Top 5 super foods with a powerful health impact
(BPT) - The term appears on headlines and is splashed on food labels everywhere -"super foods" get people talking. But what really is a super food, and how do you cut through confusion to find the foods that truly have a powerful impact on your health and wellness? "What are super foods? They are foods that have a very high or dense nutrient profile," says Sophie Uliano, New York Times best-selling author, passionate environmentalist and healthy living advocate. "Some super foods come from countries such as South America, in which case, it's important to make sure they are sustainably harvested and fair trade. Other super foods can be found in your local grocery store." Some of the most powerful super foods may surprise you. Uliano's list of top super foods that pack a big serving of healthy goodness include: 1. Goji berries Recommended frequency: every day These little berries are a very rich source of antioxidants: flavonoids, polyphenols and carotenoids. They also contain vitamins C, E and A. They have a whopping amount of vitamin C - better than 500 times more than an orange. In addition, these tasty berries contain 19 amino acids, including eight essential amino acids. They are also anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. "These berries are great for our long-term health. They have anti-aging benefits and help boost your immune system," says Uliano. "I recommend eating them in the same way as you would cranberries or raisins. You can add them to smoothies, oatmeal, granola, or even to make a salad a little more interesting." 2. Sardines Recommended frequency: one can a week If you've always avoided sardines, their nutritional profile should change your mind. Sardines contain B vitamins, phosphorus, potassium and iron. They are particularly rich in the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which are also important for their anti-inflammatory effects. "Canned sardines are just as healthy and rich in nutrients as fresh sardines," Uliano says. "If you dislike the taste and texture, try mashing them up with spicy mayo and eating as you would tuna salad. If you're still not sold, consider a high quality fish oil supplement from Nordic Naturals, which will give you a boost of the omega-3s your body needs to stay healthy and prevent disease." 3. Kale Recommended frequency: every day In addition to vitamin K, which is important for blood-clotting and healthy bones, kale is packed with vitamins A, C and E, calcium and fiber. The veggie also contains loads of carotenoids, which are great for eye health. "Different kinds of kale include Curly Kale, Dino Kale, Premier Kale and Redbar Kale," explains Uliano. "I love to steam kale and drizzle with olive or toasted sesame oil and a little tamari sauce. I eat it warm or as a cold side in the summer. It's also great to eat raw, but make sure that you wash well and remove all of the tough stems before chopping it up." 4. Coconut oil Recommended frequency: 1 to 3 tablespoons per day Raw virgin coconut oil has a plethora of health benefits. It must, however, be raw, not hydrogenated. The lauric acid in coconut oil has been found to increase metabolism as well as fight bacteria and viruses. Coconut oil also has been shown to help lower cholesterol, stimulate the thyroid and is good for the brain. "At room temperature, coconut oil will solidify, and when it's heated, it will liquefy," Uliano says. "My favorite ways to eat coconut oil include adding a tablespoon to smoothies or oatmeal, and using it in place of butter when baking. Coconut oil has a very high smoke point, so it is great for frying pancakes, or deep frying, too." 5. Maca Recommended frequency: every day Typically from Peru, maca is usually sold as a nutty powder, but it also comes in capsules. "It is an adaptogen, which means that it is a biological substance found in a plant, which helps the human body adapt to change and stress," says Uliano. "It has been used for more than 3,000 years in South America, and is also thought to be a libido enhancer." Perfect for vegans, maca is also a rich source of vitamin B12, minerals, protein and amino acids. "I like to bake with it or use it in smoothies. I add one heaping tablespoon of maca to my smoothie daily," notes Uliano.