12 Super Foods to Add to your Diet

There are certain foods out there that have come to earn the label super food. Super foods can improve your health by lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke, while boosting your energy, focus, and mental sharpness. The best part is that you get these benefits using all natural foods, instead of items containing chemicals and drugs.

Here's a list of 12 super foods and a description of how they'll help your body and mind:

1. Sweet Potatoes. Sweet potatoes are packed with added fiber, potassium and vitamin C. You can cook them in many ways including baked or mashed, as well as cubed in soups.

2. Blueberries. Blueberries are definitely a super fruit! They contain beneficial antioxidants as well as vitamin C and fiber. They make a healthy treat and they're easy to eat on their own or in smoothies and baked goods.

3. Bananas. Bananas make the list because of their beneficial nutrients as well as high potassium content. They also contain a healthy dose of vitamin B6.

4. Broccoli. Broccoli is a vegetable that contains a healthy amount of vitamin C and folic acid. If you don't like the taste, you can use some spices, cheese, or dip to add some flavor.

5. Spinach. Spinach comes packed with many beneficial ingredients. It's one of the best leafy green vegetables that you can eat. It contains folate, potassium, magnesium, iron, and more. Plus it's easy to add to salads.

6. Apples. So now you know there's truth to the saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away! They contain many of the benefits of the other super food fruits, as well as a decent fiber content. They're also a low glycemic index food. Apples can help you stay full and may help with weight loss.

7. Baked Beans. Protein, fiber and calcium are just some of the benefits of this low GI super food. Baked beans have also been known to lower the chances of bowel type cancers because of the unique way they're digested.

8. Yogurt. Yogurt is a super healthy way of getting your dairy intake for the day. In addition to being an excellent source of calcium, yogurt has also been known to improve your bowel health overall. Yogurt can help with regulating the digestive system.

9. Salmon. Lean fish are always good alternatives for healthy meats in your diet. However, salmon is extra special because it contains Omega 3's. Omega 3's alone have many health benefits such as reduced risks of heart attacks as well as mental disorders such as depression.

10. Olive Oil. Olive oil is one type of oil that's okay to add to your diet in moderation. It's a good idea to keep in mind that a little bit goes a long way. '
Olive oil can lower bad cholesterol levels and it also contains a healthy amount of antioxidants. Use olive oil mixed with balsamic vinegar for salad dressing, instead of the creamy stuff.

11. Dark Chocolate. This is usually the shocker on the super foods list. Dark chocolate can be yummy and beneficial to your health. Dark chocolate, in small amounts each day, can lower your blood pressure and it also contains antioxidants.

12. Citrus Fruit. Many like the taste of sweet citrus fruits, which makes it quite the popular super food. You'll still want to eat these fruits in moderation because they have a higher sugar content. However, citrus fruits also come with a high amount of vitamin C, fiber, and folic acid.

There are many other foods that are earning the title of super food, but this list should get you started in the right direction. It's always a great thing to hear when a delicious food also helps you live a happier and healthier life!

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Stay Healthy With the New USDA Dietary Guidelines

Every five years, the federal government updates its dietary guidelines to help American stay healthy.

The recently announced USDA 2010 guidelines place more emphasis on achieving a healthy body weight and choosing nutrient-dense foods and beverages to confront the national obesity epidemic and reduce diseases. Below you'll find the key recommendations.

Achieving a Healthy Weight

1. Maintain a healthy body weight. More than one third of children, 72% of men, and 64% of women are overweight or obese in the United States. To lose that excess weight, most of us will need to cut back on calories and increase our levels of physical activity.

2. Control portion sizes. You can still enjoy the foods you love, but practice moderation. Try a small scoop of ice cream garnished with lots of fresh berries. Measure out an ounce of nuts, which is about 20 almonds, for an afternoon snack.

3. Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits. One simple way to cut back on calories is to make at least half of each meal vegetables and fruits. Just be sure to go easy on any added fats and sugars like butter or sweetened salad dressing.

4. Replace fats that are solid at room temperature with liquid fats. Save the butter for special occasions. Dip whole-wheat pita triangles in extra virgin olive oil. Make foods from scratch so you can control the amount and type of oils used.

Consuming Nutrient-Dense Foods and Beverages

1. Make whole grain foods 50% or more of your diet. Whole grain products have far more nutrients than refined grains. When you're food shopping, look for the percentage of whole grains in products. When you're baking, try blending whole-wheat flour and white flour together until your taste buds adjust.

2. Seek variety in your vegetables. If your salad looks pretty, it may be better for you. Different colored vegetables contain different nutrients. Look for dark green spinach and broccoli, red beets and peppers, and orange carrots and squash.

3. Drink more water. Sugary soft drinks are loaded with empty calories. Even diet sodas may make you crave more sweets and weaken your bones. Switch to water so you can save those calories for more nutritious offerings. Add a wedge of lime to enhance the flavor.

4. Put more seafood in your diet. Aim for at least 8 ounces of seafood a week by replacing meat or poultry with fish at least twice a week. Broiling fish fillets takes less than 10 minutes.

5. Plan your meals around plant-based foods. Even if you're not a vegetarian, planning some meals around vegetarian foods gives you additional delicious options for light eating. Beans are a cheap and satisfying source of protein for soups or burritos. Turn a salad into a main dish by tossing in lentils or nuts.

Additional Recommendations

1. Eat less salt. The general recommendation is up to 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. If you're over age 51, African-American, or have certain conditions like diabetes, keep under 1,500 milligrams per day. Read the labels on processed foods because they're often the worst culprits.

2. Take additional steps if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Follow your doctor's recommendations for taking iron supplements. Choose foods that supply iron like meat, poultry and fish. Eat a varied diet that includes sources of folate and ask your doctor about folic acid supplements.

3. Prevent food borne illnesses. Follow the four basic food safety principles of cleaning, separating, cooking and chilling. Some foods should be avoided altogether like unpasteurized dairy products and undercooked animal foods. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly and use separate cutting boards for meat and produce. Store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer.

The 2010 government food guidelines are based on the most current scientific research. By incorporating them into your everyday life, you can help you and your family to live longer and enjoy a better quality of life.

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