Consider these quick and delicious ways to get more vital nutrients into your diet.
Superfood powders are becoming a dietary rage—and for good reason. From chia meal to green matcha powder, these products possess a wallop of nutrients and antioxidants that can instantly boost your nutritional intake and whip your special diet into shape. Gluten-free and allergy-friendly, they are easily incorporated into daily meals, snacks and desserts.
Native to the Amazon rainforest and long consumed by ancient tribes of the Amazon, acai is a blueberry-size fruit with a deep-purple color. Modern science has shown that acai has very high ORAC value (a measure of antioxidant firepower). It’s particularly abundant in anthocyanins, the same antioxidants found in blueberries and blackberries that have been shown to improve brain functioning. Acai is also a source of vital minerals, including manganese, copper and zinc. While it’s virtually impossible to find fresh acai in North America, powdered acai is readily available in health food shops and online.
Use It: Acai powder can add sweetness and brilliant color to desserts, smoothies and dairy-free yogurt. Try using it in jam and jelly recipes. It possesses subtle notes of chocolate flavor, which makes it particularly good in cakes, puddings and other items where chocolate is used.
Good Buy: Sambazon Acai Powder ($22, sambazon.com)
Brown Rice Protein Powder
If you’re regularly working out, it’s a good idea to add a little extra protein to your diet to help with muscle recovery. Recent research suggests that rice protein can be a good vegetarian supplement to support training. Scientists at the University of Tampa found that people who consumed brown rice protein after their workouts experienced improvement in lean body mass and muscular strength. Eating an extra dose of protein has also been shown to help waylay hunger, an important step to warding off overeating if you’re watching your weight.
Use It: Rice protein can be added to smoothies. It can also be stirred into oatmeal and used to replace some of the flour in baked goods and pancakes to make them more filling.
Good Buy: Rainbow Light Protein Energizer ($22, rainbowlight.com)
Not long ago, chia was known as the crazy sprouted “hair” on ceramic pets. Today, the seeds of the Salvia hispanica plant are considered a serious functional food that’s packed with copious amounts of heart-healthy omega-3 fats, dietary fiber and an impressive range of nutrients, including calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Chia (also known as salba) has such high antioxidant levels that it resists turning rancid even during prolonged storage. Ground chia is a subtle-tasting powder that can be incorporated into many dishes to provide an instant nutritional boost.
Use It: Use chia powder in any recipe that calls for flax powder. Try it in salad dressings, smoothies, veggie burgers, hot cereal and in topping mixtures for crisps and crumbles.
Good Buy: Nutiva Ground Chia Seed ($12, nutiva.com)
Camu is a small, reddish-purple fruit of bushy trees that grow in tropical locations, like the Peruvian Amazon. Traditionally, camu is harvested using canoes during the flooding season, similar to cranberries. This fruit burst into the spotlight when it was discovered that the berries contain some of the highest vitamin C levels on the planet, about 30 times more than an orange. Higher intake of vitamin C is thought to help promote a healthier immune system. Camu has a very sour flavor and is highly perishable. This is why the berries are usually dried and ground into a powder, making them easier to add to recipes.
Use It: Just a small amount of camu can go a long way. It delivers tangy citrus flavor to popsicles, smoothies, homemade energy snacks and even salad dressings. For an ultra-refreshing drink, stir a small amount of camu powder into coconut water or combine it with seltzer water and a splash of lemon. To preserve vitamin C, it’s best not to use camu in recipes that are heated.
Good Buy: Navitas Naturals Camu Powder ($23, navitasnaturals.com)
Studies have shown that cacao powder contains off-the-charts antioxidant levels. Regular consumption of cacao antioxidants works to reduce blood pressure and slash the risk of stroke. This powder is also a surprising source of dietary fiber. Raw cacao is made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans. In contrast, the more readily available cocoa powder is roasted at high temperatures. Dutch processed cocoa powder has been alkalized, a process that mellows the flavor and darkens the color. It also lays waste to most of cocoa’s antioxidant firepower. Natural or raw cacao powder is not treated with alkali and has a more intense flavor and a lighter brownish-red color than Dutch cocoa.
Use It: Cacao powder adds a chocolaty element to baked goods like brownies and cookies. You can reap the benefits of cacao’s robust flavor by adding it to hot cereals, smoothies, pancake batter, bean and beef chili and even spice rubs for chicken, pork and steak.
Good Buy: Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder ($10, navitasnaturals.com)
Also known as linseed, flax seeds are from the Linum usitatissimum plant. A superfood, flax contains an abundance of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids that can help slash the risk for heart disease. This overachieving seed is also laced with lignans, plant compounds that appear to aid in the battle against various forms of cancer. Further, flax is a leading source of soluble fiber, which absorbs cholesterol in the digestive track so that it’s more easily excreted. This helps lower cholesterol for better heart health.
Flax seeds must be ground to free up nutrients and allow the body to absorb them. You can buy ground flax seeds or you can purchase them whole and pulverize them in a clean coffee or spice grinder. To prevent the delicate oils from turning rancid, store flax powder (also called flax meal) in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.
Use It: Replace some of the flour in muffin, pancake and quick bread recipes with nutty-tasting ground flax seed. Sprinkle flax powder over fruit salads and roasted vegetables or mix it into burgers and meatloaf. When baking, you can replace one large egg with 1 tablespoon flax powder mixed with 3 tablespoons hot water. Let stand, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes before using.
Good Buy: Bob’s Red Mill Flaxseed Meal ($12, bobsredmill.com)
The star of the centuries-old Japanese tea ceremony Sado, matcha is traditionally gleaned from high-altitude Gyokuro tea plants. Plucked in the spring, the leaves are lightly steamed, air-dried and then stone-ground into a very fine, green powder. When you drink a steamy mug of matcha, you’re getting a huge wallop of the disease-thwarting antioxidants that green tea is famous for.
A University of Colorado study found that matcha contains up to 137 times more antioxidant firepower than traditional tea. Sipping matcha is also a great way to help soothe jangled nerves. It delivers significant amounts of theanine, an amino acid that helps alleviate anxiety. The best matcha has a fresh, sweet scent and a light, grassy flavor with a lingering sweetness.
Use It: To make a warm infusion that inspires calm, place 1 teaspoon of matcha powder into a bowl or mug and pour in 2 to 3 ounces of filtered water that has been brought to just under a boil. (Boiling water will bring out bitter flavors.) Whisk briskly, preferably with a bamboo whisk, until frothy and add additional hot water, if desired.
Outside the mug, matcha powder can lend complexity to warm cereals, puddings, smoothies, homemade coconut ice cream, pancakes, cookies and salad dressings. You can make a batch of matcha salt by pulsing together 1 cup coarse salt with 4 teaspoons matcha in a food processor. Sprinkle matcha salt over cooked gluten-free grains, grilled meat and even chocolate cake.
Good Buy: Cafe Grade Gotcha Matcha ($31, matchasource.com)
Chocolate Teff Pudding
Gluten-free teff releases its starch when cooked, making it a perfect candidate for puddings. It works well with other bold flavors, like cacao powder, cloves and molasses. This pudding tastes even better after a day or two in the refrigerator.
½ cup dried pitted plums (prunes)
½ cup teff grain
1 ripe banana
½ cup canned coconut milk, more as needed
⅓ cup cacao powder
2 tablespoons molasses or pure maple syrup
-Zest of 1 medium orange
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cloves
-Pinch of salt
1 cup raspberries, for garnish, optional
1. Place plums in a bowl, cover with warm water and let soak 30 minutes.
2. Bring 2½ cups water and teff to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until teff is tender and a gelatinous mixture has formed, stirring occasionally to prevent clumping, about 15 minutes. Let teff cool.
3. Drain plums and place them in the container of a food processor or high-powered blender, along with cooled teff, banana, coconut milk, cacao powder, molasses or maple syrup, orange zest, vanilla, cloves and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth. Add additional coconut milk if needed to help with blending.
4. Put pudding in the refrigerator to chill at least 2 hours before serving.
5. Place in serving bowls and garnish with raspberries, if desired.
Each serving contains 194 calories, 6g total fat, 4g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 29mg sodium, 36g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 12g sugars, 4g protein, 17Est GL.
Black Bean Garden Burgers with Guacamole
Chia and flax powder (also called flax meal) work well as a replacement for bread crumbs in veggie burgers to help soak up some of the moisture. Be sure to squeeze out the excess water from the shredded zucchini. You can prepare these patties on the grill. Chilling them first helps them keep their shape while they cook.
2 cups cooked or canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 small zucchini, shredded
¼ cup chia powder or flax powder
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
-Oil for pan
1 large ripe avocado
2 plum (Roma) tomatoes, seeded and chopped
½ cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
-Juice of ½ lime
¼ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1. Place black beans in the container of a food processor and blend until slightly chunky. Add rice, carrots, zucchini, chia or flax powder, tomato paste, garlic, mustard, cumin, salt and black pepper. Pulse until well combined. Form mixture into 4 or 5 equal patties.
2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook patties 5 minutes per side or until they develop a crispy crust.
3. To make guacamole, mash avocado with a fork in a small bowl. Stir in tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, chili powder and salt.
4. Serve black bean burgers topped with guacamole.
Each serving contains 320 calories, 10g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 439mg sodium, 48g carbohydrate, 13g fiber, 5g sugars, 13g protein, 18 Est GL.
Berry Red Vinaigrette
This sweet-tart salad dressing is packed with antioxidants.
1 cup fresh raspberries
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon camu powder
1 shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1. Place raspberries and 2 tablespoons water in the container of a blender and process until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing with a wooden spoon or spatula to remove seeds.
2. Return puree to blender container, along with olive oil, vinegar, honey, camu powder, shallot, garlic, salt and pepper. Blend to combine.
Each tablespoon contains 55 calories, 5g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 37 mg sodium, 2g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1g sugars, 0g protein, 1 Est GL.
Dairy-Free Chai Sweet Potato Smoothie
This rich-tasting smoothie strikes a great balance of carbs, healthy fats and protein. Cooked sweet potato adds natural sweetness and a healthy dose of vitamin A.
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1½ cups milk of choice
1 frozen banana, chopped
¼ cup plain or vanilla rice protein powder
1 tablespoon sunflower seed butter
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1. Steam or boil sweet potato until tender. Let cool to room temperature.
2. Place milk, half the sweet potato (save the other half for another use) and remaining ingredients in a blender container and process until smooth.
Each serving contains 391 calories, 11g total fat, 4g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 18mg cholesterol, 122mg sodium, 53g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 23g sugars, 26g protein, 24Est GL.
Whole-Grain Matcha Cereal
Here’s a great way to transfer matcha powder from your tea cup to your cereal bowl. Leftovers can be reheated with a splash of additional water.
½ cup gluten-free steel-cut oats
⅓ cup quinoa
⅓ cup millet
¾ teaspoon allspice powder
½ teaspoon ground ginger
-Pinch of salt
¼ cup flax powder or chia powder
¼ cup shelled sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons honey
1½ teaspoons matcha powder
1 mango, diced, for garnish, optional
¼ cup coconut flakes, for garnish, optional
1. In a medium saucepan, bring oats, quinoa, millet, allspice, ginger, salt and 3 cups water to a boil. Immediately turn off heat, cover and let stand overnight.
2. In the morning, stir in flax or chia powder, sunflower seeds, honey and matcha powder.
3. Heat over medium-low until warmed through. Taste and stir in additional honey, to taste. Top with mango and coconut flakes, if desired, and serve.
Each serving contains 274 calories, 7g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 32mg sodium, 42g carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 9g sugars, 10g protein, 23Est GL.
Acai Granola Bowl
Açaí na tigela (“acai in the bowl”) is a popular treat in Brazil, where the acai berry is a native fruit. This thick, frosty version is sure to help you beat the summer heat. The simple skillet granola offers wonderful textural contrast to the cold ice cream-like mixture.
1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 tablespoons honey, divided
½ cup quinoa flakes
¼ cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
-Pinch of salt
2 cups plain or vanilla yogurt of choice, divided
4 frozen chopped bananas, divided
6 tablespoons acai powder, divided
1. To make granola, heat coconut oil and 1 tablespoon honey in a heavy skillet over medium heat until melted. Add quinoa flakes, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, cinnamon and salt to the skillet and heat until quinoa is toasted, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Spread mixture on a baking sheet or cutting board to cool.
2. Place 1 cup yogurt, 2 frozen bananas, 3 tablespoons acai powder and 2 tablespoons honey into the container of a food processor or high-powered blender and process until thick and smooth.
3. Scrape mixture into 2 serving bowls and top with half the granola. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make 2 more servings. Serve cold.
Each serving contains 391 calories, 14g total fat, 7g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 16mg cholesterol, 86mg sodium, 62g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 38g sugars, 9g protein, 29Est GL.
Chicken Mole Stew
Cacao adds richness to this hearty Mexican-inspired stew and tames some of the heat from the chiles. You can find dried chiles and plantain at Latin markets and certain speciality stores.
2 dried ancho chili peppers
2 dried pasilla chili peppers
⅓ cup unsalted almonds, optional
¼ cup shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), for garnish
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups gluten-free chicken broth
1 plantain, yellow with a few black spots
¼ cup raisins
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons cacao powder
1 chipotle chili pepper in adobo sauce (gluten-free)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil or grape seed oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 pound sweet potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 avocado, diced, for garnish
⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
1. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add dried chili peppers to pan and toast about 30 seconds per side, being very careful not to scorch the peppers. Remove peppers from skillet and add almonds, if using. Toast almonds, shaking pan regularly, until slightly darkened, about 2 minutes. Remove almonds from skillet and add pumpkin seeds. Toast seeds until they begin to pop, shaking pan often, about 1 minute. Remove pumpkin seeds from pan and set aside.
2. Cut tops off toasted dried chili peppers and remove most of the seeds. Place peppers in a bowl, cover with hot water and let soak about 15 minutes. Drain peppers and place them in the container of a blender or food processor, along with almonds (if using), tomatoes, broth, plantain, raisins, garlic, tomato paste, cacao powder, chipotle pepper, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth and set aside.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy-bottom saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until brown on all sides. Remove chicken from pan, lower heat to medium. Add remaining oil and onion. Cook onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Return chicken to pan, along with sweet potato and mole sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 35 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
4. Divide stew among serving bowls. Serve hot, garnished with pumpkin seeds, avocado and cilantro.
Each serving contains 687 calories, 35g total fat, 6g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 61mg cholesterol, 976mg sodium, 70g carbohydrate, 11g fiber, 17g sugars, 28g protein, 29Est GL.
Flax Garlic Flatbread
Ground flax adds nutty flavor and a nutritional boost to this recipe. Flatbread is a wonderful accompaniment to a main meal. It also takes well to a number of toppings, including sliced avocado, hummus, roasted chicken and pesto. The batter can be made a day or two in advance and refrigerated. Bring it back to room temperature before baking.
1 whole garlic bulb
⅔ cup garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour
⅓ cup flax powder, preferably golden
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup water, room temperature
3 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons olive oil, more for drizzling parchment paper
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove excess papery covering off the garlic bulb and slice off about ¼-inch from the top so that the tops of most of the cloves are exposed. Place garlic on a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil and drizzle with a touch of olive oil. Wrap tightly and bake 30 minutes. Remove garlic from oven.
2. Place a 10-inch ovenproof (preferably cast-iron) skillet in preheated oven.
3. Sift garbanzo flour and flax powder into a large mixing bowl. Stir in thyme, salt and pepper. Whisk in water and 3 tablespoons olive oil until batter is smooth with no lumps. It should be slightly thicker than typical pancake batter. If too thick, stir in more water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Let mixture rest 30 minutes.
4. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze roasted garlic pulp into a small bowl and mash with a fork. Stir roasted garlic mash into garbanzo mixture.
5. Carefully remove warmed skillet from the oven. Coat the pan with remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil and pour in the batter so that it covers the entire bottom of the pan. Return to preheated oven and bake 15 minutes or until edges are set and batter is almost cooked through. Turn on the oven broiler and broil 2 minutes or until top of bread is spotty-brown.
6. Release flatbread from the skillet onto a cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve hot.
Each serving contains 232 calories, 15g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 162mg sodium, 15g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 2g sugars, 8g protein, 6 Est GL.
Matthew Kadey, RD, (muffintinmania.com) is author of The Muffin Tin Chef and The No-Cook, No-Bake Cookbook.