In the quest to avoid gluten, it’s tempting to become overly reliant on processed, packaged foods. After all, when you're not sure what to look for and are concerned about hidden sources of gluten, what could be easier than seeking out “gluten free” on the label?
Unfortunately, no matter how "healthy" some of these products may be, if we include too many of them in our diets, we’re likely to find ourselves lacking in key, hard-to-get nutrients that help supercharge immunity and prevent diseases. It's a fact of American life, whether you're on a gluten-free diet or not. Most of us simply need to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
To liven up your diet and revitalize your health this spring, put down the packages and try to incorporate more gluten-free superfoods into your diet. Superfoods are powerhouses—especially vegetables—that are loaded with disease-fighting nutrients, fiber, or phytochemicals. From carrots to broccoli, there are many such stars that we eat pretty regularly, yet take for granted. But there are plenty of others that remain fairly unfamiliar to most people, and few of us realize how truly special they are.
So give your diet a healthful boost by trying a few of these underutilized super-nutritious foods:
- Kale: Most vegetables are superfoods in some way, but dark green, leafy vegetables, especially kale, really stand out. In one test, kale rated No. 1 among vegetables in terms of its antioxidant/phytochemical power (or ORAC, oxygen radical absorbance capacity). Kale contains indoles, plant compounds that have been found to have protective effects against breast, cervical, and colon cancers. It also contains sulforaphane, which boosts the body’s detoxification system. Kale boasts seven times the beta-carotene of broccoli, as well as 10 times as much lutein—an eye-protecting antioxidant known to help guard against macular degeneration. Plus, it’s loaded with iron, which celiacs often need, as well as bone- building calcium and vitamin K. Most people don’t know what to do with kale, but it can be steamed, sautéed, simmered into soups and stews, roasted or dehydrated into kale chips, or—for some varieties such as Lacinato or dinosaur kale—dressed ahead of time and made into a delicious salad (see recipe at left). At the store, look for tasty kale chips made by ChocolaTree, Kaia Foods, or Lydia’s Organics. Lydia’s also makes Green Crackers that contain kale and other healthy veggies.
- Kelp: Sea vegetables are superfoods, too, known for their rich concentration of minerals and trace elements, as well as their ability to detoxify the body and help protect against radiation and environmental pollutants. Seaweeds tend to be fishy smelling and tasting, so most of us who have grown up in the Western world are a little hesitant to cook with them. An easy remedy to that problem is to add Sea Tangle Kelp Noodles into your diet. Made from water, kelp, and sodium alginate (salt extracted from a brown seaweed), kelp noodles have a non-fishy, completely neutral taste that absorbs the flavors of whatever foods you incorporate with them. Kelp noodles are naturally rich in iodine, which is essential for thyroid health, and they’re so low in calories and carbohydrates that they’re a great dietary addition for anyone who wants to lose excess weight. They’re also easy to use: Just open the bag, drain, and add them to salads, soups, or stir-fries.
- Artichokes: Globe artichokes “are kind of like the lobster of the vegetable community,” says Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. That’s because you have to work to get at the good parts—meaning the “heart” or bottom of the plant. It takes some digging to get there, but it’s definitely worth the effort for the taste and the health-protecting effects you receive.
Artichokes are a wonderful source of silymarin, the active ingredient in milk thistle that helps protect and nourish the liver. They also stimulate bile production, which helps digestion. Plus, they contain 425 mg of potassium, a little bit of folate, the eye-protective carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, 61/2 grams of fiber, and just 60 calories. To prepare, simply steam artichokes until tender. Pull off the petals and eat with an olive oil—based dressing to maximize their liver-protective benefits.
Super Kale Salad
The secret to this salad is remembering to add the dressing to the kale an hour before you want to eat it. The lemon juice and olive oil soften the kale, and the shallot and garlic blend in a zesty flavor. The carrot adds color and extra nutrition, and the crumbled crackers serve as a nutrient-dense, gluten-free substitute for croutons.
1 large bunch organic Lacinato kale
1 shallot, minced
3 Tbs. organic extra virgin olive oil
1½ Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. unrefined sea salt, plus more to taste
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
¼ cup crumbled organic chèvre (goat cheese), optional
½ large organic carrot, shredded
2 Lydia's Organics Green Crackers, crumbled Chopped fresh dill or Spice Hunter Deliciously Dill seasoning to taste, optional
- Remove center ribs of kale, and cut leaves into thin strips to make 6 cups of greens. Place cut kale and shallot in large bowl.
- In small bowl, mix together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Pour dressing over kale, and toss to coat thoroughly. Allow to sit at room temperature 1 hour.
- Add almonds, chèvre, shredded carrot, and crumbled crackers, and toss thoroughly. Sprinkle with dill, if desired, and serve.
PER SERVING: 230 cal; 7g pro; 17g total fat (2g sat fat); 16g carb; 0mg chol; 257mg sod; 4g fiber; 1g sugars
Copyright ©2012 Melissa Diane Smith. This article and recipe may not be reprinted on other sites without written approval and permission from the author. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.