Get the Skinny on Superfoods
So, by now, you’ve heard of superfoods; everyone has. The term “superfood” has become a mega buzzword lately, as more and more people are becoming health-conscious and turning to a traditional, whole foods approach to their wellness. If you find yourself in this group, we applaud you.
However, with so much conflicting information online, people often get confused about what exactly superfoods are and what they can do for their health. Currently, there is no legal or scientific definition of the word. It is a term simply used to describe extremely nutritious foods, which, unfortunately, can often be subject to opinion. So here’s the 411 on superfoods. Print this article out, keep it handy, and take it with you next time you find yourself standing in the produce aisle debating between which berry or leafy green is more nutritious.
What are superfoods?
According the wellness researchers and professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the School of Medicine and Public Health, a food item is considered a “superfood” when the nutrient content is very high, beyond carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. In other words, superfoods are extremely rich in important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.
Which superfoods are best?
While there are literally thousands of different types of superfoods, from exotic goji berries to almost unheard of maitake mushrooms, there are some common superfoods you can find in your local produce aisle that will help boost your health. The ever-helpful team over at Whole Foods Market rates superfoods they stock on their shelves based on what is known as an ANDI score. ANDI stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index and scores are obtained based on micronutrient levels in foods from 1 to 1000. Use this list when you grocery shop to ensure you’re getting the biggest nutrient bang for your buck.
- Mustard/Turnip/Collard greens—1000
- Swiss chard—1000
- Bok choy—865
- Napa cabbage—714
- Green leaf lettuce—585
- Acorn squash—444
- Yellow or orange bell pepper—371
- Northern beans—77
- Lima beans—69
- Kidney beans—64
- Black beans—61
Nuts and Seeds:
- Flaxseeds 103
- Sesame seeds 74
- Sunflower seeds 64
- Peanuts 59
- Chia seeds 46
- Pumpkin seeds 39
- Pistachios 37
- Chestnuts 34
- Hazelnuts 34
- Pecans 33
- Thyme —422
Even more superfoods.
As you can see, fruits and veggies pack quite the nutrient punch, but to find a wide variety of superfoods, you can look outside the produce section, as well. Some yogurts, dairy products, seafood, and even teas (black and green) are nutritionally dense enough that they qualify as superfoods!
How to get more superfoods in your diet.
Now that you have an idea what superfoods are and why they’re considered to be “super,” the real challenge is getting more and more of them into your diet. Here are a few ideas for you and your family:
- Blend them. There’s nothing better than starting your day with a nutritionally dense superfood smoothie. Add kale, spinach, blueberries, and raspberries to get your day started off with a bang!
- Toppings. Adding superfoods to your meal is really easy when you’re used to using toppings. Finish off a salad with a hand full of sunflower seeds or a pasta dish with fresh basil to incorporate more superfoods.
- Puree them. Pureeing boiled sweet potatoes or cauliflower are super nutritious alternatives to mashed potatoes. Make a berry puree and chill it for a refreshing summertime dessert.
- Stir them in. Beef up your recipes with more superfood ingredients, like incorporating more veggies into your casseroles and meatloaf or adding in more nutritious beans to stews.
- Substitute with them. Have you ever froze a banana and then pureed it? It’s an incredible and healthy alternative to ice cream and is just as satisfying. Finely diced, cooked cauliflower is an awesome replacement for white rice, while replacing some of the green leaf lettuce with robust kale and collard greens deliver even more incredible superfoods in your already healthy salad.
- Just add one. When first starting out and experimenting with superfoods, shoot for adding just one serving to each of your meals. Once you’ve mastered that, add more and more until the majority of what you eat is superfoods.
- Cook with fresh herbs. Skip those prepackaged seasonings and go straight to cooking with fresh, superfood herbs. Basil brings pasta dishes to life while thyme is excellent in casseroles. Cilantro is yummy on tacos and just about any herb can be added to a salad.
- Stash them. Bring at least one superfood serving with you wherever you go. Stockpile superfoods at work, like carrot sticks, pomegranate areoles, grapefruit, and berries. Always have sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and fresh almonds in your purse or car for an on-the-go snack.
Superfoods really are some of the best things to incorporate into your diet and you should try implementing more and more of them as you go. Try new ones. Experiment. Have fun! Go get those superfoods!
 UW Health (2015). Nutrition and wellness: what are superfoods? Retrieved from http://www.uwhealth.org/nutrition-wellness/what-are-superfoods/40546
 Whole Foods Market (2015). ANDI guide. Retrieved from http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/healthy-eating/andi-guide