10 Super Foods to Fortify Your Summer Diet

Stock your kitchen with these super foods and you’ll always have healthy ingredients on hand for snacks or flavourful al fresco meals on the patio

Credit: *One*

Quinoa makes for a delicious and healthy breakfast cereal

Summer is a natural time to put into practice some of the healthiest diet intentions without sacrificing pleasure

With the abundance of fresh local food, you can easily increase your intake of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, minimize your consumption of high-glycemic processed foods, and eat a greater variety of diverse foods to reduce the possibility of developing food sensitivities like gluten intolerance.

As the weather warms, our bodies are physiologically inclined to eat lighter and healthier (think cravings for salads and smoothies). This is an ideal time to introduce some nutrient dense super-foods as a powerful nutritional accompaniment to fresh produce.

A well-balanced energy-enhancing diet is comprised of complex carbs, high-quality protein and is rich in essential fatty acids like the omega-3s found in coldwater fish and flaxseeds. What you may not know is there are many plant foods extremely high in protein and omega-3s. Stock your kitchen with these super staples and you’ll always have healthy ingredients on hand for snacks or flavourful al fresco meals on the patio.

10 Super Foods to Add to Your Diet

Hemp: This is a nutrient-rich whole food in its natural state, and, unlike so many other vegan sources of protein, there is no need to create isolates or extracts from it. The protein is complete, containing all the essential amino acids, and is notably more alkaline than most proteins. Sprinkle hemp seeds on everything—salads, cereal, stir fries and steamed greens. They’re also excellent in veggie burgers, dips/spreads, cookies, bars, spice rubs like dukkha, and anywhere you would use sesame seeds or want an extra protein boost.

Amaranth: This grain is actually a seed—higher in calcium than milk, higher in iron than spinach, and high in potassium, phosphorus and vitamins A and C. It contains 17% protein and is rich in the amino acid lysine, an amino acid rare in vegetarian diets but important for immune system health and building lean muscle mass. It is also delicious as a creamy breakfast cereal.

Quinoa: Again not a true grain, quinoa has high levels of protein, B vitamins, lysine, iron and potassium. It’s wonderful as a fluffy warm breakfast cereal, as a side dish instead of rice, in pilaf, in loaves and in baking.

Chia Seeds (Salvia Hispanica): High in essential fatty acids (gram per gram eight times more omega-3s than salmon!) and doesn’t need to be ground. It’s also extremely nutrient dense and is especially high in magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron and is packed with antioxidants. Sprinkle on salads, cereals and smoothies (like you would flax).

Agave Nectar: Comes from the blue agave cactus or “maguey” (same as tequila or mescal) and is an excellent source of trace minerals and slow-release carbohydrates (90% fructose), so it doesn’t spike insulin. Use instead of honey or maple syrup. As it dissolves easily in liquids, it is wonderful in lemonade or iced tea.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Made from fermented apples, apple cider vinegar adds a lot of potassium to salad dressing and sauces. It contains malic acid, which aids in digestion, so it’s acidic but becomes alkaline forming upon digestion. One to two teaspoons in a shot glass of water 15 minutes before meals increases HCL (stomach acid), which is critical for good digestion.

Nutritional Yeast: This single-cell fungus grown on molasses is a complete protein, is satisfying and makes for a great cheese alternative. It’s a rich source of B vitamins, especially B12, which is rare in plant sources. Try sprinkling it on salads, popcorn, or mixing half and half with hempseeds for a dairy-free nutrient-rich Parmesan alternative.

Coconut Oil: This oil is great for high-heat cooking because it is not converted into a trans fat. Use it for roasting vegetables, on popcorn instead of butter, and in Asian cooking like stir fries and curries when you don’t want an olive oil flavour interference.

Kombu: This high-protein sea vegetable contains glutamic acid (a safe and natural form of MSG) so it’s great for adding flavour. It boosts stocks, soups and stews, tenderizes beans (use in soaking and cooking) and makes legumes more easily digestible.

Miso: Made primarily from soybeans, miso also contains rice, barley or other grains. It’s fermented and has beneficial bacteria, so you don’t want to boil it. It’s a great source of low-calorie protein (2g of protein in a 30-cal (2 tsp) serving). Use as a soup base, or try a teaspoon in salad dressings and gravies.

Both a naturopathic physician and a chef, Dr. Heidi Lescanec is passionate about good food, nutrition and the art of creating nourishing and beautiful meals. She has cooked for backcountry lodges, retreat centres, the movie industry and at Hollyhock Retreat Centre on Cortes Island. Heidi offers workshops in Vancouver and on Cortes Island through the Hollyhock Foundation. For more info, check her website www.heidilescanec.com or www.hollyhock.ca.