Superfood Swaps

by Matthew Kadey, MS, RD on Mar 18, 2016

There is no question that certain familiar foods like yogurt and salmon can be the backbone of a healthy diet, but eating the same items day in and day out is a sure-fire route to dietary burnout.

And it turns out that introducing a new class of plate heroes to our menus can have important health perks. Researchers at Harvard and New York University found that people who consumed a greater variety of foods tended to have less body fat and were at lower risk for metabolic syndrome than those who adhered to more limited eating plans (Vadiveloo, Parekh & Mattei 2015; Vadiveloo 2015). Metabolic syndrome includes a cluster of concerns associated with heart disease—high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, among them.

“Introducing a greater variety of healthy foods may make it easier to adhere to a healthy dietary pattern over time, resulting in better weight control and other health parameters,” said study author Maya Vadiveloo, PhD, RD. “Greater variety may also make it easier to eat less of the foods that most people need to restrict in order to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.”

Similarly, a 2015 Cornell University study found that people who were more adventurous eaters (beef heart, anyone?) tended to focus more on eating healthy foods and staying physically active (Latimer, Pope & Wansink 2015).

So, to rekindle a flagging food mojo and perhaps even trim a few waistlines, why not encourage your fitness or nutrition clients to give their shopping lists a little creative boost by swapping out the usual fare for some tasty and nutritious alternatives. These superfood switch hits are a perfect way to get those taste buds excited again.

Instead of Olive Oil

Try Hemp Oil

Here’s more proof that it’s a good idea to live and eat a little greener. This up-and-coming verdant oil with a pleasantly earthy-nutty flavor is made by pressing the fat from hemp seeds.

The oil’s main nutritional virtue is impressive amounts of essential omega fatty acids. These are deemed “essential” because the human body cannot make them and must obtain them through the diet for good heart, brain and skin health. Alpha-linolenic acid, the main omega-3 fat in hemp, has been associated with reduced risk for developing type 2 diabetes (Muley, Muley & Shah 2014). Hemp oil also contains compounds that exert antioxidant properties, which may help in the battle against various diseases (Teh & Morlock 2015).

Once opened, hemp oil should be kept in the refrigerator to maintain freshness.

Sneak more in: With hemp oil, you want to hold the heat. It’s too delicate for cooking, so save it for salad dressings, dips and pestos, or drizzle it over roasted vegetables.

Try this: To make a fantastic pesto for pasta, sandwiche­s and burgers, pulse together 2 cups arugula, 1 cup fresh basil, ⅓ cup walnuts, ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese, 2 chopped garlic cloves, juice of ½ lemon and ¼ teaspoon salt in a food processor until coarsely minced. With the machine running, pour in ¼ cup hemp oil through the feed tube and process until combined.

Instead of Kale

Try Kalettes

Jaunty kale and Brussels sprouts are already considered nutritional heavy hitters, so when you combine the two, you’ve got a newfangled vegetable worth adding to your grocery cart. This whimsical crossbreed vegetable with an appearance similar to a badminton birdie was produced via non-GMO seed hybridization. The resulting lovechild has a hint of nutty flavor and a less bitter bite than its parents.

More nutritional analysis is needed, but it can be assumed that like other vegetables in the Brassica family, trendy kalettes supply an arsenal of cancer-fighting antioxidants. They are also a fantastic source of vitamin K, which has been linked to lower diabetes risk (Ibarrola-Jurado et al. 2012).

Sneak more in: Enjoy kalettes raw, steamed, blanched, sautéed, roasted or even grilled.

Try this: Toss a bunch of kalettes with some oil and roast them in a 425°F oven for about 12 minutes, or until the outer leaves have turned crispy. Blend olive oil, white wine vinegar, walnuts, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt and black pepper. Toss roasted kalettes with walnut dressing.

To get more ideas on superfood swaps, please see "In With the New" in the online IDEA Library or in the November 2015 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.


Ibarrola-Jurado, N., et al. 2012. Dietary phylloquinone intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in elderly subjects at high risk of cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 96 (5), 1113-18.

Latimer , L.A., Pope, L., & Wansink, B. 2015. Food neophiles: Profiling the adventurous eater. Obesity, 23 (8), 1577-81.

Muley, A., Muley, P., & Shah, M. 2014. ALA, fatty fish or marine n-3 fatty acids for preventing DM?: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Current Diabetes Reviews, 10 (3), 158-65.

Teh, S.S., & Morlock, G.E. 2015. Effect-directed analysis of cold-pressed hemp, flax and canola seed oils by planar chromatography linked with (bio)assays and mass spectrometry. Food Chemistry, 187, 460-68.

Vadiveloo, M., Parekh, & Mattei, J. 2015. Greater healthful food variety as measured by the U.S. Healthy Food Diversity index is associated with lower odds of metabolic syndrome and its components in US adults. Journal of Nutrition, 145 (3), 564-71.

Vadiveloo, M., et al. 2015. Dietary variety is inversely associated with body adiposity among US adults using a novel food diversity index. Journal of Nutrition, 145 (3), 555-63.

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About the Author

Matthew Kadey,  MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD IDEA Author/Presenter

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award-winning journalist, Canada-based dietitian, freelance nutrition writer and recipe developer. He has written for dozens of magazines including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Vegetarian Times and Fitness.