In a perfect world, we would eat the daily recommended 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables. We know consuming fruits and vegetables is good for us, but let’s be honest, how many of us are actually following through with eating them every day? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a vast majority of Americans aren’t getting enough.
Go into any grocery store or health food store, and you are bound to see an aisle or whole section dedicated to supplements and superfood powders, a powdered food blend rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Although, eating fresh fruits and vegetables provides a higher percentage of disease-fighting nutrients and fiber, is the powdered stuff a good alternative?
Jennifer Oikarinen, a registered dietitian at Banner - University Medical Center Phoenix, shares some tips on purchasing superfood powders.
Finding the Perfect Superfood Powder
What’s Your Goal?
Before you reach for a protein powder, consider your goals. Oikarinen says that depending on if you are looking to increase muscle mass or simply consume your recommended number of daily servings, you have different options:
- Want to increase protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids? Choose hemp protein.
- Want to increase protein and lower consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol? Choose pea protein.
- Milk or whey intolerant (GI intolerance)? You may want to use soy powder instead of whey.
“I’ve had many patients and clients tell me how they dislike protein powders after trying just one product,” Oikarinen says. “Sometimes it takes experimenting with whey-based and/or plant-based powders to find the one that’s right for you.”
Powdered Greens and Berries Help pH Levels
“Powdered greens have been shown to help maintain the body’s pH in individuals whose diets are high in proteins and grains and low in fruits and vegetables,” Oikarinen says. “If you are low, your body can become more acidic (pH decreases). Fruits and vegetables act as alkalizing agents to maintain the body’s pH.”
However, she cautions if you think you are still getting the same disease-fighting nutrients from supplements, you aren’t. In most cases, you should reach for the real thing.
Can’t stomach them? She suggests throwing berries, kale and spinach into one of your protein smoothies to sweeten the flavor and ensure you are getting the necessary fruits and vegetables into your diet.
“Most superfood and protein powders are highly processed products and are often fortified with vitamins, minerals and fillers, such as carbohydrates for flavor. You want to make sure you buy a reputable product that doesn’t have a lot of unwanted additives.”
The lower the price tag, the increased likelihood of fillers. Do your research and read labels before grabbing the cheapest or the most expensive.
Three Superfood Powders to Spice Up Your Life Today
Long before they had the term “superfood,” people used dried and powdered berries, roots, herbs and leaves to aid in health and wellness. Here are a few that are safe to include in your daily diet.
Turmeric: When it comes to cooking, turmeric, also called Indian saffron, has been touted for its wide variety of health benefits. It can be used for joint pain and issues related to the stomach, skin and liver. You can use it in dishes made with veggies and seafood to amp up your meal.
Oikarinen says its active ingredient, curcumin may help reduce inflammation and thereby prevent and slow the spread of cancer. Research is ongoing, however, as current evidence doesn’t strongly support these claims.
Flax: Over the years, flax seeds have been touted as a wonder food. They are packed with plant-based omega 3’s, which are linked to improved cognition and brain function. They can also help lower your bad cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol levels. And, unlike their other healthy seed friend, chia, flax helps reduce hunger and appetite and is usually less expensive. Try flax seeds in your cereal, yogurt or on roasted vegetables.
Chia: A naturally gluten-free source of fiber and protein, chia is quickly growing in popularity. Unlike flax, one tablespoon can pack 30% of your daily value of protein, fiber and omega 3 fatty acids. Try chia seeds in your yogurt, smoothies, oatmeal or even in baked goods.
We all know nutrition plays a vital role in our health. If you have nutritional questions, our dietitians can work with you to achieve your goals – whether it’s helping you get your 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables or other advice about proper nutrition. Visit bannerhealth.com to get started on a healthier you.