August 23, 2014

Ten underappreciated ‘super foods’

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Do you know what’s in your fridge? Believe it or not, there are many ordinary foods in there that have extraordinary nutritional value. Whether it’s a vegetable or seed, these foods can add flavor and health benefits to any meal or snack. Nonprofit weight loss support organization TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), suggests ten ‘super foods’ that you already have at home.

Beans

Beans (also known as legumes), including kidney, black, white and red beans, chick peas and lentils, are a powerful source of protein and complex carbohydrates, as well as fiber and important vitamins and minerals. Eating beans has been proven to help reduce cholesterol levels, body weight, the risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and some instances of cancer. Add a variety of beans to your meal, whether they are fresh, frozen, canned, or dried.

Celery

Celery is a simple, yet important vegetable, offering vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that can reduce cholesterol and protect against cancer. Add celery to soups, stews, meats, side dishes and other meals.

Garlic

With a distinct flavor and fragrance, garlic contains anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties that protect against heart disease, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and provide anti-clotting features. It also offers vitamins C and B6, manganese and selenium.

Onion

Whether they’re sliced, diced, chopped or pureed, onions have a pungent flavor and a lot of nutrition, containing fiber, minerals, and vitamins C and B6. There has also been research to learn more about onions’ polyphenol and sulfur compounds, which may reduce the risk of cancer and boost immune function and heart health.

Peas

Green and yellow vegetables, including green peas, are often associated with reducing the risk of heart disease.  Garden, snow, snap, dried and other varieties of peas are loaded with vitamins A, C, K and B, minerals, fiber and protein. They are a great source for eye-healthy compounds beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Include peas in a soup or stew, toss them into a salad or eat them as a snack.

Black Pepper

This common spice is a great way to boost a meal’s flavor without adding calories. Also, capsaicin, the substance that gives pepper its heat, is known for its anti-cancer properties and inflammation reduction, which is the root of chronic disease. Use ground, cracked or whole versions of pepper.

Bell Pepper

Bell peppers come in a variety of vibrant colors—green, red, yellow, orange and purple. Peppers offer powerful anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals, which can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of certain cancers. Enjoy peppers cooked or raw.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamin E, which serves as an antioxidant and contains anti-inflammatory properties. They also offer B vitamins, heart-healthy polyunsaturated oil, manganese, magnesium, selenium and phytosterols, a compound known to reduce blood cholesterol levels. Add sunflower seeds to a fresh salad, mix them into chicken salad, sprinkle them over meat, or grind them up for a spread.

Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds are a rich source of copper, which can provide arthritis relief. They also contain calcium and magnesium, which may lower blood pressure, protect against osteoporosis, and more. Mix them with steamed vegetables, sautéed fish or chicken or add sesame seeds to homemade bread.

Canned Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes are not only a versatile ingredient, but also a powerhouse of antioxidants and nutrients, including lycopene, vitamin C, fiber, potassium and iron. Keep some in your pantry for pasta and rice dishes, soups, stews, casseroles and other concoctions.

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