Nutrition Superfoods by Countries
**This is not an all-inclusive list but rather foods that I have found, during my travels, to be nutrient dense.
I plan for this to be an ongoing series about the nutrition superfoods by countries. These cuisines are found within numerous cultures. Extensions will be added as I visit new countries.
A super food is “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being”.
As a Registered Dietitian, I counsel clients and patients from various ethnic backgrounds. It is near impossible to be familiar with EVERY food known in a country. Instead, I choose to be familiar with the super foods a country produces and consumes most often. This is how I guide my clients towards the most nutrient dense cuisine of their choosing. Once discovered, I can manipulate these super nutrients into recipes and meal plans. This list is not comprehensive by any means. I can find something “super” about most any food. (For ex: I am eating Kraft mac n cheese as I type this post and it is NOT a super food but it’s “super” comforting)…
I am a citizen of the United States of America, so I will begin with the super foods found in my home country.
- Salmon is a fatty fish that’s low in saturated fat and high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce triglycerides. Strive to eat at least two 3.5 ounce servings of fish a week.
- Nuts, legumes and seeds are good sources of protein and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats when eaten in moderation. I like unsalted almonds, pistachios and walnuts. Walnuts are highest in omega-3 fatty acids too, which decrease inflammation in the body.
- Berries like blueberries and strawberries have high levels of phytochemicals called flavonoids. I toss a handful of berries into my oatmeal or yogurt everyday.
- Soy products like tofu, soy butter and soy nuts are high in polyunsaturated fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Meat-free Monday anyone?
- Pumpkin is low in calories, high in fiber and high in vitamin A. Hello eye health!
- Kale provides vitamins A and C, potassium and phytochemicals. Mix it into a smoothie or toss it with spinach to jazz up a salad.
- Low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt, which provides probiotics, calcium, vitamin D and protein. I prefer plain, nonfat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream!
- Dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, but fat and calories too! A little goes a long way.
- Tomatoes are found in salsas and picante sauces, and tossed into salads. Tomatoes are also a great source of lycopene which protects the prostate, guys.
- Chile peppers are often used to add heat and flavor to Mexican dishes. Peppers contain capsaicin which is a metabolism-booster that curbs cravings.
- Black beans are ubiquitous in Mexican cuisine, and can often be found served on it’s own with some spices, or paired with rice in a hearty bowl that usually also contains fresh veggies. Beans contain high amounts of fiber-keeping you fuller for longer, support proper digestion, and prevent spikes in blood sugar.
- Avocados are high in monounsaturated which can raise HDL “good cholesterol.” I love using them in place of mayo on a sandwich because of their creamy texture. Pass the guac!
- Jicama is also, known as the Mexican yam (a root vegetable), jicama is often peeled and chopped raw into salads. Its mild flavor makes it suitable for savory or sweet dishes.Along with being high in fiber and vitamin C, jicama contains inulin, a prebiotic which helps to support a healthy gut environment.
- Arroz con Habichuelas: Good old rice and beans. This dish is low in saturated fat and high in fiber.
- Plantains are similar in appearance to the banana, but must be cooked to be eaten. Plantains are high in Vitamins A and C and low in saturated fats and cholesterol. I highly recommend you try Mofongo, to taste plantains at their best!
- Tropical Fruits including the papaya, guava, passion fruit and mango, all of which are high in fiber and great sources of folic acid and vitamin C.
- Olives and olive oils contain monounsaturated fats known to help lower cholesterol and fight heart disease.
- Garlic provides vitamins A and C which boost your immune function.
- Basil provides relief for inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and tastes amazing!
- Red Wine has cancer-fighting antioxidants, reduces stress, and has been linked to a longer lifespan.
- Endives is a bitter leafy vegetable contains over 60 grams of fiber. It also has plenty of vitamins C, A, and K, as well as folate.
- Camembert cheese is a good choice because it is low in fat and contains only ~80 calories per ounce. It is also rich in calcium to promote bone health, is high in protein, and is a great source of vitamin B12. I loved sampling the cheese during market, when we were in France.
- Mussels have some of the highest naturally occurring levels of vitamin B12. B12 is essential to helping your body convert food into energy. It also preserves the myelin sheath that insulates your brain cells, keeping you sharp as you age.
- Skyr is like yogurt in texture, but has a much more viscous consistency because it is technically a soft cheese. Skyr is popular in Iceland and is readily available in different flavors and sizes in the supermarkets. Known for its low fat content and high protein levels, we ate it every morning with breakfast.
- Lamb from Iceland graze on mountain herbs, especially thyme, giving its meat a delicate flavor. Our host (also a chef) paired it with a delicious homemade gravy and root vegetables.
- Hákarl (or Rotten Shark) is considered a delicacy in Iceland. Sharks have no kidneys to cleanse their blood, so the body of the shark is left to decay and undergo a fermentation process, thus turning its poisonous meat into a nutritious meal for their people. I did not have the chance to try this ammonia-perfumed gastronomy.
- Paella is a staple in Spain. Paella is sauteed in Olive Oil, which is rich in mono-saturated fat and can also act as a antioxidant including vitamin E. Fish are high in Omega 3 fatty acids and may reduce “bad” cholesterol. Seafood also contains good protein and is low in saturated fat.
- Plantains are high in Vitamins A and C and low in saturated fats and cholesterol.
- Gazpacho is a soup that is high in fiber, iron, vitamin C in the peppers, vitamin E and vitamin A found in tomatoes.
What are some of your favorite nutrition superfoods from your travels?
Be Well and Travel Often!
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**This is not a sponsored post, all opinions are my own**