The word superfood is tossed around with reckless abandon these days, but it leaves many confused. While these nutrition-packed foods offer excellent health benefits, there’s no other defining characteristic to lump them all in one group, explains Kris-Etherton, a Professor of Nutrition at The Pennsylvania State University in University Park.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them seriously: you should. Eating nutritionally dense fruits, vegetables and lean proteins can help you meet your weight loss goals and get the figure you’ve always wanted. But beware: You can’t eat with abandon, not even superfoods.
“A lot of people have unrealistic expectations about these foods, thinking they’ll be protected from chronic diseases and health problems,” Kris-Etherton told Heart.org. “They may eat one or two of these nutrient-dense foods on top of a poor diet.”
Don’t be that person. Instead, swap out calorie-rich, fattening, carb-heavy foods for these 10 fall super-substitutes.
In the same family as broccoli, mustard greens, kale and Brussels sprouts (featured below), cauliflower has tons of health benefits, offering phytonutrients and vitamin C. The latter helps you metabolize protein and repair tissues, so it’s vital for building muscle and losing weight.
2. Brussels Sprouts
Grandma told you to eat them for a reason. Not only do they contain mad fiber, they’re also loaded with vitamin K (which helps your blood clot), B vitamins and iron. Eat them steamed with a little butter, or sauté them in olive oil for a slightly crisp treat. If you’re in a cooking mood, you can try tossing them with a little lean bacon and its drippings, salt and pepper, and roasting them in the oven.
3. Winter Squash
This is an amazing superfood, especially for vegans, because it’s a rich non-animal source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help with brain acuity and joint lubrication, and improves recovery time if you’re on an exercise regimen. Even if you’re not vegan, though, you should get plenty of winter squash in your diet.
Although it seems like a summer fruit, kiwi is often widely available in fall. Boasting potassium, vitamin C and copper, it helps keep you energized.
Apples contain tons of antioxidants, helping your cells fight free radicals and reducing the effects of aging. Eat them regularly cooked or raw, though raw produce generally preserves its potent powers better. However you do it, be sure to eat the skin … that’s where are the heart-boosting flavinoids are, so don’t miss it.
Admittedly not everyone’s favorite food, turnips can actually be delicious. Their hefty load of vitamins includes A, B, C and K, and they also offer lots of fiber. Plus, you can cook them so many different ways. Try roasting turnip chunks with olive oil and pureeing them, or steaming their greens and drizzling with garlic oil.
The gorgeous pomegranate is the best source of omega-5 fatty acids, a rare substance our bodies can’t make themselves. It also offers vitamin C and has higher levels of antioxidants than red wine. What’s not to like?
8. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes and yams have a history of being good for you, especially if you’re female (it reduces the risk of diseases such as breast and ovarian cancer), but it turns out they’re a superfood too. Fiber, iron and vitamin A are among its many nutrients, and anti-inflammatory benefits make healing from exercise easier.
One of the most under-appreciated items in the veggie aisle, parsnips are actually an amazing superfood, and yummy too. They’re chock-full of potassium and fiber, which keeps your eyesight good and your movements regular. Plus, they cook up soft and slightly sweet, making them perfect for soups, stews, purees and sauces.
This bittersweet fruit has made nutritional power. It’s high in vitamin C and lycopene, and also contains pectin, which has been shown to lower cholesterol.
While the word superfood might set you on edge, making you feel like you need to act superhuman to do right by your body, getting the right nutrition and losing weight is really just a matter of simple substitutions. Try it today and see.
If you want to take it a step further, dive into learning more about nutrition and a holistic lifestyle and become certified as a Nutrition Coach or Holistic Nutritionist.