Superfoods. You’ve heard the term bandied about, often breathlessly. While it may sometimes be treated like the magical edible stuff of comic book characters and mythic heroes, this class of foods is really just exceptionally nutritious and healthful. Superfoods generally contain both exceptional amounts of healthy nutrients and exotically named compounds that do indeed do superhero-like things, such as prevent cancer.
Best of all, many of these superfoods are delicious too.
Eat Nuts, Resist Death
If you’ve cut nuts out of your diet because someone convinced you that they were making you gain weight, then have fun dying young. That may sound dramatic, but the verdict reached by a recent study on the health benefits of eating nuts is unequivocal: Nut consumption reduces the risk of death.
Published in the New England Journal of Medicine,the research found that eating just a handful of nuts a day—any kind of nuts!—decreased people’s risk of dying from any cause by 20 percent over the course of 30 years.
Also? People who regularly eat nuts weigh less.
Quinoa’s Here to Stay
This week the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Committee announced that 2014 is officially the International Year of Family Farming. We’re still a month and change away from the new year, but the end of the International Year of Quinoa is nigh.
Don’t expect that to bring an end to people gushing over all things quinoa.
Thing is, this pseudo-cereal—it’s a seed that behaves like a grain—is a nutritional wonder. Not only is it a complete protein, containing all nine amino acids (a feat no other plant-based food achieves), but it packs a ton of that essential nutrient into its small, tidy package: One cup of quinoa contains a full 8 grams of protein. The same amount of brown rice only contains 5 grams. Furthermore, quinoa sports significant amounts of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron.
Pour On the Olive Oil
If you’re inclined to feel guilty whenever you add an extra pat of butter to something bubbling away on the stovetop, you should cultivate the exact opposite response for those times when you drizzle on more olive oil. See, this is the kind of fat you should be consuming more of. A key component of the Mediterranean Diet, olive oil has been shown to help fend off all sorts of health ills: cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and more.
The latest research on olive oil and the Mediterranean Diet should be of particular interest to women: Consuming olive oil in concert with whole grains, vegetables, fish, and nuts gives women “a 40 percent greater chance of living past the age of 70 with no cognitive or physical ailments and no chronic diseases.”
Kale Loves You, but Do You Love Kale Back?
There it is, in your salad, fighting cancer with its sulforaphane. And it’s over there, in your juice, supplying you with more of vitamins A and C then you need in one day. And again, at dinner, kale appears on your plate, sautéed with garlic and chile, finished with a touch of lemon, providing you with the bile acid sequestrants your body can use to lower cholesterol and help avoid absorbing dietary fats.
So the question is, What have you done for kale lately?
The raisin-like dried fruits of two Chinese species of boxthorn are widely extolled for their health properties. Since the fruit became popular in the West, there’s been some debate over its superfood status. Some say that with its astronomically high concentration of vitamin C and many antioxidants, it’s a godsend. Others call it a marketing scam. But goji has centuries of traditional Chinese medicine to back up its healthful rep. Just keep that history in mind when you eat goji berries: In China, they’re treated as a healthful food, something to be cooked and eaten alongside other ingredients—not something to gorge on exclusively simply because it’s good for you.