Although it may seem counterintuitive, the holidays are actually a perfect time to enjoy more superfoods! That's because this is the time of year we find ourselves invested a bit more in the kitchen, taking pride in creating home-cooked meals and treats, and sharing these creations with those we love. That also means we can take ownership of what’s on the table and look for ways to make this year the healthiest yet!
With a bit of creativity, you can technically incorporate any kind of superfood into your holiday spread, but there are a few varieties that are true must haves. Easy to include, widely popular and harmonious with other holiday ingredients and flavors, these healthy picks are true staples for the upcoming winter festivities. Here are six go-tos to put on your list:
1. Sweet Cranberries
One of the few true native American fruits, cranberries are not only a mainstay of many holiday tables, they're also a superfood! Although most people know them for their high vitamin C and fiber content, it's really cranberries' antioxidants that make them such a powerful tool. In particular, their polyphenol antioxidants called proanthocyanidins are highly antibacterial (which is partly why cranberries are famous for their effects on promoting urinary health) as well as heart friendly. Cranberries on their own contain remarkably low sugar, so to take advantage of this benefit, try combining them with other fruits in place of refined sugars or use natural sweeteners. Pro tip: they're also great when baked into stuffing and loaves.
2. Tart Goldenberries
Notes of citrus can brighten up the heaviness that often comes with holiday foods and that's precisely the flavor role that tart goldenberries can play. With their loud sweet-and-sour taste, goldenberries provide a “special touch” to almost everything in which they're added. Plus, their incredible content of vitamin A, calcium and anti-inflammatory antioxidants makes them a great tool for bolstering nutrition. Double up on the superfood power by adding them to a cranberry sauce or sprinkle them into a salad.
3. Hearty Kale
Leafy greens often get lost in the holiday excitement of breads, cookies and casseroles, which is a shame because all that great green nutrition is missed! Although kale is probably the most popular variety, other “heavier” leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, cabbage or collard greens are excellent additions that help to balance out a meal. Bursting with antioxidants that are good for your eyesight, heart, brain and bones, green vegetables should always be kept in mind when you're planning your menu and should be the base of at least one dish.
4. Nutty Hemp Seeds
As one of the healthiest, most sustainable forms of protein on the planet, hemp seeds are an ideal addition to satisfying comfort dishes that feel as good as they taste. Hemp seeds offer all the essential amino acids, making them a complete protein, as well as an array of important vitamins and minerals like iron and vitamin E. Incredibly versatile, hemp seeds pair well with just about anything: mix them into your salads, stir them up with potatoes or bake them into muffins and breakfast breads. They'll add a light, nutty flavor to all your favorites.
5. Rich Cacao
If you're planning to have chocolate this holiday season, make sure it's cacao! Cacao is the simplest upgrade to regular chocolate you can make—this raw form maximizes the antioxidant potential while imparting no sugar, leaving you with full control of the type and amount of sweetener you use. Cacao powder is a perfect one-to-one substitute for unsweetened cocoa powder, while cacao sweet nibs make baked goods with (or instead of) chocolate chips even better.
6. Festive Goji Berries
We may have a lot of berries on this list, but every berry offers a different array of benefits and goji berries are no exception. With a wide range of micronutrients, goji berries are deeply saturated in all kinds of essential vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin A. They’re also an incredible source of many types of antioxidants, such as zeaxanthin, a nutrient well studied for its protective activity in degenerative eye diseases, among other things. Because of their poppy red color, goji berries look festive all winter long and are a beautiful addition to roasted vegetable dishes, sweet potatoes and desserts.
Looking for some easy and delicious recipes in which to use these versatile superfood ingredients? Browse all of our favorite superfood recipes HERE and let your imagination run wild!
Author Bio: Julie Morris is a Los Angeles-based superfood chef and New York Times best-selling author. Julie is also the founder of Luminberry, the world’s first online superfood cooking school, where she leads courses on how to use cutting-edge ingredients in recipes. Julie works as a recipe developer and consultant for various health companies, restaurants and media outlets, and has published five cookbooks that have sold around the globe.