studies have shown that daily consumption of blueberries resulted in better memory, coordination, and balance. Lee adds that blueberries may also help prevent the development of certain cancers. “You can’t say enough about the health benefits of blueberries,” Bauer declares.
Get it in your diet: Lee recommends “adding one-half cup of blueberries daily to your salad, cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, or protein smoothie.” Bauer suggests “for off-season months, take advantage of frozen, unsweetened varieties.”
2. Almonds. Of all nuts, almonds have the most nutrients per calorie; they are packed with calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, folic acid, riboflavin, and the most fiber of any nut—three grams per ounce. Almonds are exceptionally high in vitamin E, which helps thwart artery-clogging, boosts immunity, and may help prevent cancer. And not only are almonds known to lower total cholesterol, but, according to some studies, they have the ability to lower LDL cholesterol by up to 10 percent. And since almonds contain virtually no carbohydrates, they make a perfect snack for diabetics and those with high blood sugar.
Get it in your diet: Lee recommends “bringing a small handful of almonds to work in a Ziploc bag, and having them during your afternoon energy crisis, adding them to a salad,” as a crunchy alternative to croutons, and “throwing them in the blender along with water, ice, and one scoop of chocolate whey protein powder for a delicious evening smoothie.”
3. Broccoli. “Broccoli is one of the healthiest foods available,” says Rosenhouse-Romeo. “Along with its rich supply of vitamin A, B6, beta carotene, which is a vitamin A precursor, it contains vitamin C, potassium, and calcium. In addition, broccoli has special enzymes and a good amount of fiber, which also play roles in cancer prevention.” Fiber is good for our digestive systems as well.
Get it in your diet: Lee suggests that you “add it to soup or an omelet. And the next time you order Chinese food, hold the white rice and instead ask for a side order of steamed broccoli.”
4. Eggs. “Eggs are an economical and often overlooked food, packed with high-quality protein and a dozen vitamins and minerals,” Peck says. “These include choline for brain development and memory, and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin to help protect eyesight.” Rosenhouse-Romeo adds, “Pasture-raised eggs are the best choice, full of omega-three fatty acids, antibiotic-free, and lower in fat than conventional farm eggs.”
Get it in your diet: As a breakfast staple, it’s easy to incorporate eggs into your dietary routine, but as a “solo” act, “they’re somewhat controversial because of their high cholesterol content,” notes Rosenhouse-Romeo. “An egg—not fried with a side of bacon and cheese, but on its own—is a wonderful whole-food choice, low in saturated fat, high in good-quality protein.”