Super foods

The last article I wrote was on kale and different ideas on how to prepare it. Coincidentally, maybe 5 minutes after I hit the “send” key to e-mail the article to The Weekly, I received a call from Wink. He was all excited because he said he had a great idea for an article that also would help him out – super foods.

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He explained how he had been hearing the term quite a bit lately and wanted to know more about it. Of course, I had to laugh and let him know I just wrote the article on kale and mentioned it was considered one of the super foods and some say it is perhaps one of if not the most nutritious vegetable on the planet. Since super foods are so much in the mainstream lingo these days, I thought it would be a great topic.

So really, what are super foods and what makes them so super? To find out I searched what seemed like millions of super food sites, and what I found out was, in the end, I think my initial thoughts were pretty close. Before I looked at any sites or definition, I thought that it was another gimmick. I figured all the foods that I’d find on the list would be good for you.

Once I started searching, I think the easiest way to define super foods, is to basically say they are foods that are high in nutritional value and low in calories. They are all whole foods or unprocessed foods. Most super foods have more than just one health benefit. For example, broccoli is high in vitamins A, which is beta carotene mostly thought of as coming from the orange vegetable group; C; and K, which promotes bone building, as well as fiber to help your digestive system. Some super foods are said to help prevent cancer, as well as, helping your eyesight or helping your digestive system.

All of this leads us to the list of super foods. Here again, after going through a wide variety of super foods from various sites, it seemed to reiterate my feelings of the gimmick or push toward vegetables and away from meat. Looking at the sites with short lists, there were a lot of repeat vegetables and fruits.

Kale, broccoli, berries, quinoa, Chia seeds, flax seeds, beans, eggs, sweet potatoes and salmon all made quite a few lists. Yes, eggs, which through the years have gone from the incredible egg to holy moly, eggs are bad for you if you eat them more than maybe twice a week, and now they are back as a super food. Salmon was the one other non-vegetable on almost every list for its omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the heart. Other things that made it onto various lists were dark chocolate, nuts and low-fat yogurt.

Once I started going to the longer lists, and some actually went to 100 or more items, I started seeing a few discrepancies such as some sites promoted egg whites only and yogurt on some sites had to be Greek yogurt.

Yogurt, in case you were wondering is good for its probiotics to help the digestive track, as well as, its protein. On one site, you had to read the full description before finding the rational for Greek yogurt as a weight loss food was that you would substitute it for sour cream and mayonnaise.

The main thing that struck me though was that the larger the list, the more almost every vegetable you can find made it on as a super food. That also was the same with other items, including many grains and nuts. Although almonds were the nuts with the most nutritional value according to many sites, peanuts, pistachios and walnuts also were listed. The main concern with nuts is that you have to eat them in moderation and, of course, not be allergic.

This brings me to my final thoughts on super foods before I look up the definition on Wikipedia to see how they define it. Vegetables and fruits are extremely good for you, but we’ve always known that and have been told that since we were little. The vegetables in the cruciferous family, which includes broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts to name a few, got the most listings and seems to be the clear winner that I could see, as far as nutritional value goes. You can’t go wrong with including these fruit and vegetable super foods in your diet and there really is an endless way to incorporate them into your diet.

Chef Smitty
Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. Smitty has been teaching skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for more than 26 years each winter, and spends his summers working for High Sierra Waterski School since 2000. Smitty has been writing his chef column for Tahoe Weekly since 2005.