Never Fear, Superfoods are Here

Before you head to the market, it’s good to know just why these so-called superfoods are so, well, super.

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It is said that your fridge should be stocked with big bunches of kale and bags of sweet potatoes, while your pantry should be laden with boxes of quinoa and chia seeds. But before you grab your canvas bags and head to the market, it’s good to know just why these so-called superfoods are so, well, super. We consulted nutritionist Stephanie O’Donnell of Nurturing Nutrition to see what all the fuss is about.

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CHIA SEEDS

WHY THEY’RE SUPER: “Chia seeds are known for their nutrient density and high fiber content. They contain anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and help boost digestive and heart health.”

HOW TO EAT THEM: Throw them into a smoothie or make chia pudding by mixing coconut milk and chia seeds. Add some poached fruit on top for a hint of sweetness.

 

 

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ACAI BERRIES

WHY THEY’RE SUPER: “Acai berries are high in antioxidants and are full of fiber and other vitamins and minerals essential to health and wellbeing. They support healthy skin, a sharp mental focus and resilience.”

HOW TO EAT IT: Two words: Smoothie. Bowl. These little gems are what gives your Acai bowl its purple tint. You can also toss them into brownies for a fruity hit.

 

QUINOA

WHY IT’S SUPER:“Quinoa is the only plant-based food that is considered a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the amino acids that our bodies need but can’t produce on their own. It’s also high in fiber. The antioxidants in quinoa prevent disease.”

HOW TO EAT IT: One of our favorite iterations is a quinoa bowl with shredded chicken, peanuts, coconut, cilantro and a fish sauce-based Thai dressing.

 

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BEE POLLEN

WHY IT’S SUPER: “Bee pollen is known for its nutrient density. It has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, and can help you fight allergies naturally.”

HOW TO EAT IT: Blitz the pollen in a spice or coffee grinder, then sprinkle it on yogurt or homemade granola fresh from the oven.

 

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SEAWEED

WHY IT’S SUPER: “Seaweed is considered a superfood because of its nutrient density. It contains many essential minerals and omega-3 fatty acids, and contains components that aren’t found in vegetables that come from the land. It has anti-inflammatory components and promotes heart health.”

HOW TO EAT IT: Buy some nori sheets and make your own sushi by filling them with sticky rice, cucumbers, avocado and sushi-grade tuna. Or, if you’re looking for a savory snack, cut nori sheets into small triangles, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast at 300 degrees for three to four minutes.

 

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TURMERIC

WHY IT’S SUPER: “Turmeric is well known for a compound it contains called curcumin. It is high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric can help relieve pain and supports mental health.”

HOW TO EAT IT: Sautee cauliflower florets with onions and craisins, then add ground turmeric, cumin, curry powder and cardamom. Stir until coated, then add coconut milk and cook until reduced. Season to taste, then sprinkle
with toasted slivered almonds
and parsley.

 

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SWEET POTATOES

WHY THEY’RE SUPER: “Sweet potatoes are high in nutrients, antioxidants and fiber. They support heart health and blood sugar regulation. Fun fact: Sweet potatoes come in many varieties, not only the orange-fleshed ones we normally think of, but you can also find them with white or purple flesh.”

HOW TO EAT THEM: For a simple weeknight dinner, roast sweet potatoes in the oven until soft. Cut open and sprinkle with brown sugar, salt and cayenne pepper. Top with non-fat yogurt.

 

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KALE

WHY IT’S SUPER: “Kale is known for its antioxidant content, anti-inflammatory properties and ability to support natural detoxification in our bodies. It supports heart health and is especially important during pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects.”

HOW TO EAT IT: FYI: Kale chips are so passe. Instead, grab your kale, chop it up and saute with garlic, red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper, then crack
an egg on top: voila, healthy kale-centric breakfast.

 

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GOJI BERRIES

WHY IT’S SUPER: “Goji berries are known for their high antioxidant content. They can keep you from getting sick and boost energy and mood.”

HOW TO EAT THEM: Often sold dried, add them to your next batch of homemade granola or sprinkle onto cereal for a chewy, sweet pop.

 

 

 

Portrait by Bethany O. Photography

ABOUT THE NUTRITIONIST: Stephanie O’Donnell is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at her private practice, Nurturing Nutrition. She takes a whole-person approach and sees clients locally in her North Kingstown office and virtually nationwide.  Stephanie is a member of the Rhode Island Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her favorite superfood is kale because there are so many different varieties. She loves to saute baby kale and mix it into cauliflower rice.

 

 

 

 

 

So, now what? Do I go buy a bunch of pollen and goji berries?

Hold your horses. O’ Donnell gave us a deeper scoop on super foods, their benefits and if there can be too much of a good thing.

Are there any superfoods that don’t get a lot of the spotlight but are just as good, if not better?

Yes, organ meats and seafood! They are a good source of multiple key nutrients for health and wellness. Seafood is definitely more talked about than organ meats due to the “ew” factor when you tell someone they should eat liver or kidney. Many people also think that liver isn’t healthy because it acts as a filter for the body, but it doesn’t hold onto the things that it filters out, it actually sends them out of the body.

Can you have too much of a good thing? How often should you be integrating these superfoods into your diet?

For most people, superfoods will not be a problem. More is not always better, so it’s important to keep appropriate portions in mind. I’m also a firm believer that variety is key, so don’t forget to include many different foods in your diet.

Are there any superfoods that aren’t really that good
for you?

Yes and no. Superfoods all have wonderful benefits, but some do come with risks as well. If you are allergic or sensitive to a food or its components, or if a food or its components interacts with a medication you’re taking, then you will want to avoid that food or work with your doctor or pharmacist to adjust medications as necessary. People with certain medical conditions also need to use caution. For example, people who have an autoimmune condition would want to be cautious of foods that stimulate the immune system. It’s always best to work with a health care professional before taking a large or concentrated dose of something or eating a food that you’re unfamiliar with if you have a medical condition.

 

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