TOPS looks at 10 underappreciated ‘Super Foods’

Posted October 4, 2012 at 10:01 am

Do you know what’s in your fridge?

Believe it or not, there are many ordinary foods in there that have extraordinary nutritional value. Whether it’s a vegetable or seed, these foods can add flavor and health benefits to any meal or snack. TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, examines 10 ‘super foods’ that you already have at home.

Beans – Beans (also known as legumes), including kidney, black, white and red beans, chick peas and lentils, are a powerful source of protein and complex carbohydrates, as well as fiber and important vitamins and minerals. Eating beans has been proven to help reduce cholesterol levels, body weight, the risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and some instances of cancer. Add a variety of beans to your meal, whether they are fresh, frozen, canned or dried.

Celery – Celery is a simple, yet important vegetable, offering vitamins, minerals and nutrients that can reduce cholesterol and protect against cancer. Add celery to soups, stews, meats, side dishes and other meals.

Garlic – With a distinct flavor and fragrance, garlic contains anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties that protect against heart disease, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and provide anti-clotting features. It also offers vitamins C and B6, manganese and selenium.

Onion – Whether they’re sliced, diced, chopped or pureed, onions have a pungent flavor and a lot of nutrition, containing fiber, minerals and vitamins C and B6. There has also been research to learn more about onions’ polyphenol and sulfur compounds, which may reduce the risk of cancer and boost immune function and heart health.

Peas – Green and yellow vegetables, including green peas, are often associated with reducing the risk of heart disease. Garden, snow, snap, dried and other varieties of peas are also loaded with vitamins A, C, K and B, minerals, fiber and protein. They are a great source for eye-healthy compounds beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Include peas in a soup or stew, toss them into a salad or eat them as a snack.

Black Pepper – This common spice is a great way to boost a meal’s flavor without adding calories. Also, capsaicin, the substance that gives pepper its heat, is known for its anti-cancer properties and inflammation reduction, which is the root of chronic disease. Use ground, cracked or whole versions of pepper.

Bell Pepper – Bell peppers come in a variety of vibrant colors – green, red, yellow, orange and purple. Peppers offer powerful anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals, which can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of certain cancers. Enjoy cooked or raw peppers and their many health benefits.

Sunflower Seeds – Sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamin E, which serves as an anti-oxidant and contains anti-inflammatory properties. They also offer B vitamins, heart-healthy polyunsaturated oil, manganese, magnesium, selenium and phytosterols, a compound known to reduce blood cholesterol levels. Add sunflower seeds to a fresh salad, mix them into chicken salad, sprinkle them over meat or grind them up for a spread.

Sesame Seeds – Sesame seeds are a rich source of copper, which can provide arthritis relief. They also contain calcium and magnesium, which may lower blood pressure, protect against osteoporosis and more. Mix them with steamed vegetables, sautéed fish or chicken or add sesame seeds to homemade bread.

Canned Tomatoes – Canned tomatoes are not only a versatile ingredient, but they are also a powerhouse of anti-oxidants and nutrients, including lycopene, vitamin C, fiber, potassium and iron. Keep some in your pantry for pasta and rice dishes, soups, stews, casseroles, ethnic meals and other concoctions.

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) is the original weight-loss support and wellness education organization. Founded more than 64 years ago, TOPS is the only nonprofit, noncommercial weight-loss organization of its kind. TOPS promotes successful weight management with a “Real People. Real Weight Loss.” philosophy that combines support from others at weekly chapter meetings, healthy eating, regular exercise and wellness information. TOPS has about 170,000 members – male and female, age seven and older – in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. Membership is affordable at just $28 per year in the U.S. and $32 per year in Canada, plus nominal chapter fees.

To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677. In El Dorado Springs, TOPS No. 319 meets at the Church of Christ, 302 East Hospital Road, each Thursday with the weigh-in at 7:45 a.m. and the meeting at 8:45 a.m.