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Talking “Superfoods” with Nutrition Expert Regan Jones

Are quinoa, chia, wild blueberries and kale all they’re cracked up to be?

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Regan Jones, a well-know registered dietitian and nutrition authority from Georgia who has strong opinions about healthy food, including the much talked about “superfoods.” Since 2008, Regan has been building an impressive portfolio of fun and interesting websites with recipes and content provided by dietitians, including HealthyAperture,TheRecipeReDux and RDs4Disclosure. As a leader in the world of nutrition, she’s also been featured in television and radio segments nationwide. We thought it would be interesting to hear her thoughts about the craze in “superfoods.” Are they all they’re cracked up to be? Should they be part of your daily diet? Here’s what Regan had to say.

 

What exactly is a superfood? What are the benefits of superfoods from a health perspective?
In general these foods are packed with nutrients and antioxidants and have a nutritional advantage over other foods. They may help you lose weight, boost your mood, lower your cholesterol, and they’re real foods, not overly processed foods meant to mimic the nutrient that they’re promoting.
Why do you believe superfoods are getting so much attention these days?
It’s a catch 22. People are always looking for a quick fix, and in many ways, superfoods are billed as the food to fix all that ails you. We know that healthy eating is more than just one food, but I do think it’s good for people to opt for foods that pack a lot of nutritional benefits. 
What is driving the uptake in discussion/interest?
In our busy society where people are eating on the go and don’t make enough time for exercise, they’re desperate to lose weight and feel better. Eating a “superfood” is a way to feel as though you’re making an extra-healthy choice, beyond just opting for a salad over a burger. I also think the idea of adding something healthy to your diet rather than taking something away has a good psychological message. I support the idea of focusing on what’s good for you rather than avoiding what’s “bad.” 
If asked to name 5 top “superfoods,” what would they be?
A lot of it depends on your definition of a “superfood.” Rather than focusing on trendy foods that come and go in popularity, I typically like to think of those foods that people are most familiar with, willing to consume, and that pack the most bang for their buck nutritionally. Foods like eggs for protein, beans for fiber, sweet potato for vitamin A, salmon for omega-3s and of course, wild blueberries for antioxidants.
How often does one have to consume superfoods for them to be beneficial?
I’d say daily or at least several times per week. But don’t go overboard and try to live just on superfoods … you need to incorporate them into a balanced diet. 
Can you share some creative ideas for how to use superfoods like quinoa, chia, blueberries and kale?
Quinoa can be enjoyed at breakfast in a parfait with Greek yogurt or served warm topped with wild blueberries as an oatmeal replacement. You can also bake it into things like breakfast bars and use it in granola. 
Wild Blueberriesare great cooked down into a sauce with a bit of water and balsamic vinegar as a topping over roasted pork.  They can also be used to make chia blueberry seed jam to spread on toast. Mix them into yogurt and granola or throw them into a smoothie.
Kale can be used in smoothies, to make pesto, sliced into ribbons and mixed into things like tuna cakes and veggie burgers, sautéed with garlic, and wilted into soups and stews. 
Chia can be mixed into baked goods, used to thicken smoothies, to make pudding, and added to salad dressings.
Are frozen fruits and vegetables just as good as fresh?
I believe frozen is just as good and sometimes better. In the case of Wild Blueberries, since they’re picked and frozen at the peak of freshness, all the nutrients are locked in. Fresh may be picked at the right time but often loses nutrients during travel time and while sitting on store shelves. When choosing fresh, look for as local as possible. 

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