Superfoods. You’ve probably heard the term; perhaps you’ve done some research. Many health trends claim “superfoods” can combat things like heart disease and stroke. According to an article by the Heart and Health Association, “…many so-called ‘super’ foods are good for your heart and your overall health when incorporated into a heart-healthy diet that’s balanced in lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat milk and dairy products.” They may not be a miracle cure against diseases, but the benefits are defensible when they are part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Here are three types of superfoods that you may be able to grow on your own, depending on how much space you have to work with.
One of the most popular superfoods these days is kale, and with good reason: it is rich in nutrition. With over 45 healthful flavonoids, more calcium than milk, fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins, it’s easy to see why so many people have gone kale-crazy.
Growing kale is relatively simple. You don’t need too much space, which makes it great for people with only indoor gardens that have south-facing windows. Plant seeds ¼ to ½ inches deep in light, well-drained soil about 18 inches apart. Water regularly. Kale does best in Spring and Fall, as leaves can get a bit hard if the temperatures get too hot. However, depending on your climate and if you grow it during the Fall, it can taste a little sweeter when lightly touched by the frost of Winter.
Once you’ve harvested your first crop of kale, enjoy this superfood in any number of ways. One great recipe is the simple Mustard Kale with Apples side dish.
Did you know that ¼ of a medium avocado has only 80 calories, 3 grams of dietary fiber, no cholesterol, no sodium, and is rich in vitamin E? And, according to “Beyond Guacamole: The Amazing Avocado,” avocados are a rich source of monounsaturated fats, the same type of fat found in olive oil. “Monounsaturated fats, when used to replace saturated and trans fats, may slightly lower bad cholesterol levels (LDL) in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.”
Growing your own avocados requires a bit more room. The easiest way to start may be with planting a young tree outdoors, as opposed to a seed. Springtime is ideal for avocado tree planting, when temperatures are between 65 and 85F. High temperatures and overwatering can hurt young avocado trees as 2-3 drinks per week should be sufficient. And since they are a shallow-rooted tree, you won’t need to dig very deep. Keep in mind, it will probably take 3-4 years before your avocado fruits begin dropping in, and even longer if you start with seeds.
You’re going to end up with a lot of avocados and as wonderful as guacamole is, you’ll probably want to diversify your recipes a bit. Try this Easy and Healthy BLT with Avocado for lunch. It substitutes avocado for mayonnaise and can be enjoyed often and guilt-free.
Another popular superfood, quinoa, is packed with protein (all eight amino acids), iron, and magnesium. As a substitute for meat, oatmeal, rice, or pasta, this gluten-free grain may be the most versatile on the list.
Believe it or not, you’ll need more space for your quinoa than an avocado crop. Since the harvest with quinoa is so small compared to the plant itself, quinoa should be grown outside as indoor containers just won’t yield enough. Begin in early spring, when the weather is cool, but not frozen. Plant seeds in a weed-free row about 10 inches apart. Quinoa also happens to be a plant that doesn’t need much watering. Avoid it altogether unless the ground is parched. By the time you’re ready to harvest, you should get about a pound of quinoa per 10 plants.
Looking for a recipe to try your new homegrown superfood? Try this Quinoa Pilaf as a side to your favorite heart-healthy main dish.
As with all new activities, check with your physician to ensure you’re healthy enough for the activities listed above. Before you get started, check with your local nursery for more in-depth planting tips and tricks. Enjoy your new hobby, plants, superfoods, and recipes!