There are many types of superfoods in our grocery stores today, ranging from greens, such as kale, to berries and chia seeds. Naturally packed with numerous vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, they provide a multitude of medicinal benefits.
While I regularly include many different varieties of these superfoods in my diet, I have some personal favourites. Delicious, nutritious and versatile, these are my top five superfoods.
Squeezed into a glass of water for a quick vitamin C boost or to help with digestion, lemons are a great addition to the diet. They are high in carotenoids, flavonoids such as quercetin, and are an excellent source of vitamin C. Lemons can be used for many purposes. Add them to homemade vinaigrettes, squeeze them into a cup of tea, or use them to keep those sliced apples from going brown. In the summer you can also make delicious lemonade with juiced lemons and stevia. Around the house, lemons also make an excellent natural grease-cutting cleaner when added to warm water.
Inexpensive and available year round, these tropical fruits are a staple in my house. They are a good source of heart-healthy monosaturated fatty acids as well as dietary fibre and vitamin K. Due to their creamy texture, they can be prepared in a variety of ways. Added into salads, sliced into sandwiches, blended into smoothies, or made into dips, butters or even chocolate pudding, they are extremely versatile. Avocados also double as a moisturizing face mask, mashed and applied to the skin.
These mighty seeds are a sure way to increase fibre and omega 3 intake. Just two tablespoons of flax provides 3.5 grams of omega 3 and 5.4 grams of dietary fibre. Flax seeds are also a great source of lignan phytoestrogens. And studies have shown that these chemicals have a protective effect against cancer – specifically breast cancer. They are easily stored when unground, and are very inexpensive. Flax seeds can be baked into cookies, added to smoothies, mixed with yogurt, or used as an egg replacer in baking (1 tbsp flax seeds ground in 3 tbsp water = 1 egg).
These nuts are high in fibre which helps promote good digestion and to balance blood sugar levels throughout the day, keeping appetite in check. They are also a good source of vitamin E, manganese and phytosterols. In many studies they have been shown to help lower bad cholesterol. Almonds can be ground to make delicious gluten-free flour, chopped and added to salads, or baked into granolas. But the best thing about almonds is that they are so convenient. They can be stored in your car, purse, or even pocket for a quick and nutritious snack when on the run.
Extra-virgin coconut oil
This quality oil is one of my favourites for many reasons. It contains about 60 per cent medium-chain triglycerides, used primarily by the body as an energy source rather than being stored as fat. Containing high levels of microbial lauric acid, it is also a natural yeast buster. Coconut oil can be incorporated into the diet very easily by adding to smoothies, using as a replacement for any baking at a 1:1 ratio in place of margarine or butter, or to fry foods. And better yet, it makes an excellent natural moisturizer or conditioner for the skin and hair … really.
Sheila Ream, CNP, is a certified nutritionist in the Beach