Are superfoods like kale, acai berry and pomegranate the answer to a healthy diet? Popularly defined as a food rich in nutrients that offers health benefits, you may be surprised to learn that there is no official list or scientific criteria for the term superfood. And while most are very healthy, it is unrealistic to expect one or two foods to significantly improve health or prevent disease, especially when eaten as part of an already poor diet.
Rather than focus only on the latest trendy superfood, there’s a better way to enjoy healthy eating by building a Super Diet. Choosing a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups—fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein foods—will help ensure a balanced nutrient intake for good health. Here’s three Quality of Lifehacks to incorporate healthier items in your diet.
Choose a Variety of Fruits & Vegetables. Whether fresh, frozen, canned or dried—fruits and vegetables are important sources of many essential nutrients and plant compounds known as phytochemicals. Dietary fiber, potassium and vitamin C are among the many nutrients in fruits. And because vegetables contribute different combinations of nutrients based on their color and type—dark-green vegetables provide the most vitamin K, red and orange vegetables the most vitamin A, legumes the most dietary fiber, and starchy vegetables the most potassium—it’s important choose a variety. Fruits and vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, and may be protective against certain types of cancers.
Make Half Your Grains Whole Grains. Whole grain foods—which contain the germ and the bran—are a source of a variety of nutrients, such as dietary fiber, iron, zinc, manganese, folate, magnesium, copper, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, selenium, riboflavin, and vitamin A. Research indicates that whole grain intake may reduce risk for cardiovascular disease and is associated with lower body weight.
Know Your Protein Foods. Foods in the Protein group—seafood; meats, poultry and eggs; and legumes, nuts, seeds and soy products—not only provide a source of protein but are also important sources of nutrients such as B vitamins, selenium, choline, phosphorus, zinc, copper, vitamin D and vitamin E. In addition, seafood, which includes fish and shellfish, provides a source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, nutrients shown to contribute to the prevention of heart disease.
In addition to these hacks, dairy can also be an important part of a healthy diet. Dairy, is the leading source of calcium in our diets, dairy foods—milk, cheese and yogurt—provide a variety of other essential nutrients including phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin D (in products fortified with vitamin D), riboflavin, vitamin B12, protein, potassium, zinc, choline, magnesium, and selenium. Research has linked dairy intake to improved bone health, especially in children and adolescents, and to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as to lower blood pressure in adults.