3 May 11 Nutrition Boosters

A colleague at MyNetDiary asked me about the things we could be adding to our foods to make them more nutritious. We add spices to improve the flavor of a dish, so what can we add to improve the nutritional content? This is a great question! There are actually many ingredients that we can add to improve the nutritional content of our meals. Here are just a few:

  • Berries add antioxidants, fiber and Vitamin C. Example: add 1/2 cup berries to plain yogurt.
  • Colorful fruits and veggies add antioxidants via their plant pigments, along with whatever nutrients they happen to be high in. Example: add chopped red cabbage to salad.
  • Legumes add folate, fiber, iron, potassium and protein. Example: add chickpeas to your favorite pasta dish.
  • Nuts and seeds add calories, healthy fats, and minerals such as iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc and selenium. Example: add 1 oz (about 1/4 cup) of toasted pumpkin seeds to salad.
  • Spices, dried herbs and fresh herbs add antioxidants along with flavor. Example: add fresh cilantro to low fat chicken salad.
FYI: Vitamins A, C, and E and selenium are all essential dietary nutrients as well as powerful antioxidants.

Ground Flax

Many of you want ideas on how to get more fiber without necessarily getting more carbs. One of the easiest ways to add fiber with very little digestible carb content is to add ground flaxseed. Grinding allows your gut to gain access to the inside of the seed - otherwise, it will pass mostly undigested through your gut.

In addition to fiber, flax contains plenty of alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA), a heart-healthy omega-3 fat that is also an essential fatty acid. For every 2 tbsp of ground flax, one consumes approximately 80 calories, 6 grams fat (3 grams ALA), 5 grams carbohydrate (4 g fiber, and only 1 gram which is digestible) and 3 grams protein. Much of the fiber found in flax is soluble, or viscous, which is the type that appears to help reduce blood cholesterol levels and help keep post-meal blood glucose levels in check.

Flax is also a good source of minerals such as manganese, copper and magnesium. Especially for those of you who can't eat nuts, consider adding flax to your diet along with other seeds (e.g. poppy, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower).

You can add ground flax to hot or cold foods: yogurt (my favorite), smoothies, cooked oatmeal, or even cold breakfast cereal. For sandwiches, you can add it to mayo or mustard. Figure out how much flax to add to whatever food you enjoy so that you get the texture you like. To avoid developing a gummy texture when adding to already prepared foods, add just before eating.

You can also bake with ground flax seed. Check out Hodgson Mills and Eating Well for ideas on how to bake with flax.

The focus of healthy eating should be choosing healthful foods versus just meeting your DRIs for specific nutrients. However, it is good to know that some foods are particularly high in essential dietary nutrients. Read "Foods to Meet Nutrient Needs" for more information on this subject. If you suspect that your average intake could be low in a specific nutrient, then you can choose to track that nutrient in MyNetDiary using the Plan tab. Go to "Other Nutrients to Track" and click on "Edit Other Nutrients." Find the nutrient you would like to track and then click on the blue arrow to the right of the field to get a recommended value if there is no DRI for that nutrient. For the system to compare your intake against a goal, the field must have an entry. Free users have access to tracking 12 nutrients, whereas Premium subscribers have access to over 40 nutrients.
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


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