Not all carbs are created equal. Enter: quinoa, “the mother of all grains,” according to the Incas. This whole grain is a nutritional powerhouse. It is a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids. It’s also full of fiber, which is important for weight control. Quinoa has the highest amount of potassium compared to other whole grains, which is important for controlling blood pressure. There are many varieties of quinoa, such as red, black, and white. To cook quinoa, first rinse it and then add 1 cup of quinoa to a pot on the stove. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until all water has been absorbed (about 15-20 minutes). Fluff with a fork and serve hot or cold.
Apples are high in a type of soluble fiber called pectin, which is found in the skin of apples. Soluble fiber helps lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels in the body. The skin of apples also contains many antioxidants. Apples are great to stock up on because they are portable, easy to eat, and can satisfy your sweet tooth. Pair them with some protein like nuts, peanut butter, or a hard-boiled egg for a filling snack.
Native to India, mung beans are legumes that are packed with fiber and protein. Although they look like peas, mung beans are cooked like other beans or lentils. A ¼ cup of dry mung beans, which equals about one cup after cooking, contains 190 calories, 1 g of fat, 14 g of fiber, and 12 g of protein. Mung beans are also a great source of folate, magnesium, and phosphorous. You can cook them up with rice, add them to soups, or even sprout the beans and add them to a salad.
Small, but mighty, chia seeds are chock-full of nutrients such as protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. While fatty fish like salmon contain the omega-3s, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), chia seeds contain a type of omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA cannot be made in the body, so eating ALA-rich foods is important. The U.S. Institute of Medicine recommends that men eat 1.6 grams of ALA per day and women eat 1.1 grams. One tablespoon of chia seeds provides 2.9 grams of ALA omega-3s. Blend them into smoothies, sprinkle them on whole-wheat toast with peanut or almond butter, and bake them into your holiday breads and muffins for a boost of healthy fats, protein, and fiber.
Salmon is high in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are omega-3 fatty acids that help protect your heart, reduce inflammation, and may aid in brain health. But which type of salmon should you eat: farmed or wild? There has been much controversy over this, and it stems from the nutritional content and level of toxins in each. The bottom line is that wild salmon may be lower in fat due to their ability to swim around more, and while there are more toxins in farmed salmon, the levels are still much lower than the amount that concerns the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If you can afford wild salmon, great. If not, farmed salmon is a fine alternative, as well as canned salmon. Aim for 2-3 portions each week.
Spinach is a versatile vegetable that is filled with iron, vitamin K, vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B6. These vitamins and minerals play a role in almost every aspect of your body from bone health to blood health to protecting your eyes. One cup of spinach contains only 7 calories! Make your salads with raw spinach, add spinach to omelets, throw it in a smoothie with some frozen mixed berries, or sauté it as a side dish for dinner.
Good things come in small packages, at least that’s the case when it comes to blueberries. One cup has only 80 calories but has almost 4 grams of fiber. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that also helps your immune system. Blueberries are also high in manganese, which is important for good bone health. Blueberries are easy to eat on their own or buy them frozen to mix into yogurt or smoothies.
Written by Lainey Younkin, MS, RD, LDN. Lainey is a Rise Coach and Registered Dietitian who specializes in weight loss, heart health, diabetes and general health and wellness. Lainey loves working with all types of clients, from busy moms, to engineers, nurses, retires, and more! Want to work with Lainey or another Rise coach like her? Get started at http://www.rise.us/r/LAINEYYOUNKIN