Superfoods 2.0: 5 Foods to Spice Up Your Diet

Boost nutrients and flavor with easy substitutes for your favorite foods. Boost nutrients and flavor with easy substitutes for your favorite foods. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's the motto many active women follow when it comes to their diets. But eating the same foods day in and day out--even healthy standbys like peanut butter or brown rice--isn't the best bet for your body or your taste buds.

"Active people should try new foods for the flavor and the nutrients," says Monique Ryan, R.D., author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes. Adding new foods to your diet re-energizes a bored palate, she says, and also provides a variety of nutrients your body needs to ramp up health and workout performance. These easy substitutions for tried-and-true staples will help you break out of a food rut while transforming your diet and your energy levels.

Battle of the Superfoods: Which is the Healthiest Option?

Old Standby: Salmon
New Favorite: Barramundi
Prized for its buttery flavor, barramundi is an Australian fish now available in the United States. It packs more omega-3 fatty acids than many other white fish. "The omega-3 fats in fish reduce internal inflammation," says Ryan. A 2007 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 1.9 grams of fish omega-3s a day reduced body fat and increased HDL, so-called "good cholesterol," when combined with exercise. Barramundi raised in the United States is free of antibiotics, mercury, and PCBs. It's also bred sustainably. That's why the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program puts barramundi on its best choice list.

Find It:
At larger supermarket chains. Stick to U.S. farmed; some international farms release high rates of pollutants.

Eat It:
Dust fillets with salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika. Sauté about two minutes per side. Finish with lemon juice.

Try this recipe: Chili Spiced Fish Tacos

Old Standby: Peanut Butter
New Favorite: Almond Butter
Almond butter has about the same amount of total fat as peanut butter but almost twice the monounsaturated fat, which helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels, says Leslie Bonci, R.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. A study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that eating almond butter for four weeks reduced harmful LDL and raised HDL. Almond butter also packs more bone-building minerals like magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus, and more vitamin E, says Bonci. "Plus, it has a sweeter taste and doesn't seem as heavy as peanut butter."

Find It: Look for it in the peanut butter aisle at most supermarkets.

Eat It:
Use equal parts almond butter, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey for dressing. Add to shakes or stir-frys.

Try this recipe: Crunchy Coffee Fix Smoothie With Almond Butter

Old Standby: Brown Rice
New Favorite: Quinoa
Whole-grain quinoa (pronounced "keen-wa") makes most other grains look like nutritional lightweights. No grain has more protein (eight grams per cup cooked). It has hefty amounts of carbohydrates and more magnesium, folate, iron, and fiber (which is especially key for heart health) than humble brown rice. "Quinoa has a pleasant nutty flavor and is very versatile in the kitchen as a side or main dish," says Ryan. But here's the real kicker: Diminutive quinoa kernels cook up in half the time as brown rice. Serve it as a sidekick to barramundi and you have a perfect post-workout recovery meal.

Find It:
In bulk bins or the natural and organic foods aisle at your grocery store.

Eat It: Cook quinoa for 15 minutes in a 2-to-1 water- (or broth-) to-grain ratio. For breakfast, cook it in apple cider, and mix in cinnamon, berries, and walnuts.

Try this recipe: Quick Toasted Garlic Quinoa

Old Standby: Spaghetti
New Favorite: Soba Noodles

Pasta is a staple in the kitchen of most U.S. families. But in Japan chopsticks twirl up soba noodles. "Soba noodles are thicker, flatter, and chewier than pasta but cook up the same way," says Bonci. Made from whole-grain buckwheat, soba has just as many carbs as pasta, plus the phytochemical rutin. Studies show rutin may halt the expansion of body-fat cells and lower blood-fat levels, helping protect your heart. And a 2003 Canadian study reported that buckwheat extract helped regulate blood sugar in diabetic animals and may have a role in treating diabetes. Soba noodles tend to have more sodium than pasta, so Bonci suggests eating them after a sweaty run to replace this electrolyte.

Find It:
Look for soba at Asian markets or the specialty section of supermarkets.

Eat It:
Use chewy soba in any dish calling for old-fashioned pasta. Or bump up the protein by mixing the noodles with teriyaki sauce, tofu, and edamame, says Bonci.

Try this recipe: Soba Noodles With Peanut Sauce

Old Standby:
Beef
New Favorite: Bison
Don't be buffaloed into believing all red meat is high-fat. Sweet-tasting bison-or buffalo-is lower in saturated fat than conventional beef and is rich in protein: Five ounces have almost a third of most runners' daily needs. Since bison are brought to market later in life than cattle, they store up higher iron levels. "Iron is needed to produce hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your muscles to help power your stride," says Ryan. Many bison are raised on a grass diet, and, as a result, studies show they have higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3s than corn-fed beef. Plus, ranchers are banned from using hormones in bison intended for food consumption.

Find It:
If you can't hunt down buffalo at your supermarket, try a farmer's market or look online at exoticmeats.com.

Eat It:
Use it for burgers and chili. It's very lean, so overcooking dries it out. Mix ground bison with soaked bread crumbs or cooked quinoa to hold moisture.

Surprisingly Healthy Ideas for Meaty Meals

TELL US: What are your favorite healthy foods?

By Matthew G. Kadey, Runner's World

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