Select Super FoodsLast updated: Nov 21, 2014
What are super foods?
Super foods are certain vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fishes, and dairy products recognized for being rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are essential for health. Although research on super foods is relatively recent, data show benefits of super foods when they are included in a balanced diet with an active, healthy lifestyle.
Try these super foods to help you weather the winter:
High in omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fat, salmon is a super food shown to help prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and arthritis.1,2,3 In addition to its disease-prevention benefits, salmon is a good source of vitamin D, iron, and protein.4
Enjoy grilled or baked salmon with your favorite herbs and spices, a squeeze of lemon, and a drizzle of olive oil twice a week. Although salmon is reported to have lower mercury levels than certain other fishes, young children as well as pregnant and nursing women should have no more than 12 ounces of fish, including tuna, salmon, and shellfish per week to keep mercury consumption at a minimum.5
Heart healthy, low in calories, and filling, oatmeal is a high-fiber, low-cholesterol super food that is recognized for helping lower cholesterol levels and risk of cardiovascular disease.6
Enjoy hot oatmeal sprinkled with almonds, fresh or dried fruit, and a dollop of fat-free plain yogurt for a delicious warming winter breakfast. Add pumpkin butter and pumpkin pie spices to your oatmeal for a happy holiday breakfast. For a special treat to satisfy your sweet tooth, try oatmeal mixed with almond milk, fat-free yogurt, fresh or dried fruit, and a drizzle of honey.
Recognized for being comprised of vitamin A, vitamin K, calcium, and iron, spinach is a super food associated with preventing arthritis and certain tumors.7,8
Add fresh, leafy-green spinach to an omelet with feta cheese, enjoy freshly washed spinach as a salad, or toss fresh or frozen spinach into soup to boost its flavor and nutrients.
- Pistachio Nuts
High in fiber, protein, potassium, and antioxidants, pistachio nuts make a healthy super-food snack.9 Pistachios have no cholesterol and they are recognized for helping lower large-density lipoprotein (LDL) (bad) cholesterol levels in some people.10
Grab a handful of pistachios for a protein-packed snack, sprinkle them on salads, or add them to fat-free yogurt with fruit for a tasty treat. Approximately 25 dry-roasted pistachio kernels (1/2 ounce) is 100 calories and makes a perfect snack for adults. Active kids can enjoy a 200-calorie pistachio nut snack.
- Pumpkin and Pumpkin Seeds
Low in calories and high in vitamin A and fiber, pumpkin is recognized as an eye-healthy super food.11 Pumpkin seeds can provide magnesium, potassium, zinc, and protein to help reduce your risk of heart disease, kidney stones, and an enlarged prostate.12,13,14
Enjoy baked pumpkin sprinkled with cinnamon as a side dish, chop pumpkin into squares and roast them with dried herbs for a complement to chicken, fish, and beef, or have an ounce of roasted pumpkin seeds as a healthy snack. Kids can have fun roasting pumpkin seed and sharing them with friends.
Rich in vitamin C and fiber and low in calories, blueberries are recognized as a super food that can help lower LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure.15,16 Some research also shows that blueberries might have a role in preventing breast cancer.17
Enjoy fresh blueberries as a snack, add them to fat-free plain yogurt for a delicious breakfast, include them with your hot oatmeal to boost flavor, or blend them in a fat-free plain yogurt smoothie for a quick, delicious snack.
A super food loaded with vitamin C and vitamin K, kiwis are a high-fiber, folate-rich, potassium-packed fruit.18 They also contain important minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium.19 Research shows that kiwis can help reduce triglyceride levels in some people. They also can help prevent constipation.20
Enjoy freshly sliced plain kiwi as a snack or dessert. Kiwis make a fun, kid-pleasing snack when they are sliced in half and scooped out with a spoon.
Also known as legumes, lentils are a super food high in fiber, protein, iron, folate, potassium, and antioxidants.21 When they are included in a low-fat diet, lentils can help reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels in some people.22,23 Lentils also are associated with lower rates of inflammation, which can help decrease risk of heart disease and certain cancers.24,25 Lentils are an excellent source of iron for helping protect against anemia.26
Enjoy lentil and kale soup or add cooked lentils to your salad to boost fiber.
1.Connor WE, Connor SL. The importance of N-3 fatty acids in health and disease. Amer J Clin Nutr. 2000; 71(1):171S-175S.
2. Adler AI, Boyko EJ, Schraer CD, Murphy NJ. Lower prevalence of impaired glucose tolerance and diabetes associated with daily seal oil or salmon consumption among Alaska natives. Diab Care. 1994;17(12):1498-1501.
3. Harvard School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source. Ask the Expert: Omega-3 fatty acids. Dr. Frank Sacks. (n.d.) http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/omega-3/. Accessed November 24, 2014.
4. USDA Agricultural Research Service. Basic Report: 15076, Fish, salmon, Atlantic, wild, raw. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/4531?fg=&man=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=&qlookup=salmon. Accessed November 24, 2014.
5. US FDA. Fish: What pregnant women and parents should know. http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/Metals/ucm393070.html.2014. Accessed November 24, 2014.
6. Jenkins DJ et al. Direct comparison of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods with a statin in hypercholesterolemic participants. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005; 81(2):380-387.
7. Stuart AS Craig. Betaine in human nutrition. Amer Soc Clin Nutr. 2004; 80(3):539-549.
8. Slattery ML, Benson J, Curtin K, Ma K, Schaeffer D, Potter JD. Carotenoids and colon cancer. Amer J Clin Nutr. 2000;71(2):575-582.
9. Dreher ML. Pistachio nuts: composition and potential health benefits. Nutr Rev. 2012;70(4):234-240.
10. Gebauer SK, West SG, Kay CD, Alaupovic P, Bagshaw D, Kris-Etherton PM. Effects of pistachios on cardiovascular disease risk factors and potential mechanisms of action: a dose-response study. Amer J Clin Nutr. 2008;88(3):651-659.
11. Berson EL. Nutrition and retinal degenerations. International Ophthalmology Clinics. Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, MA. 2000; 40(4):93-111.
12. Tavani A, La Vecchia C. Beta-carotene and risk of coronary heart disease. A review of observational and intervention studies. Biomed Pharmacother.1999;53(9):409-416.
13. Suphakarn VS, Yarnnon C, Ngunboonsri P. The effect of pumpkin seeds on oxalcrystalluria and urinary compositions of children in hyperendemic area. Am J Clin Nutr. 1987;45(1):115-121.
14. Tsai YS, Tong YC, Cheng JT, Lee CH, Yang FS, Lee HY. Pumpkin seed oil and phytosterol-F can block testosterone/prazos in induced prostate growth in rats. Urol Int. 2006;77(3):269-274.
15. Cassidy A et al. Habitual intake of flavonoid subclasses and incident hypertension in adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011; 93(2):338-347.
16. Erlund I et al. Favorable effects of berry consumption on platelet function, blood pressure, and HDL cholesterol. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(2):323-331.
17. Roy S et al. Anti-angiogenic property of edible berries. Free Radic Res. 2002;36:1023-1031.
18.USDA Agricultural Research Service. Basic Report: 09148, Kiwifruit, green, raw.
http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2300. Accessed November 24, 2014.
19.USDA Agricultural Research Service. Basic Report: 09148, Kiwifruit, green, raw. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2300. Accessed November 24, 2014.
20. Chan AO, Leung G, Tong T, Wong NY. Increasing dietary fiber intake in terms of kiwifruit improves constipation in Chinese patients. World J Gastroenterol. 2007;13(35):4771-4775.
21. USDA Agricultural Research Service. Basic Report: 16069, Lentils
raw. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/4782?fg=&man=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=&qlookup=lentil. Accessed November 24, 2014.
22.Ha V et al. Effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. CMAJ. 2014;186(8):E252-E262.
23. Villegas R et al. Legume and soy food intake and the incidence of type 2 diabetes in the Shanghai Women's Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(1):162-167.
24. Esmaillzadeh A, Azadbakht L. Legume consumption is inversely associated with serum concentrations of adhesion molecules and inflammatory biomarkers among Iranian women. J Nutr. 2012;142(2):334-339.
25. Messina MJ. Legumes and soybeans: overview of their nutritional profiles and health effects. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;70:439S–450S.
26.Pub Med Health. Iron Deficiency Anemia. Reviewed February 24, 2014. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001610/. Accessed November 24, 2014.