Guest Author: Amy Shapiro MS, RD, CDN
I regularly get asked “What are superfoods and which ones should I be eating?” It’s confusing with all the information out there these days. And if that isn’t enough, then you have to figure out how to incorporate them into your diet. I'm here to help. Below I’ve highlighted 10 superfoods I am obsessed with and think you should be, too.
We call these nature’s sprinkles! Chia seeds are full of omega 3 fatty acids which help to decrease inflammation and can improve memory. Chia seeds can swell to nearly 10x their size when combined with liquid, so they’ll keep you full as well as hydrated! Thanks to their gelatinous state they also help to flush extra toxins out of your body. Super food for sure!
Maca is an adaptogen (adapta-what?!), which just means it helps the body “adapt” to any stressors that throw it out of whack. It is often used to promote energy and increase stamina without the adrenaline rush caffeine provides (no thank you, jitters!). Recent studies also show that it can help improve fertility and libido. Since this is an energizing herb I recommend adding it to your breakfast smoothie or afternoon snack for when you need a smooth but energizing boost.
Reishi is a mushroom, and has been used for years in eastern medicine to boost immunity. Yes they actually help to boost white blood cells called “natural killer cells”! Hello flu season, sign me up! Although the mushroom can be eaten whole, you can also find it in powder form making it easy to add to your coffee, tea, smoothie or latte!
Chaga, another type of mushroom that is a powerful immune booster and inflammation fighter! And if that isn’t enticing enough, recent research shows chug helps to control blood sugar levels and decrease cholesterol. Available as a powder or a capsule it is an easy addition to your diet with minimal effort!
Yes another mushroom that is good for us! Cordyceps have been shown to help individuals ranging from children to elders in boosting energy on a cellular level. It has been shown to enhance athletic performance and sex drive and may prevent signs of aging and support longevity. If that isn’t enough, research is evolving on the potential to slow the growth of cancer cells, promote heart health, diabetes and of course fight inflammation! All this from one little fungus! Often found in powders mixed with other mushrooms you can stir this into any item, add it to a latte or take it in supplement form.
Literally nature’s candy, goji berries are chewy, sweet, slightly sour and often dried. These powerful berries contain 8 essential amino acids, fiber, vitamin A and C, and antioxidants and assists with eye and skin health, immunity, regularity. They’ll also satisfy your sweet tooth. You can snack on them right out of the bag or add to trail mix, oatmeal, smoothies and even salad. Think of these as your dried cranberry and raisin alternative!
There’s more to acai than just an instagram-able smoothie bowl. Native to South America, Acai is known for its high antioxidant content which helps reduce inflammation and protects our bodies from free radical damage (that includes preventing illness and wrinkles!). Acai berries are full of fiber, omega 3’s and calcium, can reduce symptoms of inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and even help manage body weight (thank you fiber!).
Turmeric has been used in Indian cooking for centuries. This bright orange spice is actually a root, but is also widely used in powder form. Curcumin is Turmerics chief anti-inflammatory compound that is most absorbable when paired with black pepper. Adding Turmeric to your stir-fry or taking Curcumin as a supplement are both easy and powerful at keeping inflammation at bay. From systemic inflammation to aches and pains it is a powerful herb to keep in your medicinal toolbox.
Quinoa is actually a seed, but performs both like a grain and a protein. It is a great vegan protein option as it contains all 9 essential amino acids (rare in plant based protein sources). Did you know that one cup of cooked quinoa has 8g of protein! If that isn’t enough, quinoa is also full of fiber and magnesium, so it’s great for your digestion and your muscles. Added bonus, it cooks just as easily as rice, it’s just healthier!
You might hear a lot about probiotics these days but both prebiotics and probiotics are necessary for optimal health and digestion. Prebiotics can be thought of as the food that feeds the probiotics in our gut. Fiber is a prebiotic source, as it is broken down in the colon and acts as food for our probiotic bacteria to feed on. Probiotics are the good bacteria in our body that help us fight illness, maintain metabolism and promote smooth digestion and elimination…good-bye bloating! But that’s not all, there is so much research emerging on probiotics- from helping with GI issues, to signaling neurotransmitters in the brain. What we know for sure is that they are good on so many levels so getting you daily dose is essential for overall health!
So there you have it, now you can feel SUPER good on SUPER foods. I recommend starting with the first few that speak to you and not all at once unless you are enjoying them in a R.E.D.D. bar of course, they do all the work for you. So go ahead and get started from yogurt to smoothie, coffee to baked goods, you can enjoy these goodies anyway you want. Feel good!
Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN and founder of Real Nutrition
Amy Shapiro MS, RD, CDN, is the founder and director of Real Nutrition, a NYC-based private practice dedicated to healthfully and successfully guiding clients to their optimal nutrition, weight, and overall wellness. She is internationally recognized for her individualized, lifestyle-focused approach, which integrates realistic food plans, smart eating habits, and active living. Through encouragement, education, and the right “tricks of the trade”, Amy believes that anyone can achieve their nutritional goals while still enjoying the foods and flavors they crave.
Follow Amy’s nutrition adventures at @realnutrition