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We commonly hear about foods that have little nutritional value and provide “empty calories”. What we don’t hear enough about are nutrient dense foods, or “Superfoods”…this week’s Focus Point.  It is important to understand that there is not a standard criterion or approved list of superfoods; they are merely foods that provide added health benefits when included in a well-rounded diet.

Superfoods have high concentrations of essential nutrients and antioxidants, proven to help prevent disease, and improve overall health and longevity. Their benefits include preventing or reducing joint inflammation, improving bone health, lowering cholesterol/blood pressure, and reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Reducing Inflammation

There is promising research that foods such as tart cherry juice, fatty fish, and berries can suppress inflammation, although the frequency of consumption and amount is unknown.  The good news is eating to reduce inflammation may be easier than you think.

  • Regularly include fresh, frozen, or dried berries and cherries.
  • Eat a variety of leafy greens such as kale, brussel sprouts, and spinach.
  • Include fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna 1 to 2 times per week.
  • Choose heart healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil.

Support Bone Health

Superfoods that improve bone health also have many other health benefits such as reducing the risk for arthritis, joint problems, and inflammation.  To build strong bones, regularly include:

  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Dark green and leafy vegetables; especially spinach, brussel sprouts, and broccoli
  • Colorful fruits such as strawberries, kiwi, and cantaloupe
  • Beans
  • Nuts and seeds, especially almonds

A study performed by the American Heart Association found that women who regularly consumed blueberries and strawberries were at a lower risk for a heart attack.  Foods such as fatty fish, avocados, lentils, sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, broccoli, milk, yogurt, and almonds also help to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk for heart disease.

Implementing Superfoods in your diet

There are many foods nutritious enough to be considered a superfood. Your goal should be to eat these foods more frequently, not to eat more in one sitting to ensure you don’t overeat. Also, try the following strategies to increase your superfood consumption:

  • Incorporate one superfood with each meal (i.e. almonds on your salad, blueberries in your yogurt or oatmeal).
  • Make your plate as colorful as possible. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are loaded with essential nutrients and antioxidants.
  • Pack “super snacks” for in-between meals or pre/post workout.
  • Browse the fresh produce aisle when grocery shopping. That’s where you will find the majority of superfoods.
  • Buy prepared fruits and vegetables to make it easy to include them in your diet.

Refer to One on One’s 6 Key Nutrition Strategies for Optimal Health and Fitness and look for next week’s RD Kitchen for more tips to succeed. If you want to feel great inside and out, incorporate more superfoods into your diet…your body will be glad you did!