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10 Exotic Superfoods for Women
Also known as the wolfberry (now that is a superfood name we can get behind!), these orange-red berries grow on a shrub that's native to China. Goji berries are rich in carotenoids, which are powerful antioxidants that clear the body of toxins and help prevent cancer and heart disease.
Expert tip: Most organic grocery stores carry goji berries, so hunting them down shouldn't be a problem. Because the berries are loaded with micronutrients, Scott Jurek, ultra marathon runner and author of Eat and Run, says a little goes a long way. He recommends having a tablespoon of goji berries with breakfast (like adding a few to your morning smoothie or bowl of oatmeal), while Letha Hadady, author of Naturally Pain Free, likes to steep a handful of goji berries in hot water for an energy-boosting afternoon tea.
Forget that sugary sports drink for your post-workout recovery — beet juice has become the go-to refreshment for athletes in recent years thanks to its high nitrate content, says registered dietitian Serena Ball. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that subjects who drank 280 milliliters of beet juice and then cycled at moderate intensity lasted longer and used less energy than those who drank water or lesser amounts of beetroot juice. Beets have also been shown to reduce blood pressure.
Expert tip: Beet juice can be found at any grocery store, but Ball says not to forget about raw beets, too. During the winter, try Chioggia (or candy cane) beets and golden beets. Make healthy coleslaw by grating beets, apples, and carrots. Mix in some extra virgin olive oil and vinegar for dose of healthy fats, too.
Stick to your weekly sushi date with your girlfriends. Every time you gobble up a piece of sushi, you're filling your body with a hearty dose of calcium, fiber, and vitamins. This nutrient-packed algae contains 42 milligrams of calcium per ounce — that's more than you'll find in kale. Seaweed is also a soluble fiber, which means eating it reduces appetite and can aid in weight loss.
Expert tip: You can find seaweed sheets in the Asian section of your grocery store. Not sure how to serve up your seaweed? Jurek recommends an easy solution by adding seaweed flakes to your soup or bowl of rice.
Fresh-water salmon gets all the love these days, but Nour Zibdeh, a DC-based registered dietitian, points out that sardines have the highest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in lowering blood pressure and suppress depression. Named after the island of Sardinia, sardines are at the bottom of the seafood chain and feed on plankton, which means they contain the lowest amounts of mercury of all seafood.
Expert tip: For lighter fare, top a bed of greens with half a can of sardines, sprinkling it with lemon, olive oil, and a pinch of pepper. Don't forget adding some vegetables to the salad: "Sardines and tomatoes go very well together," says Zibdeh.
Don't be turned off by the fact that this superfood is an algae. Jurek calls spirulina, which dates back to use among the Aztecs, his natural vitamin pill. "Greens are something we can never get enough of and when I'm looking for a really dense produce for antioxidants I turn to microgreens." This souped-up superfood is rich in chlorophyll, protein, vitamins, minerals, and detoxifying antioxidants.
Expert tip: Find spirulina powder at your local health food store. To use it, add 2 tablespoons to your favorite green smoothie. Try Jurek's go-to smoothie recipe before a long run: 2 tablespoons spirulina, 2 bananas, 1 cup frozen or fresh mango or pineapple, 4 cups water, 1 teaspoon miso.
Often nicknamed the Mexican yam bean, jicama originated in Central America and belongs to the potato family. The root vegetable's taste resembles that of an apple. One cup of jicama has only 46 calories. But the real nutritional value lies in jicama's high amounts of inulin, a fructan that promotes bone health and helps the bones absorbs calcium. A 2005 British Medical Journal study found that eating foods that contain inulin lowers the risk of colon cancer.
Expert tip: Pick up jicama in the produce section of your grocery store. Before eating, wash and peel the skin, which contains toxins. Then, slice the jicama and eat it raw sprinkled with some salt, or add it to a stir-fry or coleslaw — like this Chili-Rubbed Flank Steak with Watermelon-Jicama Salad.
This whole grain that originated in Italy is similar in texture to brown rice, but has a nuttier taste. Like most grains, it is has a low glycemic index and is low in fat and sodium. But just 1/4 cup of raw farro provides 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber — nearly double that of more popular grains like quinoa.
Expert tip: Find farro at the grocery story in the same aisle you'd find most grains. To cook, boil one part farro to two parts water. Add it to your salads or do what Ball does — have it for breakfast. "Farro is great with just a little honey on top. It's a no-brainer in the morning."
Native to the Andes Mountains of South America, maca root provides a natural energy boost without the caffeine. Incan warriors consumed Maca root before going into battle to increase their strength and endurance, says Jurek. The plant, which is high in vitamin C and iron, has also been shown to increase men and women's sexual libido. Score!
Expert tip: Today maca root is commonly found in powder form at most vitamin stores. Jurek recommends adding a spoonful to a morning smoothie or to a dessert.
Tempeh, traditional fermented Indonesian soy product, is a great protein substitute for those following a plant-based diet, says Jurek. Tempeh retains the whole soybean, giving it a higher protein, fiber, and vitamin content than tofu. "It's a lean, high source of protein, with three grams of protein to one gram of fat," says Jurek.
Expert tip: You can find tempeh in the same area as tofu — the two even look similar. Make a taco mix using tempeh and cook it as you would ground beef. "A lot of people are really shocked when they find out the taco mix isn't real meat," says Jurek. "It's a good way to get started for someone who is interested in trying a plant-based diet."
Creativ Studio Heinemann
Scotch Bonnet Pepper
One of the world's hottest peppers is also the healthiest. Cultivated in the Caribbean islands, scotch bonnet peppers contain a wealth of capsaicin, the active component of peppers that has been shown to relieve headaches and combat sinus infections, as well as provide appetite suppression. And if you can handle the heat, Ball says, "They also provide an amount of endorphins to help you feel better."
Expert tip: This pepper is no joke! Handle them with gloves and avoid contact with your skin and eyes until you wash your hands. Enjoy the chopped peppers in an egg scramble with kale, spinach, and cheese. (The egg and cheese will offer some protection from the peppers' fiery taste.) Most grocery stores (such as Whole Foods) carry this veggie.
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, December 2013.
Melissa Romero is a Washingtonian magazine staff writer and editor of the blog Well+Being.