The power of superfoods

BY CARI ZOBRIST

You might have heard about superfoods, those nutritional powerhouses created by Mother Nature and packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. From exotic açaí berries to basic plum tomatoes, superfoods can help you lose or maintain weight, stay mentally sharp, fight disease, or help you live a longer, healthier life.

Incorporating a combination of superfoods into our daily diets is simple – superfoods are sold at your local grocery store – and a little can go a long way. Choosing which superfoods to add to your diet can feel overwhelming, however, because it seems there’s a superfood for nearly every ailment: blueberries can reduce your risk of heart disease, fish helps with memory loss, and soy can assist in lowering cholesterol.

Which superfoods are best for you? Don’t overthink it! Rather than eating specific foods for specific ailments, try eating a variety of superfoods for a balanced, power-packed diet.

Below are 10 superfoods, ones we use regularly in our heart/brain healthy recipes at Covenant Village of Turlock, a senior living community. Scientific research reinforces the benefits of these superfoods, and they’re referenced in cookbooks and by doctors as ingredients that can reduce the risk of disease, increase longevity, and improve overall health.

Top 10 Superfoods
1. Beets: The deep red created by antioxidants fights off free radicals that attack the body’s cells and lead to aging and disease. The compounds in beets are also known to reduce cardiovascular disease and lower blood pressure.

2. Tomatoes: According to Harvard School of Public Health and the International Journal of Cancer, eating tomatoes on a regular basis can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

3. Berries: Full of antioxidants, berries of every color are considered the superfruits of the superfoods.

4. Cabbage: Vitamins A, C, and K found in cabbage can protect joints and reduce the risk of osteoarthritis. The compounds found in cabbage can also reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.

5. Spinach: Packed with iron and vitamins A and K, spinach is a top superfood.

6. Fish: Arctic char, salmon, halibut and rainbow trout are ideal choices to reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure. Fish oil can also slow mental decline associated with aging.

7. Lentils: No cholesterol, virtually no fat, and high in fiber, lentils can help lower cholesterol and manage sugar. Lentils are also rich in iron and other minerals and vitamins.

8. Quinoa: Hard to pronounce, but worth the effort, a daily bowl of quinoa can lower rates of heart disease, obesity, and breast cancer.

9. Red onion: Full of fiber, the red onion’s compounds protect against free radicals.

10. Avocado: High in fiber and potassium and low in calories, avocados are also high in fat. But it’s the good kind of fat, so it helps raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol.

Keep the super in the food
Superfoods are super in their purest forms. Spinach cooked in butter, salt, cheese and crumbled bacon may taste delicious, but it’s not as healthy as spinach sautéed with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. (I say this as I scoop my tortilla chip in a bowl of creamy spinach dip – delicious, yes, but healthy? Eh, not so much.) Use your superfood ingredients wisely so you get most health benefits.

— Cari L. Zobrist is director of dining services at Covenant Village of Turlock, a faith-based, not-for-profit continuing care retirement community. She is part of a culinary team that uses fresh ingredients and a variety of superfoods to prepare delicious, heart and brain healthy meals. Visit www.covenantvillageofturlock.org or call (877) 834-1238 to learn more.

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