10 Power foods you should have in your kitchen

Jan 24, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. ET

If you can significantly improve your health, lose weight, think clearer and have more energy by simply eating a tasty variety of nutrient-dense foods, why would you even think twice about doing it? If it's because you aren't sure what foods are the most super-charged with health-promoting nutrition, put the following 10 super foods on your shopping list. Though these are just a few of the super foods you should have in your kitchen, they have you covered from breakfast to dessert.



OatmealWith every warm and wonderful bowl, oatmeal is your key to heart health, weight control, reduced risk of cancer, loads of energy to get you through your morning and delicious versatility as a kitchen staple. Toss fresh fruit and nuts into your breakfast oatmeal, add oats to your pancake and muffin batters, make your own granola, substitute finely ground oats as part of the flour in your baked goods and breads and make oats a base ingredient in your fruit crisps, crumbles and dessert toppings. Steel cut oats or rolled oats are your healthiest bet, offering complex carbohydrates, fiber and even protein.


Berries (and other fruit)


Adding more fruit to your day will increase your antioxidant and fiber intake as well as naturally meet your sweet tooth needs with no sugar added. Berries are particularly chockfull of antioxidants, other health-boosting phytonutrients and fiber. Keeping a bounty of frozen or fresh berries in your kitchen gives you easy access to a low-calorie super food that decreases the risk of cancer and heart disease. Blend berries into your morning smoothie, stir them into yogurt or cottage cheese, add berries to your hot or cold cereal, toss them into salads and pile them into your dessert recipes to add natural sweetness without the empty calories of sugar.


Greek yogurt


Rich, creamy and packed with probiotics and more protein than regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is a diet-friendly must-eat. Protein helps keep hunger at bay and promotes post-exercise muscle recovery. Probiotics are essential for digestive health and the calcium-rich dairy boosts bone strength. Research suggests three servings of dairy can aid in weight loss, too. Greek yogurt is especially delish in smoothies, eaten with granola and fresh fruit, used as a base for creamy dips, swapped in for sour cream and swirled into soups.


Extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oilA luscious source of monounsaturated fats and vitamin E, olive oil is not only heart healthy, it can also reduce your risk of cancer and even help you lose weight. Substitute olive oil for butter, make your own vinaigrettes with extra virgin olive oil and drizzle olive oil over finished dishes for tongue-tantalizing taste. High quality extra virgin olive oils are so rich in flavor, you won't even miss those bottled salad dressings. If you fear fat, get over it. Healthy fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, used in moderation will increase your satiety and improve your health.


Broccoli (and other hearty veggies)

BroccoliThough increasing your intake of any vegetable will bolster your diet with disease-fighting nutrition, some veggies have more power than others. Broccoli and its kin, the cruciferous veggies such as cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, are chockfull of cancer-fighting phytochemicals along with other heart-healthy vitamins and minerals. Broccoli and the tasty array of hearty vegetables are also low in calories and easy to incorporate into your diet. Roast broccoli and cauliflower to serve as a side dish or add to grain salads and pasta. Saute whole or shredded Brussels sprouts with extra virgin olive oil and toss with nuts and crumbled cheese. Add shredded cabbage to soups or use as a salad ingredient or generous garnish for tacos or burgers.


Almond butter

Almond butter on spoon

Available in ready-to-spread jars at the supermarket or grind-your-own at natural food markets, almond butter is your tasty ticket to protein, healthy fats and a power food that tastes indulgent despite its whopping health benefits. This creamy -- or chunky -- spread is fuel for your muscles, reduces your risk of heart disease and balances your blood sugar so you stay full longer and are less likely to binge eat. Swap out cream cheese for almond butter on your bagel, add a tablespoon to your smoothies, stir into oatmeal, substitute almond butter in your favorite peanut sauce recipe or use (in moderation) as a dip for sliced fruit.




Available in red, black or ivory, quinoa is a gluten-free super grain deliciously laden with protein, fiber and other health-boosting phytonutrients. It cooks up in 10 to 15 minutes and can be served as a savory or sweet eat. Make a quinoa salad with your favorite chopped veggies, fruit, nuts and crumbled feta. Serve quinoa warm tossed with sauteed mushrooms and onions. Stir quinoa into soups. Dig into a quinoa pudding made with milk, shredded coconut and fresh preserves.



SalmonSucculent, buttery-tasting salmon may taste indulgent, but this yummy fish is rich in protein and swimming with heart healthy omega-3s. Omega-3 intake is also associated with reduced inflammation in the body, less joint pain, relief from depression, brain health, a reduced risk of cancer and healthy weight management. Bake, roast, broil or grill modest portions of salmon to serve as a main dish or atop a salad. Use canned salmon, which can boost bone health, instead of tuna. Add chunks of cooked salmon to omelets or top bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese.



LentilsA hearty source of fiber, protein and iron, lentils are a super food that combats heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Adding lentils to your daily diet can help stabilize your blood sugar so you feel full longer and eat less. Ranging in colors from green to red, these tasty gems can be cooked and served as a warm side dish or chilled for a salad, added to soups, combined with rice and veggies or even pureed into a dip.

More kitchen staples

Perfect pantry list for quick and easy meals
Top 10 pantry items every mom should have on hand
7 Budget-friendly kitchen tips


Dark chocolate

Dark Chocolate

No super food list would be complete without dark chocolate. Knowing you can have a decadent sweet treat every day while also improving your health makes any diet doable. Because it's loaded with antioxidants, dark chocolate can deliciously boost your heart health and fight off free radical damage, which is associated with other chronic diseases, such as cancer and premature aging. The key to using this super food to your health's advantage is reach for the darkest chocolate and to eat it in small portions, slowly savoring every bite. In addition to nibbling dark chocolate bars, you can get your antioxidant fix by making your own hot chocolate with unsweetened cocoa powder (just go easy on the sweetener).