Many of us are familiar with the “super food” list regulars, like avocados, broccoli, sweet potatoes and berries. They’re typically the most popular super foods amongst health-conscious home chefs because they’re easy to enjoy without a complicated recipe.
However, there is a whole world of foods, common and uncommon, that you may not have known have some super healthy qualities, as well. This guide will help you determine which of these less-known super foods to buy the next time you go grocery shopping and how to incorporate it into your daily diet.
1. Maca powder:
Maca has been all the rage lately, although, I’ll admit, it took me a good few weeks of seeing its name around to figure out exactly what it is. Maca is a root, similar to a radish, but it is usually used in its powdered form. High in vitamins and helpful for improving mood and energy, maca powder is popular in smoothies and shakes, since it’s easily mixable. It can even be used as a replacement for the college student’s beloved coffee.
2. Goji berries:
Though these berries are a staple of Asian cooking, they’re quickly becoming popular in the newly health-conscious American diet. Their nutritional profile is practically unrivaled: goji berries are high in vitamin A, fiber and iron, as well as amino acids that are absent in other fruits. As they’re typically sold dried, adding these powerful berries to your oatmeal or trail mix is an easy way to make them a staple.
3. Chia seeds:
Another small super food that packs a punch, chia seeds are high in fiber, manganese and calcium. According to ChiaSeedRecipes.com (yes, these seeds are popular enough to have a website), they can be used in many ways in the kitchen: as an addition to soup, salad dressings or smoothies, for example. My personal favorite? Chia seed pudding: mix a tablespoon of chia seeds with a container of Greek yogurt, add a dash of milk of your choice and put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, the seeds will have expanded in your yogurt, creating a unique texture for an ideal breakfast or afternoon snack.
Beets never used to be a food that sounded or looked appealing to me. But recently, they’ve been getting a lot of hype for their health benefits – they’re high in calcium, iron, vitamins A and C and fiber. So I thought I’d check them out and, as far as cooking goes, this vegetable is very versatile. Beets can be steamed, roasted or even eaten raw. Adding them to your salad will give any leafy mix some color, as well as a sweet taste. Still not convinced? Check out this beet and barely risotto recipe for an indulgent and filling meal.
This veggie is nothing new, but no, your pumpkin spice latté does not count. Many people aren’t sure exactly how to cook fresh pumpkin, which is full of nutrients like iron, zinc and fiber. But pumpkin is a lot easier to incorporate into your diet than you think, especially if you use pumpkin pureé, which is easier to work with than a whole pumpkin and retains all the nutritional value. Try whipping up some pumpkin protein pancakes, for a delicious and deceptively sweet treat or a savory recipe like bacon pumpkin quinoa.
They might not be the easiest to cook, but artichokes are definitely a plus for your diet. These veggies are full of fiber, antioxidants and vitamins C and K. Artichokes are most commonly found in dip, along with spinach, which is a great way to get some more veggies in your diet and satisfy salty cravings with chips on the side. Be careful with your dips, though, as many can be filled with unnecessary fats. Try substituting cottage cheese or mashed avocado for mayonnaise and use Greek yogurt rather than sour cream the next time you’re whipping up spinach-artichoke dip.
This warm, peppery spice isn’t just for adding flavor. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and has historically been used in Eastern medicine. To work turmeric into your diet, try cooking up some Thai noodles, like these from Vegetarian Times, as the spice will work well with the other flavors of the dish.
When I first encountered lentils, all I knew is that they were some ambiguous, bean-like ingredient added to a tasty soup. Turns out, lentils have a variety of health benefits that qualify them as a super food, such as the power to lower cholesterol, improve heart health and aid the digestive system. They’re also a great source of protein, perfect for vegetarians. Lentils are a versatile cooking ingredient, too: try these recipes for lentil hummus, sweet potato and lentil salad (two super foods in one!) or add lentils to your favorite vegetable broth recipe.