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Dionne Laslo-Baker, PhD Medical Science Headshot

5 Common Super Foods (You Didn't Realize Were Super)

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Have you ever been given 'super foods' so healthy, you muster all the strength not to find the closest garbage can so you can spit the food out?

If you are like me, you try to find super foods that are not only super for you but taste delicious. After all, aren't we supposed to enjoy what we eat? Many of the fresh fruits we associate as 'summertime' treats are also some of the most beneficial in terms of their 'functional' benefits!

The rich color of these fruits owe their striking color to the flavonoid anthocyanin, which possess strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties proven to be very beneficial for our health.

Antioxidant simply means 'anti' - against, 'oxidant'-oxidative stress caused by factors such as pollution, radiation, medication, or toxins in our environment that can damage healthy cells in our body that in turn may accelerate or contribute to aging and diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and neurocognitive functioning. Antioxidants behave like scavengers hunting the free radicals that cause the damage. Anti-inflammatory simply means reducing inflammation or swelling in the body.

The best way to ensure these fresh fruits are eaten is to wash them as soon as you get home and display them in colorful bowls that nobody in the family could resist. I chose some of my favorite nutrient rich, delicious fruits that look so yummy, your kids will never know they are so good for them!

Watermelon

The other day my husband and I had the rare opportunity to relax next to a pool on a short but sweet few days away from the kids. I asked the waiter if they could make me some puréed watermelon. My husband said, that is just sugar and water, and I was determined to show him just the opposite. I was right!

Watermelon will not only keep you hydrated, it is packed with all sorts of goodies that will help you lose weight and improve your overall health! Watermelons are a good source of antioxidants such as lycopene; Vitamin A in the form of carotenoids; Vitamin C from ascorbic acid; and amino acids from citrulline, all of which are suggested to have a plethora of health benefits. In fact just one cup of this delicious fruit provides 21% of your Vitamin C and 18% of your Vitamin A recommended daily intake. There are so many creative ways to serve watermelon:

1. Summer Slushie-in a blender, combine 1 cup watermelon, 3-4 ice cubes, pour into cup - you and your kids will love it!
2. Watermelon Cut-Outs-get your kids to use cookie cutters to craft cool shapes-serve frozen or chilled.
3. Grilled Watermelon-drizzle with olive oil, grill on BBQ 2-3 minutes / side, garnish with chopped mint.
4. Chocolate Watermelon-dip wedges into melted cocoa nibs / dark chocolate (minimum 72% cocoa-high in antioxidants), place in fridge for 30 minutes and serve!

Blackberries

Luscious, tangy blackberries shout 'summertime' and are among the most powerful fruits for their antioxidant strength and overall health benefits. Have you heard of Polyphenols? These are the same family of antioxidants that made green tea famous. Polyphenols in blackberries may protect against osteoporosis, neuronal damage, cancer, and cardiovascular health. Blackberries are a rich source of fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. One cup of blackberries contains 50% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C. Blackberry plants will grow like wild in your backyard, picking and eating can be lots of fun!

Cherries

Cherries often get overlooked when in search of powerful super fruits, however, they are rich in vitamin C, carotenoids, melatonin, potassium, and have an abundance of fiber as well as the flavonoid anthocyanin. Cherries have been associated with a number of health benefits such as protecting against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, elevated cholesterol, muscle recovery after exercise, and they may even help you get a better night's sleep! Can you imagine all those benefits in one small beautifully flavorful cherry!


Strawberries

Kid-friendly strawberries are jam packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients. In fact, you can get 149% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C from one cup of strawberries, making them a sweet way to nourish your body! Vitamin C promotes collagen synthesis and younger-looking skin and it improves eye-health. Strawberries are perfect to add to any smoothie or fresh salad.
 
Apples

We hear so much about the importance of regulating blood sugar. Spikes and dips in blood sugar affect mood, impact body weight, sleep and increase your risk for developing diabetes. The phytonutrients in apples can help stabilize and regulate blood sugar by inhibiting enzymes that break carbohydrates down into simple sugars. Plus they are both satisfying and hydrating - making a great hot-weather snack.

There is no better way to get kids excited about eating these super fruits than to get them involved in picking them! Head out to the fields, away from technology and enjoy the outdoors together as a family. Nothing creates a better positive association with fresh, healthy super fruits than being outside enjoying the splendor of picking what you eat!

Berry Burst Antioxidant Smoothie: 

1. Rather than just ice or water as your base, make a pot of rooibos tea (a potent antioxidant with a plethora of health benefits) and either freeze in an ice cube tray or cool and use in place of water.
2. 3-4 strawberries.
3. 10 blueberries
4. 1 banana
5. A handful of pitted cherries
6. 1 cup or 4-5 Rooibos tea ice cubes
7. 10 almonds for protein.

Try to choose organic when and wherever possible. As a Ph.D. medical scientist with a focus on maternal-fetal toxicology, I have read countless studies on the long-term effects of exposure to pesticides including methyl bromide which is often used to spray strawberry fields, one of the top fruits most likely to be contaminated by pesticide residues. Choose your fruits wisely and give your body extra love this summer thanks to these remarkable, delicious super fruits.

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