By Derrick Johnson
There’s a fair amount of buzz over “superfoods”, with lots of articles urging you to eat a variety of sometimes exotic vegetables, and some include fish. But what superfoods are, what they can do, and how much you should eat tends to get short shrift. And without a clear idea of why you should eat these foods and how often you should eat them, it becomes difficult to plan a healthy diet that includes these foods. That’s a shame, as superfoods are often quite easy to incorporate into meals that are easy to prepare and taste great.
Superfoods are usually designated as such because they are nutrient-dense, contain a nutrients that many people should be getting more of, and are less common in Western diets than they ought to be. Most superfoods are plant-based, because people should eat more plant-based foods than animal-based foods, but that doesn’t mean that all animal-based foods are bad. Some of the finest superfoods are fish and eggs.
Even now that the benefits of salmon and other oily fish have become big news and many people have to get their omega-3 fatty acids from supplements, since many in North America and Western Europe aren’t accustomed to eating fish regularly.
And while your diet should include a wide variety of green vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and foods containing essential fatty acids, you can get too much of a good thing. It is possible to overdose on a nutrient, but unless your doctor advises you otherwise, it’s generally safe to eat a serving of most superfoods a day, and with oily fish, two or three servings a week is often sufficient.
So what should you be eating?
Superfoods for Breakfast: Huevos rancheros- with a twist. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that can help prevent several forms of cancer, including prostate cancer. Eggs contain choline, which your body needs to help break down fat for energy. And egg producers have started fortifying eggs with omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for maintaining eye and heart health. Instead of the traditional fried corn tortilla, put the eggs and salsa on top of a whole grain tortilla for a breakfast packed with superfoods.
In a rush? Pop a handful of frozen blueberries, ground flaxseed, and yogurt with active cultures in the blender. The berries will help slow decline in brain function as you age, the flaxseed is bursting with omega-3 fatty acids, and the yogurt will help keep your blood sugar stable and improve digestion.
Superfoods for Lunch: Tuna sandwich on whole grain bread. Tuna contains nutrients that fight the aging process and raises your HDL cholesterol, the kind that helps fight heart disease. The whole grain bread will help lower LDL cholesterol, making your lunch a one-two punch against heart disease. Don’t like tuna? Go for a salad with lots of dark greens, red bell peppers, carrots and edamame or soy nuts. The vitamins in the salad will support your immune system, and will band together with the isoflavones in the soy to reduce your risk of enlarged prostate and prostate cancer.
Superfood Snacks: You should keep a mix of dried cranberries, cherries, blueberries, almonds and walnuts on hand for snacks. The berries will support your immune system, the almonds will help you maintain a healthy weight and cholesterol level, and the walnuts are another source of omega-3 fatty acids. Add other dried fruits and veggies if you wish for a high-fiber, low-fat hunger slayer. If you’re not a trail-mix kind of guy, oatmeal cookies made with applesauce instead of butter will help you fill your stomach and your whole grain and fruit quotas. They are also perfect for those who like chewy cookies, as the applesauce holds moisture well.
Superfoods for Dinner: Wild salmon with brown rice and steamed broccoli. Eating wild salmon is a great way to get your omega-3 fatty acids without the sustainability problems of farmed salmon. Brown rice counts as a whole grain, and microwaveable packages make it possible to have brown rice in minutes. Brown rice has a nutty, slightly sweet taste that goes well with sauces containing ginger or sesame oil, which also go well with salmon. A dash of lemon juice is all you need to cut any bitterness you may taste in the broccoli, which along with other cruciferous vegetables, help prevent a variety of cancers. If it’s too hot to cook, consider a quinoa salad over dark greens for a whole grain, vitamin-packed meal to close out the evening.
Superfoods for Dessert: Dark chocolate contains antioxidants that protect the heart, and if you are sharing dessert with a sweetheart, also contains chemicals that mimic the experience of infatuation. Pour a dark chocolate sauce over raspberries and frozen yogurt with active cultures, and you’ll have a dessert experience that will delight the senses, evoke passion, and keep you healthy enough to enjoy the passion into your golden years.