I despise the term “super foods.” It’s uncategorical, misleading, and just generally used incorrectly (the EU knows what’s up). However, I do believe in souped up foods; foodsthat are nutritional powerhouses that can be reasonably used in every day cooking. My list here refers to the top 10 best foods for you, nutritionally, and as excellent sources of all of those daily essentials you know you should be eating (protein, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc.)
So here we go: the 10 best foods you aren’t eating. I’ve ordered them here in terms of approachability. By that I mean what is realistic for most people to incorporate into their everyday life based on accessibility, taste, and practical uses. The more outlandish ones are at the bottom but they are still just as good for you! Give them all a try at least once!
1) Oats: We’ve all had oats, I know. Maybe you already do eat them every day. Oats are versatile and super healthy, that’s why they are #1 on my list. Oats can be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert, sweet or savory, they can be ground into flour or even eaten raw if you wanted. Oats are super high in soluble fiber, protein, and folate (vitamin B9). My favorite uses are in banana bread, meatballs, fruit crumble topping, ground up as oat flour, and muesli bars.
2) Greek Yogurt: You guys, I used to be addicted to sour cream. It was bad. And then I met greek yogurt and everything changed. It’s exactly the same consistency, it has a creamy and rich taste, and is way healthier for you. Not only is it lower in fat, calories, and sodium, but it’s extremely high in protein. I use it in literally everything. My favorite uses are smoothies, any baked sweet bread (keeps them super moist), and in tacos and fajitas in place of sour cream.
3) Edamame: I first met edamame at the Whole Foods salad bar. I don’t know what made me spoon a pile into my salad that first day back in 2005 considering I had no idea what edamame was but I’m glad I did. I took one bite of these firm but creamy beans and it was love. Now I buy them en masse from Trader Joe’s; our freezer is always stocked. I know there is unresolved soybean controversy but I love them because they are high in fiber, a complete protein, low calorie, low cost, and totally versatile. They are awesome in any stir fry or as a topping for any kind of salad.
4) Quinoa: Quinoa is relatively new to my repertoire. Honestly I started using it because I was tired of brown rice. Once I started reading up on how good it is for you (crazy high in protein, fiber, and amino acids) I was totally on board. Quinoa works in many different ways too. It’s good in soups, salads (hot or cold), stir frys, and in place of rice or pasta in many applications.
5) Protein Powder: Protein powder gets such a bad wrap: it’s only for bodybuilders and their weird weight gain shakes, it’s only found in chalky protein supplement bars, it’s gritty, bland, funky tasting. But protein powders are made with so many different types of ingredients now (soy, whey, hemp) which have more even textures and subtler flavors. Heck, some brands are even flavored (vanilla, chocolate, etc). So they really do mix well into all kinds of foods to boost the protein content. My favorite use? Smoothies, obviously! In addition to protein many contain big amounts of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
6) Flax Seeds: As a flax seed newbie I ate the seeds whole. Duh. They have to be ground for your body to digest and absorb all of the nutrients in them. Now that I know better I sneak ground flax seed into pretty much everything I can. They are super high in fiber and omega 3 fatty acids, and naturally pair with most baked goods because of their subtle nutty flavor.
7) Agave Nectar/Sweetener: I got big into agave nectar for two reasons: #1) to replace sugar in most of my recipes and #2) as a substitute for corn syrup. This was something I bought thinking I may not use a whole lot but boy was I wrong. I even drizzle in tea sometimes when I’m out of honey. Like sugar, you should use agave in moderation but unlike sugar, agave has a very low glycemic load which effects digestion, blood sugar, and metabolism. Other bonuses are that it comes directly from a plant and, thus, is vegan.
8) Chia Seeds: I first heard about chia seeds in Christopher McDougall’s excellent book Born To Run. An excerpt from the book says it all really: “A tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach, and human growth hormone. As tiny as those seeds are, they’re superpacked with omega-3s, omega-6s, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber and, antioxidants.” Similar to ground flax seed, chia seeds are great to sneak into baked goods, trail mix, muesli, cereal or oatmeal. I prefer ground chia seeds but you can buy and eat them whole too.
9) Liquid Aminos: There is only one real use for liquid aminos but it’s a big one: it’s a soy sauce substitute. Let’s look at some cold hard numbers, shall we? One tablespoon of regular soy sauce can pack up to 1,006mg of sodium. The USDA recommends Americans consume less than 2,300mg of sodium per day. So that one tablespoon is almost half of your daily allotment. And you know we all use more than one tablespoon! Bragg’s liquid aminos has only 480mg of sodium in one tablespoon. Don’t forget the name – it’s also packed with 16 naturally occurring amino acids. And trust me, it tastes just as salty and delicious as soy sauce!
10) Nutritional Yeast: OK, this one is last on the list for a reason. It’s a stretch for the everyday consumer, I know. Nutritional yeast is mostly used by vegetarians and vegans as an alternative protein source. It’s also used by vegs because it’s a great cheese substitute. Heck, it’s also packed with tons of B complex vitamins. It has a nutty cheesy flavor with the same texture as that fake cheese stuff on cheese curls. Except nutritional yeast is great for you! You can eat raw or cooked in various dishes. I like sprinkling on salad, popcorn, or stirring in to foods that lend themselves to a cheesy edge like pasta dishes or mac and cheese.
Please let me know if you have any questions about any of these items!