You’ve probably heard the term “Superfoods” a couple of times, but do you really know what it means? We will make it simple for you in this article. You’ll learn what qualifies superfoods, some common examples of these foods, and the benefits they provide.
What is Superfood?
A Superfood is food containing a high amount of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. These plant-based foods contain a very high nutritional density and provide very few calories.
The antioxidant content of superfoods helps to neutralize the effect of free radicals in your body. These free radicals are produced as a by-product of energy production, and they always cause harm to the body.
Hence, antioxidants help to reverse the effect of free radicals that have a close link with arthritis, cancer, stroke, heart disease, emphysema, respiratory disease, Parkinson’s disease, and immune deficiency.
However, you don’t have to concentrate on individual foods because they are tagged as “superfoods.” These plant-based foods are great when they are part of your daily nutritional intake in a balanced diet.
What Qualifies Superfoods?
Some features show that a particular food is a superfood, however, there is no standard criteria or approved list of superfoods.
A superfood is a whole (real and unprocessed) food that has a high amount of nutrients, offering you much value for your buck.
These foods are usually plant-based and they are foods that are especially healthy for you.
However, superfoods do not contain any magical substance. More reason why many nutritionists avoid using the name to prevent unrealistic expectations of protection against diseases.
That said, note that the most healthy foods possess the following components:
- High in phytonutrients and antioxidant compounds, including beta carotene and vitamins A and E.
- Readily available
- Excellent source of minerals, fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients
- May help reduce the risk of heart disease and other health conditions
Superfoods high in flavonoids and antioxidants have been shown by studies to help prevent cancer, coronary heart diseases, as well as decrease inflammation and boost immunity.
When you eat vegetables and fruits regularly, it helps lower your risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions and mortality. The nutrients in these foods help promote a healthy complexion, hair, nails, and increase energy levels. Asides from that, they also help maintain a healthy weight.
Some common superfoods you can get any time include:
The leafy greens include spinach, kale, beet greens, Swiss chard, and collard greens. These foods contain a rich amount of B vitamins, and Vitamins A, C, E, and K.
The leafy greens are also rich in iron, carotenoids, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
You can get 550 mcg of vitamin K in one cup of kale, and this is equivalent to over 680 percent of what we need daily. Other leafy greens like kale are high in water and fiber, both of which are essential to prevent constipation and improve digestive health.
Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that is also a superfood with lots of medicinal benefits. It contains an active compound called curcumin, which has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Important to note, the absorption of curcumin by the body is usually enhanced by pairing it with either fats or spices like black pepper.
Soybeans contain isoflavones- phytochemicals that help reduce the amount of “bad” cholesterol” and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in the blood.
Some studies show that soy is also good to prevent age-related memory loss. The isoflavones in soy help to increase bone mineral density during menopause and decrease menopausal symptoms.
Berries are rich in flavonoids and antioxidants, which are known to lower the risk of a heart attack. Some superfood berries include blueberries, elderberries, cranberries, raspberries, acai berries, and tart berries.
Berries may also be effective for treating immune and digestive disorders, especially when combined with traditional medicinal therapies.
Blueberries are high in vitamin K, fiber, and manganese. The acai berries are small and dark, and they contain many antioxidants and 19 amino acids.
Some common varieties of edible mushrooms, including the shiitake, button, and Portobello mushrooms contain a high amount of vitamin A, fiber, potassium, and several antioxidants not found in much other food.
Studies have found that eating more mushrooms is associated with higher consumption of vegetables, and this contributes to a more nutritious diet.
Mushrooms have a unique antioxidant content which may help reduce inflammation and prevent certain types of cancer.
More so, agricultural wastes are used to grow mushrooms, and this makes them a sustainable part of a healthy food system.
Tea is a good source of antioxidants and helps with hydration. One potent antioxidant called Catechins is commonly found in green tea, which offers anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory benefits.
One study of 18 students observed the effect of white tea, green tea, and water consumption on their stress levels.
The study shows that both white tea and green tea helped to reduce stress levels, but white tea had a greater effect.
Grapes and wine
Wines are widely known to be heart-healthy, and that’s because they contain a polyphenol called resveratrol.
Some studies have shown that resveratrol can help protect against retinopathy and diabetic neuropathy. In these two conditions, often caused by poorly controlled diabetes, vision is badly affected.
One study showed that resveratrol helped to reduce the effect of neural damages and changes associated with diabetic neuropathy.
This polyphenol compound has also been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. It also helps to relieve mood swings associated with menopause and hot flashes.
Grapes contain a flavonoid called Quercetin. This compound is anti-inflammatory and appears to protect against the damage caused by LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Eating grapes does not only provide you with antioxidants but also provides additional fiber.
Some other common superfoods include:
- Blue-green algae
- Brazil nuts
- Beets and beet juice
How to Add Superfoods to Your Diet
You get a good amount of vitamins and minerals from superfoods. These foods, including blueberries, grapes, and wine can be found in grocery stores.
Some superfoods come in powdered form and this can be added to oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, water, dressings- and many more possible options.
You can get your produce from local sources when they are in season to ensure the highest nutrient content. However, do not discount the humble carrot or apple either- all vegetables and fruits are basically superfoods.
Follow these useful tips to get more superfood into your diet:
- Add berries to salads, oatmeal, cereal, and baked goods
- Try replacing your poultry or beef with salmon or tofu
- Add in foods with rich colors like beets, berries, and kale. These foods always contain more antioxidants than foods beige or brown in color.
- Have a daily matcha tea or daily green
- Snack on seeds, nuts (like the sunflower seeds and Brazil nuts), and dried fruit (with no salt or sugar added).
- Ensure you have a vegetable or fruit every time you eat.
- Add shredded greens to stir-fries and soups
- Make Curcumin, turmeric, clove, cinnamon, and ginger your go-to spices to keep the antioxidant content of your meals high.
Superfoods are rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. These plant-based foods offer a lot of health benefits and you can add them to your diet. Some good examples include berries, grapes, turmeric, curcumin, tea, etc. Many superfoods can also come in the form of supplements. Some come in powdery forms and you can add them to smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, and water.