The term superfoods has been thrown around a lot over the years. To clarify, superfoods are foods very high in nutrients that are especially useful for our health and wellbeing. The problem I see with defining some foods as super, is it makes other food seem less important. All whole foods are good for you for many different reasons. When we eat a plant-based, whole food diet, we are getting nutrients in their most useable form and we reap the benefits.
This is a list of foods that contain a lot of nutrients per calorie, aka nutrient dense. These foods are not the only ones that are considered chock full of nutrients. They are just the ones I thought are tasty and easy to add to your existing diet. I hope that you haven’t heard or tried at least a few of them.
Dark Leafy Greens
Phytonutrients are the parts of plants left over when we are not talking about the macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) or micronutrients (vitamins, minerals). They are responsible for the food’s colour, taste, and smell, and it is estimated that phytonutrients outnumber traditional nutrients by 10,000 to 1. They have many health benefits, a few of which are: antioxidant properties, anti-inflammatory, immune system support, and many of them have anti-cancer properties as well.
These can ideally be a part of your daily diet and can be used raw, lightly steamed, added at the end to a stir-fry, and even baked like in the case of kale chips. Some greens to get started with are:
This is a very common green these days. It contains high amounts of vitamin A and calcium, as well as magnesium, iron, vitamin C, and trace amounts of almost all of the amino acids. Kale is a power house of nutrition.
I love to massage it with a little bit of oil and a dash of salt and use this as a bed for the main part of my meal, whether it is hot or cold. You can also rip it into small pieces and throw it in any cooked dish like casseroles, stir-fries, or some other type of vegetable main. Kale can also be eaten raw in salads, used in place of lettuce on a sandwich, or tossed in a smoothie.
This green is rich in iron, high in vitamin A, contains some folate, vitamins C and E, and magnesium and calcium are high. Spinach also contains oxalic acid which can bind calcium and other minerals so they cannot be used by the body. An easy way to decrease oxalic acid is to lightly cook the leaves (steaming is a gentle way to do this.) Spinach can be used raw or cooked and has a delicious taste.
When you buy these, you may find that they are pricey, but because they are so full of health promoting goodness, you won’t need as much to get your daily needs. This may help with the cost.
If you love them but not the price, you can always start to grow them yourself. With a harvest time of 3 weeks (at the most), you can be swimming in microgreens. This is a great option for the winter months when fresh, local produce is harder to find.
These small fruits pack a mighty punch when it comes to nutrients. They are most known for their antioxidants (vitamin C and phytonutrients) which can boost immunity, calm inflammation, and even give your skin a healthy, youthful glow.
Berries contain a lot of water and fiber and are lower in sugar than other fruits, which makes them ideal for those who are trying to decrease sugar intake. They also contain high amounts of potassium and good amounts of calcium, magnesium, and iron.
It is about 15-20% protein, contains high amounts of potassium, and some B vitamins, iron, and calcium. Buckwheat also contains high amounts of antioxidants and phytonutrients which can decrease inflammation and aid oxidative damage. It is also high in fiber aiding digestion and blood sugar regulation.
Buckwheat can be cooked like a grain and you can eat it for breakfast like oatmeal or as a grain side to a main veggie meal.
Millet is another grain that is gluten free and an easy one to add to the diet. It contains good amounts of fiber, vitamins B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and vitamin E, and particularly high in magnesium, iron, and potassium.
Millet is an easy grain to cook (like rice or quinoa) and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or supper. Add some berries and cinnamon for a delicious and nutritious breakfast or combine with a salad or cooked veggies to add some complex carbohydrates to the meal. It has a mild taste, so it goes pretty well with most dishes.
Adding more whole, plant-based foods to the diet will increase our health and wellbeing in ways we may not even predict. Give some of these foods a try and see how easy it can be to add in new foods. All of the little changes we make every day really add up over a month, a year, our lifetime. So get started today. Your body will thank you!
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Have a great one!