March is National Nutrition Month. So each week this month, we’re highlighting how certain foods can help improve your health. This is the third article in the series. Please share with friends and family who may be interested.
For many adults, being time-pressed has become the norm. They’re driven to pack more into any given moment. With this mind, perhaps it’s no surprise that there’s a recent surge of interest in “superfoods” – plant foods that pack in more nutrition than other food items. Sure, this food trend is hot right now, but does the reality actually live up to the hype?
Turns out the answer is yes, as long as you’re consuming the right foods for the right reasons. According to Diana K. Rice, a registered dietitian who works with Meatless Monday, “Many plant-based foods pack in more fiber, minerals and fiber than other dietary choices,” said Rice. “So if you’re looking to improve the quality of your diet, it’s a great idea to rely on these foods over choices like processed carbohydrates and animal products.”
But don’t expect superfoods to deliver a miracle cure for your medical problems, cautions Rice. She explains, “No single food is going to help you lose weight, give you clearer skin or achieve whatever other health goal you’re after. The main reason to eat superfoods is that they are nutritious and convenient.”
One easy way to pack more superfoods into yoir diet is to adopt the practice of Meatless Monday. “When you choose not to eat meat one day a week, there’s a lot of room left in your diet to fill with nutrient-packed superfoods,” Rice said. “And when you try tasty new dishes containing plant-based superfoods on a Monday, you’ll be more likely to incorporate them into your diet over the rest of the week, too.”
To kick off your new Meatless Monday habit, Rice recommends these plant-based superfoods:
Peanuts: Not only is this plant-based source of protein highly affordable, it’s adored by the masses for its appealing flavor. In addition to seven grams of protein per one ounce serving, peanuts are a terrific source of folate and resveratrol – yes, the red wine nutrient! Found in whole peanuts (as well as grape skins), resveratrol is an antioxidant that’s linked to reduced rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Think outside the peanut butter sandwich with Peanut Noodles or Peanut Butter Chili.
Avocados: This fruit is a super substitute for animal products on Meatless Monday because its healthy fat content satisfies the same craving you might have for a juicy steak. But since the fats found in avocados are mostly heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, they’re doing your body a favor along with your tastebuds. Grill them and top with salsa for a new twist or try them with pasta in this Pea and Avocado Penne.
Kale: Sure, kale isn’t as trendy as it once was. Nowadays, foods like collard greens and Brussels sprouts are stealing the spotlight. However, kale rose to popularity for good reason – it scores a perfect 1000 on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, meaning that it packs in more nutrition per calorie than most other foods. In particular, it’s a great source of vitamins A, K, C and fiber. Give it a spin in this Forbidden Rice Salad or try a new variation on your lasagna with this kale-packed version.
Mushrooms: Not many foods pack in a hefty dose of vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. But one portabella mushroom can pack in 400 IU (international units) of vitamin D, which is more than half of the recommended daily intake level. They’re an especially good choice for people who are averse to sun or live in northern climates, plus they offer the crave-able “umami” flavor found in meat. Try them in Mushroom Tikka Masala or Mushroom Hemp Tartlets.
Tomatoes: No, not the pale pink slice that’s suspiciously topping your sandwich. We’re talking deep, dark red tomatoes – especially canned tomatoes – that are an excellent source of lycopene, an antioxidant that’s linked to heart health and reduced cancer risk. Pump up your lycopene intake with dishes like Shakshouka with Rainbow Chard and Tomato Parmesan Slow Cooker Soup.