Just about every week, the trip to the supermarket reveals new foods and beverages -- each claiming to be the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Thanks to consumer demand, many of these new foods are aimed at promoting health. Last year, 658 new whole-grain products were introduced, along with 825 new products claiming to be good sources of calcium, according to the A.C. Nielsen market research firm. Manufacturers are quick to jump on the bandwagon of health and diet trends, and sometimes these new foods are nothing more than a flash in the pan. Witness the rise and fall of low-carb foods, now available primarily on the sale shelf.
Still, amid the "here today, gone tomorrow" fads are new foods with bona fide nutritional goodness. So if you're looking to expand your dietary horizons, I've picked seven new and nutritious foods you can pick up next time you go grocery shopping.
1. Designer Eggs
By changing the diet of their hens, egg producers have succeeded in improving upon the already nutritious egg. Most "designer eggs" are enriched with omega-3 fatty acids, a heart-healthy nutrient that is otherwise mainly found in seafood (such as salmon), flaxseed, and walnuts.
Manipulating hen feed can also result in eggs with less cholesterol. The average egg has 220 milligrams of cholesterol, compared with roughly 185 milligrams in the newer low-cholesterol eggs (the American Heart Association recommends about 200 milligrams of cholesterol daily for normal, healthy people).
Whether you choose designer or regular eggs, an egg a day is OK, according to the American Heart Association. Eggs are an excellent source of protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins, with only 75 calories in one large egg. They're also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, promoting vision and healthy eyes.
Toasted buckwheat groats (kernels of buckwheat without the inedible shell) are more commonly known as kasha. This wholesome whole grain is packed with nutritional goodness, including fiber, manganese, copper, selenium, zinc, and a long list of healthy phytonutrients.
Kasha has a nutty flavor and makes a wonderful side dish or breakfast cereal. It's a great grain choice for those who have wheat allergies or gluten intolerance. Give this whole grain a try for a tasty dish rich in disease-fighting nutrients.
3. New Age Sparkling Juices
Clementine, blueberry, blackberry/pear -- move over, Snapple, and make room for the latest innovation in alternative beverages.
Responding to the demand for flavored drinks without excess sugar or artificial ingredients, companies such as Izze, the Switch, and Fizzy Lizzy have introduced sparkling fruit juices made from 100% fruit juice.
These juices come in a variety of delicious flavors, and are similar in calories (90-100 per 8-ounce bottle) and nutrients to fruit juice. Check the labels to be sure you choose a sparkling juice without added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
4. Pomegranate Juice
The richly colored pomegranate bursts with individual juice sacs that are succulent, delicious, and very nutritious. What makes this red fruit so healthful is its antioxidant content -- greater than that of cranberry, blueberry, or orange juice, or red wine.
Those seductively shaped bottles of red pomegranate juice could be your tasty ticket to preventing hardening of the arteries. Drink the juice at breakfast or anytime as a refreshing beverage, or use it in salad dressings or marinades to pump up the disease-preventing antioxidants in your diet.
5. Cholesterol-Lowering Foods
It wasn't long ago that the only way foods were enriched was by the government-required addition of iron, folate, and vitamin D to prevent diseases caused by nutritional deficiencies.
Today, foods have all kinds of additions -- many types of nutrients as well as disease-fighting substances such as sterols, which limit the body's absorption of cholesterol.
For people with mildly elevated cholesterol levels, adding sterols to the diet can lower blood cholesterol 7-10 points. All it takes is a few servings a day of sterol-fortified orange juice or margarine. The sterol-enriched orange juice is competitively priced; fortified margarines are a little more expensive than regular brands.
Check with your doctor to see if you're a good candidate to consume these super-foods that act like medicine.
6. Calcium-Fortified Foods
Experts agree that it's always better to get your nutrients from food. While the natural sources are generally preferred (such as dairy products for calcium), some types of fortified foods can be just as good.
But keep in mind that not all fortified foods are created equally, and not all calcium is well-absorbed. Studies have shown, for example, that calcium added to soy beverages tends to settle to the bottom. It takes a robust shake to disperse the mineral into the drink.
Orange juices and cereals tend to contain calcium that is fairly well absorbed. So if you cannot tolerate or dislike dairy products, read the labels and select an orange juice or cereal with added calcium.
7. Anasazi Beans
The Native American Anasazi, who live in the "four corners" area of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, cultivated this beautiful red and white bean.
It's considered to be one of the best beans for baking, with a soft, creamy texture and mild flavor. As a bonus, these beans have 25% less of the indigestible carbohydrates responsible for causing flatulence.
Beans in general are one of the most healthful and economical sources of quality protein, containing fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals -- and not a trace of fat. Diets high in beans can help lower cholesterol levels, normalize blood sugar, and keep you feeling full for hours.
Pick up some of the Anasazi varieties the next time you're preparing a recipe calling for beans.