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SUPERFOODS have proven health benefits and pack a nutritional punch.

How many SUPERFOODS can you fit into your diet.

Nuts & seeds
Roasted, toasted or raw, nuts and seeds are a delicious source of protein and fiber. A tasty snack, nuts and seeds pack a nutritious punch with heart-healthy monounsaturated oils, vitamins and minerals. The lignans in seeds, like flaxseeds, have been demonstrated to reduce cholesterol levels. Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating one and a half ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Yogurt and kefir
Creamy and cool, cultured dairy products, such as yogurt, kefir and buttermilk, contain probiotics. Also known as "friendly bacteria," probiotics support the intestinal tract and the immune system. Maintain the overall health of your immune system and enjoy a cup of fruit yogurt, savor a tangy raspberry kefir or stir buttermilk into roasted garlic mashed potatoes.

Beans and lentils, members of the legume family, are an excellent source of hearty, low-fat plant protein. Simmered in soups or blended into tangy spreads, legumes are a versatile and delicious introduction to superfoods. Soluble fiber from beans and lentils, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. A serving of legumes provides at least four grams of soluble fiber.

Somewhat of a miracle bean, soy's superstar status stems from its culinary adaptability and health properties. According to the FDA, adding 25 grams of soy protein each day, to a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Versatile and delicious, enjoy soy in its many forms including tofu, tempeh, miso, edamame and soymilk.

Whether you choose blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries or strawberries, your body benefits from these nutrition-packed gems. Deliciously tangy and sweet, berries contain antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins that reduce free-radicals in the body, which may help to slow the aging process.

It's true that avocados are high in fat, one reason they earned the nickname "butter pear." That's why diet experts have previously urged Americans to go easy on avocados. But now nutritionists are taking another look, they are finding that most of the fat in an avocado is monounsaturated -- the "good" kind of fat that actually lowers cholesterol.

Green leafy vegetables
Spinach, kale, Swiss chard and romaine lettuce each contain beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin that work together to support overall health. As good sources of vitamin B and minerals, adding a wide variety of leafy greens to your plate, every day, ensures that you will reap their healthy benefits.

Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments. Dark chocolate contains cocoa phenols that are known to lower blood pressure.

More SUPERFOODS to add to your diet...

A USDA study shows that consuming a half teaspoon of cinnamon per day may significantly lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, as well as reduce triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels. Sweet!

Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits and tangerines, contain flavonoids that are unique to the citrus family. Naringin produced in grapefruits and hesperidin found in oranges are both powerful antioxidants. Sweet, juicy and versatile, citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, folic acid and potassium.

Cruciferous vegetables
Vibrant and crisp, broccoli, kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts are members of the Brassica oleracea italica family. Named for their resemblance to a Greek cross, cruciferous vegetables not only taste great steamed and sautéed, they are also a good source of dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates. Some studies show that low-fat diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancer.

Simply folded into an omelet or whipped into a grand soufflé, eggs (especially egg whites) provide an inexpensive source of high-quality protein. Eggs are not only low in carbohydrates and sodium, but they contain lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that support eye health. Whether you prefer brown or white eggs, be kind to your fine-feathered friends and always choose cage-free, organic eggs.

Herbs and spices
Spice up your life! Studies show that common herbs and spices, such as sage and rosemary, are rich in antioxidants and may support healthy digestive function and the nervous system. About a teaspoon per day added to your favorite recipes is all it takes!

One petite kiwifruit packs as much vitamin C as an orange. Since we are unable to create vitamin C in our bodies, it is important to replenish this essential vitamin each day. Enjoy kiwifruit in smoothies and fruit salads.

Stick-to-your-ribs nutrition! Simmered into a warm cereal, oatmeal provides a good source of complex carbohydrates. Soluble fiber from foods, such as oats, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. A half-cup serving of oats supplies about nine grams of fiber.

Olives & olive oil
Rich and fruity, olive oil stands out as a culinary staple in Mediterranean cultures. A good source of monounsaturated fat, adding two tablespoons of olive oil per day to your diet may support cardiovascular health. Favolosamente!

Omega-3 fish
Cold-water fish like wild salmon, tuna and trout contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Supportive, but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. While amounts may vary by species, origin and season, one serving of omega fish provides at least 0.5 grams of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. There's nothing fishy about that!

Orange veggies
More beta is better! Vibrant orange vegetables, such as pumpkins, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and carrots contain high levels of beta-carotene. A beneficial nutrient found in fruits and vegetables, beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A, giving the body an antioxidant boost. Cooking vegetables also makes the nutrients easier to absorb. Enjoy roasted acorn squash or lightly steamed carrots.

Rich in powerful, free-radical fighting antioxidants called polyphenols, an eight-ounce serving of pomegranate juice enjoyed daily may support normal levels of cholesterol and healthy coronary artery function.

Sip your way to good health with a calming cup of tea. True teas, whether they are green, white, black or oolong, originate from the Camellia sinensis plant. Processing techniques differentiate each type of tea. With beneficial levels of flavonoids and only two calories per cup, drinking tea is a great way to support overall health.

Naturally delicious and full of nutrients, tomatoes contain an abundance of lycopene, a health-promoting plant pigment. Lycopene not only gives tomatoes their ruby red color, it also helps support immune function and prostate health. Cooked tomatoes found in pasta sauce, salsa and tomato paste enhance the absorption of lycopene into your system.

Whole grains
Rich in complex carbohydrates, whole grains add beneficial phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals to your diet. Packed with nutrition, the germ or "heart" of the kernel adds essential B-vitamins, iron and zinc to your plate. Diets rich in whole-grain, plant-based foods may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.

Last Updated: 11/23/2010