By Amy Ahlberg
It's easy to be green these days. Just make sure you add the springy shade to your plate, as well. From fruits to veggies and more these superfoods are stocked with perks for your health and weight.
Related: Top 10 Superfoods for Women
This leaf is quickly rising in popularity, and for good reason. "Kale is a nutritional powerhouse with tons of cancer-fighting properties, as well as 3g of fiber and 4g of protein per two-cup serving," says Rachel Beller, RD, founder of the Beller Institute and nutritionist for The Biggest Loser season 13. Add on to its résumé an exceptional source of health-boosting chlorophyll, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C and it's clear this veggie is here to stay. It's also versatile, says Amy Chaplin, vegetarian chef and author of the blog Coconut & Quinoa. "I love it raw in salads, steamed, marinated, baked into chips, sautéed, or blended into soups."
Don't let the size fool you. Peas are often overlooked as a source of nutrition, but according to Beller just a half a cup has 5.5g of fiber and 5g of protein. That in addition to anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits should move it up a few notches on your food-shopping list. If you can't buy fresh peas, opt for frozen, recommends Beller. Just steer clear of canned versions, as some of the nutrients get sacrificed in the canning process.
Related Recipe: Salmon with Snap Peas, Summer Squash and Parsley-Chive Sauce
Rich in chlorophyll and vitamins A, K, and C, Chaplin says these greens work well steamed, sautéed, or finely sliced into a salad. It can go by many names, so be on the lookout for variations such as silverbeet, spinach beet, or crab beet.
Turns out this garnish does a lot more than look pretty on top of your plate. "Parsley has three times the amount of vitamin C as citrus," says Chaplin. "It's also high in vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, and iron." It's perfect for adding a fresh taste to salads, salsas, soups, and pasta, and Beller says this antioxidant-stacked herb can also help keep you slim. It serves as a de-bloater, acting as a mild diuretic to flush excess water out of the body.
Related Recipe: Shrimp Skewers with Parsley Oil
Stock up on these and you'll find you have to clean out your fridge a lot less often. According to Chaplin, collard greens keep the longest out of the dark leafy family. A member of the cabbage group, collards contain an abundance of anti-cancer properties and are high in magnesium and beta-carotene and almost have as much calcium as milk. And they don't have to be cooked Southern-style to taste good. Chaplin recommends simmering them with cauliflower and seasoning with dill for a creamy cauliflower soup with greens.
Arugula fans should switch to peppery-tasting watercress come spring. Beller even refers to it as the Cadillac of cancer-fighting foods. "Studies reveal watercress may reduce breast cancer risk, along with providing many other nutritional benefits," she says. A natural diuretic with more iron per serving than spinach and only 4 calories per cup, watercress is a foodie's best friend. Add it to salads or blend it into soups for a change of greenery in your usual food staples.
Related Recipe: Farfalle with Watercress, Cherry Tomatoes and Feta
A go-to pantry snack for Beller, she calls pistachios the skinny nut. "For 100 calories, you get 30 pistachios along with a ton of protective nutrients. Plus, the shells stop you from plowing through them, and the fiber keeps you fuller longer." Pair them with some fruit for a snack to get past your afternoon slump and chop them up to sprinkle onto desserts for an added crunch.
Related Recipe: Dark Chocolate-Pistachio Apricots
More from FITNESS Magazine:
Recipes for Success: 5 Meals to Reach Your Fitness Goals
The Best Anti-Aging Foods to Eat
6 Ways to Rehab Your Bad Habits
9 Stay-Slim Smoothie Recipes
The Pasta Lover's Diet: 6 Low-Cal Dishes
By Amy Ahlberg