These grains and seeds are nutritional powerhouses that deserve to become staples in your kitchen.

4 Superstar Foods to Boost Health and Fitness

Have you noticed that there are certain foods that seem to appear out of nowhere, and suddenly they’re everywhere you look? Think alfalfa sprouts, pomegranate juice, açai, coconut water. The truth is, some of these foods are just fads, and owe more of their appeal to marketing than to their true health benefits.

But other so-called “superfoods” deserve their healthy rep and then some, and have earned a permanent place in your pantry. Here are 4 trendy health foods worth the hype.

1. Quinoa

This little seed with the funny name (pronounced KEEN-wah) contains all nine amino acids, plus fiber and iron. Try a few ideas  Try a few creative ideas like this easy-cook quinoa curry to put its nutty goodness to work. 

2. Farro

Another hot new grain that belongs in the “what’s old is new again” category is farro, an ancient type of wheat that has a coarse texture and nutty flavor. Farro comes to the U.S. from Italy, where it’s been a staple of rustic Italian cooking for centuries.  There are several varieties of farro that also go by other names; farro grande, for example, may be better known as spelt. You can use farro in baked goods or serve it as a simple side dish, much as you would with rice, or use to give vegetable dishes like this baked farro Mediterranean salad a boost.

3. Chia Seeds

An excellent source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein, this ancient Aztec staple delivers. Sprinkle these tiny powerhouses on salads, cereals, and juice for a big nutritional bang for your bite. Chia seeds are as good in desserts as in savory dishes; taste the creamy goodness of physician-chef Dr. Linda Shiue’s matcha coconut chia pudding and see.

4. Flax Seeds

Similar to its chia seed brethren, flax seeds are a good source of omega-3s, fiber, and protein. Unlike chia seeds, however, they need to be ground for the best absorption of nutrients. Luckily, flax seed powder is now available from most health food stores and some grocery stores. You can sprinkle ground flax seeds on your breakfast cereal or add them to baked goods such as these pumpkin muffins.

The takeaway: These heart-smart health superstars are no flash in the pan. 

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.