Superfoods To Boost Energy, Strengthen Muscles, & Keep Your Body At Its Best
With temperatures slowly rising and many parts of the country just emerging from that deep winter freeze, your body is likely longing for some warm summer sun. While there's nothing fun about blizzards, chapped lips, frozen fingers and shoveling snow, there are some powerful superfoods that can help keep your energy high, your immune system strong, and those cold-weather blues at bay. Snack on these disease-fighting, nutrient-packed edibles to keep your body--and your mind--feeling good and looking good, from the inside out.
Taking it from the top:
Low-fat cottage cheese
Hair is almost all protein, so to keep your locks vibrant and strong, make sure to eat enough of it. Low-fat or reduced fat cottage cheese is a protein powerhouse, with 14 grams in half a cup.
Zinc helps reduce shedding, so tossing a tablespoon of these zinc-heavy seeds into your cereal, granola, or straight into your mouth is a great way to keep your hair healthy and strong.
This cold-water fish is a great source of the omega-3 fats DHA and EPA, which can improve brain function and stave off the blues. Omega-3s help prevent inflammation in the brain and regulate feel-good neurotransmitters.
A study in the journal Neurology reports that getting two-plus servings per day of veggies--especially leafy green ones like kale--slows cognitive decline by 40 percent. Sautéed, steamed or stir-fried, nothing feeds the 100 billion neurons in your noggin better than nutritious kale.
Stop those seasonal sniffles with vitamin E-packed sunflower seeds. Researchers believe it calms the parts of your immune system involved in allergies, and with 49 percent of your daily vitamin E needs in an ounce, sunflower seeds can be your shnoz's best line of defense against the dreaded drip.
Whether scrambled or sunnyside up, eggs are nutritious, versatile, economical, and a great way to fill up on quality protein. Eggs also contain 12 vitamins and minerals, including choline, which is good for brain development and memory. While yolks may get a bad-rap, they are a great source of antioxidants that fight cataracts as well as macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness. Plus, research has shown that eating an average of one egg yolk a day will not hurt your cholesterol levels. Enjoy them at any meal or hard-boiled as a portable, nutritious snack.
No, you're not seeing things, that really is orange cauliflower popping up in your produce aisle. Thanks to food scientists, orange cauliflower is just like the white variety, but with 25 times as much beta-carotene, which maintains the protective covering over the cornea. As with any low-calorie vegetable, feel free to enjoy this distinctly colored cauliflower (sans the salt and butter) to your heart's, err make that your eyes' content.
However you slice it, tomatoes are especially beneficial when cooked because more of the carotenoid lycopene seeps into the skin, where it can limit damaging UV rays, lower skin-cancer risk, and ward off wrinkles.
In order to maintain moist, beautiful, chap-free lips, your body needs to constantly replace old skin cells with new ones. With their high-protein, high-fiber, heart-healthy fats and antioxidant content, walnuts are the perfect accompaniment to salads, cereal, oatmeal, trail mix, muffins, or any of your favorite recipes. So pucker up to an ounce (about 14 shelled halves) a day for some lip smacking goodness.
Despite the recent uptick in vegetarian and vegan diets, beef is an excellent source of absorbable iron, a nutrient which is often deficient in women. Low iron levels, which are common in women, not only zap your energy but can cause weak, brittle nails. Look for leaner, lower-fat cuts like top round and other round cuts to keep your nails strong and energy levels high.
Researchers have found that broccoli sprouts contain up to 20 times as much sulforaphane, a compound that inhibits breast-cancer cells from growing, as fully grown plants. Just a one-ounce serving contains 73 milligrams of sulforaphane, so spruce up your sandwiches and salads with 1/2 cup of broccosprouts for an easy way to do your body good.
Vitamin B folate is believed to help reduce your risk of heart disease, which is good news because asparagus is chock-full of it. Eight steamed asparagus spears deliver 20 percent of your daily folate requirement, in addition to a variety of other heart-healthy nutrients like potassium.
Purple grape juice is high in phenolics, a group of powerful antioxidants that help remove heart-damaging free radicals. To watch your caloric intake while guarding your heart, try reduced-calorie grape juice or mix equal parts grape juice and seltzer for a refreshing drink that's good for your heart--and your waisteline.
Dried plums, aka Prunes
These high-fiber fruits are essential to keeping you regular and your gastric system working properly. They may help shrink your stomach, too. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that among 74,000 women surveyed, those who got more fiber were 49 percent less likely to suffer weight gain. So add chopped prunes to your cereal, yogurt, or mix together with walnuts, pumpkin seeds, dried blueberries, and sunflower seeds for a delicious, nutritous homemade trail mix.
Made from fermented whole soybeans, tempeh lines the gut with beneficial bacteria, improving digestion, reducing gas production, and killing ulcer-causing bacteria.
Your Reproductive Parts:
From vision-protecting vitamin C to appetite-suppressing fiber, blueberries pack an incredible amount of nutritional goodness into a small package. They're loaded with antioxidants, phytonutrients, low in calories, and high in water and fiber to help control blood sugar and keep you full longer. Plus, like cranberries, blueberries are believed to help reduce urinary tract infections.
Your Muscles & Joints:
Packed with the vital amino acids muscles need to grow and mend, whey protein, a primary ingrediant in ricotta cheese, is essential when it comes to helping you build a buff bod. Mix low-fat ricotta with scrambled eggs, salsa, and broccoli sprouts for a power-packed breakfast.
Extra-virgin olive oil
Forget fat-free dressings and use olive oil instead. Olive oil contains oleocanthal, an anti-inflammatory that may work like ibuprofen and keep your muscles and joints healthy and pain-free.
More than just delicious, chocolate is rich in magnesium, which is vital to bone health. Higher magnesium intake is linked with greater bone-mineral density, so feel free to nibble an ounce of the sweet treat each day.
Salmon gets is "superfood" reputation because of its high omega-3 fatty acid content, which helps boost bone density. It is also a good source of calcium, another bone must. As if that weren't enough, salmon is low in calories (200 for 3 ounces), has lots of protein, is a good source of iron, and is very low in saturated fat. Perhaps that's why the American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish like salmon twice weekly.
Until there is some kind of potion or pill that contains everything you needed for weight loss and good health, these "superfoods" are the next best thing.
Eaten regularly, these foods will help you satisfy the recommendations of the USDA Dietary Guidelines, but even more importantly, these multitasking "superfoods" provide multiple disease-fighting nutrients, fill you up without excess calories, and are easy to include in everyday meals, making them a convenient and delicious way to keep your body looking and feeling its best.
[image via VMPCares]