nutrition | September 28, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
They are thought to be miracle foods, packed with nutrition that can improve your health and prevent disease, but is there such a thing as a superfood?
There is no official definition to what constitutes a ‘superfood’, but many foods are marketed to the public as such, and the list is constantly growing.
This popular term usually applies to foods that are rich in nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre, essential fatty acids, and phytonutrients, which are naturally occurring plant chemicals.
Superfoods include a wide range of products, including fruits, vegetables, herbs, grains, mushrooms and algae.
Small, deep purple berries that are harvested in the Brazilian rainforest from acai palms. They are high on the list of antioxidant content of foods, and have been found to kill cancer cells, boost immune function; reduce arthritis pain and lower blood sugar and cholesterol.
You may not think of the old-fashioned beetroot as a superfood, but this deep red vegetable is rich in chemicals called nitrates, which when ingested, are believed to lower blood pressure and improve exercise performance. Delish
Bone broths are soups made by simmering bones in water with seasonings and sometimes vegetables for 24-48 hours. They are rich in proteins and minerals, and are increasingly recommended for gut health, immunity, and as part of a paleo-type diet.
Native to North America, blueberries contain a number of powerful phytonutrients that work as antioxidants.
These phytonutrients give blueberries their blue/purple colour, reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar, and ward off cancer. Furthermore, eating blueberries has been shown to improve cognitive performance and brain function in older adults.
Frozen or fresh, the health giving phytonutrient content is the same, so it is possible to have blueberries all year round if they are bought frozen.
Cacao beans are the seeds of the fruit of the Theobroma cacao tree. Cocoa powder is produced from the cacao beans.
The high concentration of phytonutrients in cocoa, called flavonoids, have been found to make blood vessels expand, which can lower blood pressure and slow cognitive decline.
Chia seeds are the seeds from the plant Salvia hispanica L., a native to central and southern America where they have been a staple food for centuries. These tiny seeds have become popular due to the high content of their heart healthy omega-3 oil. They are also rich in fibre and antioxidants.
Goji berries are derived from the fruits of Lycium Linn, and have been used as traditional herbs in China for over 6000 years to improve eyesight and protect the liver and kidneys. Goji berries contain many important phytochemicals that are thought to have an antidiabetic effect, as well as contribute to lowering cholesterol and blood sugar.
The American Heart Association recently released a statement recommending to avoid coconut oil, because of its high levels of saturated fats, which are associated with increased risk of heart disease and stroke. At the same time, proponents of coconut oil argue that the saturated fats in coconut oil are not as bad as the saturated fats in meat and dairy, and praise its ability to increase metabolism, and aid weight loss. Although the jury is still out, the popularity of coconut oil is increasing.
Kale has become so popular that the demand for kale is greater than the supply.
There is a long list of phytonutrients that can be found inside this green leafy vegetable that along with broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, arugula, and cauliflower, belongs to the Brassicaceae family. Enjoy
This refreshing lightly fizzy fermented tea is considered a ‘living superfood’ as it contains probiotic microorganisms. The term ‘probiotics’ refers to the type of good bacteria defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as ‘Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’. Fermented foods and beverages are often more easily digestible than unfermented foods and can therefore contribute to gut health. Additionally, kombucha tea is said to be antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anticancer.
Matcha, powdered green tea, came to us from Japan but originated in China.
Studies show that compounds in green tea act as antioxidants and can lower cancer risk, help with allergies and cognitive decline, and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. The powdering process of the leaves is believed to increase the nutritional value of the tea and enhance its health benefits.
Maca is the native Peruvian plant, Lepidium meyenii, where it has been traditionally used as an aphrodisiac, to support fertility, and to increase mental and physical energy. Powdered maca root is used as superfood powders.
Pomegranate is a popular Middle Eastern red fruit. Its peel, seeds, and juice are rich in antioxidants that have been found to be protective against inflammatory conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.
Quinoa has been a staple food of the Incas for over 7000 years. Although it is technically a seed rather than a “true” grain, the Incas referred to quinoa as ‘mother of all grains’.
The level of nutrients in quinoa is superior to all other grains, and it is very popular as a safe, gluten-free alternative to gluten-containing grains.
Quinoa comes in white, black, yellow, and red-violet varieties, making it an attractive addition to the meal. Its mild flavour makes it easy to incorporate in a variety of recipes:
This bright yellow spice native to India and Southeast Asia has been used for cooking and medicinal purposes in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for nearly 4000 years.
Today, turmeric is hailed an anti inflammatory miracle spice that can ward off cancer, lower cholesterol, reduce joint pain in arthritis, improve symptoms of irritable syndrome, and even act as an antidepressant.
Nutrition-packed foods should always be incorporated into your diet. However, as Associate Professor in nutrition Tim Crowe from Deakin University says, there’s no one super food, but rather a ‘super diet’. A whole diet that is varied and balanced is more important than individual foods.
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