What are Superfoods?
The term ‘superfood’ is used to refer to any food with a high density of beneficial nutrients, proven health benefits, and no or relatively few adverse properties. With the amount of research going on, it seem as if a new superfoods are announced every week! Here are just a few of the most widely agreed upon superfoods and the reasons why they are important. Next time you eat one, you’ll at least know why it’s so good for you!
One of the most nutrient-dense foods around, broccoli is full of vitamin A, which is needed for growth and tissue repair, vitamin K, which builds bone strength and supports cardiovascular health, and vitamin C, which helps you develop and maintain a strong immune system.
In addition, broccoli has been named the most potent fruit or vegetable in terms of boosting brain function and staving off Alzheimer’s disease (also effective, but less so, are apples, potatoes, oranges, and radishes). Perhaps most ‘super’ of all are its powers against cancer. Rich in several compounds that help to prevent and battle cancer, research has shown that eating broccoli lowers the risk of tumors in many parts of the body.
Broccoli has also been found to reduce the risk of cataracts and birth defects. And all this comes with hardly any calories – just 25-30 per cupful. It can be eaten raw or cooked; to preserve all the beneficial nutrients, steam it, add to a stir-fry or microwave it with a little water.
It’s difficult to believe something so small and delicious could be so good for you, but blueberries have been lauded by many nutritionists as the ultimate superfood. They’re extremely dense in protective antioxidants such as vitamins C and E – a handful of blueberries (100 grams/ 4oz) provides the same amount of antioxidants as five portions of other fruits and vegetables. Regular consumption has been shown to support good health in all kinds of ways, including guarding against cancer, neurological disease, cystitis, and heart problems.
One portion (one cup/145 grams) contains just 83 calories, and studies suggest that blueberries actually break down fat cells – bonus!
Often named as the key to the health-giving properties of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil has several benefits. It’s high in monounsaturated fats (and low in saturated fats), so it boosts the levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and lowers levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). This helps keep blood pressure regulated and reduces the risk of heart disease.
You can use olive oil in cooking, of course, but to get the full health benefits, go for unrefined or virgin varieties and use them in unheated applications. Try drizzling extra virgin olive oil onto salads or prepared vegetables, blend it together with chickpeas or beans to make your own hummus or dips, or simply use it in place of butter on fresh bread.
The key to the ‘super’ status of fish such as salmon, anchovies, herring, mackerel, sardines, and fresh tuna is simple: omega-3 fatty acids. These are a type of fatty acid that are needed to maintain a healthy metabolism.
Omega-3s have been shown to strengthen bones, boost brain power, help maintain a healthy heart, improve circulation, and increase the chances of survival after a heart attack.
Nutritionists advise aiming for two portions of fish per week, and one of them should be one of an oily variety. You can also take omega-3 supplements that can do the job as well.
Another tasty treat that’s certainly not difficult to make a regular part of your diet is yogurt, Most of us now know that yogurt is good for us because it contains so-called ‘friendly bacteria’. These are probiotics, which help keep the digestive system in good health and can relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and digestive tract disorders.
Yogurt is also a good source of protein and calcium, both of which are needed for healthy bones. One 150-gram pot contains around 225mg of calcium, a good percentage of the recommended 700mg daily intake.
For optimum benefit, go for plain low-fat yogurt, rather than additive-packed flavored varieties – try mixing it with muesli, granola, honey and fruits (perhaps blueberries, to double up your superfood intake).
Also, making the superfoods list are eggs, green tea, turkey, spinach, nuts, lentils, beans, pomegranates, avocado, garlic, red wine, goji berries, cacao (yes, that’s right – chocolate), cinnamon, oats, cranberries, bananas, tomatoes, and soya products.
So at least your shopping list is sorted out. Happy to help!