…and how to eat more of them. Experts tell us which superpowered ingredients we should be incorporating into our diets regularly. Here are their combined picks, plus some simple and delicious preparation suggestions.
EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
An outstanding source of monounsaturated fats. When used in moderation, this tasty Mediterranean staple may even cut the risk of heart disease.
TRY THIS: Gently heat olive oil with fresh herbs (such as rosemary and thyme). Drizzle on pasta, steamed vegetables, or sandwiches in place of mayo.
These young soybeans pack more fiber per serving than shredded-wheat cereal and have the same amount of protein as roasted turkey.
TRY THIS: Puree cooked edamame with garlic, olive oil, and fresh lemon juice for a quick hummus-like spread.
Supercharged with nutrients–think calcium, B vitamins, and beta-carotene–this leafy green fuels your body with fiber, too.
TRY THIS: Saute chopped chard with garlic, then toss with whole-grain pasta and raisins.
Packed with cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, potassium, and magnesium that help regulate blood pressure, and complex carbs and protein that keep you from feeling hungry 30 minutes after you finish your dinner.
TRY THIS: Soak the beans overnight, simmer until tender, and drain. Throw them in a pan with good olive oil, garlic, and rosemary. Cook long enough to meld the flavors—then spread over toast for one healthy bruschetta.
Your go-to source for vitamin C, which, among other useful traits, can help burn fat.
TRY THIS: Roast orange wedges along with salmon.
You’ll get iron (for healthy hair), plus folate and at least a dozen flavonoids–compounds that are loaded with antioxidants.
TRY THIS: Whole Grain bread + pesto + Mozzarella + Baby Spinach + Avocado = Delicious Grilled Cheese Sandwich
The antioxidants in this winter squash keep skin healthy; its potassium helps lower blood pressure.
TRY THIS: Pumpkin Banana Smoothie
This protein-rich winner is an acquired taste for some, but totally worth it. Chockablock with vitamins D and B12, it is also an excellent source of calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.
TRY THIS: Toss chopped sardines into a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, and fresh parsley.
The payoff from this leafy green: loads of vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, and antioxidants.
TRY THIS: Make kale chips by tearing the leaves into pieces and tossing with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 300°F until crisp, 20-30 minutes.
Ounce for ounce, this fuzzy fruit contains twice the amount of vitamin C as an orange, more potassium than a banana, more vitamin E & K than an avocado, and it is high in fiber.
TRY THIS: Thinly slice, then drizzle with honey and sprinkle with toasted unsweetened coconut.
May fight inflammation, cancer-causing compounds, and may even be capable of suppressing the progression of tumors. Also may help reduce bad cholesterol.
TRY THIS: Toss 2 rhubarb stalks (thinly sliced) with sugar (2 tbsp), fresh OJ (1 tbsp), and lemon juice (1 tbsp) in a medium bowl. Let sit until rhubarb is slightly softened and releases its juices, about 30 minutes. Toss with strawberries, mint, and toasted hazelnuts.
Packed with fiber, this superfruit was one of the top antioxidant-rich picks in a US Department of Agriculture study.
TRY THIS: Serve over vanilla frozen yogurt with a pinch of ground cardamom.
A saturated fat that gets burned like a carbohydrate? And that can increase your metabolism and lower your cholesterol – and that tastes good, to boot!
TRY THIS: In a saucepan heat 1/4 C water with 4 teaspoons of organic sugar. Add 1 C unsweetened coconut flakes and stir until all the water is absorbed. Dry. Smuggle in a bag at the movies.
A vitamin C gold mine–1/2 cup of cooked broccoli satisfies 80 percent of the US Food and Drug Administration’s recommended daily dose. It’s also a key dose of vitamin K, which helps blood clot properly.
TRY THIS: Toss with olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Roast at 375°F until tender. Sprinkle with grated parmesan before serving.
You’ll get nearly 20 percent of your daily dose of fiber in one 1/2 cup serving, plus cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fats.
TRY THIS: For a side dish, halve an avocado, drizzle with soy sauce and fresh lime juice, and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
These burrito mainstays boast antioxidants and magnesium, which helps maintain nerve and muscle function.
TRY THIS: On a baking sheet, toss canned black beans with olive oil, ground cumin, and salt. Roast at 450°F until crispy, about 10 minutes, for a tasty snack.
The darker the color, the richer these tubers are in the antioxidant beta-carotene.
TRY THIS: For a side dish, steam cut-up sweet potatoes and apples. Puree with maple syrup and crushed red pepper.
It offers nine essential nutrients: calcium, of course, but also B vitamins, which help neurological function, and vitamin D, a potential cancer fighter.
TRY THIS: If you want a break from your regular morning cozy, warm a cup of skim milk with a dash of vanilla and ground cinnamon.
Meaty and filling, as a stand-in for beef they can slash up to 400 calories from a meal. They may also protect against breast cancer by helping to regulate a woman’s estrogen levels.
TRY THIS: Saute button mushrooms and shallots until tender. Add a splash of white wine and cook until evaporated. Eat.
Contains three times the amount of fiber per serving as the typical semolina variety. Skip pasta labeled “multigrain”: It may be made with a number of grains, but they aren’t necessarily whole ones.
TRY THIS: Toss whole-grain pasta with pesto, chopped arugula, and grated lemon zest.
A surprisingly good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Those are the fats that lower the bad-for-you cholesterol (LDL) and raise the good-for-you kind (HDL).
TRY THIS: For a healthy on-the-go snack, pack a handful of walnuts with some dried figs and a few anise seeds. (As the ingredients sit together, the anise releases flavor.)
PEANUT AND ALMOND BUTTERS (ALL-NATURAL)
Heart-healthy monounsaturated fats abound in these protein-rich spreads. Opt for those with just two ingredients–nuts and salt.
TRY THIS: Mix with soy sauce, brown sugar, and rice wine vinegar to make a quick Asian dipping sauce for chicken skewers or dressing for noodles.
OATMEAL (STEEL-CUT OR OLD FASHIONED)
Holds cholesterol in check, helps fight against heart disease, and keeps you full until lunch, thanks to its soluble fiber.
TRY THIS: For a savory breakfast, drizzle cooked oatmeal with olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan.
FILLING GRAINS (BULGAR, BARLEY & QUINOA)
Another high-fiber cholesterol fighter offering the same energy and satiety you would get from meat.
TRY THIS: Stir olive oil and fresh lemon juice into quinoa with feta cheese and red grapes.
A protein powerhouse, these are flush with folate, a nutrient that may prevent certain birth defects.
TRY THIS: Toss cooked lentils with extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, chopped celery, and fresh thyme. Serve over salad greens.
Packed with monounsaturated fatty acids, which keep blood vessels healthy. The plant fibers help lower cholesterol.
TRY THIS: Fold chopped almonds into cooked whole grains, along with banana/passion fruit puree and pomegranate seeds.
The whites offer up protein with minimal calories (and zero fat or cholesterol). The yolks are awash with vitamin B12 and vitamin A.
TRY THIS: Make a sandwich with whole-grain bread, scrambled eggs, and olive oil mayo.
NONFAT GREEK YOGURT
Rich in probiotics (bacteria that may improve digestion and increases your immunity), this extra-thick yogurt can contain 8 grams more protein per serving than conventional yogurt.
TRY THIS: Make a dip with all-natural peanut butter, local honey, and cinnamon. Serve with your favorite apple wedges.
CHICKEN BREASTS (BONELESS, SKINLESS)
A dinner staple from the leanest part of the bird: Half a breast has just 2.5 grams of fat and more than 22 grams of protein.
TRY THIS: Shred cooked chicken and toss with olive oil, raisins, curry powder, and fresh lime juice.
Its omega-3 fatty acids may improve your mood and keep your skin glowing. Why wild? It’s exposed to fewer toxins than the farmed variety.
TRY THIS: For breakfast, mash some avocado on whole-grain toast and top with flaked poached salmon.
45 percent of the fat in bacon is monounsaturated. Better still, bacon’s monounsaturated fat turns out to be oleic acid, the same fat found in olive oil. So that means some could argue bacon is about half as good for you as olive oil and about 100 times more delicious. Of course, moderation is key here, and you should seek out artisanal varieties without preservatives.
TRY THIS: Fry up just one slice along with the aromatics for a pot of soup, or chop it up and use it as a garnish for fish or sauteed greens.