Happy New Year! I hope 2015 has already been super joyous and that you rang it in with a bang (or a soft chime if that's your style). If you're like me and have SUPER BIG plans for this year, then you better be fueling your body, mind and soul with equally super nutrition.
Here's a definition from Health.com
"Though there is no legal or medical definition, superfoods are nutrient powerhouses that pack large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals. Eating them may reduce the risk of chronic disease, and prolong life..."
Basically, they are foods that kick the nutritional pants off of most foods. And the cool thing is: they're plentiful! I'll provide a link to a full list at the end, but it can be overwhelming to think about adding or increasing ALL of these at one time. That's why I thought I'd share five of my favs and how I use them in my daily life to give you some ideas!
1. Coconut oil
I could go on for days about the benefits of using this dreamy, creamy stuff, but to sum it up: this oil is packed with healthy fats and fatty acids that help regulate metabolism and hormone production, act as anti-viral and anti-fungal agents to fight disease and infection in the body, provide sustainable energy, and improve digestion. Plus, it is the perfect moisturizer for hair and skin!
HOW I USE IT:
-I cook with coconut oil because it has a high oxidation temperature, so it can withstand higher cooking temperatures without forming free radicals (nutritional villains). Use it in stir-fries, to coat veggies for roasting, as a substitute for butter in baking recipes!
*Note: It is sold in solid form in a jar until heated! It's pretty cool because it also sort of acts as a weather vain - my roommate and I always know when fall is officially here - the coconut oil becomes solid.
-I also eat it by the spoonful for an energy boost, to curb sugar cravings, when I am starting to feel sick, or when I have an upset stomach. If you're not using to spooning oil into your mouth, it takes getting used to, but I find it actually pretty yummy!
-Use it as a substitute for butter and slather on sprouted wheat bread and sprinkle with cinnamon for breakfast, or on your baked sweet potato at lunch or dinner!
-Put it in your smoothie or morning coffee or tea - a creamy, rich addition that will leave you feeling super.
-Find it at your local Trader Joe's or any health food store and go for the unrefined, organic virgin kind!
2. Sweet Potatoes
One of my favorite foods of all time, sweet potatoes are high in fiber, lower on the glycemic index than your standard potato, and are loaded with vitamins A, C, B-6, potassium, manganese and pantothenic acid, all of which contribute to improved immune systems, heart health and awesome energy.
HOW I USE THEM:
-Chop up and roast in the oven (coated with coconut oil - see what I did there?) for delicious sweet potato fries (or chunks).
-Wash, poke with holes and bake with the skins on for about 45-50 minutes at 400 degrees F, turning over halfway through. Slice open and enjoy or save for later to add to salads, grain bowls, or oatmeal (yep, I went there)!
-Buy a (BPA free) can of organic sweet potato puree (where the ingredients list only says: sweet potatoes) and spoon it into smoothies, oatmeal, or spread on toast or rice cakes with cinnamon on top!
3. Kale (duh!)
This leafy green superstar is all the rage for a reason. It is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, meaning it packs the most good stuff per calorie than just about anything you can put in your mouth. With 7 times the recommended daily value of vitamin K (essential to blood clotting), tons of anti-oxidants that fight free radicals in the body, anti-inflammatory properties due to it's omega-3 fatty acids, more iron than red meat, more calcium than milk, high fiber, blood-strengthening chlorophyll, and a laundry list of vitamins, minerals and other good stuff, it's a one-stop shop for tons of health benefits. Plus, it's pretty.
HOW I USE IT:
-Treat it like you want to be treated and give it a massage! Seriously, though, pull leaves off stems, rip or chop into small pieces, drizzle with olive or flaxseed oil (we'll get to that later) and literally massage it with your fingers until the leaves are all coated. This makes the fibrous kale leaves easier to digest and less bitter in taste! Rub it down and use as the base for a colorful salad with your favorite toppings.
-Sautee, steam, or boil lightly and flavor with any seasonings and toppings you desire! My favs: liquid amino acids (an awesome soy sauce alternative) or sesame oil with toasted pumpkin seeds.
-Rip off the leaves from the stems and use in your favorite smoothie! When blended, the leaves are also easier to digest and the nutrients are more readily absorbed.
4. Seeds (Hemp, Chia & Flax in particular)
Ok, I cheated and lumped all three of these into one, but I couldn't pick a favorite! With their high levels of anti-inflammatory, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and protein, these little guys pack a lot of punch! Chia is a complete protein, has tons of fiber and actually aids your body's ability to stay hydrated. Flax seeds contain essential omega-6 fatty acids and (when ground) release lignans, that carry powerful antioxidants. Hemp seeds contain all 10 essential amino acids and easily digestible protein, making them an amazing addition to any athlete or super active person's diet. They also contain GLA, an omega-6 fatty acid not found in any other food! All three seeds are high in fiber, aiding digestion, elimination, and blood sugar regulation.
HOW I USE THEM:
-Add chia seeds to smoothies or soak overnight with oats in almond milk for a delicious breakfast pudding, as they thicken and form a gel-like substance when soaked in liquid.
-Use ground flax seeds to replace eggs in baking recipes by combining 1 tablespoon of the ground seeds with 3 tablespoons of water (for one "flax egg") and letting them sit for 15-20 minutes until gelatinous. Use in smoothies or sprinkle over oatmeal or rice! Flaxseed oil is also great for massaging kale or using in salad dressings and is still super high in the essential fatty acids from flax (although it doesn't have the fiber or lignans).
-Sprinkle hulled hemp seeds on EVERYTHING! Smoothies, salads, avocado toast, grains, noodles, veggies, you name it. They do not have to be ground to be nutritious and are slightly nutty and delicious in flavor!
Find these little ones in your natural food store (often in the bulk section, which tends to be less expensive!).
First of all, say it with me, "KEEN-WAH!" This pseudo-grain (technically a seed) is a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids, making it a fantastic protein option for plant-based eaters. Tons of fiber, low glycemic index so it won't spike blood sugar like some carbohydrates, rich in magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron, which are typically under-consumed in the standard American diet. Easy to cook, easy to eat, easy to digest, it is a daily staple in my diet.
HOW I USE IT:
-I cook a big pot of quinoa each week and use it as a base for veggie stir-fries, breakfast porridge (instead of oatmeal), in salads, or in soups and stews! Make sure that you either soak it overnight or at least rinse it before cooking to reduce phytic acid, which blocks absorption of the minerals in this superseed. It has a light, nutty flavor and is fluffy like rice when prepared well! Try it out and dress it up!
I encourage you to try out just one new superfood this week and see if you feel a little more super! The more you add in, you may feel that your cravings for less nutritious foods start to wane, as your body will start to crave foods that actually help it function super well! For a list of tons more super foods and how to use them, check out Food Matters! And just because I haven't said it enough in this newsletter, have a SUPER week! Super. I said it again, and I'm not sorry. :)
With all the love and light in my heart, wishing you a SUPER healthy, joy-filled year!