8 Superfoods You Should Be Eating Right Now
Delicious And Good For You Too
Our family recently went through a huge change as we began developing a diet built around only putting calories into our body that will benefit us. We shunned empty calories derived from processed, refined sugar to embrace nutrient rich, life sustaining food.
There are great benefits to this change. The quality of our lives has improved without buying any new gadgets or getting a bigger this or that. To name a few overall improvements, there is less stress in our home, we have better night's sleep, everyone has a greater amount of energy, and our digestive tracts seem to be loving the change. It should also be mentioned that the two over 30 adults in our home have lost inches off their waist without deliberately intending to.
So, what have we done differently to improve the quality of life in our family? Our menu changes are significant since we eliminated sugar and trans fat, but there are some foods that have proven to be essential to helping us thrive. The following foods are on our grocery list each week to build into breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals, as well as snacks.
- Steel Cut Oats
- Legumes (of many sorts and varieties)
- Brown rice
Each of these foods have such tremendous health benefits that we've found creative ways to include them in our diets throughout the day. Read more to see the many ways they've been incorporated into our every day meal experiences.
What About Cherry Pie And Other Indulgences?
I love dessert. In fact, my relentless sweet tooth is notorious for causing me to seek out treats all day long, including candy and ice cream.
So, what about adding your favorite fruit and vegetables into a delectable treat like cherry pie or carrot cake? Will it have the same benefits? Well, if you make it all from scratch you do eliminate the toxins and excess sugar that you'll be ingesting from a store bought variety.
Still, I would just chalk it up to dessert. Even homemade desserts will generally not have any health benefits. Simply put, the sugar and / or fat content in the treat will heavily outweigh any nutritive value it may have. So, if you decide to have a treat it may make you feel better to include a superfood in its preparation, but understand that you should still eat it in limited amounts.
Fresh, red, tart cherries are a delicious treat any time of day. But, did you know they also have an overwhelming amount of health benefits packed into their tiny, round form? Cherries are full of the usual good food nutrients like Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber, but they are unique in that they also possess antioxidants that do all this:
- Reduce muscle and back pain
- Promote bone health
- Regulate sleep patterns
- Strengthen collagen to prevent signs of aging
- Improve memory
- Reduce belly fat
- Lower risks for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes
- Prevent cancer
- Fight free radicals
- Fight, prevent, and reduce inflammation
If the produce section at your local grocer were high school, cherries would be the kid everybody loved because they were just so awesome. So, how do we incorporate this delicious fruit into our meals?
- Have a cup of fresh cherries as a snack
- De-pit them and add them to bran cereal or plain yogurt
- Use them to make a compote and add them to a pot of steel cut oats
- Sprinkle dried cherries onto a fresh spinach, radish, and carrot salad
This fruit has been amazing for me. The addition of blueberries to my diet has increased my energy levels in ways I could never have imagined. In fact, after adding a 1/2 cup to my cereal or plain yogurt I don't need coffee or tea or anything in the morning. I'm ready to get a full day underway. In the middle of cleaning or clearing away toys for the fourth time I stop and think about how different I feel compared to before I was consuming these precious jewels on a regular basis.
Blueberries are packed with fantastic benefits, similar to cherries. While cherries and blueberries share many of the same benefits, they each hold their own so that every household should regularly consume both. In fact, for women they have two very important properties.
- Decrease risk of heart attack
- Prevent UTI's
Blueberries are great in cereal and yogurt, but they also make a great fruit salad mixed with strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Toss them into a small cup of cottage cheese or add them to the top of your morning bagel with a lowfat cream cheese. After dinner slightly boil them in 2 tablespoons of regular sugar just until they burst, sprinkle the fresh juice of one small lemon on top and serve over a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt. Spectacularly enticing!
Believe it or not the protein content in flaxseed gel make it a great product for the health of your hair. Check out this video by Naptural85 who explains how to use it to make your very own hair gel. But, remember to use separate pots and containers for it, just as you would for homemade soaps or soapcakes.
Another Use For Flaxseed...Hair Gel
I have to admit, flax is something I had never heard of until I began seeking ways to limit PMS symptoms. And, even then I was clueless about where to find it and what to do with it if I did. Then one fateful morning my husband brought it home and declared he was adding it to his diet because it included a ton of health benefits. Well, since he often makes these declarations that don't last for very long, I decided to help this time and seek out ways to make it a part of our menu. After all, flax packs enough fiber, potassium, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, antioxidants, and protein to take a permanent seat at our family's table.
But, how? Well, since it comes in seed form there are several different things one can do to include it in their diet. I have many plans for using it in homemade bread recipes and baked crackers. But for now I've been able to add it to oatmeal, turkey meatloaf, red beans and rice, homemade spaghetti sauce, and salmon patties. It has worked wonders for digestion and energy.
I'm sure this seed is versatile enough that I'll find many creative ways to keep it on the menu in our home.
When I heard about the benefits of quinoa I was so excited to run right out to get some. I began looking on my grocer's shelves near the rice and at our Sprout's Farmer's Market. Boy, was I taken aback at the cost of buying just one pound of it. At it's cheapest it's $6.99 / pound so that's somewhat cost prohibitive in a family of five. I had to start small. One cup of it can potentially serve four so I just get a couple of cups of it at a time in bulk at Sprout's and serve it maybe twice a week.
Quinoa is a little like rice or couscous so finding delicious ways to prepare it is simple.
- A well seasoned bed of quinoa can be delicious as a side dish.
- Mix it with bell peppers, garlic, and onions to add some depth to its flavor.
- Use it as a base and serve black-eyed peas on top.
- Mix it with ground turkey, feta cheese, and kale and stuff the mixture into a hollowed-out bell pepper. This proves to be a delicious meal that happens to also have an amazing amount of nutrient rich caloric content.
Hard-As-Steel Cut Oats
As a working mom I used to include "Starbucks" in my regular diet. As such, I would try their steel cut oatmeal without really knowing why the steel cut variety was different or any more significant than any other kind of oats. I just knew I didn't want the greasy alternatives I could get at other fast food breakfast destinations.
When we began to focus on our health more intensely I investigated the difference between steel cut oatmeal and just plain old oatmeal that got hacked up some kind of way. The investigation proved somewhat disturbing. I found out about grains and oats and discovered that processed grains often carry no nutritional value whatsoever. The bread you eat, no matter what the package tells you, has been stripped of its nutritional content during the milling process. This is a huge disappointment. Some loaves of bread can cost $4 or $5 touting to be whole grain this and multi-grain that, but they are no more nutritious than the $1wheat bread right next to it. What a stark revelation. Only stone ground whole meal is still significantly nutritious, but it's seldom found on any store shelf, even at health food stores and farmer's markets.
However, when it comes to oats the outcomes are a little different. Cutting the oats with steel as opposed to rolling them, as with regular oatmeal, means they will be able to hold onto the protein and fiber that make them worth eating. This is why steel cut oats are a better choice of oatmeal. It's beneficial in that it carries a significant amount of protein and fiber. It's also an excellent source of iron and B vitamins. Traditionally it's eaten as a breakfast meal, but it can be dressed up to serve in many different ways.
- Add fresh fruit to it once it's cooked.
- Add a little brown sugar and maple flavoring or pure maple syrup.
- Add it to some toasted bread crumbs in a food processor and coat chicken tenders or chicken breasts in it for a satisfying oven fried entrée.
- Toast the oats in the oven before cooking them on the stove to add a nutty flavor that delights even the pickiest of taste buds.
The legume family hosts many popular, and not so popular foods that we all at least know if we don't love them. Beans and some nuts are all a part of the pantheon and are full of fiber, protein, iron, and many other healthful benefits there are too many to list here.
What makes them less desirable is their propensity for blandness, their texture, and sometimes the excess gas they can produce depending on how they are cooked. Of course, the health benefits of eating legumes far outweigh the obstacles which can be easily overcome with a little creativity and keen cooking skills. Here are some ways we've prepared and eaten legumes in recent weeks.
- Black eyed peas seasoned with onions, red, yellow, and green bell pepper, and diced jalapenos. *Cook with a bouillon cube and a strip of turkey bacon.
- White and black bean soup with shredded chicken, diced chiles, spinach, and onion
- Bed of brown rice with black, kidney, and pinto beans served on top
- Lentils boiled with salad noodles, green and red cabbage, in a vegetable broth served with smoked sausage
- Great northern beans with homemade barbecue sauce simmered on the stove and then baked for 1 hour
- All natural peanut butter sandwiched between homemade flaxseed baked cheddar crackers
Breaking Bountiful Brown Rice
Manganese, selenium, B vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium...one could go on and on about the nutritive excellence found in brown rice. But, it makes you wonder what's the problem with just getting white rice? Well, white rice is what you get after you strip brown rice of the aforementioned nutritive properties. In fact, the reason bags and boxes of white rice say "enriched" is because B vitamins and iron are artificially added to white rice after its processing is complete. Short story: just do brown rice.
I used to hate the idea that I had to suffer through eating a heap of brown rice. I could never seem to perfect it to be as fluffy or as taste pleasant as white rice. It also came out kind of crunchy in texture. What I realized is that it simply needed 2 and 1/2 parts water for every 1 part rice. So, if I boil 1 cup of brown rice, instead of adding 2 cups of water I add 2 and 1/2 cups of water and let it simmer on low a little longer to absorb it all. I also make sure to cook it with 1/2 tbsp. of olive oil or 1/2 tbsp. of regular butter. Of course, olive oil is better, but if none is on hand I go for pure butter, no substitutes. Oil and butter are not necessary, but I don't like sticky rice so I use it minimally. It's up to each individual how they prepare it.
I do all the same things with brown rice that I would do with white rice and it's just as pleasant and enjoyable, if not more because I know I'm putting some of the most beneficial nutrients into my and my family's body. Here are some of the dishes I've used it in recently:
- As a plain side dish for tostadas and beans (add a little turmeric / saffron for flavor)
- As a bed to serve with beans, stir fry veggies, or peas
- In soups
- As a dessert by adding horchata, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves
- To beef up couscous (mix together after both are cooked and season to taste)
- In a chicken or ground turkey burrito with beans
- Atop enchiladas (add sauce, then rice, then another layer of sauce)
- Countless casseroles
These are all ideas that just come up as I'm preparing dinner. If you're creative ideas will come to you as well and you'll find it easier and easier to include brown rice in your favorite dishes.
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Superfoods Change The Game
Adding foods rich in fiber, protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals is a surefire way to change your life. The great thing about it is these are delicious foods. If you're creative enough you can develop some of the tastiest meals you've ever had while enjoying their low fat, high nutrient status. Whether mixing de-pitted, sliced cherries into your warm steel cut oats, or devouring a burst of flavor from chile-lime-cilantro quinoa, you'll be pleased with the positive outcomes for your health and overall well-being