Savor: The Amazing Power

BY Emily Colin

In a society where so much of life is based on convenience high-speed Internet online banking downloadable apps for every activity and time is at a premium it comes as no surprise that fast food is high on our collective list of desirable commodities. The real dilemma is this: We live in a country where with few exceptions “fast food” is code for “cheap easily accessible and drowning in transfats and preservatives.” The trick? To find affordable food that tastes good is good for you and doesnt take a long time to prepare in short that will give you the most bang for your proverbial buck.

Enter the superfoods.

While there is no magic bullet that will cure all of our physical ills certain foods have been shown to accomplish amazing feats. They can reduce blood pressure inflammation pain levels and cholesterol and protect the body against heart disease cancer diabetes and the ravages of a slow metabolism. High in antioxidants replete with vitamins rich in fiber and low in calories these unassuming items hold a wealth of nutritional value and you can find most of them at your local grocery store.

Sherry Jegtvig nutrition columnist for and a former chiropractor says “There are many excellent superfoods but since it looks like the price of food is going up in 2011 Ill focus on affordable ones. Legumes like dry beans and lentils are inexpensive and you can buy them in bulk because they store well. Theyre a good source of protein folate and other B vitamins and fiber without saturated fat or cholesterol perfect to substitute for red meat a couple of times per week. Legumes also contain phytochemicals that work as antioxidants to keep you healthy by fighting heart disease and cancer.”

Dry beans and lentils are particularly good choices in the winter season when they can be readily incorporated into soups or stews. “Dust off the crockpot hiding under the counter ” says Jegtvig. “There are many easy recipes that center around meat or poultry broth and vegetables. Start the crockpot in the morning and dinner is ready when you get home from work.” She adds “Keeping your kitchen stocked with all the staples helps too. Cooking is much easier when you dont have to make a list and go shopping first.”

For kids parents and busy professionals on the go creating healthy snacks can be a challenge but it doesnt have to be. Walnuts pumpkin seeds almonds and flaxseed are all high in Omega-3 fatty acids which can play a valuable role in reducing inflammation and maintaining cardiovascular health. “In general raw nuts and seeds are really healthy for you ” says Carl Stephens produce manager for Tidal Creek Cooperative Food Market. “Blend them with dry fruit and they make a good snack.” Jegtvig concurs: “Buy raw nuts and toast them on the stove before you serve them. Your best buy is to go with nuts still in the shell they keep well. And having to crack the shells helps to keep your portions under control which is important because nuts are higher in calories than most other superfoods.”

When it comes to superfoods berries tend to top the list. In fact a recent study conducted by two University of Rhode Island scientists Scott McWilliams and Navindra Seeram shows that a select group of migratory birds including sparrows thrushes and warblers alter their diets to include berries as they prepare to fly south for the winter. These birds which typically eat insects or seeds consume as much as three times their body weight in berries prior to migration. Specifically they target dark-skinned berries those highest in antioxidants leading researchers to conclude that the birds are instinctively stocking up on fruits that will reduce stress and inflammation during their long flight.

Berries may be for the birds but they are also great for people. Blueberries raspberries and blackberries are a fantastic choice especially during the summer months here in southeastern North Carolina where we can eat them straight off the bush or straight from the farmers market. Theyre packed full of anthocyanins an antioxidant that does an especially effective job at reducing inflammation and neutralizing free radicals (unstable molecules that if left unchecked can damage cells). If money is tight Jegtvig suggests buying strawberries: “Theyre less expensive than other berries. One serving of strawberries gives you most of the vitamin C you need for a whole day with very few calories. They also contain lots of antioxidants that fight to keep you healthy.”

If youre already eating healthy foods and want to try something new consider ocean plants like arame or wakame says Stephens. “Theyre high in calcium good for fiber and are nutrient dense.” Just in case youre envisioning yourself plucking kelp from the seabed for tomorrows lunch think again; there are a number of pre-packaged products that will help you reap the benefits without putting on your wetsuit.

You cant go wrong with green vegetables like spinach broccoli and Brussels sprouts but what if you have a houseful of picky eaters for whom “dark leafy greens” is synonymous with “youve got to be kidding”? Try carrots Jegtvig says. “Theyre rich in vitamin A fiber very low in calories and contain falcarinol a phytochemical that may fight cancer. Theyre versatile too slice them up and serve with dip put them on a salad or cook and serve as a side dish.” In the mood for something sweet? Drizzle sliced carrots with honey which itself contains powerful antioxidants and roast them for an extra-special treat.

Speaking of treats what happens to dessert when superfoods come on the scene? The answer is as close as the dairy aisle of your local supermarket or food cooperative as the case may be. “Yogurt is rich in protein calcium and contains friendly probiotic bacteria that helps keep your digestive system healthy ” says Jegtvig. “Buy plain yogurt to save money and avoid the sugar and food colorings you dont need. Top your yogurt with those strawberries and nuts for a super dessert. If your sweet tooth is a little stronger go ahead and drizzle some honey on top.”

A dessert thats inexpensive delicious and nutritious? Theres no other way to say it: Thats just super.