Power up up with foods that pack a nutritional punch | Local
Nutritionally speaking, there is no such thing as a superfood. The term was coined for marketing purposes to influence food trends. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommends combining healthy choices from across all food groups while paying attention to calorie limits. But some foods do stand out more than others for their sterling nutritional profile and can power pack your meals and snacks, and further enhance a healthy eating pattern. Here’s a few:
- Berries: High in fiber, berries are naturally sweet, and their rich colors mean they are high in antioxidants and disease-fighting nutrients. How to include them: When berries are not in season, it is just as healthy to buy them frozen. Add to yogurt, cereals, and smoothies, or eat plain for a snack.
- Fish: Fish can be a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease. How to include it: Buy fresh, frozen, or canned fish. Fish with the highest omega-3 content are salmon, tuna steaks, mackerel, herring, trout, anchovies and sardines.
- Leafy greens: Dark, leafy greens are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium, as well as several phytochemicals (chemicals made by plants that have a positive effect on your health). They also add fiber into the diet. How to include them: Try varieties such as spinach, swiss chard, kale, collard greens or mustard greens. Throw them into salads or sauté them in a little olive oil.
- Nuts: Hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans — nuts are a good source of plant protein. They also contain monounsaturated fats, which may be a factor in reducing the risk of heart disease. How to include them: Add a handful to oatmeal or yogurt or have as a snack. But remember they are calorically dense, so limit to a small handful. Try the various types of nut butters such as peanut (technically a legume), almond, or cashew. Nuts are also a great accompaniment to cooked veggies or salads.
- Olive oil: Olive oil is a good source of vitamin E, polyphenols, and monounsaturated fatty acids, all which help reduce the risk of heart disease. How to include it: Use in place of butter or margarine in pasta or rice dishes. Drizzle over vegetables, use as a dressing, or when sautéing.
- Whole grains: A good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, whole grains also contain several B vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. They have been shown to lower cholesterol and protect against heart disease and diabetes. How to include them: Try having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. Substitute bulgur, quinoa, wheat berries, or brown rice for your usual baked potato. When buying breads look to see that the first ingredient is 100% whole wheat flour.
- Yogurt: A good source of calcium and protein, yogurt also contains live cultures called probiotics. These “good bacteria” can protect the body from other, more harmful bacteria. How to include it: Try eating more yogurt, but watch out for fruited or flavored yogurts, which contain a lot of added sugar. Buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit. Look for yogurts that have “live active cultures” such as Lactobacillus, L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, and S. thermophilus. You can use yogurt in place of mayo or sour cream in dips or sauces.
- Cruciferous vegetables: These include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radishes and turnips. They are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals which may prevent against some types of cancer. How to include them: Steam or stir-fry, adding healthy oils and herbs and seasonings for flavor. Try adding a frozen cruciferous vegetable medley to soups, casseroles, and pasta dishes.
- Legumes: This broad category includes kidney, black, red, and garbanzo beans, as well as soybeans and peas. Legumes are an excellent source of fiber, folate and plant-based protein. Studies show they can help reduce the risk of heart disease. How to include them: Add to salads, soups, and casseroles. Make a chili or a bean-based spread such as hummus. Tomatoes. These are high in vitamin C and lycopene, which has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. How to include them: Try tomatoes in a salad or as a tomato sauce over your pasta. You can also put them in stews, soups, or chili. Lycopene becomes more available for your body to use when tomatoes are prepared and heated in a healthy fat such as olive oil.
Here’s a fish recipe to try that will add protein and omega-3 fatty acids to your meal.
HUDSON’S BAKED TILAPIA WITH DILL SAUCE
4 (4-ounce) fillets tilapia
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Season the tilapia fillets with salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning on both sides. Arrange the seasoned fillets in a single layer in the baking dish. Place a layer of lemon slices over the fish fillets. Bake uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. While the fish is baking, mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic powder, lemon juice and dill in a small bowl. Serve with tilapia.
Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 284 calories; protein 24.5g; carbohydrates 5.7g; fat 18.6g; cholesterol 58.9mg; sodium 500.5mg.
Peg Christenson is a registered nutrition and dietetic technician at Hutchinson Health.