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5 Simple Ingredients You Didn’t Know Were Superfoods

Aug 4, 2016, 10:20 AM by

Healthy eating doesn’t have to mean choking down Brussels sprouts and broccoli. In fact, some of the healthiest nutrients are hiding in the most unlikely foods. So if you’re looking for a little extra boost, the answer might already be waiting in your pantry. Here are 5 everyday foods that many people don’t know are actually superfoods:

  1. Cinnamon: You may think of cinnamon as nothing more than a tasty topping for your favorite sweet treat, but it can actually work wonders for your body. For starters, cinnamon helps lower blood sugar levels, which is critical for preventing health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and more. Cinnamon is also proven to have antibacterial and even antiviral properties, meaning that it helps fight germs to keep you from getting sick. If that wasn’t enough already, cinnamon is highly concentrated with antioxidants, which protect your body against damaging carcinogens. So add a few sprinkles to your oatmeal, fruit or toast to reap the benefits of this spectacular spice. ymca-superfoods-nutrition-chia
  2. Chia Seeds: A food named after the ancient Mayan word for “strength,” chia seeds certainly live up to their name. Despite their small size, chia seeds pack a powerful nutritional punch. They are loaded with protein, antioxidants and many vitamins and minerals that help to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and decrease inflammation. Not to mention they are one of the best sources of fiber in the world, delivering 20% of the daily recommended amount in just a single tablespoon. An added bonus that chia seeds offer is their ability to absorb liquid and expand to 16 times their original size, making you feel fuller faster and longer. Luckily, they are extremely easy to incorporate into your diet. These superfoods can be sprinkled on top of smoothies or yogurt, soaked in milk to create a delicious pudding or mixed into your favorite stir-fry.
  3. Garlic: Garlic often gets a bad rap for causing smelly breath, but the health benefits that it provides are well worth it. For starters, garlic is incredibly nutrient rich. It offers plenty of Magnesium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and nearly every other vital nutrient in trace amounts, all for very few calories. Allicin, the active compound in garlic, is also a proven antimicrobial that is incredibly effective at fighting common colds and boosting the immune system. So the next time you’re feeling under the weather, add a clove or two to your dinner and let the garlic work its magic. Last but not least, garlic can help protect against cell damage and combat natural aging processes. Garlic has been shown to increase antioxidant enzymes, which help to combat the development of chronic diseases by reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and fighting oxidative damage. Maybe garlic breath is really just your body’s way of thanking you for the extra nutritional boost. ymca-superfoods-nutrition-peppers
  4. Hot Peppers: If you love food with a little zest, hot peppers are the superfood for you. Hot peppers contain the compound capsaicin — the more capsaicin in the pepper, the spicier it is. While it may set your mouth on fire, it will serve your body well, especially your heart. Not only does capsaicin lower blood pressure and cholesterol, it also reduces blood clotting and suppresses the contraction of your arteries, greatly reducing the risk of blood clots that could lead to a heart attack or stroke. Moreover, this superfood can boost your metabolism and improve digestion, causing your body to effortlessly burn more calories while absorbing nutrients more efficiently. So if you can take the heat, hot peppers will give your body just the kick that it needs.
  5. Dark Chocolate: Who knew eating healthy could be so delicious? Dark chocolate is loaded with flavonoids, polyphenols and catechins, making it one of the most powerful sources of antioxidants. It even surpasses many of the most notable superfoods like blueberries and the famous acai. Because of its high antioxidant content, dark chocolate ranks among the highest scoring foods for Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC), meaning that it is extremely efficient at scavenging your body for harmful carcinogens. Dark chocolate is also known to significantly lower bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol. Combined with its ability to improve blood flow, this tasty treat works to prevent heart disease, improve brain function and even protect your skin against sun damage. Despite all these perks, be aware that dark chocolate is high in calories and often contains sugar, so it’s best to eat in moderation. Remember, the higher the cocoa content, the healthier the chocolate. Thanks to all these health perks, it turns out your guilty pleasure isn’t so guilty after all.

Healthy eating can be challenging, but with the help of a few undercover superfoods, it can be easier than you might think. So if you’re looking for a little extra nourishment, power up by adding one of these simple foods to your next meal; your body and your taste buds will thank you.

Looking for more nutrition advice? The Y has nutrition programs and consultations. Visit our website to learn more.

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