How to Work This Year’s Superfoods into Your Diet

Here are eight great nutrient-dense foods and some tips for how to get them into your body.

THAT MESSAGE “Eat your fruits and vegetables” isn’t just a relic of drilled-in childhood nutrition badgering. It comes through loud and clear in each year’s list of nutrient-packed superfoods, some of which have reached classic status. Leafy greens, avocado? Our BFFs! Seeds and ancient grains? Our esteem is gathering steam. Whether these foods are classic or climbing up the trend ladder, we offer quick, easy suggestions for making them part of your routine.



 
 
1.

Leafy Greens

Ranging from collards to beet greens, spinach to kale, these veggies are packed with vitamins (A, C, E and K, some B). Other nutrients include magnesium, potassium and iron.

Try it: Sauté kale in olive oil with garlic, red chili flakes and black pepper for five to seven minutes. Squeeze fresh lemon on top and serve.

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2.

Adaptogens

These herbs and roots (Siberian ginseng, for one; shown) work to counteract the effects of stressors in the body and support the immune system.

Try it: Tippecanoe Herbs & Apothecary (2235 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) sells a blend of roots and herbs called Adaptogen Roots Brew. Owner Kyle Denton likes to grind a few teaspoons of it along with a handful of coffee beans for his morning pot. The “life-nourishing” beverage improves digestion and works to balance overtaxed adrenals, he says.

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3.

Fermented Foods

What is a fermented food? In scientific terms, it’s one made through microbial growth or enzymatic conversion of food components. In simple terms, it’s an age-old way of preserving food. Think pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut. Also think yogurt and kombucha. Benefits include helping with digestion and increasing the amount of good bacteria in the gut.

Try it: Layer sliced pickles on a turkey sandwich or spread sauerkraut inside your grilled cheese.



 
 
4.

Salmon

Sure, it’s a great source of protein and omega-3s (which might improve cognitive functioning). But it’s also a rich source of vitamin D, immune-boosting zinc and selenium, which regulates the thyroid hormones. It also contains the amino acid tryptophan. So hello, sleep.

Try it: Lightly salt and pepper a salmon let, pan-sear it on both sides until the skin gets crisp. Top with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Photo by Getty Images



 
 
5.

Avocado

A powerhouse of a fruit. Though 77% of its calories come from fat, those are mostly heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids – aka oleic acid, which is thought to reduce inflammation and may help fight cancer. The list of nutrients is impressive, too: vitamins K, C, E and B, plus potassium (more than a banana) and fiber. Sold!

Try it: Stuff an avocado with tuna or egg salad, or some toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds.

Photo by Getty Images



 
 
6.

Ancient Grains

Whether you’re talking about the well-known quinoa or more exotic farro, these staples are higher in protein, omega-3s, B vitamins and zinc than refined grains like white rice. And fiber – plenty of that.

Try it: Add a cooked grain to a leafy green salad.



 
 
7.

Green Tea

There’s a lot to like about green tea, but some of it is preceded by the word “may.” Among the possible benefits are improved brain function, lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and reduced chance of developing Type 2 diabetes. Green tea also is packed with antioxidants, which may lower the risk of some types of cancer.

Try it: Add a cup of brewed green tea to a fruit smoothie.



 
 
8.

Seeds

Take, for example, chia and hemp. The former has protein, fiber and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which provide energy and needed nutrients for the heart, lungs and immune system. Also a really good protein source, hemp seeds are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which maintain bone health and stimulate skin and hair growth.

Try it: Eat chia in your morning yogurt; sprinkle crunchy hemp seeds on cereal and salads.


 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s July issue.

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.