Superfoods are exactly what you expect them to be: Foods packed with nutrition that give you the most bang for your buck and calorie.
They are very nutrient-dense which means they have an exceptional amount of minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and vitamins. This means that consuming them regularly may help improve your health, build immunity and fight disease.
We typically think of superfoods as the expensive luxury items you can only find at expensive health food stores, but that’s not necessarily true. Here are some nutrient-dense superfoods that won’t kill your budget and are easy to fit into your daily diet.
Flax seed. This little brown seed is well known for its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have many health benefits. Flax seeds have been associated with cardiovascular health as well as having anti-inflammatory properties. Lignans are fiber-like chemical compounds found in flax seeds that have been shown to slow the progression of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, by up to 31 percent. Studies have also shown the consumption of lignans to be helpful in preventing breast, prostate and colon cancer. Flax seeds are best digested when they are freshly ground and they can be easily incorporated into foods such as yogurt, oatmeal, baking mixes and smoothies.
Watermelon. There is no better time to enjoy watermelon than in the summer, and with so many health benefits, you can eat it every day without regret. Watermelon gets its red color from lycopene, which research has shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers, including ovarian and lung cancer. This summer fruit also has high levels of citrulline and arginine, which can help increase blood flow and keep arteries healthy. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) a one-cup serving of watermelon provides as much as 20 percent of the daily vitamin C and 17 percent of the daily vitamin A requirement. To get the most antioxidants, store your watermelon at room temperature before slicing.
Sauerkraut. Nothing more than fermented cabbage, this unsuspecting food is chock full of health benefits thanks to its probiotics. In order for the body to function at its peak it needs adequate amounts of these healthy gut bacteria. Poor diet, stress and antibiotics among other factors can create an imbalance of bad bacteria, which can lead to bloating, cravings, fatigue, diarrhea, inflammation and headaches. The probiotics in fermented foods help reestablish healthy bacteria in the gut and can help eliminate many of those problems. Fermented foods also help the body digest animal protein. Just one tablespoon full goes a long way. For best results, include it in your daily diet, especially when eating animal protein.
Quinoa. We tend to think of it as a grain because of its consistency, but it is actually a seed. It is a complete protein, meaning it contains all eight essential amino acids. It is also a rich source of iron, lysine, magnesium and manganese, all of which play very important roles in keeping the body strong and healthy. Typically eaten in place of a grain, quinoa contains almost twice as much fiber as grains such as rice or pasta. A diet rich in fiber can help reduce high blood pressure and blood glucose levels making it the best alternative for those avoiding refined carbohydrates. To improve absorption, soak quinoa in water and rinse thoroughly before cooking.
Bone Stock. This is known as a ‘traditional’ food because of its use by our ancestors who made use of every part of an animal. Simmering the bones, marrow, tendons and ligaments creates a release of compounds such as collagen, proline, glycine and glutamine, which have powerful immune-boosting properties. These compounds also help with skin elasticity helping to give a more youthful appearance. A study conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that the amino acids in chicken stock helped reduce inflammation in the respiratory system as well as improving digestion. Simmering bones for anywhere from 24 to 48 hours will provide the maximum benefits and is simple to make in a pot on the stove or in a slow cooker and doesn’t require more than bones and a few simple spices. While you can use any bones to make a stock, fish or chicken stock is better suited for hot summer days and beef stock makes a comforting winter food.