8 Food Add-Ons that Boost Nutrition

Get more nutrition out of already healthy foods by adding one ingredient. Get more nutrition out of already healthy foods by adding one ingredient. If you're like most active women, you eat right most of the time. Maybe you have oatmeal for breakfast, yogurt as a snack, and whole-wheat pasta to refuel after a workout. All smart choices--but there's a way to transform these stalwarts into uncommonly healthy foods. "By making some easy additions to foods you already eat every day, you can provide your body with a greater variety of nutrients," says sports dietitian Molly Kimball, R.D. "Plus, you'll add new flavors to your same old diet." Here's how to upgrade your usual fare with nutrient-packed ingredients.

Add unsweetened cocoa powder
Cocoa powder is rich in flavonoids--antioxidants that reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. They also protect skin against sun damage and lower blood levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation. "Unlike dark chocolate," says Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., R.D., author of Power Eating, "cocoa powder contains no added sugar and less saturated fat."

Eat Smart
Avoid Dutch processed cocoa. It's treated with alkali (to give it a mild flavor) and contains fewer flavonoids.

Battle of the Superfoods: Which Are Healthier?

Add wild blueberries
When Cornell University researchers tested 25 varieties of fruits, they discovered that wild blueberries contain the most antioxidants--even more than their cultivated cousins. The wild berries are rich in vitamin C. This nutrient is needed to produce carnitine, a compound that helps the body turn fat into energy.

Eat Smart Choose frozen wild blueberries--they can actually contain more vitamin C than fresh, says Kleiner.

Add chia seeds
Compared to flaxseeds (a rich source of omega-3s), chia seeds provide more alpha-linolenic acid (or ALA), a type of omega-3 that fights inflammation. They're also rich in calcium and pack 11 grams of fiber per ounce. Once eaten, chia seeds swell, forming a gel in your stomach. This slows digestion, making them a filling snack.

Eat Smart Unlike flaxseeds, chia seeds don't need to be ground in order to absorb their omega-3s.

More Top Seeds for a Quick Power Boost

Add oregano
Oregano doesn't just complement the flavor of grilled salmon. U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers found it has up to 20 times more antioxidants than other herbs. "Antioxidants help minimize soreness and improve recovery," says Kimball. "And punching up the flavor with herbs means you can cut back on salt and fat."

Eat Smart Buy fresh oregano for higher levels of antioxidants than dried.

Add turmeric
This spice gets its yellow hue from cur-cumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory phytochemical. Studies show this compound may reduce risk for cancer and diabetes, and help maintain mental health. What's more, USDA researchers discovered curcumin halts fat cell expansion, which may fight weight gain.

Eat Smart While cooking rice, add a few dashes of turmeric to the water. Sprinkle the spice into soups and chili, too.

Power Foods That Boost Your Workouts

Add edamame
A half-cup of these green soybeans provides nine grams of protein, four grams of fiber, and plenty of folate, vitamin K, and magnesium, which plays a crucial role in muscle contraction. In a 2009 study, soybean antioxidants called isoflavones were found to decrease cell damage that occurs during hard exercise.

Eat Smart
Buy frozen edamame shelled or in the pod. To cook, boil the beans in salted water for a few minutes.

Add ground turkey breast
Per ounce, ground turkey has one more gram of muscle-building protein than beef--and less unhealthy saturated fat. The turkey also provides highly absorbable iron, which active woment need for endurance. "If your iron levels are low," says Kleiner, "your muscles won't get enough oxygen, leaving you low on energy."

Eat Smart Stick to meat labeled "ground turkey breast," since "ground turkey" might include the skin, bringing the fat content on par with beef.

A New Twist: These latest whole-grain pastas are nutrient-packed and taste great--really!

Add hemp oil
This oil has more of the omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid than olive oil. Harvard School of Public Health researchers found this acid reduces heart-attack risk. The oil also contains gamma-linolenic acid, an omega-6 that quells inflammation.

Eat Smart
Store the nutty-tasting oil in the fridge to keep it fresh longer.


Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found broccoli sprouts contain up to 100 times more sulfora-phane than full-grown broccoli. This compound triggers production of enzymes that may neutralize carcinogens.

Eat Smart Find broccoli sprouts next to alfalfa sprouts in the supermarket.

Try these Healthy Meals You Can Take To-Go.

TELL US: What is your absolute favorite healthy ingredient?

By Matthew G. Kadey, M.Sc., R.D., Runner's World

More from Runner's World:

Your Guide to the Healthiest Grocery Foods

Snacks That Power Your Workouts

Start the Day with Blueberry Quinoa "Oatmeal"