If one of your resolutions this year is to eat healthier, lose weight, or to have more energy then you are not alone. In 2017, more than 66 million people said they would “get healthy,” according to an NBC poll. I’m a big believer in nutrition as medicine that you can use to be healthier in 2018. My favorite 3 super-powered foods to include this year are the following:
Chicory Root Powder: The medicinal use of chicory root dates back to ancient Egyptians, but this World War II caffeine-free coffee substitute is making the news thanks to its powerful health benefits. Chicory root powder has powerful anti-inflammatory plant polyphenols that protect the cells in your body from free radical damage, protect your liver, and help manage joint pain. The root also contains up to 40% of inulin. Inulin is a plant based carbohydrate fiber that is good for balancing blood sugar and insulin. Chicory root powder is also a prebiotic, which means that it helps to nourish and grow growth of good probiotics in your gut—and that’s good news for your digestive system. If you’ve ever been to the famous Café Du Monde in New Orleans French Market, you’ve probably had their chicory coffee, it’s easy to make your own too. Here is a chicory coffee that skips the caffeine: You can find ground chicory in health food stores and online. One heaping tablespoon of this ground chicory makes about 1 cup of chicory coffee (same as regular coffee). Just scoop into your coffee maker and brew as you would normally. While the coffee is brewing, heat up ½ cup of almond milk. When the coffee is brewed pour equal amounts of coffee and milk into your cup, stir and enjoy.
Coconut Oil: This oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are fats that slow digestion, balance your gut bacteria, and reduce heart disease and diabetes by lowering blood sugar and helping insulin stability. Coconut oil also stabilizes your insulin, your digestive system, satiates your appetite, and minimizes belly weight. Plus, coconut oil is great as a topical moisturizing and nourishing treatment for your skin and hair. I like to have a teaspoon on brown rice cakes in the morning or add a teaspoon to any smoothie.
Raw or Sprouted Seeds: Okay, I know I’m cheating here by mentioning more than one seed, but these little superfoods are too good to just limit it to one. Why? They help with weight management, have B vitamins, bioavailable minerals, and they are a live (or biogenic) food. Plus, seeds include healthy fiber, fat, and protein, and are easier on your digestive system than nuts. Buy them raw for the best health benefits and nutrition. Here are my favorites and some ideas for how to use them:
Chia: Two tablespoons gives you about 10 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, healthy omega-3 fats, magnesium, iron, calcium, and zinc. Chia seeds have also been found to reduce the inflammation we have in our bodies. The less inflammation you have, the better you feel. I love to make chia seed pudding. It’s super easy, makes a healthy sweet treat, and my whole family loves it. I’ll often have half of this vegan pudding as an afternoon snack, and the other half as an after-dinner treat.
Chia Seed Pudding (2 servings)
¼ cup chia seeds
1 cup organic unsweetened almond milk
2 to 3 teaspoons organic maple syrup
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
Mix all ingredients together, cover and refrigerate, and allow to sit overnight. In the morning you are ready for an easy breakfast or as snacks later in the day. I usually add a handful of berries to my pudding. Also, try my cherry cocoa chia pudding, it only takes about three minutes to make!
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Hemp: The only “high” these will give is a nutritional one. Just two tablespoons of these little beauties will give you 10 grams of protein (they contain all the essential amino acids too), potassium, fiber, iron, and lots of healthy omega-3 fats. You can sprinkle these on oatmeal, yogurt, or throw them into a smoothie bowl.
Flax: These contain high amounts of omega-3 fats, fiber, and protein. You’ll get the most benefit from flaxseeds when you buy them whole and grind them as you use them. Sprinkle a couple tablespoons of either on cereal or yogurt. In addition to healthy fats, some studies suggest that flaxseeds can lower rates of depression and improve memory. I like to blend them up in my smoothies.
Watermelon: Don’t just spit them out! Two tablespoons of sprouted, raw watermelon seeds have 10 grams of protein, are high in omega 3s, and magnesium. You can save and sprout these, but seriously who has the time? Thankfully, you can buy them already raw and sprouted in health food stores (you can find them online too). I love them on top of salads or as a snack.
Pumpkin and Sunflower: I like to buy both of these raw and soak them in warm water with a little salt for about 7 hours. Then drain them and place them in a jar with a lid. Rinse them twice a day until you see them start to sprout. Now they are ready to eat on top of salads, or just by themselves. If you don’t want to sprout them, you can also roast these seeds like I do with my salty sweet pumpkin seed recipe (you can also swap with sunflower seeds).