Often we hear the term ‘super food’ – but what does it really mean? While there’s no official definition, for this nutritionist, a super food is simply a food that offers a big nutritional bang for your calorie buck. In other words, it’s a food that packs a lot of nutrition and health benefits into relatively few calories. Summer produce tends to dominate super food lists, but there are many in-season and all-season foods that deserve the spotlight in winter.
Here are a few you may want to add to your grocery list:
Cranberries are harvested in the fall, creating a plentiful supply for the winter months. These ruby red berries may be tiny, but their potential health benefits are large. One cup fresh or ½ cup of dried cranberries equals a fruit serving and they’re a good source of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants. Plus they’re packed with some very interesting health benefits due to their unique phytochemicals—called proanthocyanidins.
A recent review published in the international journal Advances in Nutrition concluded that cranberry proanthocyanidins may help reduce the incidence of urinary tract infections, stomach ulcers, gum disease, and they may also improve heart health and temper inflammation. Whether you prefer cranberries savory or sweet, you can’t go wrong. Enjoy dried cranberries in salads, yogurt, and quinoa/rice dishes, or even in a trail mix for on-the-go snacking. For a sauce your whole family will love, try this recipe for cranberry sauce with port and tangerine.
Brussels Sprouts often draw a strong reaction: people either love them or hate them. I’m definitely on Team Brussels Sprouts, and not just because they are a nutritional all-star, they really do taste great if you know how to prepare them.
Brussels Sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, a cousin of cauliflower and broccoli. These veggies are known for their antioxidants that help keep inflammation and chronic diseases (like heart disease) in check. A ½ cup of steamed sprouts provides just 30 calories, 3 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein. They’re also an excellent source of vitamin C, and a good source of folate (folic acid). You can also roast them for a sweeter flavor, or try them in one of my favorite dishes, Brussels Sprouts Gratin.
When the temperature drops, there are few things as comforting as a warm cup of tea. And if you’re drinking black, oolong, green or white tea, you’re getting health benefits, too. In recent years, thousands of scientific studies have been published revealing that tea contains potent antioxidants that may promote heart health, aid in fighting some types of cancer and neurological disorders, and even boost metabolism. Plus tea is naturally calorie free, so it helps keep you from packing on those winter pounds.
You may be surprised to see fresh kiwis on a winter super foods list, but California-grown kiwifruit are in-season this time of year. Despite their small size, Kiwifruit (which are actually a type of berry) pack a powerful nutritional punch. One serving (2 kiwis) has twice the vitamin C of an orange, more potassium than a banana and the fiber of a bowl of whole grain cereal– all for less than 100 calories!
Wondering how to enjoy this sweet-tart treasure? They’re perfect on their own (just slice and scoop), in cereals, pancakes, salads, or even as a yogurt topping. I also love them in this Mighties Avocado Kiwi Smoothie that helps to fuel my winter workouts.
Of course, you can enjoy oats year-round, but a warm bowl of oatmeal is especially welcome on cold winter mornings. Oats will fill you up (1 cup of cooked oats has 4 grams of filling fiber and 5 grams of protein), and studies show that they are powerful weapons against heart disease and diabetes, as well as improve digestion.
Some of the most exciting research about oats centers on its role in weight management. One study at the University of Sydney found that participants fed 38 foods rated oatmeal third overall for increasing feelings of fullness. Other studies show that oats trigger satiety hormones to help curb hunger and appetite. You can never go wrong with oatmeal, but don’t forget you can also enjoy oats in soups and stews, in burgers and meatloaf mixtures, or as a topping on a fruit crisp.