10 Everyday Super Foods
These easy-to-eat foods are packed with multiple nutrients to help you stay healthy.
Top 10 Multitasking Super Foods
Low fat or fat-free plain yogurt is higher in calcium than some
other dairy products and contains a great package of other nutrients, including
protein and potassium. It can also be enhanced with other good-for-you
substances. "Yogurt is a vehicle food that can be enriched with probiotics
for a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut, and beneficial, heart-healthy
plant stanols," says Zied. "And lactose sensitive people may tolerate
yogurt better than milk." Look for plain yogurt fortified with vitamin D,
and add your own fruit to control sweetness and calories. Versatile yogurt can
also be used in entree and bakery recipes, in dips for veggies,
etc. Don't like yogurt? Skim milk is another super dairy food that has only 83
calories per cup and is easy to slip into coffee to help you get one of the
recommended three servings of dairy each day. "Dairy foods contain
practically every nutrient you need for total nutrition -- and in just the right balance," says
bone health expert, Robert Heaney, MD. "No other food group in the diet is
as complete or as economical."
Eggs make the list because they are nutritious, versatile,
economical, and a great way to fill up on quality protein. "Studies show if
you eat eggs at breakfast, you may eat fewer calories during the day and lose
weight without significantly affecting cholesterol levels," says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD,
author of The Pocket Idiot's Guide to the New Food Pyramids. Eggs also
contain 12 vitamins and minerals, including choline, which is good for brain
development and memory. Enjoy them at any meal or hard-cooked as a portable
Nuts have gotten a bad rap because of their high fat content. But
their protein, heart-healthy fats, high fiber, and antioxidant content earn
them a place on the top 10 list. The key to enjoying nuts, experts say, is
portion control. "All nuts are healthful in small doses, and studies
show they can help lower
cholesterol levels and promote weight loss," says Today Show
nutritionist Joy Bauer, MS, RD. "I like pistachio nuts because they also
contain plant sterols and it takes longer to crack the shell and eat them,
making it easier to control the portion. Whether you prefer pistachios,
almonds, peanuts, walnuts, or pecans, an ounce a day of nuts help fill you up.
Nuts add texture and flavor to salads, side dishes, baked goods, cereals, and
entrees. They taste great alone, too. Zied recommends putting together your own
"100-calorie packs" of nuts for easy and portable snacks.
Kiwis are among the most nutritionally dense fruits, full of
antioxidants, says Ward. "One large kiwi supplies your daily requirement
for vitamin C," says Ward. "It is also a good source of potassium,
fiber, and a decent source of vitamin A and vitamin E, which is one of the
missing nutrients, and kiwi is one of the only fruits that provides it."
The sweet taste and colorful appearance of kiwis makes it easy to slice in
half, scoop out with a spoon and enjoy alone, or slice it into desserts,
salads, or side dishes. Kiwifruit can also have a mild laxative effect due to
their high fiber content.
Quinoa is now readily available in many supermarkets and is one of
the best whole grains you can eat, according to Zied. "It is an ancient
grain, easy to make, interesting, high in protein (8 grams in 1 cup cooked),
fiber (5 grams per cup) and a naturally good source of iron," she says.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) also has plenty of zinc, vitamin E, and selenium to
help control your weight and lower your risk for heart
disease and diabetes, she says. Quinoa is as easy to prepare as rice
and can be eaten alone or mixed with vegetables, nuts, or lean protein for a
whole-grain medley. Try to make at least half your daily grain servings whole
grains. In addition to quinoa, try barley, oats, buckwheat, whole wheat, wild
rice, and millet.
Beans, beans, good for your heart -- really! Beans are loaded with
insoluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol, as well as soluble fiber, which
fills you up and helps rid your body of waste. They're also a good, low-fat
source of protein, carbohydrates, magnesium, and potassium. Bauer favors edamame (whole
soybeans) because they also contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Beans
can easily substitute for meat or poultry as the centerpiece of a meal, says
Bauer, but they also work as a side dish, or tossed into soups, stews, or egg
dishes. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend 3 cups weekly.
Salmon is a super food because of its omega-3 fatty acid content.
Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids help protect heart
health. That's why the American Heart Association recommends eating fatty
fish like salmon twice weekly. Salmon is low in calories (200 for 3 ounces) has
lots of protein, is a good source of iron, and is very low in saturated fat.
You can simply grill or bake it, top it with salsas or other low-fat sauces, or
serve it on top of salad greens. If you don't like salmon, Lichtenstein
recommends eating other kinds of fish, like canned tuna. And what about the
mercury content? (Mercury is known to accumulate in fish.) "The benefits of
eating salmon or other fatty fish twice weekly far outweigh any risks, but if
you are concerned, check with your doctor," says Zied.
Broccoli is one of America's favorite vegetables because it tastes
good and is available all year long. It's a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin
C, and bone-building vitamin K, and has plenty of fiber to fill you up and help
control your weight. "Some people think beta-carotene (vitamin A) is only
found in orange and yellow vegetables, but broccoli is an excellent
source," says Ward. You can eat broccoli raw, lightly steamed, stir-fried,
roasted, or grilled. Eat it as a side dish, or toss into grains, egg dishes,
soups, and salads.
Sweet potatoes are a delicious member of the dark orange vegetable
family, which lead the pack in vitamin A content. Substitute a baked sweet
potato (also loaded with vitamin C, calcium, and potassium) for a baked white
potato. And before you add butter or sugar, taste the sweetness that develops
when a sweet potato is cooked -- and think of all the calories you can save
over that loaded baked potato. "If we eat more foods like sweet potatoes
that are rich sources of potassium, and fewer high-sodium foods, we can blunt
the effect of sodium on blood
pressure and reduce bone loss," says Zied. Other dark orange vegetable
standouts include pumpkin, carrots, butternut squash, and orange bell
Berries pack an incredible amount of nutritional goodness into a
small package. They're loaded with antioxidants, phytonutrients, low in
calories, and high in water and fiber to help control blood sugar and keep you
full longer. And their flavors satisfy sweets cravings for a fraction of the
calories in baked goods. Blueberries lead the pack because they are among the
best source of antioxidants and are widely available. Cranberries are also
widely available fresh, frozen, or dried. All can add flavor and nutrition to
numerous dishes, from salads and cereals to baked goods and yogurt.