10 Inexpensive Superfoods to Punch Up Your Meals

Woman grocery shopping
It's easier than you think to eat healthy. There are superfoods sitting right on your grocery store shelves. And you probably walk by these healthy foods each week without giving them a second thought. Dave Lieberman and Anahad O'Connor point out these 10 easy-to-find, inexpensive superfoods in their new book, 10 Things You Need to Eat (William Morrow, $19.99). Lieberman is a cookbook author and the host of Good Deal and Eat This on the Food Network. O'Connor writes the Really? column for The New York Times. The two also are former college roommates. "The sad truth," they wrote in the introduction, "is that sitting in every grocery store in every city across America are basic foods whose health properties are well researched, well documented and widely accepted. And yet many of these foods remain underused and underappreciated." So Lieberman and O'Connor set out to come up with a list of superfoods, but not just any superfoods. They targeted those that are affordable, easy to find, versatile and likely to appeal to a broad spectrum of people. The authors eventually pared their list down to 10 superfoods and came up with about 100 recipes to help use them. Here are some of the 10 foods, why they chose them and some recipe examples: Tomato has lycopene and other nutrients that have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, and their nutritional content is enhanced by cooking. Recipes include broiled grape tomatoes over ricotta, and roasted garlic and tomato soup.
Avocados have high levels of good monounsaturated fat, no cholesterol, and high fiber. One cup of avocado has about 30 percent of the recommended daily amount of fiber, which can help lower blood cholesterol. Avocados are also high in potassium, which can help reduce blood pressure. Recipes include avocado and shrimp risotto and chocolate avocado mousse. Beets have an unusually wide range of good stuff: folate, iron, fiber, antioxidants and potassium that can help against heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and even the common cold. Recipes include beet and zucchini "lasagna," and yellow beet and apricot curry. Spinach has nutritional compounds that have been shown to be "kryptonite" to cancer cells, the authors say. Spinach also is rated high for its ability to fight aging and chronic disease. Recipes include grilled fish with tangy spinach, cilantro and caper puree, and mixed bean, barley and spinach soup. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is technically a seed. But it has been called the "mother of all grains." That's because it is used as a grain, but also because it is extremely high in protein -- with one cup having about as much as four eggs -- and it is high in fiber, iron, magnesium and manganese. Studies have associated a daily bowl of quinoa with lower rates of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, obesity and premature death. Recipes include quinoa-stuffed red peppers, toasted quinoa and nut brittle, and creamy oatmeal and quinoa.

Other superfoods in the book are lentils, berries, nuts, cabbage and such fish as tuna and salmon that are high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

The book also includes lots of cooking tips to help make the most of these and other foods. The authors say that you should never boil spinach because it will lose many of its nutrients. They show how avocado can replace other, less-healthy fats. They talk about how Parmesan is a great choice for cheese because it is relatively low in fat and a little goes a long way.

I don't imagine someone buying this book and suddenly introducing 10 new foods to their diet. But maybe you already like avocados but only eat them one way, in guacamole. Maybe you are looking for healthy vegetarian options and would like to learn how to prepare lentils and quinoa. Maybe you know you need to eat more fish but don't know which to choose or what to do with them.

In short, 10 Things You Need to Eat can provide one -- or 10, or even 100 -- ways to improve your diet.

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