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But I Hate That Healthy Food!

Natalie Stein
July 9, 2020
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Have you ever seen a list of superfoods? These are foods with plenty of nutrients and likely health benefits, such as reduced chronic inflammation and lower risk for chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. It makes sense to include “superfoods” in a healthy diet, but what if you do not like the foods on the list? 

The healthiest diets include a variety of foods, and in most cases, you can get a certain nutrient from more than one source and not just a single superfood. These are some of the most common superfoods, some different ways to try them, and what you can eat instead if you do not like them.

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1. Avocados


Avocados are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (MUFA), fiber, and antioxidants. Nutrients in avocados are linked to lower risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Guacamole is not the only use for avocados. They can be sliced and eaten in sandwiches or as a topping for salad, soup, or chili, and can add creaminess to smoothies. Using pureed avocado instead of butter or oil in baked goods, such as cookies and zucchini bread, can really mask its taste.

Try this instead: Peanut butter can be a heart-healthy alternative spread or smoothie ingredient, while olive oil can be an ingredient in baked goods. Seeds and nuts can add fiber, MUFA, and antioxidants to salads, sandwiches, and soups.

2. Kale


Kale is packed with beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A), along with vitamins K and C. It also contains calcium, potassium, and iron.

Kale chips are a low-carb alternative to potato chips, while it adds texture and character to soup, pasta, and frittatas. Kale salad, often made with olive oil, is a common way to eat it raw. It is a common smoothie ingredient, too. 

Try this instead: Leafy green vegetables are all nutritious, so it is worth trying baby spinach in salads and on sandwiches, and spinach, chard, and collard, turnip, and mustard greens in soups, casseroles, and pasta dishes. Still, if you cannot choke down leafy green vegetables no matter how hard you try, other foods can provide many of the same nutrients. For example, bell peppers and cantaloupe are rich in vitamins C and A, lentils have iron and fiber, and soybeans and dairy products have calcium.

3. Almonds


Almonds have heart-healthy fats and are among the nuts with the most fiber and protein, and fewest calories, per serving. People who eat nuts tend to have better weight control and lower risk for heart disease, and people with diabetes who regularly eat nuts may have better glycemic control.

Roasted almonds are the easiest possible snacks, since they are ready to eat and require no refrigeration. Sliced almonds on green beans and in salads, almond meal in baked goods and as a substitute for bread crumbs, and almond butter spread on bread or as a dip for apples are also ways to get your almonds.

Try this instead: Peanuts, seeds, and other nuts have similar nutritional profiles to almonds, and pistachios and cashews have about as few calories as almonds. Peanut and cashew butter butter, as well as pureed avocado, can take the place of almond butter. Carrots, asparagus, or other vegetables roasted with olive oil can make a high-fiber snack or side dish that is also rich in healthy fats.

4. Olive Oil


Olive oil is a significant source of fat in a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, and its health benefits may largely come from its rich MUFA content, along with polyphenols. Raw, olive oil can be an ingredient in salad dressings or infused with garlic, herbs, or other flavors in a dipping sauce. Olive oil can be tossed with pasta or zucchini noodles, brushed onto vegetables and proteins while roasting or grilling, and it can be a butter substitute in baked goods.

Try this instead: Safflower, canola, and high-oleic sunflower oil are also high in MUFA and can be swapped for olive oil both raw and cooked. For spreads and dips, pureed avocado or guacamole, and peanut and nut butters, are good substitutes for olive oil. Pecans, macadamia nuts, and hazelnuts are highest in MUFA.

5. Salmon


Alaskan black bears thrive on salmon, and maybe it can work for you, too. Salmon is among the richest sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids – it’s a mouthful, but you can call these types of fat EPA and DHA. Tongue-twister or not, EPA and DHA are linked to better heart and brain health and possibly reduced chronic inflammation. Fresh and canned salmon are both rich in omega-3s, and if canned salmon has bones, it also has calcium. 

Salmon is tasty when grilled or baked on its own or with teriyaki sauce, lemon juice, dill, or other seasonings. It can go atop salads or be blended with oats, herbs, egg white, and vegetables to make salmon patties. Salmon casserole and salmon salad with non-fat yogurt instead of mayo are good uses for canned salmon.

Try this instead: Other fatty fish, such as mackerel, tuna, herring, anchovies, and trout, are also rich in EPA and DHA. If they are too fishy for you, other seafood have these fats, although in smaller quantities. Plant-based sources of  omega-3 fats include walnuts, canola oil, and flaxseed. They contain a different type of fat, not DHA and EPA, and your body can convert small amounts into DHA and EPA.

6. Sweet Potatoes


Sweet potatoes are rich in a form of vitamin A called beta-carotene. They also have fiber and potassium, and have less of an impact on blood sugar than white potatoes.

They can sub for white potatoes in almost any way, such as in mashed sweet potatoes, baked sweet potato fries, baked and loaded with cottage cheese and broccoli, mashed, and in stews.

Try this instead: Pumpkin and winter squash, such as acorn and butternut, are similar in nutrients to sweet potatoes but are lower in carbs, and can be good for thickening stew and soup. Baked, stuffed acorn squash is another option. For a snack, baby carrots are even easier than baking sweet potato fries, are lower in calories, and are just as filling and rich in beta-carotene.

7. Broccoli


Broccoli is rich in fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients, and people who consume it and other leafy green vegetables may have a lower risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer. However, if you are among the 1 in 4 people who is a so-called super-taster, you are sensitive to the bitter taste of a compound called phenylthiocarbamide, or PTC. It is in raw broccoli and related vegetables, including Brussels sprouts and spinach, and it may make them unpalatable for you.

Cooking broccoli can reduce its bitter flavor. Broccoli is good in soup, casseroles, stir fry and pasta dishes, as well as broccoli salad and broccoli slaw.

Try this instead: If cooking broccoli does not make it palatable, cooked green beans, snow peas, and zucchini are other green vegetables without the bitter taste. For example, green beans can sub for broccoli in a casserole with fat-free cottage cheese, tuna, and chopped walnuts. Stir fry with carrots, bell pepper, napa cabbage, and mushrooms can pack in nutrients.

8. Lentils


Lentils are rich in plant-based protein, fiber, potassium, iron, and B vitamins. They may be protective against certain types of cancer, such as colorectal, and are low glycemic, so they do not bump up blood sugar much.

Lentil soup is classic, but lentils can also be used in salads and chili. They can also substitute for meat in tacos, burritos, meatballs, and burgers.

Try this instead: Split peas and beans have different tastes and textures, but have similar nutritional profiles as lentils. They can often be used almost interchangeably with lentils in dishes such as soups, veggie burger patties, and salads. 

9. Grapefruit


Grapefruit is a lower-sugar, lower-glycemic fruit that is full of vitamin C. It is often eaten raw on its own or in salads, but can also be cooked, such as in citrus salsa for meat or fish, or grilled as a side dish. Zest from the peel, which is rich in a phytochemical called hesperitin, can go into almost any dish or baked good to add flavor.

Try this instead: Oranges are sweeter than grapefruit, but are still lower-glycemic than most other fruit. Any citrus fruit, such as oranges, tangerines, lemons, and limes, contain vitamin C and phytochemicals. Oranges and tangerines in salads and lemon and lime juice on fish and in salsa are some ways to use citrus fruits. If you are looking for an alternative source of vitamin C, strawberries, bell peppers, and kiwi are all good choices.

10. Whole-wheat Bread


Whole grains contain fiber, antioxidants, and more natural nutrients, and are associated with health benefits such as lower risk for Their benefits are especially noticeable when they are chosen in place of refined grain, such as white bread.

A common whole grain is whole-wheat bread, including sliced bread, English muffins, pita, tortillas, and bagels. Sandwiches, toast, homemade pizzas, turkey or bean burritos, toasted croutons, and pita chips with dip are a few ways to try whole-wheat bread instead of white.

Try this instead: If you are avoiding bread products, whole-wheat pasta, shredded wheat cereal, and whole-wheat couscous are other forms of whole wheat. Otherwise, brown rice, oatmeal, and whole-grain rice or oat breakfast cereal are whole-grain alternatives to wheat.

11. Blueberries


Alaskan black bears do not just eat salmon. They also pick berries! Blueberries are high in vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants, especially flavonoids. They may support heart and brain health, healthier blood sugar, and anti-inflammatory processes in your body.

Fresh blueberries can be eaten plain, in oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese, and in vegetable and fruit salads. They are also common in smoothies.

Try this instead:  Some new ways to try blueberries can include cooked with balsamic vinegar, garlic, rosemary, pepper, and olive oil to make a sauce for chicken or fish, blended with apple cider vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, and pepper to make salad dressing, and pureed with frozen banana chunks to make a frozen ice cream-like dessert. Otherwise, any other berry is healthy to try, and you can also get flavonols from red and purple grapes, green and black tea, onions, apples, and cocoa or dark chocolate.

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Author
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health