Walking Guide

10 Healthy Foods That Deserve a Place in Your Diet

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Congratulations on making the decision to eat right! Now for the harder part: to figure out what "right" actually means.
 
It's easy to get tricked by deceptive marketing into choosing foods that look and sound like smart choices—using buzzwords like "low-fat," "sugar-free" and "high-protein"—but are actually more hype than health. Junk food doesn’t always come in the form of donuts and potato chips.
 
Or maybe you do have an idea of what the "right" foods are, but you're still hung up on how much you hated them as a kid. The good news is, much like your taste in music, your tastebuds can change right along with your lifestyle, especially if you start mixing things up and experimenting with new recipes. Maybe Brussels sprouts just weren't your mom's forte.
 
To help kickstart your body-nourishing journey, we asked a few dietitians and nutritionists to suggest some health-boosting items to add to your repertoire this year. Consider this your cheat sheet for making the right food choices, and sticking with them!

Sorghum


You might not have heard of sorghum, but this gluten-free whole grain is gaining in popularity lately, and for good reason. As registered dietitian nutritionist Amanda Barnes points out, sorghum provides a bevy of health benefits—it's high in antioxidants, fiber, magnesium and vitamin B. As an Earth-friendly bonus, it's sustainable to grow because of its high drought tolerance.
 
How to Try It
 
Barnes suggests using this versatile whole grain in a breakfast bowl, substituting it for quinoa in a vegetable bowl or baking cookies with sorghum flour. Find some yummy sorghum recipes here.

Chickpeas


When it comes to choosing foods for healthy meals and snacks, SparkPeople dietitian Becky Hand makes sure they have met five key criteria: quick, tasty, versatile, healthy and budget-friendly. One food that satisfies all of these, Hand says, is the long-forgotten legume, the chickpea—also known as the garbanzo bean.
 
Chickpeas contain a blend of both insoluble and soluble fiber. While the insoluble fiber helps to prevent constipation, the soluble kind works to maintain healthy cholesterol and blood-sugar levels. The nutrient benefits don’t stop there: Chickpeas are also high in plant protein, iron, folic acid and manganese.
 
"Chickpeas have a very mild flavor and take on the taste of the other ingredients, spices and herbs used in the recipe," Hand says.
 
How to Try It
 
Hand suggests some delicious ways to go gaga for garbanzos:
  • Use them straight from the can to add a hearty, meaty texture to salads, soups, stews, pasta and curry dishes, wraps and tacos.
  • Roast with olive oil and spices for a crunchy snack.  
  • Puree to add a thick, creamy texture to creamed soups, blend with preferred spices for your favorite hummus dip or create the base for a dynamite bean burger.

Superfood Powders


You've probably heard of superfoods—but what about superfood powders? Many trendy cafes are serving drinks and foods infused with health-boosting powders, such as matcha, maca, acai, spirulina and ashwagandha. Many of them have been used for centuries in ancient communities, but are now gaining modern popularity due to their numerous health benefits.
 
"Rich in antioxidants, superfood powders have been shown to have many advantages, including reducing inflammation, anxiety and cholesterol," says Barnes.
 
How to Try It
 
It's super easy to incorporate superfood powders into smoothie bowls, teas, lattes, yogurt and pastries.

Moringa


Moringa is having a moment. Native to Asia and Africa, this dark-green leafy plant has been around for hundreds of years, but is only recently gaining popularity in America due to its incredible nutrition profile.
 
"Moringa has all of the essential amino acids, and is high in plant-based protein and fiber," notes registered dietitian nutritionist Ilana Muhlstein. "Also, because it is so rich in iron and vitamin A, it is incredible for boosting energy and immunity. Moringa is also an adaptagen, which has been found to be helpful for lowering and managing stress."
 
How to Try It
 
Muhlstein adds moringa powder to her shakes every morning. The powder can also be sprinkled in tea, coffee, soups or on top of food, and can be added to bread and pastry dough before baking. You can also add moringa in its leaf form to pasta, salads or rice. Try to add the leaves after the food has been cooked, as excess heat can strip out some of the nutrients and beneficial enzymes.

Beets


Beets are quickly becoming all the rage among athletes, says Nichole Dandrea, registered dietitian with Nicobella Organics. "Beets are a nitrate-rich food, a substance that turns into nitric oxide within our body," she says. "Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow, helping to lower blood pressure, decrease clotting and improve endurance during cardiovascular exercise."
 
Beets are a generous source of nutrients like potassium, betaine, magnesium, folate and vitamin C, and have been shown to improve cognitive function.
 
How to Try It
 
You might not have been crazy about beets as a child, but you'll likely be surprised by how delicious they can be. Try these Beets with Olive Oil and Red Wine VinegarSteamed Golden Beets and Kale or Roasted Beets with Gorgonzola, Walnuts & Arugula. They also make great salad toppers.

Arugula


Not only does it infuse foods with a delightfully spicy flavor, but this leafy green also delivers an abundance of nutrition, says registered dietitian nutritionist Jeanette Kimszal. It's chock full of antioxidants that help to fight inflammation. Plus, it contains the compound glucosinolate, an anti-carcinogen that helps to prevent free radicals from forming.
 
Arugula's high volume of vitamin K is good for the heart, bones and skin, and helps to regulate calcium levels. Like other leafy greens, it has important minerals like magnesium, potassium, manganese, phosphorus and iron, which help to regulate cell function and improve oxygen circulation.
 
How to Try It
 
Kimszal recommends livening up your meals by adding arugula to soups and salads, or try baking and sautéing it with some garlic or your favorite spices and enjoying it as a healthy side dish.

Steel Cut Oats


Move over, avocado toast: Steel cut oats are making a comeback as a nourishing comfort breakfast. This type of oatmeal is made by chopping rather than rolling the oats, resulting in a thicker, chewier texture. Frida Harju Westman, a nutritionist at Lifesum, compares oats to a blank breakfast canvas, ready to be mixed with all your favorite delicious and nutritious toppings, including pear, raw dark chocolate, chia seeds and (hold on to your seat) avocado.
 
"Oats are a filling, energy-boosting way to start the day, as they contain soluble fiber in much higher quantities than other grains, which helps reduce the absorption of cholesterol," Westman explains. "Studies have shown that a bowl of organic oats is enough to reduce your levels of harmful cholesterol, similar to the results of doctor-prescribed statins."
 
How to Try It
 
Whether you prefer your oats basic or bold, there are countless ways to prepare this very versatile breakfast food. Try the traditional Stove Top Steel Cut OatsApple-Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats or Steel-Cut Pumpkin Oats. You can even pep up your porridge by adding ingredients like peanut butter, bananas, peaches, a poached egg or any other toppings that tickle your fancy.

High-Quality Coffee Beans


Many of us can't imagine starting our day without java—but are you settling for sub-par sustenance? Weight loss therapist Dr. Candice Seti recommends giving your health a boost by upgrading to a better bean.
 
"Coffee is most people’s single greatest source of antioxidants, but many of us are offsetting those benefits by adding sugar, artificial sweetener and processed creamers to our morning joe," she says. "By switching to a high-quality coffee, you may find you actually like the natural taste of coffee itself and don’t need to disguise it with all the sugar and processed ingredients. If you still need a little something to cut the bitterness, try adding in plain creamer from grass-fed cows or some coconut milk."
 
How to Try It
 
Try these tips for crafting the perfect cup of coffee, without any unhealthy additives.

Chia Seeds


For an easy added source of extra fiber, protein and fat, sprinkle on some chia seeds. Kimszal points out that they're rich in omega-3s and fiber, which help to boost your brain, heart and digestive health. They also rate pretty high in the protein department, so you can bulk up your meal and stay full for longer. These tiny seeds pack in many essential minerals, like calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc.
 
How to Try It
 
"Adding chia seeds to your diet is super easy," says Kimszal. "Drop some in your yogurt, oatmeal or salad dressings, or add them to your favorite baked good recipe to get some extra protein and fiber." Plus, vegans can use them as a substitute for eggs in recipes. They even make a mean chocolate pudding (who knew?).

Kefir


Researchers are learning more and more about the important role that a healthy gut plays in overall wellness—not just digestive health and weight loss, but also mental well-being. Instead of spending money on supplements, Barnes recommends using kefir, a fermented beverage similar to yogurt, to naturally improve the quality of your gut microbes. Made from milk proteins, yeasts and healthy bacteria, it’s chock full of probiotics.
 
How to Try It
 
Barnes suggests adding kefir to your smoothies, pouring it on cereal or granola instead of milk, or just drinking it on its own as a midday snack. Most kefir is made from dairy milk, but non-dairy versions can be made with rice milk, coconut milk, goat's milk or even coconut water.
 
Have you tried any of these food suggestions? Which healthy choices would you recommend adding to the list?

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Comments

SHOAPIE 5/9/2018
Good info. Report
THECOZE 5/9/2018
Some interesting sounding foods that I will have to try... Report
LOSER05 5/9/2018
thanks. Report
MBPP50 5/9/2018
Great! Thank you Report
MSROZZIE 5/8/2018
Great article, will try a few of these food suggestions. Thanks! Report
PATRICIA-CR 5/8/2018
Already! Report
JUSTFURKIDS 5/8/2018
Can’t wait to try the Chia Mint Chocolate Pudding but the link won’t load on my phone. Will try from trusty laptop! Thanks for the article! Inspirational as always! Report
JANET552 5/8/2018
I love beets, especially roasted. I enjoy kefir as well but it has too much sugar. Report
AMYSUZEQ 5/8/2018
Thank you Report
JVANAM 4/30/2018
Behold this day. It is yours to make. ~ Black Elk (Ogala Lakota) ~ 4/30/18 Report
ANHELIC 3/11/2018
Great information Report
WALKZWDOGZ 3/10/2018
Most of these "this year's super foods" have been around for centuries! LOL! Buzzwords, indeed. Report
MUSTANGMOM6 3/7/2018
Great article Report
BOWANNA0503 3/7/2018
I love beats Report
RD03875 3/4/2018
Thank you Report
NANCYPAT1 3/4/2018
Thank you for sharing this! Report
NANCYPAT1 3/4/2018
Thank you for sharing this! Report
NANCYPAT1 3/4/2018
Thank you for sharing this! Report
NANCYPAT1 3/4/2018
Thank you for sharing this! Report
JVANAM 3/4/2018
If you can dream it, you can do it. - Walt Disney ~ 3/4/18 70th OSCARS Report
HOLLYM48 3/4/2018
Great article! Report
JANTHEBLONDE 3/4/2018
Great article! Report
DEBBY4576 3/4/2018
Good article. Be aware Beets are Genetically modified (GMO). Report
FISHGUT3 3/4/2018
thanks Report
NELLJONES 3/4/2018
I love chickpeas and all legumes! Report
VHAYES04 3/4/2018
Thanks Report
CHERIRIDDELL 3/3/2018
Excellent Report
CHERIRIDDELL 3/3/2018
Excellent Report
MSROZZIE 3/3/2018
Good article and excellent need-to-know information on food mentioned in article. Will have to include a few that I have not tried yet. Report
GOLDENRODFARM 3/3/2018
Interesting to find items you have eaten for years have taken a jump into superfoods lol Report
CHRIS3874 3/3/2018
Thanks I just question that some of these seem to be on a revolving door,One year one thing is demonized then a year or more later its the next best thing. (fats vs fat free etc). Report
97MONTY 3/3/2018
Great info Report
1CRAZYDOG 3/3/2018
I use all but moringa. Have to check that out. Report
LIS193 3/3/2018
Great info! Report
4LMHJCR 3/3/2018
I make steel cut oats all the time. I do enjoy some of the other items on this list as well. I have never heard of sorghum - but will have to look into that one (need to clear out some of my other staples in the kitchen before buying any new items). I do have moringa in the house - but it is an acquired taste and I still have not been able to find a way to enjoy that one. Report
AQUAGIRL08 3/3/2018
Wow! Quite a few of these are new to me. Thank you for sharing. Report
AZMOMXTWO 3/3/2018
some of these are not good for you depending on the medication that you may be on Report
AZMOMXTWO 3/3/2018
some of these are not good for you depending on the medication that you may be on Report
PICKIE98 3/3/2018
Got to watch some of these things: Vitamin K is strong in a lot of them,, blood thinner. I feel safest eating red beets. Report
REDROBIN47 3/3/2018
Some of these are new to me. I will check them out to see if I can add some of them to my plan. Report
LSIG14 3/3/2018
I would have to check with my doctor before incorporating the super powders and several other items because I am on a blood thinner and some of these are extremely high in Vitamin K. One size definitely does not fit all - research before trying! Report
MARITIMER3 3/3/2018
Nice to see beets on the list. I use ncooked oatmeal in parfaits,with Greek yogurt and fresh fruit. Report
RO2BENT 3/3/2018
I eat some but also haven't heard of some Report
GOLDTAG1 3/3/2018
Quick cooking Steel Cut Oats is a regular breakfast choice of mine. Beets have always been a favorite vegetable for me. My grandmother used to make a cold beet borscht in the summer that was delicious! Report
RYCGIRL 3/3/2018
thanks Report
INSIGHT62 3/3/2018
Thanks for introducing some new foods I've never heard of. Interesting. Report
HAWKTHREE 3/3/2018
The easiest way i found to prep steel cut oats was a slow cooker. Small cheap-o $10 one was perfect. Turn it on at night and in the morning perfectly done steel cut oats and with no lumps. Report
RHOOK20047 3/3/2018
I have some of those in my diet already. Report
JANETEMILY 3/3/2018
If someone likes the chewier texture, and the additional cooking time, then steel cut oats are great. However, they are just another type of process, they are not any more beneficial to the body, or better for cholesterol than regular oats (just not instant oats!) Also, they do not have to be "organic"! No wonder people think it's more expensive to eat healthy! Report
SHELLLEY2 3/3/2018
Great suggestions.. most, I eat already but figured out some ways to incorporate some new ones suggested here. Thank you for posting this article. Report
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