“Superfood” might be the most overused word in a health expert's vocabulary. Doesn't it feel like every week you open a magazine or watch some food show that touts how this food or that spice will help burn fat, boost your sex life, and otherwise miraculously improve your health?
I get tired of the hyperbole too.
But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater: Some time-tested, research-proven foods do earn their permanent stay at the table. Besides being nutrient-rich, they can help curb appetite, reduce cravings, and help you get into those skinny jeans. They aren't miracles, but as part of a healthy diet and combined with burst training and weight resistance, they can yield impressive gains (or losses, if you will):
1. Grass-fed beef. Cows fed their natural diet yield higher-quality beef. Logically this makes sense, and a study at Clemson University substantiates it. Researchers here found grass-fed beef higher in nutrients and antioxidants. Besides hunger-curbing high-quality protein, grass-fed beef also contains double the conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid that helps burn fat and build lean muscle, than grain-fed beef. Over 30 published clinical studies have looked at CLA's role on weight management, and most of them have concluded positively. A meta-analysis in The Clinical Journal of Nutrition found CLA “produces a modest loss in body fat in humans.”
2. Wild-caught salmon. Besides providing high-quality protein as well as antioxidants like selenium and astaxanthin, wild-caught fish comes loaded with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids get credit for reducing your risk for numerous diseases, but studies show they can also help you stay lean. That makes sense since inflammation is a huge component for weight loss resistance. Skip the nasty farm-raised stuff: Wild-caught fish are higher in omega-3s.
3. Coconut milk & oil. The healthy saturated fat (not an oxymoron) in coconut comes from medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a fatty acid your body prefers to burn for energy rather than store. One study found compared to olive oil, MCT oil used as part of a weight loss plan improves fat loss. Besides being satiating, coconut provides a delicate flavor to foods and shakes. I use coconut oil for high-heat cooking, while unsweetened coconut milk provides healthy fat for my protein shakes.
4. Raspberries. Blueberries hog the spotlight, but raspberries are actually higher in fiber: One cup provides a whopping 8 grams. One study found you probably get about half the fiber you should, and on a lower-carb diet even less. Fiber's benefits include balanced glucose (blood sugar) levels and satiation to reduce hunger and cravings. Raspberries are a nutrient-dense, low-fructose fruit that make a healthy dessert and give a pleasant zing to protein shakes.
5. Green tea. This popular beverage's thermogenic (fat-burning) benefits are well known: One study found they become even more impressive combined with exercise. Green tea also provides the calming amino acid theanine to reduce stress. Chronic stress elevates cortisol, a hormone that can store fat. Green tea isn't a fat-burning free pass to eat whatever you want, but combined with a healthy diet and exercise, it can nudge that needle a little bit in your favor.
6. Raw walnuts. Almonds get all the credit, but walnuts are a smart nut alternative to curb hunger and cravings. Besides protein, fiber, minerals and other nutrients, walnuts have a high amount of omega-3s compared with other nuts. While they make a great blood sugar-stabilizing snack, caloric-dense nuts aren't an unlimited snack for fat loss, so portion them out. Buy walnuts shelled or make sure they're fresh. Keeping them in the fridge or freezer will preserve their delicate omega-3s, which otherwise can become rancid quickly.
7. Avocado. I'm thrilled this fabulous fruit, high in healthy monounsaturated fat and fiber, finally gets the recognition it deserves. One recent study concluded that avocado “improved overall diet quality, nutrient intake, and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.” Nice. One cup contains a whopping 10 grams of appetite-curbing fiber, which makes it the perfect food to top salads and grass-fed burgers or eat straight up as a snack or mini-meal.
I can think of several other superfoods that live up to their hype but didn't make this list. I'll let you determine which ones I should have included. Share your thoughts in the comments below.