Superfoods Made Simple

Google “superfoods” and you’ll come up with almost as many lists as the internet has web pages. There is no definition of what a superfood is, but at least the European Union knows what it isn’t. EU law prohibits using the term “superfood” on any label attached to a food that has not been shown by independent scientific study to have an established medical benefit. So unless a food cures a certain condition, it doesn’t qualify in Europe. If only the Internet was ruled by such a clause. On the internet, one can find so-called superfoods that carry all sorts of health claims, from flatter tummies to healthier hearts. And the search results include some pretty exotic names. Boku Juice, acai berries, xango fruit, tempeh, seaweed, quinoa, chia seeds are all on some list or another. Another compilation actually lists chocolate milk, specifying that it only qualifies as a superfood if it has fewer than 20 grams of sugar per serving! Really? Another has peanut butter. Now all of those things may have some nutritional value (except for the chocolate milk) and some have quite a lot, but they’re a bit rarified or stupid for my pantry (although I admit to seaweed and dulse occupying a space in reserve for my miso soup.) My simple definition of a superfood would be one that has a relatively high nutrient-to-calorie ratio. The exception would be the occasional fat that is such a nutritional boon that it qualifies regardless of calorie count: for example, fish oil. And, like so many things, if it isn’t easy and simple, who cares how nutritious it is? And, it helps if a food actually tastes good! (Have you ever tasted quinoa? Sheesh!) So here is a short list of superfoods that are easy to find, easy to pronounce, easy to prepare, easy to enjoy and carry the benefit of excellent nutrient-to- calorie ratio. Try introducing a couple like these each week. Pretty soon you won’t have room for the bad stuff. Eggs: They got a bad rap several years ago and haven’t entirely recovered but eggs are a source of high quality animal protein and dozens of other nutrients. You can even eat the shell for a source of good calcium. One egg is about 7 grams of protein but more importantly, eggs contain a nice balance of good fats and trace nutrients. They are often said to promote fat-burning and some old-school bodybuilders swear by their hormone precursor levels that promote muscle growth. It should go without saying that you want to buy organic, pasture-raised eggs to reap the best benefits. Easiest preparation? Put two in a medium saucepan of cold water. Bring to a rolling boil. Cover, remove fromheat and let stand for ten minutes. Cool and you’ve got lunch. Kale: This stuff is so easy to grow it should be in every yard garden, patio pot or window box. And it pretty much ranks as the Number One superfood of the leafy greens. Of course you don’t have to grow it yourself. It’s easily found at farmers markets and stores and usually at great prices. High in vitamins A, C and K, kale carries loads of anti-cancer anti-oxidants with only 30 calories per cup. Small leaves are great raw, in a salad. To prepare larger leaves, rinse and strip the fibrous stalk and cut the leaves into strips. Steam lightly then butter and season. Or sauté lightly in olive oil with crushed garlic. Bok choy: According to a nutrition rating scale called ANDI, developed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, bok choy ranks near the top. ANDI stands for “Aggregate Nutrient Density Index.” The ANDI score considers many nutrients, including calcium, carotenoids: beta carotene, alpha carotene, lutein, lycopene, fiber, folate, glucosinolates, iron, magnesium, niacin, selenium, vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, C, E, Zinc, plus ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity,) a method of measuring the antioxidant or radical scavenging capacity of foods. Also known as Chinese cabbage, bok choy is a local crop at area farmers markets and can be prepared in the same manner as kale. One farmer I know suggests basting with orange juice and grilling in a foil pouch. Beans: Good for the heart, the aphorism goes, and it’s true. Low, low in calories and high in fiber and nutrients like protein, vitamins and important minerals, beans are said to lower your risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Avoid the BPA and don’t bother with canned. It’s too easy to buy bulk and do your own from scratch. Check two cups of black beans for pebbles, place in a heavy soup pot then soak overnight in plenty of water. Drain, rinse and cover with about an inch of pure water. Add a bay leaf, cover, simmer and after about 45 minutes, add a couple tablespoons of whole cumin seed. After another 30 minutes, check for tenderness and add a sliced, fresh jalapeno or two, 1.5 tbsp of ground cumin and salt to taste. If tender, they’re done. Most all the water will be cooked in. Refrigerate in a big container and you’ve got lunch for a week. Just serve over rice with chopped tomatoes and avocado and you have a balanced supermeal. Oatmeal: There is no reason to start the day without oatmeal. On the ANDI score, oatmeal is a supergrain. Buy bulk at Whole Foods for about $1.30 per pound and save a bunch. Toss a couple handfuls into a pot, add a small handful of raisins, cover about an inch with water, bring to a boil, simmer a minute or two, bowl it and honey it and breakfast is on. Lower cholesterol and loseweight all at once. We haven’t even gotten to grass-fed beef and buffalo, but you get the idea. Eating well means staying well. Other than your thoughts, naught has more impact on your health than your food. Be well.

posted at 01:52 pm
on Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

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