Seven Foods You Should Eat More of This Year

Seven Foods You Should Eat More of This Year

Ginger with leavesIn the realm of dieting, weight loss and healthy lifestyle changes, we often throw around the term “eating right” without giving it much thought. What does it really mean to “eat right?” There are countless nutrition programs on the market claiming that their unique approach to food is the “right” way to do it.

I’m not so sure about some of the so-called “right” ways to eat right. But I do know that with certain superfoods in your diet, it’s hard to go wrong. Which superfoods are best? With the help of some cutting-edge research, I’ve compiled a list of 2013’s top must-have ingredients:

1.  Ginger

Chances are, you won't be chewing this spicy root by itself, but you will find dozens of delicious uses for it. Ginger has a long history as a healer of gastrointestinal difficulties. Because it is a carminative, it cuts down on painful gas, fights nausea, and soothes the intestinal tract. Ginger can also serve as an anti-inflammatory agent. In one study, arthritic patients who were treated with ginger supplements reduced their pain by 46%, and gained 35% more mobility. Two additional clinical studies independently confirmed that 100% of patients suffering from muscular discomfort experienced relief of pain or swelling by regularly consuming ginger. If you're free from joint pain or muscular aches, ginger can still be a health boon. It's packed with antioxidants, and even helps protect against colorectal cancer.

How to get it:  Add freshly grated ginger root to your favorite stir-fry recipe, or try ginger lemonade made with grated ginger, lemon juice, and water, with a little honey or agave to add sweetness. I pulse all the ingredients in a blender for a morning wake-up shot.

2.  Black Cod

Most fish is good for you, but black cod is one of the best. Black cod is one of the most sought-after seafood varieties, because of its amazing flavor. Also known as butterfish, it has a rich, smooth texture, and succulent, mellow flavor. Even better, it possesses amazing health benefits: Black cod is high in omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats that can lower the risk of coronary heart disease by 36%. The nutrient power of black cod can lower blood pressure and enhance blood’s healing properties.

How to get it:  No longer a hard-to-find fish, these days black cod is available in most grocery store meat departments.

3. Greens

You may have noticed the latest kale craze. Praised by juicing devotees, master chefs and celebs alike, one cup of the “queen of greens” packs 5 grams of fiber, 40% of your recommended daily intake of magnesium, more than twice the recommended amount of vitamin A, and ten times that of vitamin K.

And in your kale zeal, don’t neglect Popeye’s favorite snack. Spinach is loaded with fiber, flavonoids, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, manganese, zinc, and selenium. Several epidemiological studies reveal a correlation between spinach consumption and cancer inhibition, while additional studies demonstrate spinach’s ability to prevent cognitive defects.

How to get it:  There are so many great ways to enjoy your greens – from raw on a salad, to steamed with some olive oil and garlic, even baked as chips. See the exclusive recipes accompanying this article for my favorites.

4. Pomegranate

If you can’t pronounce polyphenol or anthocyanin, that’s okay. It’s enough to know that eating pomegranate is a tasty way to get healthier. Physicians from the National Cancer Institute have investigated the way that pomegranate extract may inhibit the growth of certain cancers. There’s no question that the fruit can increase blood lipid profile, and therefore fight heart disease and tumors. Beyond the more serious disease defenses, pomegranate can guard against the common cold.

How to get it:  Because of its popular “superfood” status, pomegranate juice has become a bestseller. But you can get all the health benefits by just eating the fruit.

5.  Balsamic Vinegar

In addition to its taste-improving abilities, Balsamic Vinegar is high in acetic acid, which lowers the body’s blood sugar fluctuation after a meal, improves glucose tolerance, and even increases satiety after a meal. Studies suggest that balsamic vinegar also lowers cholesterol levels and helps prevent atherosclerosis. Not bad for a dash of zesty flavor in your salad.

How to get it:  Balsamic vinegar is the best topping for salads.On a recent trip to Boulder, CO I visited Oliverdé, specialty shop olive oil and vinegar shop, and treated myself to a high quality balsamic. Wow, like candy.

Mixed beans6.  Beans

Legumes have the power to serve double duty. First, their fiber content will make you feel fuller longer, making them a weight loss favorite. In one clinical study on beans, patients lost fat and retained lean muscle when regularly consuming kidney beans. Second, the soluble fiber in beans binds to cholesterol in the digestive tract, trapping it and drawing the cholesterol out of the body. Beans have rock-bottom levels on the Glycemic Index, which means that they can help to stabilize blood sugar.

How to get it:  There are over 40,000 varieties, so you won’t lack for choices. If you’re worried about bean’s gas-inducing qualities, be sure to thoroughly rinse canned beans before preparing them to wash away indigestible carbs. And while fresh are good, the canned varieties can be just as healthy, as long as you make sure to check the label. I keep a stock of 365 No-Salt-Added Black Beans cans. Heat them up and throw on a salad for a boost of protein and starchy compliment. For recipes, just know that 1 pound of dried beans is equivalent to 5-6 cups cooked.

Want other ideas for how to add these to your diet? Try hummus as a perfect dip for raw veggies. Or stash a package of shelled edamame in the fridge or freezer for reheating to quench mid-afternoon hunger. I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for a scrumptious lentil, chard, and sweet potato mix.

7. Almonds

One of my personal favorites, almonds make for a filling, heart-healthy snack. Their fiber content helps keep you satisfied, while their dollop of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can help lower your LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels. While these little nuts are calorically dense and high in fat content, only a small portion of that fat – about 2 grams – is of the saturated variety. (Walnuts and pistachios also deserve honorable mentions here for the same reason!) And best of all? A serving of almonds can pack up to 11 grams of protein.

How to get it: Store some ziplocked baggies of almonds in your car – They will keep portion size in check, and are a great way to ward off hunger pangs and keep blood sugar level when you’re stuck in traffic. For a new twist, try out sprouted almonds at your local health food store. So good, just be careful of eating the whole package in one go!

This year, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding tasty, healthy, and nutritious food. These seven amazing foods can form the core of a healthy new grocery-shopping list, and can be found throughout the recipe index in ReShape. As a special treat this week, be sure to check out the four recipes I’ve been loving that combine these ingredients. You’ll dabble in the exotic and enter a world of amazing taste and powerful health enhancements. Get excited for a year of great eating!