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A personal trainer's top 7 superfoods

Tuesday - 7/9/2013, 1:01pm  ET

Spinach is packed with vitamins and nutrients, plus it is versatile and easy to prepare. (David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

Josef Brandenburg, special to

WASHINGTON - The cliche is true: You are what you eat.

Exercise, alone, is not enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle. What we put into our bodies has a direct effect on how we look and feel.

And gearing your diet towards fresh, nutrient dense foods -- often referred to as "superfoods" -- is key to achieving optimal health results.

So the next time you are planning a trip to the market, or are mapping out your menu for the week, keep these superfoods in mind:

  1. Farm fresh (or pastured) eggs: These are not to be confused with grocery store eggs or those labeled "free-range" or "omega-3." Healthier chickens make healthier eggs, and pastured eggs are the products of very happy, free chickens.

    The yolks of these eggs are a different color than conventional eggs, and so are their fat profiles. And the best news? They're often less expensive than the specialty labeled eggs at the grocery store. You can find them at your local farmers market.

  2. Tart cherries: I like to refer to this fruit as a "tasty little recovery powerhouse." Tart cherries are packed with antioxidants, which can help to reduce inflammation and boost recovery from exercise. I love to use them in my post-workout shakes. Throw a handful of frozen tart cherries, a bit of ice, protein powder, a bit of Greek yogurt and water in a blender for a quick treat. Just remember you want tart cherries, not just cherries.

  3. Grass-fed beef: Grass-fed beef is like the salmon of the land. It has a naturally high level of omega-3s and a lower amount of saturated fat, compared to corn-fed beef. Grass-fed beef is also packed with something called CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which many sources say helps to increase muscle mass and decrease fat.

  4. Spinach: Spinach is one of my favorite superfoods because it is versatile and easy to prepare. For example, it can be eaten raw, steamed or sautéed. These tasty and healthy greens are packed full of beta-carotene, lutein, vitamins C and K, iron, and magnesium.

  5. Coconut oil: Because it is a fat, coconut oil has received a bad rap. But it really has a lot of health benefits. It contains MCTs (medium chain triglycerides), which help boost metabolism, and lauric acid, which lowers cholesterol levels and has anti-bacterial properties. Make sure you purchase virgin coconut oil for maximum health benefits.

  6. Cauliflower: Cauliflower is packed with antioxidants, vitamin K and fiber. Plus, the cruciferous vegetable has anti-inflammatory properties. If you have a sensitive stomach, make sure you cook it before you eat it. Trust me.

  7. Shrimp: Protein that you can cook up in two minutes is my kind of superfood. Shrimp has vitamin D, vitamin B12 and selenium. Plus, shrimp packs a lot of protein in a low calorie package.

    I love shrimp with a little bit of minced garlic and a little bit of salt and pepper, sautéed in coconut oil. Serve it with a side of wilted spinach. You can cook the spinach in the same pan as the shrimp, just don't let the shrimp overcook, since spinach usually takes longer. That's a three superfood dinner -- super fast and super tasty.

Editor's Note: Josef Brandenburg is a D.C.area fitness expert with 14 years of experience and co-author of the international best-selling book "Results Fitness." In 2004, he started The Body You Want personal training program, which specializes in helping you get the body you want in the available time you have. You can also check out his blog, follow him on Twitter, or check out his fitness videos on YouTube. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.

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