Unveiling Nutritional ‘Super Powers’

| Nicole Carlson, RD, LD

If you are conscious about your food choices and read labels you may have noticed ‘superfoods’ popping up. Have you wondered what this means and why foods are suddenly considered super? Surprisingly, there is no scientific definition of a superfood. Foods that get this label are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, mono and polyunsaturated fats, and antioxidants. Marketers started using this term to describe healthy foods, likely to boost their sales. Marketers are always going to use our desire for better health to their advantage and market to the latest fad. It is true that these nutrient dense foods have ‘super powers.’ Antioxidants are believed to fight off cancer, healthy fats can reduce inflammation and fiber can help keep your digestive system problem free. 1

There are hundreds of ‘superfoods’. But to name a few: apples, cracked wheat, kale, grapefruit, brown rice, blueberries, avocados, broccoli, oat bran, and asparagus. It’s important to note that while all these foods are great for your health the best benefit comes combining many superfoods to form a well-balanced diet. It is key to look at your diet as a rainbow; full of different colors. This doesn’t mean that the chia seeds you bought aren’t healthy but they are better when combined with berries and oat bran. There is more to a healthy diet than kale and spinach. It is impossible for one or two foods to have every possible vitamin, mineral and nutrient that your body needs to function properly.

Here are a few ways to select a variety of foods to fill your plate:

  1. Discover new recipes
  2. Try a new fruit, vegetable, whole grain, or protein each week
  3. Plan meals ahead of time

Speaking of superfoods, here’s a recipe to try with plenty of nutrient packed foods

Barley risotto with roasted squash2
Recipe from: The Complete Encyclopedia of Super Foods
1 cup pearl barley
1 butternut squash, peeled chunks
2 tsp chopped thyme
4 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP butter
4 leeks, thick diagonal slices
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 oz. brown cap mushrooms, sliced
2 TBSP. chopped parsley
2 oz. Pecorino cheese
3 TBSP. pumpkin seeds, toasted or walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 400oF. Rinse barley. Cook in simmering water and keep pan partly covered for 35-45 minutes or until tender. Drain barley, set aside.
  2. Place squash in roasting pan with half the thyme. Season with pepper and toss with half the oil. Roast and stir once for 30-35 minutes or until tender and beginning to brown.
  3. Heat half the butter with the remaining oil in a large pan. Sauté the leeks and garlic for 5 minutes.
  4. Add mushrooms and remaining thyme. Cook until liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and begin to fry.
  5. Stir in carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Add barley and most of the stock. Partly cover the pan. Cook for 5 minutes. If mixture seems dry, pour in remaining stock.
  6. Stir in parsley, remaining butter, half the Pecorino and the squash. Season to taste and serve immediately. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds or walnuts and Pecorino cheese.

*409 calories, 11.8 grams protein, 43.4 grams carbs, 22.1 grams fat, 159 mg sodium

Are you looking to expand your nutrition rainbow but unsure of where to start? Schedule a dietary consult.

Health and Happiness,

Nicole Carlson, RD, LD
Registered Dietitian
Live Your LifeTM
Bringing Physical Therapy & Wellness to You!

Nicole is a registered and licensed dietitian in the state of Minnesota. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and completed her accredited dietetic internship through Iowa State University. Nicole has a passion for health, nutrition and cooking. She enjoys experimenting with and sharing new recipes and cooking techniques with her clients. She is dedicated to educating her clients on how to be mindful of their habits and make healthy changes that will last a lifetime.

Nicole currently works in clinical and private practice settings where she gained experience with diabetes management, heart healthy cooking, weight loss or weight maintenance, food allergies and sensitives, chronic kidney disease and heart failure.

1. Moore, Marisa. “Inflammation and Diet.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 1 Sept. 2014. Web. 06 Aug. 2017. <>. Accessed 06 Aug 2017.

2. Deane, Audrey. The complete encyclopedia of superfoods: with 150 high-impact power-packed recipes: cooking for health, energy, weight loss and fitness: a comprehensive guide to the most powerful nutrient-rich ingredient’s and their properties. Hermes House, 2014, Wigston, U.K.

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