Real Simple asked the country’s top dietitians and nutritionists to tell us which superpowered ingredients we should be incorporating into our diets regularly. Here are their combined picks, plus some simple and delicious preparation suggestions. (For more of their advice, see The No-Diet Diet: Your New Healthy-Eating Plan.)
Meaty and filling, as a stand-in for beef they can slash up to 400 calories from a meal. They may also protect against breast cancer by helping to regulate a woman’s estrogen levels.
A surprisingly good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Those are the fats that lower the bad-for-you cholesterol (LDL) and raise the good-for-you kind (HDL).
Try this: For a healthy on-the-go snack, pack a handful of walnuts with some dried figs and a few anise seeds. (As the ingredients sit together, the anise releases flavor.) Or try Corn Salad With Feta and Walnuts.
Contains three times the amount of fiber per serving as the typical semolina variety. Skip pasta labeled “multigrain”: It may be made with a number of grains, but they aren’t necessarily whole ones.
Holds cholesterol in check, helps fight against heart disease, and keeps you full until lunch, thanks to its soluble fiber.
Try this: For a savory breakfast, drizzle cooked oatmeal with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan.
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It may cook like a grain, but quinoa is actually an herbaceous plant. It’s a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids, and offers the same energy and satiety you would get from meat, sans the fat or cholesterol.
It offers nine essential nutrients: calcium, of course, but also B vitamins, which help neurological function, and vitamin D, a potential cancer fighter.
Try this: If you want a break from your regular morning coffee, warm a cup of skim milk with a dash of vanilla and ground cinnamon. Or try Low-Fat Fettuccine Alfredo.
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Packed with monounsaturated fatty acids, which keep blood vessels healthy. The plant fibers help lower cholesterol. Try this: Fold chopped almonds into cooked whole grains, along with raisins or dried currants. Or try Chickpea Pasta With Almonds and Parmesan.
A protein powerhouse, these are flush with folate, a nutrient that may prevent certain birth defects.
The whites offer up protein with minimal calories (and zero fat or cholesterol). Egg yolks get a bad rap, but don’t skip them—they are awash with vitamin B12 and vitamin A, and they contain choline, a nutrient that’s particularly important for pregnant women.
Ounce for ounce, this fuzzy fruit contains twice the amount of vitamin C as an orange and almost as much potassium as a banana.
Try this: Thinly slice, then drizzle with honey and sprinkle with toasted unsweetened coconut.
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Its omega-3 fatty acids may improve your mood and keep your skin glowing. Why wild? It’s exposed to fewer toxins than the farmed Atlantic variety. Try this: For breakfast, mash some avocado on whole-grain toast and top with flaked poached salmon. Or try Mustard-Broiled Salmon With New Potato Salad.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
An outstanding source of monounsaturated fats. When used in moderation, this tasty Mediterranean staple may even cut the risk of heart disease.
The payoff from this leafy green: loads of vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, and antioxidants. Kale is also a good source of lutein, an eye-friendly nutrient that may slow macular degeneration by more than 40 percent.
Try this: Make kale chips by tearing the leaves into pieces and tossing with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 300° F until crisp, 20 to 30 minutes. Or try Quinoa With Mushrooms, Kale, and Sweet Potatoes.
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You’ll get nearly 20 percent of your daily dose of fiber in one ½-cup serving, plus cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fats.
The antioxidants in this winter squash keep skin healthy; its potassium helps lower blood pressure.
Try this: Peel, cut into chunks, and roast with olive oil and sprigs of fresh thyme. Or try Pumpkin-Leek Soup.
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Your go-to source for vitamin C, which, among other useful traits, can help the body burn fat. And in addition to helping prevent colds, vitamin C may stimulate collagen synthesis to keep skin looking supple.
A vitamin C gold mine—½ cup of cooked broccoli satisfies 80 percent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recommended daily dose. It’s also a key source of vitamin K, which helps blood clot properly.
Try this: Toss with olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Roast at 375° F until tender. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan before serving. Or try Pork Chops With Garlicky Broccoli.
These burrito mainstays boast antioxidants and magnesium, which helps maintain nerve and muscle function.