Craving a fresh start? So are we! Spring is the perfect time to put your health first, get fit and ditch bad diet habits. To help you get started, we put together a list of foods that will help jump-start your health this season. On your next trip to the grocery store, load up your cart with these six spring super-foods.
We asked Ann Kulze, nutrition expert, family physician and best-selling author of Dr. Ann’s Eat Right for Life (WELCOA 2010), for her top power-food picks to add to your diet.
Any form of cabbage is great for you, but red cabbage is simply stellar, Kulze tells us. Like its green cabbage cousin, it’s very low in calories (only 30 per cup), brimming with nutrients (especially vitamins C, K and A), and turbo-charged with powerful anti-cancer compounds, she explains. “What makes red cabbage particularly noteworthy for health protection is its high concentration of anthocyanin pigments. Anthocyanins are responsible for the striking red/purple colors of this savory vegetable and are currently unrivaled for their capacity to provide the holy duo of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power.”
Taste test: Chop up red cabbage and lightly sauté with slivered onions, grated carrot and top with raw almonds and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
This ancient grain was revered by the Incas and is arguably the healthiest of all whole grains, Kulze tells us. Technically it’s a seed, but we call it a whole grain because of its taste and texture. “Quinoa is a fantastic source of a full package of health-building minerals, is high in protein, including all of the essential amino acids, and tastes delicious,” she says. It cooks in 15 minutes or less and can be used just as you would rice.
Taste test: Make a quinoa salad by cooking the grain, letting it cool slightly and adding your vegetables of choice (steamed broccoli, diced red and yellow peppers, carrots, for example) and a handful of raw nuts and/or seeds. Dress with lemon juice, olive oil and fresh ground pepper.
Developed by cancer researchers from Johns Hopkins and now available in the produce aisle of most standard grocers, brocco sprouts are exploding with health-boosting goodness, explains Kulze. “They contain 20 times more of nature’s anti-cancer wonder chemical, sulforaphane, than mature broccoli, in addition to a nice dose of fiber, vitamin C and folate,” she says.
Taste test: Toss brocco sprouts into a salad or add them to a sandwich. We suggest stuffing a whole wheat pita with hummus or white bean dip, sliced tomato, lettuce, onion and a handful of brocco sprouts for a simple but power-packed lunch.
Like their other nut relatives, walnuts score a perfect 10 when it comes to protecting the cardiovascular system, but with walnuts, the benefits don’t stop there, explains Kulze. “This big nut is a winner on numerous fronts,” she says. “In just the last two years, studies have shown that walnuts likely provide protection against breast cancer, prostate cancer, dementia, macular degeneration and even stress. As nuts go, walnuts provide the most superstar omega-3 fats and boast the highest overall antioxidant power.
Taste test: Toss walnuts into salads, oatmeal, grain dishes and snack on them raw.
Kulze was recently reintroduced to the chia seed (yes, the same seeds you used to grow grass on plaster Chia Pets with) and she is impressed. “Like all seeds, they are jam-packed with nutrients, including protein, minerals, fiber and healthy fats, but they have a few unique features that qualify them for true superstar standout status,” she explains. They provide more plant-based omega-3 fats than any other food (even flax), contain 5 grams of fiber per tablespoon and actually dissolve in liquids, making them a versatile and easy-to-use super-food.
Taste test: Kulze recently started juicing (a great way to get your nutrients) and she suggest stirring one tablespoon of chia seeds into your morning juice (which she makes from two big handfuls of kale, one organic apple, two organic carrots and a thumb-sized piece of ginger root). “Delicious and over-the-top healthy!”
Like their bean cousins, lentils are cheap, versatile, filling and packed full of fiber, B vitamins, protein, minerals and antioxidant polyphenols, Kulze tells us. “They provide more folate than any other food and have an edge over the other legumes because they cook quickly and require no pre-soaking,” she explains.
Taste test: Add cooked lentils to a pasta or grain salads, mash coarsely and stuff into a pita sandwich or add to stews and curries in place of meat.