Amazing Super Foods

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Though you may have heard of super foods, you may wonder what they are. These are the fruits, vegetables, lean meats and other foods that not only taste fresh and delicious, but are also highly nutritious. Rich in the powerful nutrients that your body needs, these foods naturally offer an array of disease-fighting substances that keep you healthy.

By eating super foods, you can fuel your immune system with infection- and disease-fighting power. The immune system is a network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to defend the body against such invaders as germs and infectious substances that cause disease. Studies show a number of links between super foods and the effects they have on the immune system to protect against health problems. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, certain super foods have the ability to reduce risks of heart disease, cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and birth defects.

A popular media term today, super foods entered the language almost 100 years ago as scientists discovered that some foods are nutrition winners and others losers. Dietitians, food scientists and other professionals now prefer the term “functional foods” for nourishment offering significant health benefits.

Get Healthy, Naturally

The scientific side of super foods may sound complicated, but making them a part of your diet is simple. Most of these natural, unprocessed fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy and hearty whole grains are readily available at Hy-Vee. Generally, these nutritious choices can be found by shopping along the outer walls, or perimeter, of your local store.

“Natural, whole foods give your body the nutrients that are needed to stay healthy and fight disease,” says dietitian Amanda Devereaux of the Hy-Vee in Johnston, Iowa. “Eating these foods every day can help you feel energized and upbeat.”

A diet of naturally healthful super foods beats out a diet of high-fat, high-calorie, sugary foods. “Eating a diet of unhealthful processed foods can leave you feeling sluggish because you don’t get the nutrition needed to keep going,” Amanda says. Instead, put foods such as barley, quinoa and other ancient grains in your diet. Each food group has super foods to pick from, and all of them are good-tasting and easy to include in meals and snacks. While all provide something healthful, some boast extra benefits.

Citrus Superstars

One group of super foods that offers particularly strong health benefits are citrus fruits, especially tangerines, oranges and grapefruit. These fruits contain powerful disease-fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients.

“Citrus fruits are excellent sources of vitamin C, which boosts the immune system,” Amanda says. “They’re also packed with nutrients that can help heal wounds, lower cholesterol, fight colds and flu, decrease inflammation, plus reduce risk of cancers.” Tangerines are high in pectin, a soluble fiber that reduces the cholesterol in blood and can aid weight loss by providing a full feeling. Oranges are a good source of folate, which helps form healthy new cells and provides energy for your body. Pink grapefruit has a high concentration of lycopene, the pigment that gives the fruit its color. Lycopene supplies antioxidants, which guard against cell damage that promotes heart disease and cancer. Check with your doctor or pharmacist about drugs that may interact harmfully with grapefruit juice.

Citrus is just the start, of course. Read on to find out about 30 more super foods. All are good for your body.

30 Foods for a Better Body

Eat regularly from this variety of beneficial super foods, which support good health, clear thinking and stronger bodies. All of these fruits, vegetables, nuts and other foods are rich in nutrients.

  1. Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse, bursting with folic acid, vitamins C and K, iron, carotenoids and bioflavonoids. It also has a good dose of lutein, a weapon against cataracts and macular degeneration.
  2. Chia seeds are a plant source for omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for heart and artery health. They are also high in antioxidants, fiber and minerals.
  3. Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamins A and C. It also has vitamin K to build bones, and fiber to help with weight control and healthy digestion.
  4. Kiwi, one of the most nutrient-dense fruits, is loaded with antioxidants, potassium, vitamin A and a full day’s supply of vitamin C. It’s a good source of fiber and one of a few fruits that provide vitamin E, an important antioxidant.
  5. Berries, especially blueberries, pack a powerful nutritional punch in tiny packages. Loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients, berries are low in calories yet high in fiber and water.
  6. Dark chocolate (with 70 percent cacao or more) lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) and increases good cholesterol (HDL).
  7. Skim milk is a fat-free dairy food that’s rich in calcium and high in protein, potassium and vitamin D. Bone health experts call a glass of skim milk a “complete nutrition” food.
  8. Sweet potatoes, in bright orange, are high in vitamins A and C, plus calcium and potassium. To cut back on fat and sodium, a baked sweet potato with few or no toppings is a good choice with dinner.
  9. Green tea contains catechins, the powerful antioxidants that target free radicals which damage DNA and contribute to cancer and heart disease. Green tea may inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
  10. Tomatoes have a higher concentration of lycopene than any fruit or vegetable. Being amply supplied with this vital cancer-fighting antioxidant also provides the bright color. Interesting to know: Cooked tomatoes are higher in lycopene than fresh tomatoes.
  11. Eggs offer quality protein along with 12 vitamins and minerals—including choline, which is good for brain development and memory. Eggs are a nutritious, versatile, economical super food.
  12. Fat-free Greek yogurt has double the protein and half the sugar of regular yogurt. Because it has less lactose than regular yogurt, it’s also easier to digest. Look for Greek yogurt with probiotics — cultures that improve digestive health.
  13. Nuts are high in protein and are loaded with heart-healthy fats, disease-fighting antioxidants and lots of fiber. To keep fat intake down, choose nuts in the shell. Taking time to shell them slows down eating and helps with portion control.
  14. Beans are loaded with insoluble fiber — to help lower cholesterol — as well as soluble fiber, which is filling and aids healthy digestion. Beans are low in fat while high in protein, carbohydrates, magnesium and potassium.
  15. Peppers — mild, hot or super hot — contain phytochemicals that have strong disease-fighting antioxidants. Peppers of all colors and flavors are among the richest sources of vitamins A and C.
  16. Cinnamon may help regulate blood sugar levels after meals, which may reduce the amount of fat stored. It may also have antioxidant effects, decrease inflammation and fight bacteria.
  17. Squash — especially butternut — has more beta-carotene than cantaloupe or mangoes. That’s a plus in the fight against cancer, heart disease and cataracts. Winter squash has good amounts of fiber as well.
  18. Avocados are high in monounsaturated fat—the good fat that works to lower cholesterol and improve heart health. Avocados are also rich in beta-sitosterol, a natural substance also shown to lower cholesterol.
  19. Pomegranate juice is believed to have super-antioxidant powers that fight breast, lung and prostate cancers, and also helps prevent osteoporosis, protect arteries, slow Alzheimer’s disease, prevent dental plaque and lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
  20. Acai berries are grapelike fruits from the acai palm tree, native to South American rainforests. Acai juice contains powerful antioxidants, anthocyanins (pigments that provide color) and flavonoids that may help prevent heart disease and fight cancer.
  21. Salmon, a favorite choice of the American Heart Association because of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, is also low in calories, has a good amount of protein, is a good source of iron and low in saturated fat.
  22. Cranberries contain polyphenols and anthocyanins — both compounds that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection against infectious diseases, heart disease and some forms of cancer.
  23. Apples have soluble and insoluble fiber, good for maintaining weight, lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease and stroke. They have vitamin C and quercetin, the antioxidant that boosts exercise endurance by making oxygen more available to lungs.
  24. Oatmeal, with a special strand of fiber known as beta-glucan, lowers cholesterol, protects the heart and boosts the immune system. It’s also rich in magnesium, which reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  25. Barley is a rich source of soluble and insoluble fiber. It also contains tocotrienols, which help lower cholesterol and reduce risk for heart disease.
  26. Ginger is thought to be a super spice with numerous health benefits — such as eliminating heartburn, relieving nausea, numbing pain, reducing inflammation and fighting cancer.
  27. Edamame, or boiled green soybeans, have been called the “wonder veggie” because of their super-nutritional value. The beans are a healthful substitute for protein sources that are high in cholesterol and saturated fat.
  28. Quinoa is a most healthful grain because of its high protein, fiber and iron. With good amounts of zinc, vitamin E and selenium, it helps with weight control and in lowering risks for diabetes and heart disease.
  29. Buckwheat, a super-healthful whole grain, is high in fiber, protein and magnesium. It produces a relaxing effect as it naturally lowers blood pressure and reduces cholesterol.
  30. Kale, a member of the cabbage family, has more nutrients than any other green leafy vegetable. Packed with antioxidant properties, it is low-fat, has no cholesterol and is beneficial in warding off cancers and heart disease.

10 Ways to Build Up Your Immune System

Your body will thrive if you are eating plenty of super foods. but you need to take other steps for a healthier life, too.

  1. Exercise regularly. Being physically active helps manage weight, prevent disease, strengthen muscles and improve your mood.
  2. Get adequate sleep each night. Refreshing sleep is critical for a healthy immune system, metabolism, memory, learning and vital functions.
  3. Stress less. Keeping stress levels in check benefits the immune system by protecting the body from excess fatigue that leads to illness. Discover natural ways to relax and rejuvenate, then set aside time each day for your health.
  4. Eliminate toxins where you can. Such environmental toxins as tobacco smoke increase risks for heart disease and cancers. Antioxidants — especially vitamins C and E — reduce the effects of toxins on your body.
  5. Eat plenty of good-tasting fruits and vegetables. Benefit from their natural vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.
  6. Practice moderation. Drinking limited amounts of alcohol may have health benefits. But if you don’t drink, don’t start. If you choose to drink, do so responsibly.
  7. Think zinc! This mineral plays a vital role in immune-system health.
  8. Drink plenty of water. Your body depends on it. Follow the “8 by 8” rule: Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water — each day.
  9. Eat a balanced diet every day. Include a variety of healthful foods. You’ll feel your best, have plenty of energy and be better able to fight colds, flu and other diseases.
  10. Get adequate vitamin C. It’s essential for supporting growth and development and to absorb iron for healthy blood.

Source: Hy-Vee Seasons Health 2012.

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