Thanks to everyone who commented yesterday. So much of my relationship with nutrition and health is founded upon having an open mind; without it, I would never have explored raw foods in the first place! And yet nothing irks me more than inflammatory or misleading health claims, be they conventional or alternative. Glad to hear your perspectives on the agave controversy and superfoods.
Writing about lucuma and maca has me thinking about the real superfoods: that is, foods that have a high phytonutrient content. Last night, I began a mental list of my top ten. Not supplements or fancy schmancy dried fruits, mind you: just the top ten nutrient dense foods that I rely on most to keep me going.
They are, in descending order of affection:
Kale. It is my favorite food. Rich in calcium, iron, beta carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and antioxidants, kale is a king among vegetables. All hail.
Avocados. I mean, how do I count the ways? I could talk about the folate, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin E, and polyunsaturated fats, not to mention the fiber. But let’s look at these magical fruits from a culinary angle. Avocados are also versatile, rich, and satisfying. And since they’re the stars of so many of my favorite dishes–chocomole, guac, pudding, and dressing, just to name a few–I’d be lost without them.
I love winter squashes of all shapes and sizes. For a long time, butternut and acorn were my favorites. Acorn will always have a special place in my heart, since stuffed acorn squash was the first vegan thanskgiving meal I ever made for my mother and me. But lately, I’ve discovered the joys of kabocha squash, too, and life hasn’t been the same since. These naturally sweet and comforting vegetables are also rich in Vitamins A, C, potassium, fiber, manganese, and have trace amounts of other B-vitamins. They are, in short, as nutritious as they are flavorful.
My favorite fruit. Without bananas, the infamous soft serve would never have been born. And without them, I don’t think I’d ever have been able to get cozy with smoothies. Bananas are famous for potassium, but they’re also excellent sources of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C. Most of all, they lend natural creaminess to raw smoothies, puddings, and desserts. They’re sweet and light, like all fruits, but they offer more density, heft, and satisfaction than some of their more watery fruit cousins. Best of all, they’re portable, and you can almost always find them when traveling.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’ve never met a whole grain I didn’t like love. Whole grains provide us with countless minerals (especially selenium and manganese), and with fiber. They’re frequently rich in protein, too. Stellar sources of fiber (soluble and insoluble), they help to keep elimination regular and strong, and they also give comfort, satiety, and density to vegan meals. God bless ’em.
Where would I be without hummus? I don’t know. And what would I do if I couldn’t add chickpeas, navy beans, black beans, and lentils to my salads, soups, and spreads? Well, I know for a fact that I’d be missing out on a lot of protein, iron, fiber, and minerals–not to mention tastes and textures that I love. Thank goodness for legumes.
If you haven’t heard it a million times before, I’ll say it again: hemp is a nutritional powerhouse. Hemp oil is a rich source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids (aka, the “good” fats). Hemp seeds contain all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids. And hemp proteins are similar to proteins found in the human body, which makes them easy to digest and assimilate quickly, so they’re a great alternative to whey and soy proteins, which are often heavily processed. I sprinkle hemp seeds on salad, enjoy hemp protein in smoothies, and use hemp butter in soups and dressings.
I’ve heard that excessive carrot consumption can turn people orange. I’m still waiting for it to happen to me. I love carrots. They make for easy, portable snacks, their juice is delicious in soups or with other vegetable juices, and hell, I just like the crunch.
Almonds are most definitely my favorite nut. It’s not only because they’re high in protein and in Vitamin E, or because they’ve been linked to heart health, or because they have more calcium than any other nut. It’s just because I like the mellow flavor, the versatility, and the many gallons of almond milk I make in my kitchen each year.
How is it that I didn’t taste a fresh young coconut until I was about twenty-six years old? Tragic. Thankfully, I’m making up for lost time, hacking open at least a coconut or two each weekend and feasting on them in soups, puddings, and salads. Coconut water, which I’ve written about many a time, is also quite dear to me. Young coconuts are great sources of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, and the medium chain triglycerides aid in metabolism regulation and muscle/tissue repair. There’s suggestive evidence that the fatty acids in coconut have antibacterial properties, too. Though it’s true that coconut fat is saturated, clinical evidence shows that the saturated fats don’t have the same impact on LDL cholesterol that saturated animal fats do. In short? Coconuts are where it’s at.
That was actually a really hard list to assemble. There are so many foods that I love! Runners up for the top ten spots included:
13: Sesame Seeds/Tahini
14: Blueberries (used to hate them!)
15: Flax seeds/flax oil
OK. Your turn. What are your favorite “super” foods, and why?