As a whole, the diet should be filled with an abundant amount of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and essential fats. However, if I were to name 5 of the foods that ranked high on the nutritional superstar scale, the following would be my choices:
Kefir – Kefir is a creamy rich dairy product similar to yogurt. Kefir is low in calories (one cup has only 87 calories) and rich in protein, calcium, magnesium and vitamin B12. Kefir also offers a rich amount of “good bacteria” called probiotics that are helpful for people with digestive complaints. Kefir can be used in your morning smoothie, used to marinate your favorite meat or fish or added to a cream or vegetable puree soup. While kefir can be purchased in most health food and grocery stores in Canada, it is best to avoid flavored kefir (i.e. fruit flavored) as it is higher in sugar.
•Substitute kefir for the called-for amount of yogurt in this delicious Curried Lentil Burgers with Coriander Yogurt recipe.
Walnuts – Walnuts have the highest amount of omega-3 essential fat in comparison to any other nut. They are also rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins, anti-oxidants and vitamin E. The research on walnuts and their associated heath benefits is incredibly strong and convincing. Scientific studies show that including walnuts in the diet helps to reduce the risk of heart disease (by improving blood flow and elasticity of the vessels) and aids in lowering LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol). The only caveat – similar to other nuts, walnuts are higher in calories. Thus, 1.5 ounces or 20 walnut halves per day is recommended.
• Walnuts for dinner? This recipe for Linguine with Walnuts and Garlic Oil is a great way to add the nutrition of nuts to your dinner plate.
Blueberries – All fruits are known for their health benefits; however, blueberries appear to be topping the charts. According to the US Department of Agriculture Analyses, blueberries have 40 per cent more antioxidant capacity than strawberries. Blueberries are high in vitamin C and can help strengthen the immune system. This delicious berry has also shown other health benefits such as improving eyesight and circulation, acting as a natural diuretic, enhancing blood flow and helping to alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Blueberries can be frozen for future use, but do not wash them before freezing. Use blueberries in a morning smoothie, in salads, yogurt or muffins or alone as a sweet, scrumptious snack.