How Super Is Your Food?

By now you’ve heard it a million times.  New lists, it seems, are constantly compiled and are often full of foods we’ve never heard of, can’t pronounce, or can’t find in the grocery store.  (Like this list from Shape Magazine)  And lately they’ve been showing up as dietary supplements in convenient juice or pill form.

Things aren’t always what they seem.  Big companies know that healthy sells, but are you getting the short end of the stick?  Read more about the battle between Minute Maid and POM Wonderful here.

What am I talking about?  SUPER FOODS!!

But, what does that designation actually mean?  When I look at food, I like to ask, “What will eating this ________ provide for me?”  In essence, what is its value?

Value – noun

  • to consider with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness, or importance.
  • to regard or esteem highly, imply intrinsic excellence or desirability.

The more nutrient dense a food, the bigger bang for the buck and the inherently greater nutritional value.  Nutrient-dense foods and beverages provide vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, anti-oxidants or other beneficial substances with relatively few calories.

Super foods are foods that are incredibly nutrient dense.  They typically contain essential nutrients like critical fatty acids, anti-oxidant phytonutrients, and essential amino acids in abundant amounts and in combinations that provide additional health benefits.  Examples of exotic super foods are acai and goji berries, but there are many more super foods readily available in your grocery store, and with names you can pronounce, if you just know where to look.

The Top 30 Super Foods in Your Grocery Store Right NOW!

Each of the following foods is scored using the ANDI system.  ANDI** stands for the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index and scoring is based on the nutrient density per calorie of food.  The nutrient density of any food is calculated based on the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidant capacities within that food per calorie.  Foods are then given a score of 1-1,000 with a score of 1,000 being the most nutrient dense.

 SUPER FOODS Nutrient Score
1. Collard, mustard, & turnip greens 1000
2. Kale 1000
3. Watercress 1000
4. Bok choy 824
5. Spinach 739
6. Brussels sprouts 672
7. Swiss chard 670
8. Arugula 559
9. Radish 554
10. Cabbage 481
11. Bean sprouts 444
12. Red peppers 420
13. Romaine lettuce 389
14. Broccoli 376
15. Carrot juice 344
16. Tomatoes & tomato products 190-300
17. Cauliflower 295
18. Strawberries 212
19. Pomegranate juice 193
20. Blackberries 178
21. Plum 157
22. Raspberries 145
23. Blueberries 130
24. Papaya 118
25. Brazil nuts 116
26. Oranges 109
27. Tofu 86
28. Beans, not canned (all varieties) 55-70
29. Seeds: flaxseed, sunflower, sesame 45
30. Walnuts 29

Compare the value of these foods with the value of those found often in the typical American diet.

UN-SUPER FOODS Nutrient Score
1. Plain Bagel 18*
2. Cheese Pizza, 2 slices 17*
3. Roast Beef Sandwich, w/cheese 16*
4. Tuna Salad Sub Sandwich 14*
5. Cheeseburger, w/bun 14
6. Chicken Fillet Sandwich 11*
7. Blueberry Muffin 10*
8. Beef Hot Dog 8
9. Chocolate Cake, 1 slice 7*
10.Jelly Doughnut 6

* Artificially inflated nutrient score due to fortification with vitamins and minerals.

**The ANDI food scoring guide was created by Dr. Joel Fuhrman.

These are foods that have been refined and stripped of their nutrients. While some nutrients are added back in to prevent malnutrition and for marketing purposes, most of the ingredients are highly concentrated pleasure-stimulating “foodstuffs” that leave you fat and sick.

Optimal health is directly related to the foods you eat. The super foods included in the list above are foods that are rich in virtually all of the nutrients your body needs to function, stay healthy and perform well. And when ingested, your body knows exactly how to glean the most nutrition because these are whole food sources.

Just remember that super foods don’t have to come from exotic places or have names you can’t pronounce.  Some of the most nutritious food you can get you hands on can be grown right in your own back yard!  And, when you are in doubt about what might be the most nutrient dense food you can choose…always GO GREEN!!!

Read more about why the freshest food is also the most nutritious here.

Need to incorporate more greens?  Just got your first CSA share and have kale coming out of your ears?  Try this amazing recipe for Kale Salad…an absolute favorite of mine from Whole Foods.  It is super simple, keeps well, and can be  customized with whatever other vegetables or protein your heart desires!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 bunches kale, stems and tough ribs removed, leaves very finely chopped

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, chili powder and salt.
  2. Add kale, toss to combine.
  3. Let rest in refrigerator at least 30 minutes for kale to soften.
  4. Serve chilled.

Serves 6.

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