Superfoods are nutritionally dense and easy to incorporate into our diets. Barbara Sherwood, the Clinical Nutrition Manager at LDS Hospital, shared 7 with us that can be purchased at farmer’s markets and the grocery store, as well as grown in your own garden.
Blueberries are among the most popular superfoods. They are packed with antioxidants and the anti-inflammatory properties in blueberries can help lower the risk of heart disease and cancer. They are also a great source of dietary fiber and Vitamin C. In addition to being good for your body they are also good for your brain, research shows that blueberries can also improve cognitive function.
For the garden: You can plant blueberries in the early spring. You just need pick the right variety for your climate and make sure your soil will provide the right growing conditions. For blueberries to thrive, the soil must be moist, high in organic matter, very acidic, and well aerated. It’s best to do a soil test before you start planting.
Quinoa is also known as a super grain. It has the highest protein content of any grain and is high in iron and potassium. A half cup of this superfood contains 14 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber. It may look like other grains, but quinoa tastes a little different with a mild and nutty flavor paired with a fluffy texture.It can be cooked like rice and incorporated into tons of recipes. You can use quinoa for making pancakes, salads, burgers, and even muffins.
For the garden: Quinoa grows best in an environment where the temperature does not exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In many northern states, the best time to plant quinoa is from late April to May. The soil should be most and seeds should not be sown more than one quarter-inch deep.
We often hear that greens are good for our health, but when it comes to plant-based food, kale is a real powerhouse. A cup of kale contains 14 percent of your daily calcium, over 600 percent of your daily Vitamin A, and more than 900 percent of your daily Vitamin K. This superfood is also a very good source of iron. A serving of kale is packed with more iron than an ounce of beef. One of the best things about using kale is that it’s so versatile. You can braise it, turn it into chips, add it to a morning smoothie, or incorporate it in your favorite dishes like mac and cheese.
For the garden: Growing kale on your own isn’t hard. All you need is a sunny area where you can sow the seeds during early summer or spring. Although this vegetable grows best in sunny spots, it can also stand shade better than many vegetables. You can start harvesting the leaves between three to four months after sowing the seeds.
4. Chia Seeds
“Chia” is a Mayan word meaning “strength.” Chia seeds contain more protein than many other grains. They are also rich in calcium (five times more calcium than milk), packed with omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and are believed to have more antioxidants than blueberries. Research shows that aside from boosting energy, chia seeds also promote digestive function.
For the garden: When planting chia seeds, it’s important to spread the seeds carefully giving them plenty of space to grow and covering them gently with soil. The seeds should be watered daily. You can expect chia sprouts in just a week after planting them.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are considered one of the most nutritious foods in the vegetable kingdom as they are packed with vitamins A and C, potassium, and calcium. They are naturally sweet and can be prepared in a variety of ways – mashed, baked, or incorporated into your favorite dishes. They make great substitutes for products like white potatoes.
For the garden: Sweet potatoes grow well in loamy soil with a pH between 5.8 and 6.2. These plants need proper aeration and should be planted between 12 to 18 inches apart. Although sweet potatoes can grow in relatively poor soil, they grow better with a little fertilizer. These vegetables are ready to harvest when the ends of their vines begin to turn yellow.
A native plant of North Africa, Asia, and Europe, beets are a vegetables with high sugar content, and if eaten in moderation, can provide many health benefits. They can help lower blood pressure, fight inflammation, prevent cancer, and boost immune system function. They are rich in Vitamin C, fiber, and essential minerals like manganese and potassium. The leafy green tops of the beets can also be eaten. Beet greens are rich in protein, fiber, zinc, magnesium, copper, and Vitamins A, C, and B6. Research shows that beet greens help fight off osteoporosis, boost immune system function, and provide protection against Alzheimer’s disease.
For the garden: Beets grow well in a cooler environment. They thrive best in soil with temperature between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. When planting beets, it’s important to remember to sow the seeds a half-inch deep in an area where they are protected from the heavy wind. These plants should be placed at least 2 to 3 inches apart as overcrowding will only lead to poor development of the roots. This won’t be a problem though if you’re only after the leafy tops.
7. Goji Berries
Goji berries have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. They contain Vitamin C, A, B2, iron, selenium, and antioxidants that help boost immune system function, reduce risk of heart disease and cancer, and help improve overall health. These berries are also great sources of antioxidants and other phytonutrients which contribute to eye and skin health.
For the garden: Goji berries are perennial plants, and are very adaptable and can grow in containers.
For more information you can ldshospital.org/healthyliving.