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Five Native American "Super Foods" for Better Health and Delicious Dining

Five Nutrient-Packed Ingredients That Are Great for the Body, Mind and Soul

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Five Native American

Blueberries are as delicious as they are packed with nutrients and antioxidants!

Photo © Flickr user dwstucke

"Super foods" are foods which have a significantly higher nutritional value than most others. I've listed five such foods, native to the Americas, which appear on almost all these "super food" lists. If you want to eat a healthier diet, start including these delicious foods in your meals. To get you started, I've linked in a recipe for each food.

Blueberries

Blueberries are native to North America and were an important food source for the Native tribes for centuries. These Native Americas used the blueberries in something called pemmican, which was dried meat pounded with blueberries and fat. Since you may not have any dried bison meat around, I've linked an old fashion blueberry crisp recipe for you to try.

Blueberries are full of flavor and nutritional goodness, yet at the same time are very low in calories. They are very high in vitamin content, fiber and most importantly, antioxidants. In recent studies blueberries were found to be at the top of the list of fruits in their ability to destroy free radicals. Many consider this an important factor in preventing various types of cancer. Red wine has been touted for its antioxidant benefits, but blueberries have almost 40% more antioxidants than red wine.

While the best way to enjoy blueberries is raw, they're great used in all kinds of recipes. Besides fresh, they can be found frozen and dried, so you can enjoy them year round.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are another American "super food" that the Native tribes prized for its culinary and medicinal value. They probably didn’t make pumpkin seed pesto recipes out of them, which is the recipe I've linked for you here.

High in fiber and protein, these seeds are also a rich source of minerals including magnesium, manganese, iron, and zinc. Pumpkin seeds are believed to be beneficial for things like prostrate health, bones strength, and arthritis. Pumpkin seeds also contain compounds called phytosterols, which are believed to reduce levels of harmful cholesterol and also improve the body's immune system.

Pumpkin seeds can now be readily found at health food stores, or higher-end grocery chains. They are sold, raw, roasted, shelled, and unshelled. Try them in this pumpkin seed pesto recipe, which uses the toasted seeds. It's a delicious, and easy way use this nutritious food.

Avocado

The delicious and nutritious avocado has been cultivated in Central America for over 5,000 years. The Mayans believed the avocado had magical powers and was an aphrodisiac. We can't confirm those claims, but what can be confirmed is that the avocado is clearly one of the world's healthiest foods. Loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, the avocado is also very high in oleic acid. Oleic acid is a type of monounsaturated fat that can lower cholesterol. It has also shown promise in offering protection against breast cancer.

Studies have shown that another unique benefit of avocados is that when they are added to salads, the body absorbs more nutrients from the other vegetables and fruits than it would have if the avocado weren't included. That's why the recipe linked is for a colorful, and delicious avocado, arugula and grapefruit salad. The firm, creamy texture of a ripe avocado is hard to beat, and the fact that it's so good for you is just another reason to start eating more of this great American food.

Sweet Potatoes

One very simple way to eat healthier is by adding sweet potatoes to your diet to replace part of your regular potato intake. In fact, you may find sweet potatoes so delicious that they become your potato of choice. Now, there's nothing wrong with the old baked russet potato. This is not meant to imply that they are unhealthy, but when compared to the nutrient-rich sweet potato, the winner is clear!

The sweet potato is one of the oldest known cultivated foods in the Americans, going back over 9,000 years, and is packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Its sweet flavor has been shown to satisfy the palette, while at the same time curbing ones appetite longer by stabilizing blood sugar levels. Sweet Potatoes are also rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.

Sweet potatoes can be used in just about every recipe that calls for regular potatoes. The recipe linked here is for oven-baked sweet potato steak fries. These thick cut slices of sweet potato roast-up beautifully, and make a delicious, healthier substitute for the standard French fries.

Wild Pacific Northwest Salmon

The benefits of eating salmon have been well chronicled, and it’s included in almost every "foods you need to eat" list. But, while eating more salmon is a great idea, eating more wild salmon is an even better one. The majority of salmon sold at the grocery store is farmed. This farmed salmon doesn’t have the opportunity eat a natural diet and is instead given a "feed" which often contains grains and other foods not usually eaten by salmon in the wild. There is also a concern about contaminants and toxins in the farmed salmon. So far that debate has yet to be settled conclusively, but no one will argue with the great taste, and heath benefits, of wild salmon.

Wild salmon is low in calories and very high in protein. But, the main reason for being on so many "must eat" lists is that it contains large amounts of the essential omega-3 fatty acids. Without getting too scientific, these fatty acids are essential for good health but they aren't produced by the body, and have to be absorbed from the foods we eat. Wild salmon is a delicious, and bountiful source of these omega-3 fatty acids. These important fats are thought to be very beneficial in many areas including; cardiovascular function, cancer prevention, fighting high blood pressure, and improved brain function.

The dish linked to this section is a delicious and easy salmon cakes recipe made using canned wild salmon. While most grocery stores are now carrying frozen wild salmon (which in my opinion is a far better choice than fresh farmed salmon), you can always find canned salmon. This great, and under-used product always contains wild salmon, it's inexpensive, delicious, and you get all the health benefits described above!
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