INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - You see them on every magazine cover – superfoods claiming to help you lose weight, burn fat and get healthy. But what are superfoods and how do they benefit you?
"Superfoods are foods that are nutrient dense -- they're foods that are rich in phytochemicals and they have very few negative properties," says Lori Taylor, author of The Produce Mom blog, facilitated through one of the largest produce distributors in the Central United States, Indianapolis Fruit Company .
Taylor is quick to point out the term ‘superfoods' is one coined by marketers, not scientists, but says we can still use the designation as a starting point for healthy choices.
"People hear the term ‘superfood' and they automatically think broccoli, spinach or kale," says Taylor. "The truth is any fruit or vegetable is very good for you, but there are some that are more nutrient dense than others."
Here are 5 Unexpected Superfoods and how to prepare them.
Watermelon is usually treated as a summertime snack, but the delicious fruit is loaded with lycopene , a carotenoid which has been found to possess antioxidant and antiproliferative properties in animal and laboratory studies.
"When people see tomatoes, they immediately think 'lycopene,' but watermelon is actually the lycopene leader in produce," says Taylor.
Among other qualities, watermelon is high in Vitamin A, which is important for optimal eye health and boosts immunity by enhancing the infection-fighting actions of white blood cells called lymphocytes. Vitamin B6 is also found in watermelon. Vitamin B6 helps maintain normal nerve function and form red blood cells, among other things.
Sliced watermelon is a great snack, but to serve it as a sophisticated summer side dish, try The Produce Mom's recipe for Watermelon & Tomato Salad .
Packed with vitamins, fiber, and particularly high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols, strawberries are a sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-calorie food. They are among the top 20 fruits in antioxidant capacity and are a good source of manganese and potassium. Just one serving – about 8 strawberries – provides more vitamin C than an orange.
"Strawberries are high in anthocyanins, which is associated with a lower heart disease risk in women ," says Taylor.
Strawberries are another easy fruit to eat as a snack, but The Produce Mom gets creative by incorporating them in muffins. Find the recipe by clicking here !
"Fruit is nature's dessert," says Taylor. "The natural sugars in the fruit really sweeten up your baked goods."
Like most fruits, kiwi fruit is high in potassium, which is necessary for proper cell function, normal muscle contraction and regular nerve response.
"Kiwi is actually the most nutrient dense fruit," says Taylor. "Each bite of kiwi is going to offer you more nutrition than any other bite of any other fruit that you can take."
Although most people peel kiwi fruits to avoid the rough texture of the skin, the fiber and vitamin content will be higher if left on.
The Produce Mom has developed a Kiwi Muffin recipe that will have you reaching for seconds and thirds.
Asparagus is a vegetable that's packed with nutrients. A 5.3 ounce serving provides 60 percent of the recommended daily allowance for folate which is necessary for blood cell formation, growth, and prevention of liver disease. Folate has also been shown to play a significant role in the prevention of neural tube defects , such as spina bifida, that cause paralysis and death in 2,500 babies each year.
"I oven roast my asparagus with a little bit of olive oil and vinegar," says Taylor. " I feel like oven roasting it is a little bit easier for my lifestyle, I can just pop it in the oven and come back to it in 10 to 15 minutes."
The Center for Public Interest ranks the sweet potato as one of the most nutritious vegetables. Sweet potatoes stand out from nuts and avocados as a source of vitamin E because they are fat free. They are also a substantial source of dietary fiber, especially when eaten with the skin.
"[Sweet potatoes] aren't just something that needs to be served at Thanksgiving dinner topped with caramel sauce and marshmallows," says Taylor. "The best way I can get my 5-year-old and 3-year-old boys to eat them is to do sweet potato fries on the grill."
Find The Produce Mom's recipe for sweet potato fries by clicking here .
Find Your Favorite
The Produce Mom has taken her message of increased fruit and veggie consumption all across the region. Currently, a program she created called "Find Your Favorite" is being implemented in Indianapolis Public Schools, the state's largest school district.
Find Your Favorite is a school food service program that markets fruits and vegetables to children by showing them local heroes who have a favorite fruit or vegetable. For example, Indiana Pacers guard George Hill chose strawberries, Indianapolis Colts tight end Coby Fleener goes for spinach, IndyCar series driver Graham Rahal chose
kiwi and Dance Kaleidoscope dancer Emily Dyson chose broccoli.
"We are directly associating fruits and vegetables with individuals children idolize," says Taylor. "And the message is ‘you might try a vegetable and not like, but that doesn't mean you should stop there – you should find your favorite.'"
The Produce Mom launched Find Your Favorite in Indianapolis Public Schools in November 2012. There are already expansion efforts in place to bring the program to other urban school districts throughout the United States.
4:45 PM UPDATE: Indiana State Police in the Indianapolis district say troopers responded to 126 crashes between 6 p.m. Thursday and Noon on Friday.
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Four people were injured - two in critical condition - at local hospitals Friday after three vehicles crashed in Greensburg.