Four healthy foods swaps a naturopath recommends

Natasha Turner gives her advice on the best choices when it comes to navigating the health food aisle.

which is better? blueberries or raspberries

From reports on the latest superfoods to new products popping up every week, it can be tough to navigate the best choices when it comes to our food. With so many choices on grocery store shelves, getting a grip on what products to buy can lead to confusion.

Below I’ve listed the four easiest food swaps you can make to add value to your meals and make every calorie count.

1. Blueberries instead of raspberries
Along with their high nutritional value, both of these fruits contain anthocyanins — that safeguard against gastrointestinal cancer — and manganese — that supports bone health.

While they both have significant nutritional benefits, blueberries improve insulin sensitivity, making them a winning option for weight loss. A small 2013 study found that those who ate blueberries before a workout had reduced insulin and triglyceride levels.

Blueberries also offer an exceptional amount of vitamin K for strong bone cell growth and healthy blood. Another added bonus? These tiny powerhouses can be kept frozen for up to six months without changing their antioxidant benefits.

Bottom line: Add a 1/2 to 3/4 cup of blueberries to your morning smoothie.

2. Dried goji berries instead of dried cranberries
Goji berries are popping up everywhere. Their red colour resembles their chewy berry in crime — the cranberry. But due to cranberry’s naturally tart taste, when dried, they’re often loaded with sugar to make them sweeter.

Per serving, dried goji berries have 4 g of sugar, while 1/4 cup of dried cranberries has 29 grams.

3. Lentils instead of chickpeas
In 2010, the European Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism reported that subjects who incorporated 4 cups of beans in their diet every week saw lowered cholesterol levels after a four-month period. The author, Janine A. Higgins, noted that “whole grains and legumes should be consumed in their native state or with minimal processing for full benefit.”

And while chickpeas reduce the risk of heart disease, 1 cup of lentils has almost as much potassium as a medium-sized banana, almost half your daily fibre needs and more than 19 g of protein. Furthermore, chickpeas pack around 55 grams of carbs per cup, while lentils only have around 40.

A separate study (supported by the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers) found that introducing lentils into a daily diet can help control blood pressure and reverse the weakening of blood vessels making them an ideal option for people with diabetes or insulin resistance.

4. Almond butter instead of peanut butter
Peanut butter is a go-to option for picky eaters, and it continues to be a pantry stable for many well into adulthood. But here’s something scary to think about: Peanuts are vulnerable to a specific mould that produces aflatoxin, a toxic compound that sits on the outer layer of peanuts.

2012 report from Health Canada noted that there were still traces of aflatoxin in “imported peanuts, domestic and imported peanut butter.”

I recommend reaching for almond butter instead. While both have high nutrient values, almond butter provides more potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron and it’s higher in vitamin E. Vitamin E aids in recovery after exercise, protects brain health and is a powerful antioxidant. One 2006 study found that the antioxidants in almonds can also aid in decreasing the spike of blood sugar after meals.

Similarly, a 2013 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who ate almonds daily, “experienced reduced hunger and improved dietary vitamin E and monounsaturated (‘good’) fat intake without increasing body weight.”

Bottom line: If you’re looking for that competitive edge, add one to two tablespoons of almond butter as the source of fat in your meal.
Tip: Check the label and make sure you stay away from brands that have added sugar or oils.

Natasha Turner, N.D., is a naturopathic doctor and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet, The Supercharged Hormone Diet and The Carb Sensitivity Program. She’s also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique and a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show and The Marilyn Denis Show. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here

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