I recently read an article regarding "Superfoods" being a misleading way to classify foods. According to Nelson Huber-Disla, "Superfoods are supposed to offer profound nutritional benefits, and they are marketed as such. The problem is that it’s not always clear whether the label is deserved because there’s no accepted standard for what makes one food “super” and another merely healthy."
We all know the internet is oversaturated with information and that we can't always trust what we read, which can make eating healthy complicated. From my education with the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, one main takeaway I got was to eat a variety of plants in their whole form. This means consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds and avoiding meat, dairy, oils, and highly processed foods. When following a whole food plant-based lifestyle, there are a TON of plant varieties to choose from, each with their own unique nutritional profile.
From my perspective, many plants could be considered "super" because they are loaded with vitamins and minerals that nourish our bodies. Since classifying foods as "super" is vague and has no set standard, I am just referring to this list as my favorite "nutritionally dense" foods. Below is my top "5 Nutritionally Dense Foods I Eat Regularly". This list is not inclusive. I could rattle off so many foods that are packed with nutrients and are great to eat on a regular basis but in order to make this a digestible read, I picked my favorite 5.
Besides tasting great, beans are a powerhouse for protein, fiber, iron, and vitamins. They are also lower in calories and saturated fat than animal sources of protein.
According to Medical News Today, "a 2013 review and meta-analysis found a clear correlation between eating beans and a lower risk of coronary heart disease." They help keep you full and help with gut health. They also are very versatile and taste great. Some of my favorite ways to enjoy beans are in chili, seasoned with Mexican spices and added to a burrito, added in soups, smashed into a wrap with veggies and made into a burger patty. My two favorite beans are black and pinto.
I eat hemp hearts almost daily for breakfast. I usually add a spoonful into my oatmeal or smoothie, depending on what I am eating that day. Hemp hearts are high in healthy fats, manganese, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, thiamin, and protein. According to Livestrong.com, "Manganese is important for bone development, wound healing and the immune response...this micronutrient plays a crucial role in the formation of bone cartilage and collagen..." I love hemp hearts because they pack a nutritional punch and are super easy for me to throw into my breakfast, providing me reassurance that I am getting a boost of nutrients into my diet.
One main reason I eat bananas so often is because they are such an easy little snack to take with me anywhere I go. Nature already packaged them into a perfect protective peel. I usually add them to my oatmeal, smoothie, grab one when I'm heading out the door and know I'll be gone for a few hours, and they are also great with natural peanut butter. From a nutrition standpoint, they are rich in fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. As stated by Healthline, "Bananas are high in potassium, a mineral that promotes heart health and normal blood pressure. One medium-sized banana contains around 0.4 grams of this mineral...daily consumption of 1.3–1.4 grams of potassium is linked to a 26% lower risk of heart disease."
Flax seeds and hemp hearts fall into the same category at my house. I add flax to my oatmeal regularly and sometimes my smoothies as well. I also bake with it frequently. Flax can be combined with water to make an egg replacement when baking (1:3 ration) which I often use when making baked goods. According to Healthline, "One serving of flaxseed provides a good amount of protein, fiber, and omega 3 fatty acids. It may help lower the risk of some cancers, help maintain a healthy weight, and reduce cholesterol and blood pressure." In order to reap the benefits of flax seeds, make sure to grind the seeds. I usually buy pre-ground seeds at the store or throw whole seeds into my blended until ground.
I've mentioned oatmeal so many times already on this list I can't skip oats themselves. For years, I ate oatmeal every day for breakfast. It's easy to prepare, easy to customize, cheap, and good for the body. Now that I have an online cookbook, I change up my breakfast routine quite a bit in order to try out and add new recipes to the collection. I still eat oatmeal quite often though. Mayo Clinic states, "Eating oatmeal regularly can have weight management benefits as a half-cup of rolled oats cooked in a cup of water has 165 calories, 4 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. The fiber and protein content contribute to feeling full longer and a slower blood glucose release. Oats also are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, copper, thiamine and zinc."
There we have it! My top 5 Nutritionally Dense Foods I Eat Regularly. Like I said, many more could be added to the list, but these are probably the 5 I eat the most regularly. What do you guys think? Are some of these foods you also eat on a regular basis? Let me know your thoughts int he comments below.