5 Undercover Superfoods

Spinach, olive oil and blueberries belong on the list. Here's why.

By SHARE

You may want to sit down for this. Kale, as we have been told, will change your life! That’s right! Consuming kale can make you live longer, make you more beautiful and up your chances of getting that dream job or meeting your dream guy/girl. It’s also possible that serving kale at a family function could even improve your relationship with your mother in law. If you have any problems in your life, kale will solve them. Sound a little wacky? Well – obviously, it is.

But if you look at mainstream media and its attention to kale in the past 18 months, you may start believing the unbelievable. Kale and other superfoods have been so glorified in the news that consumers are flocking to them like ants to honey, as if they're the end all-be-allof how to solve the “what-to-eat” problem. I actually love kale and have been eating it for years, but I also exercise regularly, manage my stress and consume plenty of other fabulous finds in the department of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats.

That’s me, the dietitian, and not necessarily my patients. Nope – my patients often latch onto a “trendy” superfood in the hopes that it will make up for other bad lifestyle choices. The truth is, you don’t need to look to the TV, most popular celebrity or wellness-centered magazine to find the best superfoods. Some of these are actually common and, more than likely, already in your kitchen. It’s time to take your bling blinders off and add some other, more “lowly” foods back into your diet. Here’s a look at some trendy superfoods and their very untrendy counterparts!

Instead of kale:

Kale is one of the most talked about foods on the market right now – and why shouldn’t it be? It contains 76 percent daily value of beta carotene, 778 percent of vitamin K and 49 percent of vitamin C. Plus, kale, along with others in the brassica family, contains sulphoraphane, a compound that may help ward off certain cancers.

[Read: Is Kale the Only Green Superstar?]

Try spinach:
Spinach is just as super as kale – if not more than! Spinach contains 52 percent daily value of beta carotene, 460 percent vitamin K and 34 percent vitamin C. In addition, it contains 21 percent iron and 15 percent vitamin B6. Spinach also contains glycoglycerolipids that act to inhibit DNA polymerase activates in solid tumor growth, and therefore also has components that may help in the fight against cancer.

Instead of coconut oil:

Coconut oil has been on the rise recently in popularity, and it's been classified as a “superfood.” It's high in saturated fat, is slow to oxidize and can last longer without spoiling. Coconut oil contains lauric acid (a medium-chain triglyceride), which may help improve your lipid profile. Furthermore, one small study concluded that coconut oil may help reduce waist circumference.

[Read: Do Coconut Oil and Coconut Water Provide Health Benefits?]

Try olive oil:

The fat from the olive contains more monounsaturated fatty acids than any other oil. Olive oil’s big claim to fame is that it may help lower your risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol. Plus, consumption of olive oil has been shown to reduce the risk of upper digestive, respiratory tract, breast and possibly colorectal cancer. Olive oil is one of the primary components of the Mediterranean diet, which has been regarded as a heart-healthy eating plan by many sources, including the American Heart Association and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Instead of goji berries:

The goji berry has been used in Chinese medicine to treat a host of health ailments. This little guy is packed with vitamins C and E, along with beta-carotene and lycopene. Research suggests goji berries boost feelings of “well-being” and help fight against free radicals.

[Read: 8 'Superfoods' and Their Alternatives.]

Try blueberries:

Blueberries are packed with 25 percent daily value of manganese, an energy-boosting mineral of its own; about 4 grams of fiber per cup (that’s super if you’re trying to lose weight); 36 percent vitamin K; and 25 percent vitamin C. Research suggests that a blueberry-rich diet improves motor skills and helps fight diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Instead of chia seeds

This seedy superfood is a great plant-based form of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins and minerals – all packed into a tiny spec. Chia seeds may improve health by stabilizing blood sugar, lowering cholesterol and boosting energy. However, chia can possibly interact with high blood pressure or blood thinner medication. Chia seeds have a nutty flavor and can be added to yogurt or salad, and they can also be ground in baking flour.

[Read: Seeds 101: A Guide, From Chia to Hemp.]

Try nuts:

Go nuts! Not only are nuts full of healthy fats, but they've also been shown to prevent early death. Now how super is that? Research has proven that consuming nuts reduces the risk of cardiovascular-related death, helps manage type 2 diabetes and lowers cholesterol. If you’re worried that making this swap means giving up your omega-3 addictions, add some walnuts to the mix. They’re the only nut that has tons of omega-3 goodness, and they may also help fight against breast cancer.

[Read: Diet Changes That Might Cut Breast Cancer Risk.]

Instead of buckwheat:

Buckwheat is gluten-free, high in protein and great for digestive health. It also has a high level of rutin, a flavonoid that has been linked to prevention of blood clots. Buckwheat is also lower on the glycemic index, which may help manage diabetes.

Try oats

Oats are one of the best heart-healthy foods around, with the power to decrease cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. They also contain lots of fiber, which is food's best friend for weight control management. In addition to these benefits, oats contain a lignin, called enterolactone, which may help protect against breast and other hormone-dependent cancers.

All the foods on this list make great additions to your diet. The point is to highlight the more common, accessible and budget-friendly foods that could help you live a longer life. Kale, coconut oil, goji berries, chia seeds and buckwheat aren’t the only guys on the wellness highway; they’re just the ones with the fastest cars right now.

Liz Bedell, nutrition assistant, contributed to this article.