By JJ Virgin
That hyperbolic headline stared me front and center recently while I patiently waited in my grocery line. Reluctantly, I grabbed the weekly and thumbed straight to the article claiming a specific “superfood” could make you lean and energetic while upping your libido.
Uh, huh. I rolled my eyes, winced and put the magazine back.
Every year or so, one of these supposedly miraculous foods makes headlines. Often with little or no science to back their claims, writers create frenzied buzz that ultimately benefits magazine sales rather than your health.
Like a has-been former A-list actor, these foods inevitably fall out of favor because they’re arcane or otherwise inaccessible, don’t live up to their hype or people just get tired of hearing about them.
That got me thinking: What super-hyped foods actually earn their permanent stay at the table? I came up with these seven. They aren’t miracles, but incorporating them into your meals yields impressive gains (or losses, if you will).
Studies show a high-fiber diet creates lower overall body weight. Lentils become tops for fiber as well as protein and nutrients.
“A cup of lentils contains a nice amount of protein—about 18 grams,” wrote Dr. Jonny Bowden in The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. “But best of all, that same cup contains a whopping 16 grams of fiber. Lentils are also a terrific source of folate and a good source of at least seven minerals.”
Coconut contains a special type of saturated fat called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which your body prefers to burn than store. Studies show compared with other oils, MCTs can help you burn more fat. Coconut oil provides a delicate flavor with medium-heat cooking, while unsweetened coconut milk provides healthy fat for protein shakes.
Fresh or frozen, organic blueberries pack quite a nutrient punch and satisfy your sweet tooth. Nature packed these guys with vitamins, minerals, ﬁber, antioxidants and all kinds of other goodness that cumulatively spike your health while lowering their sugar impact. In fact, studies show blueberries help normalize blood sugar levels and reduce your risk for diabetes. They’re also high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that improves insulin sensitivity and insulin’s ability to get glucose out of your bloodstream.
4. Green tea
If you run into me late morning or early afternoon, chances are I’m sipping iced or hot green tea. Antioxidants and lower caffeine amounts are two reasons green tea becomes my drink staple. Studies show this popular beverage’s fat-burning benefits become more pronounced when you combine green tea with exercise. Green tea contains L-theanine, a calming amino acid that dials down the chronic stress that makes you fat and miserable.
One study found coffee contains higher antioxidants than even green tea. (You should drink both). Those are among the reasons studies find coffee drinkers live longer. Quality and quantity become key. Stick with a cup or two of Bulletproof Upgraded (my favorite because it’s mycotoxin-free), be aware about caffeine’s jittery and other effects and don’t use a gargantuan cup of dark roast to compensate for crappy sleep or chronic stress.
6. Swiss chard
Move over, kale; you’ve got a rock star leafy-green contender.
“When I first looked up the lab analysis of the nutritional content of Swiss chard, I had to go back and check twice to be sure there wasn’t a mistake,” writes Bowden. “The amount of nutrition in this baby is so spectacular I thought it was a misprint; but no, it’s absolutely true. Swiss chard is an excellent example of a nutritional powerhouse that delivers the goods for almost no calories.” Among its gazillion benefits, studies show Swiss chard can help fight cancer.
Whether you slice it onto a salad, eat it as a mini-meal or make guacamole with kale chips, avocado becomes a super-fruit (yes, fruit) packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found avocado “improved overall diet quality, nutrient intake and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.”
Bowden points out avocados also contain 11 to 17 grams of fiber as well as nutrients like potassium, folate, vitamin A and carotenoids like beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin.