According to Paula Owens, MS, nutritionist, fitness expert and author of The Power of 4, eight of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. are related to nutrition. "The nutrients in our food become the building blocks for the repair and replacement of all the cells in our bodies," she said. "If we don't use good building blocks, we can't build good cells. Without healthy cells, we can't build healthy bodies."
Did you know that one avocado has three times the potassium of a banana? Add some avocado slices to your tacos or sandwiches, whip up a batch of guacamole or try this egg salad with avocado recipe for a quick boost in your B vitamins, fiber and essential fatty acids.
Chia pet, anyone?! "When these hydrophilic seeds are ingested, the health benefits are exceptional," nutrition expert Keren Gilbert, MS, RD, said. "Chia seeds are the number one food that I tell my clients to incorporate into their diets. You can add them to oatmeal, yogurt, shakes or salads. They're comprised of roughly 20 percent protein, are full of antioxidants, contain more omega-3s than flax, help stabilize blood sugar levels, control weight and are a tremendous source of energy for the body and mind."
Try baked oatmeal with chia seeds for breakfast>>
Add this super fruit to your grocery list this New Year! "A true gift from nature, goji berries are high in antioxidants, have more vitamin C than oranges, and also contain B vitamins, vitamin E and essential fatty acids," Gilbert said. Simply toss goji berries into your cereal, yogurt or trail mix. To use goji berries in your smoothies, soak a handful of them in water for 10 minutes and once they plump up, toss them into the blender with your other ingredients.
Looking to get healthy this New Year? Add wild salmon to your grocery list. "Wild salmon is a great brain food because of the omega-3 fats, particularly DHA. DHA may help to reduce feelings of stress, improve your mood, lower depression and reduce age-related memory loss," Owens explained. "Always choose wild over farmed salmon, which is full of PCBs, cancer-causing chemicals and mercury." Whether you're entertaining or whipping up a quick weeknight dinner, this cedar-planked salmon recipe will be a hit.
Did you know that mushrooms are the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle? "Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium," Gilbert said. "They also provide several nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin and niacin." Mushrooms are incredibly versatile, too, making them easy to include in your diet. Your family will love this mushroom and walnut risotto, these savory cream cheese-stuffed mushrooms and creamy mushroom lasagna.
"This unrefined super grain is gaining in popularity," Gilbert said. "It's a good source of protein, it's rich in amino acids and it's high in fiber, offering three times the fiber of wheat. Plus, it's loaded with vitamins and minerals, boasting more than 20 percent of the recommended daily amount of calcium, iron, magnesium and folate." Add the popped seeds to a salad or soup, or cook it like rice. You can even find amaranth flour and make this gluten-free macaroni and cheese recipe.
This highly-nutritious side dish can easily replace your mashed potatoes for a healthier dinner alternative. "Certain unique pigment antioxidants present in this plant have been found to offer protection against coronary artery disease," Gilbert said. Beets can be found raw, canned or pickled and make a great addition to any salad and even serve as a rich pizza topping.
"Kale is the green leafy veggie to include as your side dish meal this year," Gilbert said. "These greens are jam-packed with vitamins A, C and K, folate, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, lutein and fiber." Gilbert suggests serving it with a splash of lemon juice or red wine vinegar. It can be good eaten raw or cooked.
Cook up these 3 Hearty kale recipes >>
"These legumes are high in protein and are more efficient complete protein providers than red meat — without the fat!" Gilbert said. "They're also high in B vitamins, amino acids, calcium and iron." Lentils make the perfect addition to soup as they're filling, like in this yellow lentil dahl recipe, Mexican chorizo, lentil and tomato soup or try a different route with this warm lentil salad.
Okra is a popular vegetable used in Cajun cooking. "Known as gumbo or lady's fingers, okra is part of the mallow family of flowering plants," Gilbert explained. "This plant is known for the edible green fruits they produce, which are low in calories and aid in digestion." Include okra in salads and soups, or fry it, pickle it, or roast it.
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