National Nutrition Month 2014

Every March for the past 41 years, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has celebrated National Nutrition Month®. This year’s theme is "Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.” This yearly campaign reinforces the importance of nutrition as a key component of good health, along with physical activity.

It is a little known fact that taste is the primary reason many people make certain food choices. Well, I squeamishly admit I used to make food choices because they were “healthy,” even if it tasted like cardboard. It certainly wasn’t enjoyable, and I don’t do that anymore! Don’t get me wrong, eating healthy, high-quality food remains very important to me, but now I know, not only can eating healthy taste amazing, but you should enjoy the foods you eat.

I love the idea of including “superfoods” for meals and snacking. They offer a ton of flavor with an abundance of benefits. Here are some of my most favorite tastes; simple and mouthwatering.

Brazil nuts: They’re so flavorful and filling in almost a “meaty” kind of way. They contain selenium which helps to protect the body against certain cancers, Alzheimer's disease and depression. Brazil nuts help to reduce our risk of heart disease and can help to control our appetites.

Blueberries: Great texture, great flavor, packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals, and also high in potassium and vitamin C. Not only can blueberries lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, they’re also anti-inflammatory.

Garlic: Who doesn’t love the taste and smell of garlic?! I was once told, if you want your house to smell like you’re cooking something delicious simply sauté garlic, even if it isn’t in your meal, just for the aroma. To make it even better, garlic contains flavonoids that stimulate the production of glutathione, the liver’s most potent antioxidant. Because glutathione enhances elimination of toxins and carcinogens, garlic is one food that can help prevent cancer. One tip: when crushing or chopping garlic, to better preserve and retain the beneficial compounds, allow it to “stand” for at least 10 minutes prior to cooking. 

Cacao: Since we’re talking about flavor, I must include raw cacao—oh, so delicious! Even better, it contains compounds that boost endorphins and serotonin, two of the best-known chemicals responsible for making us happy. Cacao is high in flavonoids, a potent antioxidant that may help fight a wide array of conditions, including diabetes, strokes, and heart disease. Here’s more information about benefits of cacao.

Green Tea: Not only does it taste good, but it’s cheap, doesn’t have calories, is available everywhere, and is associated with relaxing and feeling good. Another reason to drink it—green tea contains ECGC, a powerful antioxidant. Researchers in Spain and the United Kingdom have shown ECGC can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. 

Turmeric: This awesome spice is what gives curry its distinctive taste, and it’s so easy to boost the flavor of chicken, potatoes, or quinoa. A compound in turmeric called curcumin is responsible for its ability as an antioxidant, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory. Studies suggest curcumin may protect against cancer and Alzheimer's and also improve circulation, prevent blood clotting and tame a variety of pains. Here’s more information about turmeric.

Olive Oil: Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that helps to lower cholesterol. It contains antioxidants which help fight the signs of aging and protect us from damage caused by free radicals like smoking and pollution. The best way to use olive oil is as a finishing oil because it has a low smoke point. Overheating olive oil, or any type of oil for that matter, changes the flavor and nutritional value, and also generates chemical changes in the oil that aren't healthy.

Kale: This is my current favorite, and the different varieties of kale to choose from are fun to experiment with! I’m obsessed with a kale and purple cabbage salad I make. It’s not only delicious, but bursting with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. One cup of chopped kale contains 33 calories and 9% of the daily value of calcium, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and a whopping 684% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. Kale is rich in the eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin. Your body is your temple, so choose organic kale.

It’s never too late to incorporate simple, delicious superfoods into your diet. To learn more about National Nutrition Month, visit here.

In Health and Happiness,

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods

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