Expanding your superfoods circle just got sassier
Planning the weekly menu can get tiresome even on a good week, but it can become especially challenging at times when other life tasks take center stage and we need (or want!) to spend less time planning and running errands!
You know your superfoods “go tos” already, from berries to broccoli and from oranges to omega-3s in salmon and walnuts, and no doubt it’s wise to take advantage of all the fresh produce Mother Nature provides. But it’s still nice to have a few fun add-ins that have whole food goodness and a bit of a shelf life, too!
A dried fruit, a ‘new’ ancient grain, a super greens ingredient, and a cool and refreshing beverage. You may know them already. Or maybe you’ve heard of one or more, but not gone as far as trying them yet. Now’s the time! And each pairs beautifully with every season’s fresh fare: at barbecues, beach picnics, or potlucks, and from fancy to no-frills.
If you feel like you’re in a bit of a diet rut or just in the mood to try a few new ‘soon-to-be-hits’ in your diet, here are 4 great foods that also traverse different categories and conveniently store well in your pantry or fridge, too!
The little red Goji berry that’s all the rage right now has actually been part of the typical diet in many parts of Asia for centuries. Most commonly grown in China, Tibet and Mongolia, we can find them in the U.S., Canada and Europe on the shelves at our health food stores. A sweet-tart dried fruit, goji berries have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to support a healthy immune system, eyesight, liver health, and circulation. Rich in vitamins like vitamin A (a vitamin that promotes healthy eyes and beautiful skin) and phytonutrients including antioxidants, the goji berry does share some nutritional similarities with some of its other familiar and well-loved cousins like blueberries, strawberries, cranberries and also cherries. Goji berries are tasty and fun additions in tea, morning oatmeal, grain dishes (like farro or quinoa), and in baked in breads and muffins. Here is a fun recipe for Baked Oatmeal With Bananas and Berries that incorporates goji berries!
Some call farro the “mother of all wheat,” and it’s one of the newly popularize ‘ancient grains’ and a staple food of Ancient Roman diet. Farro is NOT gluten-free, but is lower in gluten than modern wheat. Ringing in at a respectable 7 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per serving, as a grain, farro is a nutrient powerhouse. As a whole grain, it can be a nice addition to the weekly menu and to your health as increased whole grain consumption has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, digestive cancers and stroke. Whole grain farro requires an overnight soak before cooking, similar to dried beans. And while traditional cooking of farro can take a little bit longer than rice, it’s the same process and requires a similar ratio of 2 parts water to 1 part grain. Farro is a fun swap for other cooked grains like quinoa and brown rice providing a nutty flavor to the dish. Try combining cooked farro with parsley, currants and toasted walnuts along with EVOO, white balsamic vinegar and favorite seasonings for a flavorful and nutritious side dish that you can serve hot, warm or room temperature.
Spirulina is a freshwater blue-green algae (think: lake not ocean!) It is high in vitamin K that helps support bones and blood health, in iron that helps deliver oxygen through the blood to our cells, and carotenoids, a type of phytonutrient and precursor to vitamin A (boasting even more carotenoids than carrots despite its green color). It also contains some protein and other phytonutrients. Spirulina contains phycocyanin, a protein-pigment related to chlorophyll. And science suggests that the nutrients in spirulina help promote a healthy heart, as well as displaying anti-inflammatory, prebiotic and anti-cancer properties.
Spirulina, like other supergreens, is a food/ingredient you don’t typically source yourself in a whole food form like you might with wheat grass, for example. However, in a clean product (powdered or liquid form, and also sold in capsules) without artificial ingredients, it can be a nice addition to the diet and your overall nutrition. Spirulina and other supergreens are used in smoothies and juices primarily, but can also be added to sauces, dressings, or incorporated into grain or bean dishes. You can whisk or shake spirulina into salad dressings, stir it into yogurt with fruit and nuts, and you can even make your own energy bar that includes supergreens powders, like spirulina, with the dried fruits and nuts.
You can try this tasty recipe for Energy Bliss Balls that calls for spirulina!
Organic Coconut Water
There’s a lot of truth but also a lot of hype about coconut water, and other coconut-based products, right now. Organic coconut water is a great beverage as beverages go, but it’s not a miracle food. Coconut water is a delicious, hydrating beverage with some cool nutritional and flavor attributes including naturally occurring electrolytes, a good source of potassium and magnesium, and an excellent source vitamin C. Coconut water is low in sodium, with a refreshing, slightly sweet but also quenching and delightful hint-of-tart taste. It’s a nice hydration and rehydration beverage and a terrific mixer to other juices, as a base in smoothies, and add-in to adult bevvies, too. At about 1/3 to 1/2 the calories of a juice, it provides flavor and nutrition for less calories. And with only about 46-60 calories per cup and no added sweeteners, the calories won’t add up as quickly to hurt your waistline as equal amounts of heavily sweetened sodas and other higher calorie drinks.
Here’s a light and fun recipe for a Red Alert beverage that calls for tart cherry juice, coconut water, sparkling water and a slice of orange or lime. A refreshing recipe for an active day or easy to transform this into an adult beverage for a festive evening, too!