What are Superfoods: Everything You Need to Know
Superfoods are the latest craze in the world of health and wellbeing. These densely nutritious whole foods come packed with vitamins and minerals, believed to be highly beneficial to general health. However, the term ‘superfood’ itself is not scientifically defined and we have not seen any science-acknowledged master list of superfoods. What we do know is that superfoods can do more than regular foods and contain properties that make them very different from traditional foods. Despite this revelation, the truth still stands, in that the average consumer hardly ever eats superfoods – and if so, only inadvertently or in very small quantities. What’s more, for the layman, it is not easy to recognize what a real superfood is; hence why this helpful guide has been created with everything you need to know about superfoods.
What are Superfoods
Superfoods are a term used to refer to foods that are packed with essential nutrients, which make them perfect for our health. Among the foods that have earned the ‘superfood’ status are kale, blueberries, acai, salmon, and a whole lot more. However, we don’t have any set criteria with which to determine the ones that are superfoods and the ones that are not. According to experts, superfoods don’t belong to a particular food class. What makes them identifiable, is that they are rich in a good number of nutrients and antioxidants that are believed to be effective in warding off the growth of cancer cells or other life-threatening diseases.
In terms of of vitamin and mineral content, superfoods often come with complex nutrients that are often hard to acquire in our everyday eating habits, especially for those who live in an urban setting. They are replete with healthy fats, which functions to prevent heart ailment; what’s more, most superfoods are rich in fiber, which works against digestive defects and diabetes. Furthermore, superfoods often contain phytochemicals which are not only responsible for the deep colors in plants, but also come with immense health benefits.
Most Common Superfoods
The list of available superfoods is inexhaustible; however, we have picked a few essential ones to scrutinize and explain what sets them apart as a superfood.
- Acai berries
These delicious berries are purple in color and closely resemble ordinary berries. They are replete with fiber, potassium, and antioxidants, as well as vitamin C. This makes them beneficial to the heart when ingested, whilst simultaneously also being a great sleep and energy aid
- Goji berries
Also called Wolfberry, the Goji berry is rich in natural anti-aging agents and is a great supporter of the immune system and is replete with vitamin C. The berries also promote a healthy heart as well as protect the liver.
These yummy berries are bursting with phytonutrients that function to neutralize free radicals (agents that are responsible for aging and cell damage). Replete with vitamin C, antioxidants, vitamin K, manganese, and iron, blueberries also have a low concentration of sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
Studies have shown that blueberries are equipped with the potential to enhance the balance of our body’s cholesterol level by boosting the good cholesterol and reducing the bad ones. The berries are also known to benefit eye health, improve memory, and enhance healthy blood pressure levels.
Kale is a leafy green, quite delicious, and bursting with powerful minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. The leaf can offer 113% of our day to day intake of the essential vitamin A and 90% of our day to day vitamin C intake. Relative to spinach, Kale is a whole lot more nutritious and compared to red meat, it has more iron per calorie. The leaf is also rich in fiber, which functions to promote good digestive health.
Coconut’s superfood status often goes unnoticed. This fruit comes bursting with a great nutritional punch. In addition to its combo of several healthy fatty acids that can positively affect health. Coconut is also replete with essential minerals, which include the likes of zinc, copper, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, as well as selenium.
Any food product created with coconut extract equips us with special nutritional goodness. Furthermore, the coconut flesh furnishes the human body with potassium and B-vitamins. When the talk is about healthy oil, coconut oil is known as one of the best, rich in lauric acid, which is a unique kind of fat that functions to reduce bad cholesterol and promote good cholesterol.
- Hemp Seed
Hemp seeds function to benefit the brain and heart. The seed is totally made up of protein, rich in omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3. It also comes equipped with minerals such as magnesium, calcium, copper, sulphur, phosphorus, and potassium. The raw ones are suffused with antioxidants, vitamin D, B vitamins, and vitamin E.
- Chia seeds
These tiny seeds are rich in minerals, vitamins, proteins, and fiber. The presence of these nutrients makes it possible for the Chia seeds to slow the aging process down, Improve bowel movement, as well as reduce the possibility of developing osteoporosis. The seeds are equally good for the blood vessels and the heart. Adding these little seeds to your meal makes for quick satisfaction, and thus helps in managing weight.
This is most likely seen as the most effective of its kind, it comes in the form of a green detoxifier. The edible freshwater algae is known for its single cell with super-properties. Chlorella is rich in chlorophyll, which is, in turn, is packed with antioxidant power.
Its nutritional content includes Vitamin C, B vitamins, Vitamine E, amino acids, beta-carotene, fiber, and magnesium. It also contains trace, iron, carbohydrates, minerals, and protein in higher concentrations (above 50%) compared to meat for a single gram of weight.
- Sweet Potatoes
There are several health benefits associated with sweet potatoes. They come equipped with vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin A, Vitamins B-6, and are also known as a good source of fiber. The vitamin A content of sweet potatoes aid in boosting our immunity. The food also regulates our blood sugar – according to experts, the combination of nutrients as well as the special compounds found in potatoes helps the body digest natural sugar that releases slowly into the body for enhanced blood sugar stability. The best part of these sweet roots is that their vitamin A content, which comes in handy in the regulation of normal eyesight, maximizes normal organ function as well as improve our body immunity.
For many years now, almonds have been a trusted member of the superfoods family, and the reason is not far fetched. These brownish coated nuts are replete with vitamins and nutrients that support good health, as well as the extra benefits of fighting off skin cancer. A 2004 study revealed that low-calorie diets rich in almonds aids in the healing process of abnormalities that results from metabolic syndrome. It also observed that higher incidences of weight loss are experienced with an almond low-calorie diet.
A second study in 2005 observed that almonds are associated with reduced risks of incidences of ailments like coronary heart disease. The study also investigated the possible effects of flavonoids derived from the skin of almonds in connection to vitamins E and C, as well as cholesterol levels. Further findings revealed that almonds are potential cancer-fighting nuts as it is known to revive the effects of unhealthy foods.
Benefits Of Superfoods
Now how are superfoods beneficial to health? Well, they can perform some of the listed functions.
- Mitigate the possibility of atherosclerosis that clogs the arteries
- Bite back on unwanted cholesterol
- Fight against inflammations that can cause cancer
- Boost immunity
- Regulate blood pressure
- Reduce the effects of harmful free radicals
- Regulate blood sugar levels
- Aid with weight loss
However, we don’t expect one single superfood to come with all these benefits – the odd blueberries dotted over a plate of SugarDoodle Snax may not be so super; the intermittent kale salad may not be able to mask an otherwise tacky meal. Recommendations are that you take it from a more winning approach which entails consuming a combo of nutrient diversity with nutrient density, obtained from a wide selection of veggies and colorful fruits, alongside lean proteins (this includes seeds and nuts), whole grains, and healthy fats such as olive oil. Taking an assortment of whole foods guarantees the full range of vital nutrients in your body. This includes the likes of potassium, fiber, essential fatty acids, calcium, and many more.
The Best Way to Eat Superfoods
The obvious way to get the best from your superfoods is to eat them in their original raw forms. This is very important because while undergoing modern processing, many of these foods lose their healing and nutritional qualities, or at the very least, these qualities may be reduced.
If the superfood is the type that needs cooking, try not to overcook it. High heat is known to destroy fragile water-soluble vitamins like the all-important vitamin C and damage antioxidants that are seen in plant-based foods. Superfoods can also be consumed at any time. Below is a typical daily diet with the essential superfoods:
- Breakfast – oats with almond milk, few walnuts, and some dark chocolate
- Lunch – spelt bun (toasted) with olive oil, slices of tomatoes, and garlic. Toppings can come in the form of sprouted seeds
- Dinner – Spinach, broccoli, or kale along with legumes. A good quantity of quinoa will also suffice
- Snack – an orange, a green apple, a reasonable quantity of walnuts, and blueberries