We're over a month into 2016. You’ve made lists of intentions, resolutions, goals, desires, hopes, dreams. But have you made a list of nutritious foods, spices, and other nutrient-rich items to consume weekly, if not daily?
It can be easy to focus on popular superfoods and neglect other essential nutritious foods that our bodies crave for optimal health.
I try to incorporate these 12 foods into my meals daily. I hope you’ll join me in adding these staples to your life too!
Turmeric is a fantastic post-workout recovery “food” because it helps to reduce inflammation. In addition, turmeric is a very powerful antioxidant to help fight cancer, autoimmune illnesses, and promote heart health.
To use: Sprinkle organic turmeric powder on savory dishes.
Note: Curcumin is activated with ground black pepper and because turmeric is fat-soluble, it’s advisable to take with a healthy fat such as avocado or coconut. My favorite way to use turmeric is to make Golden Milk!
Cinnamon is proven to be a nutritional powerhouse. It helps fight diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and Parkinson's, promotes strong cardiovascular health, and is a super-strong antioxidant to fight off free radicals.
Cinnamon also helps keep insulin stable so blood sugar stays controlled. Great news for pre-diabetics or those with diabetes.
To use: Sprinkle on a warm bowl of steel-cut oats, mix a little with sunflower butter, raw honey, banana, ginger, and add to the top of your sweet potato.
Note: Use Ceylon cinnamon vs. commercial cinnamon (cassia).
Everyone likes chocolate, right? But all chocolate is not created equal. Raw cacao is the superfood part of chocolate, meaning it’s unprocessed and retains essential nutrients.
Raw cacao contains up to four times the antioxidants of processed cocoa powder! Raw cacao is also bountiful in minerals such as iron, magnesium, and potassium, in addition to omega fatty acids.
To use: Make a plant-based hot cacao, or sprinkle cacao on top of a warm bowl of steel-cut oats for chocolate oatmeal.
Besides the vibrant cheerful green color, the nutrient profile of spirulina is also something to get excited about: vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin B12, and iron, to name a few. This blue-green plant-based superfood from the sea also contains protein.
Spirulina is even touted as being good for the heart and an anti-inflammatory.
To use: I personally like to sprinkle on top of organic sprouted-grain pasta, salads, smoothies, and even soups.
5. Hemp hearts and powder
I eat hemp daily, as it's packed with plant-based protein! Hemp is a complete protein, which means it contains all the essential amino acids.
Additionally, hemp contains other vitamins and minerals that are crucial to our well-being; iron, vitamin B6, zinc, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus.
To use: Sprinkle hemp hearts on soups, salads, pasta, and eat straight from the bag! You add hemp protein powder to smoothies and baked goods.
6. Apple cider vinegar
Another “food” you may not think of that has amazing health benefits is apple cider vinegar (ACV). It contains enzymes, potassium, helps to balance pH in the body, aids in digestion, and is great for colds and sore throats.
All of these internal benefits show up in external ways, such as clearer and healthy skin!
To use: Add a tablespoon to your water bottle or make a “shot” with it and have first thing in the morning. If you're physically active, this makes a perfect electrolyte.
Note: Not all ACVs are the same, so be sure to use the unfiltered kind in a glass bottle. I use and recommend Braggs.
7. Unrefined sea salt
Most people fear all salt, but that’s simply not necessary. The salt from the earth is actually essential for our health! (Man-made salt like that found in fast food is, indeed, not healthy for us.)
Unrefined sea salt contains essential trace minerals. One of the best health benefits of these particular salts (e.g., Celtic, Himalayan, etc.) is that helps to balance our hormones.
To use: You can start the day with unrefined sea salts in warm water and sprinkle on any food you'd like.
8. Brazil nuts
This particular nut often gets overlooked in the wide array of other nuts on the shelf, but it shouldn’t.
Brazil nuts are packed with nutrients such as selenium, B and E vitamins, zinc, iron, and calcium that all add up to health benefits like radiant skin, heart health, balanced hormones, and a healthy immune system.
To use: Have a handful of Brazil nuts daily.
It’s difficult to pick my favorite healthy fat, but avocado is certainly at the top of the list!
Just as our bodies need the right salt, they also need the right fat for optimal health. Avocados are rich in fiber; vitamins C, E, and B6; copper; folate; and, of course, healthy fat.
Avocados give our health overall nutritional value but on a micro level they aid in heart health, weight management, stabilizing blood sugars, and reducing inflammation. I often say that an avocado a day will keep the doctor away because of the previous health benefits.
To use: Eat it plain, use in place of mayonnaise, or smash it up with unrefined sea salt and nutritional yeast for a quick, nutritious snack.
Following closely on the heels of the magnificent avocado is the equally wonderful coconut.
Another healthy fat, the coconut is packed full of nutrients like iron, vitamins C and B6, and magnesium. Besides coconut oil, there’s coconut flour, shredded coconut, coconut water, coconut milk.
To use: Swap coconut oil for butter, make Golden Milk with full-fat coconut milk, and experiment with coconut flour in recipes.
Red (and golden) beets are amazing superfoods because they boost energy levels, decrease inflammation, and help naturally detoxify your body. Naturally high in iron, beets are incredible for women.
To use: Besides juicing beets, you can cook them and drizzle with extra-virgin coconut oil and sprinkle with real salt. (See? You just got three superfoods right there!)
Note: Try to eat beets weekly rather than daily.
12. Leafy greens
No superfood list would be complete without greens. While I love kale and eat it just about daily, there are other greens that are also worthy of consuming — and it’s good to have a variety of greens on our plates.
Arugula, spinach, mache, collard greens, red-leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, watercress, and parsley are all examples of wonderful leafy greens to incorporate into your life on a daily basis. Because there are so many leafy greens to choose from, you’ll never grow bored.
To use: Make a salad, whip up a stir-fry with Swiss chard, use raw collard greens as wraps, sprinkle meals with parsley, or juice.
Note: Be sure to buy organic leafy greens to limit your exposure to pesticides.
What superfood on this list surprised you? What are you excited to try first? I’d love to hear which ones you're going to incorporate.