Although it may seem counter-intuitive, 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 that we love. That also means we have the opportunity to take ownership of what gets put 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 – nevertheless, 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's what to put on your list:
Cranberries – 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 anti-bacterial (which is partly why cranberries are famous for their effects on promoting urinary health), heart-friendly, and possibly even anti-cancer. 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. They're also great baked into stuffings and loaves.
Goldenberries – Notes of citrus can brighten up the heaviness that often comes with holiday foods, and that's precisely the flavor role that zesty goldenberres can play. With their loud sweet-and-sour taste, goldenberries provide a “special touch” to almost everything they're added to. Plus, their incredible micronutrient content, including a high amount of vitamin A, minerals like calcium, and strong 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.
Kale – Leafy greens often get lost in the holiday excitement of breads, cookies, and casseroles. This is a big shame on two fronts – one, all that great green nutrition is lost out on, and two, missing some of the best in-season produce the market has to offer! Although kale is probably the most popular variety, other “heavier” leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables are excellent ways to balance out a meal – try incorporating Brussels sprouts, cabbage, or collard greens, too. Bursting with antioxidants that are good for eyesight, your heart, your brain, and your bones, keep green vegetables in mind when you're planning your menu – they should be the base of at least one dish.
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 of the essential amino acids, making them a complete protein, as well as an array of important minerals like iron, and antioxidant vitamins like vitamin E. Incredibly versatile, hemp seeds seem to pair well with just about anything: mix them into your salads, stir them up with potatoes, or even bake them into muffins and breakfast breads. They'll add a lightly nutty flavor to all your favorites.
Cacao – If you're planning on having chocolate this holiday season, make sure it's cacao! Cacao is the most simple upgrade to regular chocolate you can make – this raw form maximizes the antioxidant potential, while imparting no sugar, leaving you with full control of what kind of (and how much) sweetener you use. Cacao powder is a perfect substitute for cocoa powder, while cacao nibs make baked goods with (or instead of) chocolate chips even better.
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-ranging array of micronutrients, goji berries are deeply saturated in all kinds of essential vitamins and minerals, like iron, calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin A. They also are an incredible source of many types of antioxidants, such as xeazanthin, a nutrient well-studied for its protective activity in degenerative eye diseases, amongst 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.