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Top 10 Superfoods for a Healthy & Active Lifestyle

By Heather Levin

family healthy eatingYou’ve probably heard the saying “you are what you eat” more than a few times. And when you think about it, it’s true. The food you put into your body in large part determines the kind of life you live. Eating healthy foods, along with sneaking a workout routine into your day, means you have better health, more energy, and a brighter outlook on life.

These decisions, in turn, help you to save money because you drastically decrease your healthcare costs. In addition, these foods are mostly inexpensive, which can also impact your spending and saving goals. Following a healthier lifestyle also gives you more of the energy and focus you need to be more productive at work.

Many people aren’t sure what they should be eating. According to the recent report, F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2011 from the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), adult obesity rates increased in 28 states in 2010. 38 states now have an obesity rate higher than 25%, and that’s just obesity rates. The study didn’t look at the number of overweight adults. In fact, most recent statistics state that over two-thirds of the American population is either overweight or obese.

So, what can we do to reverse this trend? We have to eat healthy foods and exercise, even if it means we work out at home without equipment. Moreover, we need to start adding some of those essential foods that are nutritional powerhouses to our diets. On that note, here’s a list of superfoods that you should try to eat everyday:

Superfoods

1. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are thick and hearty. As a vegetarian, I eat a lot of mushrooms because they add depth and flavor to dishes that call for beef, and they’re just plain delicious. Mushrooms are full of phytochemicals, which help fight disease. Reader’s Digest reports that mushrooms are full of minerals that we often don’t get enough of, like potassium and copper.

When you use mushrooms in place of beef, you can cut out 400 calories from your meal. If you’re concerned about not having enough protein, you can eat mushrooms with a side dish of beans. As an added bonus, mushrooms may help prevent breast cancer by regulating a woman’s estrogen levels.

mushrooms bowl

2. Lemons

One lemon has more than 100% your daily vitamin C intake. This consumption can also help increase your HDL, or “good,” cholesterol levels. Also, the citrus flavonoids found in lemons may help deter the growth of cancer cells. When you add some lemon to your green tea, it increases your body’s ability to absorb the tea’s antioxidants by 80%. Learn more about the benefits of lemons and lemon water. Other fruits rich in vitamin C include cantaloupe, grapefruit, oranges, and strawberries.

lemons

3. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate, when consumed in moderate amounts, can do your body a world of good. It helps reduce blood pressure and LDL, or “bad”, cholesterol levels. It’s also chock full of antioxidants and flavonoids, which helps your body fight off infections and cancers. Apples, onions, peanuts, and red wine also include flavonoid compounds.

dark chocolate

4. Walnuts

Walnuts are a wonderful source of omega-3 fatty acids, which lower your LDL, “bad,” cholesterol, and raise your HDL, “good,” cholesterol. Omega-3s also help boost your mood, fight cancer, are a great source of protein, and are loaded with antioxidants. The FDA states that eating one ounce of nuts a day, including almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, and pecans, can also reduce your risk of heart disease.

walnuts cracked

5. Whole Grain Pasta

Whole grain pasta is a good source of fiber; in fact, it contains three times the amount of fiber as regular pasta. According to a Tufts University study, people who eat three or more servings of whole grains per day have a 30% lower risk of having metabolic syndrome, a condition that increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Whole grain pasta is truly a wonderful, frugal, and healthy dinner option.

whole grain pasta

6. Old-Fashioned or Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Oatmeal is full of soluble fiber, which makes you feel fuller longer. Eating oatmeal for breakfast means you’re less likely to snack up until lunchtime, which can help cut calories out of your day. Oatmeal is also great for your heart, and helps keep your cholesterol levels down.

Make sure you go with old-fashioned or steel-cut oatmeal, instead of any “quick cook” oatmeal. The quick-cook variety has been processed extensively so it cooks faster, but the more the grains are ground and processed, the fewer health benefits you get. It’s definitely worthwhile to go with the longer-cooking varieties.

steel cut oatmeal spoon

7. Avocados

This delicious vegetable is rich in healthy fats, and has been proven to lower your cholesterol by 22% when eaten on a regular basis. Avocados are also a rich source of fiber. Just one has more than half of your daily fiber requirements. Avocados also provide 40% of your daily folate needs, which can help lower your risk of heart disease.

My favorite way to eat avocados? For breakfast, spread on a thick slice of toasted crusty bread, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with black lava salt. It’s amazingly delicious!

avocados

8. Kale

Kale is another addictive vegetable that is less popular than its green counterparts. This thick winter lettuce is incredibly rich and flavorful, and many people have never even tasted it! However, kale is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s low in calories, chock-full of fiber, and loaded with calcium, iron, and vitamins A, C, and K. Furthermore, kale is loaded with a compound called indoles, which have been found to fight cancer.

My favorite way to eat kale is to quickly cook it in a cast-iron skillet with lemon, olive oil, and black lava salt. Only cook the kale until it starts to wilt, and then take it off the heat. You retain the most nutrients this way.

fresh kale

9. Spinach

Spinach is full of antioxidants, which help boost your immune system. Even better, spinach is easy to grow in your home vegetable garden because it has shallow roots and doesn’t need full sun. It’s also been proven to be one of the most effective vegetables for fighting cancer. Other vegetables rich in antioxidants include asparagus, broccoli, and cabbage.

spinach box

10. Beans

Beans are an incredibly frugal food that is also incredibly good for you. Eating four servings of beans a week can lower your risk of heart disease and breast cancer by 22%. Beans are low in calories, high in fiber, and full of antioxidants. Remember, the darker the bean the better it is for you; dark beans contain 40 times more antioxidants than white or light-colored beans.

black beans spoon

Final Word

I’m always looking for ways to eat healthy. Although I don’t always succeed, I do try to sneak these foods into my meals every week. One easy way to add these superfoods to your diet is to find creative ways to cook them. For instance, most people only eat spinach in a salad. However, you can add spinach to hamburgers instead of iceberg lettuce, or steam spinach on the stove with lemon and garlic.

Are you trying to eat a healthy diet for an active lifestyle? What other superfoods are at the top of your list?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a freelance writer based in Detroit, MI. She's passionately committed to living green, saving money, and helping others do the same in their life.

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  • http://www.savings.com/blog/blog.html Amy Saves

    i love kale and spinach! kale chips are the bomb.

    • Heather

      Amy, I love kale too! I’m excited to try making kale chips. Yum!

  • http://www.101centavos.com 101 Centavos

    Not only is kale a winter lettuce, it’s a year round one. Days and days of 100-degree haven’t fazed the red kale in one of my garden beds

  • Anonymous

    Love Spinach and Mushrooms!

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