Superfoods: Best on Your Plate, Not in a Pill

Many health foods stores and the Internet are overflowing with claims that exotic foods, and products made with them, are “superfoods.” But the best superfoods don’t come in a pill or a sugary drink – they come on your dinner, lunch and even breakfast plate. There are three food groups that are especially packed with health-giving natural antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals, and old-fashioned but still important fiber. These foods don’t have exciting mysterious names or catchy slogans, but they’re among the true natural superfoods.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cabbage, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, broccoli, broccoli raab, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi are full of sulfurofane antioxidants, not to mention vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The green leafy varieties, like kale and collard greens, are excellent sources of natural beta-carotene plus the related phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin.

Beans and Legumes

The lowly bean was, along with grains, one of the first foods grown when agriculture was created. Beans are packed with healthful fiber, magnesium and other minerals and phytosterols that may lower your cholesterol; their slow-absorbing carbohydrates won’t spike your blood sugar like many other sources of starch and sugars. Lima, pinto, black, soy, garbanzo and every other kind of bean, peas, and lentils make excellent main courses, side dishes, meal extenders, and soups. And, you’d be hard pressed to find a more affordable source of all these nutrients. Just remember to look for beans without added sugar and salt; the easiest way to do this is to buy dry beans and soak and cook them yourself.

Beer, Wine, Alcohol and Tea

Before you rush out and plow through a six-pack or a whole bottle of Chardonnay, know that these drinks are healthy only in moderation. In excess, of course, alcohol is unhealthy. But when women have one alcoholic drink a day, and men have one or two, they have less heart disease and other chronic illness. However, the story is less clear when it comes to women and breast cancer. If you have breast cancer in your family, talk to your doctor about whether drinking alcohol is a good idea for you. Though it doesn’t appear to matter what the source of the alcohol is for preventing heart disease and chronic illness, red wine has added benefits as it contains resveratrol, a natural chemical that has been studied for its anti-aging properties. In addition to beer, wine, and alcohol, teas, including black tea, is a superfood and one of the very best sources of natural antioxidants.