Perhaps nature’s ultimate portable snack, almonds deliver protein, healthy fat, and fiber in one convenient package. Almonds are a natural source of vitamin E, a nutrient that plays a critical role in heart health and promotes glowing skin. The nuts are also high in monounsaturated fats, the same type found in olive oil, which has been linked in many studies to reducing the risk of heart disease. Eating almonds as part of a balanced diet may also reduce the possibility of weight gain, as the fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals in the nuts will satisfy hunger and curb cravings for carbohydrates.
To make the nutrients even more readily available to your body and easier to digest, consider soaking your nuts in water. Simply place raw almonds in a bowl and cover with pure filtered water. Soak at room temperature or in the refrigerator for at least 6hours or up to 72 hours, changing the water every 8-12 hours. Because almonds have a high fat content and are more likely to go rancid, store them in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer.
Toss salads with sliced almonds. Sprinkle on yogurt or on top of your morning gluten-free oatmeal. Adding almonds to cooked rice adds crunch, protein, and flavor. Use finely ground almonds to coat fish and chicken instead of flour or sprinkle on top of casseroles instead of breadcrumbs. Use almond flour for making grain-free pancakes (see page 70). Make your own almond butter by putting 3 cups almonds in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and processing them until it turns into a smooth, creamy butter (be patient, as it takes 15-20 minutes). Add a little sea salt if desired. You can speed the process up by drizzling in a few tablespoons of almond or vegetable oil while the almonds are processing.
Most noted for their high levels of antioxidants that may prevent disease and support brain health, blueberries are an all-star super food that deserve a place in every healthy eater’s refrigerator! The wide array of antioxidants in blueberries—including anthocyanins and flavonols—has been shown in many studies to protect cells from oxidative damage, therefore reducing the risk of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. As with all berries, blueberries are a low-glycemic fruit choice, meaning that once consumed and digested, they will have less of a tendency to raise blood sugar levels.
To give your body a hand in absorbing the high amount of phytonutrients (plant nutrients) present in blueberries, try pairing them with a little healthy fat—such as almonds, avocados, or chia seeds—in your meals and snacks.
Blend blueberries into your morning smoothies, add to cereal, or stir into muffin or pancake batter (for pancakes see page 70). Layer blueberries with low-fat yogurt or dairy-free yogurt for a healthy take on a parfait. Stir blueberries into quinoa or brown rice. For a delightfully surprising take on salsa, mix 2 cups blueberries with a handful of finely diced red onion, a handful of chopped cilantro, 1 minced jalapeño pepper, 1 diced avocado, and the juice of 1-2 limes. Serve over grilled fish or chicken or with gluten-free chips.
For most of us, just the word “chocolate” makes our hearts melt and our mouths water. But believe it or not, dark chocolate actually offers a host of
potential health benefits, making it a not-so guilty indulgence. Studies have shown that dark chocolate may help boost the production of endorphins. How’s that for a mood lifter? Dark chocolate may also lower blood pressure, therefore lowering the risk of strokes and heart attacks. When it comes to selecting your indulgent snack, choose chocolate made with raw cacao if possible. Raw cacao is a fantastic source offlavonols and polyphenols, two antioxidants that play a role in disease prevention.Remember that with dark chocolate, a little goes a long way. Just a small square of high quality, organic, fair trade chocolate will pack a big nutritional punch without sabotaging your healthy eating efforts.
Savor Dark Chocolate:
Add chopped dark chocolate chunks into muffins for a delicious start to your day. Stir 1-2 ounces of chopped dark chocolate into your favorite chili recipe for rich depth of flavor. Mix unsweetened cocoa powder with some cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper and rub over a beef or pork tenderloin before roasting. Stir some melted dark chocolate or unsweetened cocoa powder into your favorite barbecue sauce. Make dairy-free ganache by pouring 1 part heated full-fat coconut milk over 2 parts chopped dark chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir until shiny and smooth. For a healthy treat, dip peeled clementine segments into melted dark chocolate and sprinkle with a touch of sea salt. Lay the coated segments on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Strawberries are one of the best fruit sources of vitamin C, offering even more than oranges. Similar to blueberries, strawberries are a low-glycemic fruit option that also provides folate, fiber, and potassium. According to the Environmental Working Group, strawberries land on the “Dirty Dozen” list, indicating that they are one of the foods with the highest level of pesticide residue. With this being the case, choose organic fresh or frozen strawberries when possible to avoid exposure to potentially harmful pesticides.
Add sliced strawberries to spinach for a beautiful and refreshing salad. Dip strawberries in melted dark chocolate and enjoy a double dose of super foods! Leave out the cheese and add strawberries to your classic risotto recipe for a lovely rice pudding. Toss ripe strawberries in the blender, puree, pour into popsicle molds, and freeze for healthy pops. To make your own fruit leather, puree 4 cups fresh strawberries with 2 tablespoons maple syrup and a squeeze of lemon juice until smooth. Pour into a saucepan and cook over medium heat until thick, about 15 minutes. Pour the mixture onto a parchmentlined baking sheet, place in the oven, turn to 180ºF, and let sit for 8 hours. Remove from oven, refrigerate for about 20 minutes, and cut into strips.