Ready to take your clean-eating game to the next level? Power up the health benefits of your favorite snacks and meals by adding one (or two, or three) of the nutrient-packed ingredients here. From trendy (mmm, matcha) to classic (like everyone's fave, avocado), they're all whole-foods based—no freaky supplements or Frankenfoods, we promise!
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The flavanols in cocoa can improve cognitive function, per Columbia University researchers. Look for cocoa powder labeled "non-Dutched," meaning the cacao retains more antioxidants after it's processed.
Add it: Sprinkle a tablespoon on popcorn or chili, or even use it as a meat rub.
We know this zesty boost (hands down my top pick) is an A-plus remedy for nausea and upset stomachs; it's also used to fight osteoarthritis pain because of its anti-inflammatory properties. There's more: A study published earlier this year found that a small dose of dried ginger eaten in the morning upped fat burning by 13.5 percent for two hours.
Add it: Mix 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger with a few melted dark chocolate squares and drizzle it over fruit. You can also add it to homemade vinaigrettes or a simple stir-fry sauce made from brown rice vinegar, a splash of freshly squeezed citrus juice, minced garlic and a pinch of cayenne or crushed red pepper.
1-inch piece = 2 calories
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We no longer fear the fat in avocado. Regular avocado eaters weigh less and have smaller waist measurements than those who don't eat them, according to science. Plus, avocados are loaded with fiber, potassium, magnesium and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
Add it: A quarter of a ripe Hass avocado gives a thick, creamy texture to pancake batter. (Trust me: It's a delicious way to displace some carbs.)
While blackstrap is still added sugar, a study revealed that it has more antioxidants than other popular sweeteners, including honey.
Add it: Sweeten up baked beans, lentils, or a cup of coffee or chai tea.
1 tablespoon = 58 calories
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Curcumina compound in this curry spicehas shown promise in slowing the growth of some types of cancer (particularly colon) and protecting against Alzheimer's disease. And one study from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., suggests that curcumin may also help fend off serious viral infections.
Add it: Start your day with warm water and lemon, spiked with a pinch of ground turmeric. (Warning: It's pungent.) For surprisingly tasty oatmeal, mix 1/8 teaspoon with your typical toppings.
Matcha means "powdered tea." Because the whole leaves are ingested, it's considered a more potent source of antioxidants than brewed green tea. The polyphenols in matcha have been tied to protection against heart disease and some cancers, as well as healthier blood sugar and blood pressure. One in particular, EGCG, may help enhance weight loss, lower cholesterol and even slow the growth of breast cancer cells.
Add it: Traditionally, matcha is consumed as a drink. But you can also add it to eggs, soup, guac, even muffins. However, some green teas from China have been shown in product testing to contain lead, so enjoy matcha in moderation.
No, the hemp seeds used to make products like hemp powder, milk and hemp butter don't have the psychoactive effect of the cannabis plant, smoked as marijuana. But they do pack protein, vitamin E, fiber, iron and essential fatty acids (fats you must eat because your body needs them but can't produce them on its own), which may help curb the risk of heart disease.
Add it: Fold 1 or 2 tablespoons of whole hemp seeds into any dish that lends itself to a nutty bite. They resemble sesame seeds but have a slightly grassier flavor. You can even use them to crust poultry or seafood; just coat meat with beaten egg or egg whites.
1 tablespoon = 60 calories
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Pea protein powder
Made from yellow split peas, this lactose- and gluten-free powder has become a popular plant-based alternative to wheyand it may help control hunger. A 2011 study in Nutrition Journal found that people felt fuller after consuming pea protein than an equal amount of some other sources, including whey protein and egg whites.
Add it: I typically put 1/4 cup in pancake mix or energy bites. Too much can make your dish chalky or pasty, so don't overdo it! Stick with an unsweetened version for the best versatility and the "cleanest" ingredient list (it should have only pea protein isolatethat's it).
Sesame seeds (and forms of them, including tahini, which is essentially sesame seed butter) are a white-hot source of calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium and fiber. Sesame is relatively high in fat, but primarily in the heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated forms. Polyphenols (called lignans) in sesame seeds may also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and support immunity.
Add it: Whole sesame seeds will bring a crunch and an ever-so-slightly nutty flavor to any dish. Tahini tastes great in salad dressings, or as a veggie dip by itself.