Superfoods

nutrition | September 28, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Digestion

Superfoods

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?

What are superfoods?

superfoodsThere 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.

Here are some of the common superfoods in Australia:

Acai berry

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.
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Ways to eat acai

  • Blend acai powder or frozen acai pack into a smoothie
  • Try an acai bowl for breakfast

Beetroot

beetrootYou 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 

  • In a juice
  • Raw – grated in a salad
  • Roasted
  • Pickled

Bone broth

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.

  • Heat and drink plain
  • Add to soups or stews

blueberriesBlueberries

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.

  • Blend them into a smoothie
  • Add them to yoghurt
  • Eat as snack
  • Have them in a fruit salad
  • Bake in a muffin
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Cacoa

Cacao beans are the seeds of the fruit of the Theobroma cacao tree. Cocoa powder is produced from the cacao beans.cacao

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.

  • Add some cocoa powder to your smoothie
  • Mix cacao nibs into cupcakes or add to home made muesli bars or trail mix
  • Eat a little dark chocolate containing 70% or more cocoa.
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Chia seeds

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.

  • Add the seeds to baked goods
  • Sprinkle over your breakfast cereal or in yoghurt
  • Blend into smoothie
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gogi berriesGoji berries

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.

  • Add to cereal
  • Mix into a smoothie
  • Brew in a tea
  • Add goji berries to your trail mix

Coconut oil

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.

  • Use it in stir fry and curries
  • Bake with coconut oil
  • Add to tea and coffee
  • Coconut pulling: swished in the mouth for a short time each day without swallowing it. This is an ancient folk remedy to improve oral health.
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Kale

Kale has become so popular that the demand for kale is greater than the supply.

KaleThere 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

  • Raw in salads. Massage it with olive oil
  • Blend it into a green smoothie or juice it
  • Add it to stir fry
  • Crispy kale chips: a healthy snack, baked in oven
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Kombucha

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.

  • Ready made drink: Kombucha is sold in different flavours
  • DIY: ferment it at home with kombucha culture
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Matcha

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.

  • Add matcha powder to a cup of hot water as a tea
  • Matcha Latte: Combine matcha powder with hot water and add steamed milk of your choice
  • Blend into a smoothie
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Maca

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

pomegranatePomegranate 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.

  • Juice it
  • Pomegranate seed make a beautiful addition to any salad
  • As a snack

Quinoa

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:

  • Use quinoa flakes for your morning porridge
  • Use puffed quinoa to make breakfast cereal
  • Cook quinoa and incorporated into salads, as a side or a main dish

Turmeric

turmericThis 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.
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  • Add the spice to stews, curries and stir fry
  • ‘Golden milk’: Also called ‘turmeric latte’, a relaxing warm drink typically made by boiling coconut milk, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, honey, coconut oil, peppercorns, and water
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The bottom line

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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References

American Institute for Cancer Research. Blueberries. Available at: http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/

Boateng, L. et al., 2016. Coconut oil and palm oil’s role in nutrition, health and national development: A review. Ghana medical journal, 50(3), pp.189–196. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27752194

Crozier, S.J. et al., 2011. Cacao seeds are a "Super Fruit": A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products. Chemistry Central journal, 5, p.5. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21299842

Danesi, F. & Ferguson, L., 2017. Could Pomegranate Juice Help in the Control of Inflammatory Diseases? Nutrients, 9(9), p.958. Available at: http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/9/958

Ding, E.L. et al., 2006. Chocolate and prevention of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review. Nutrition & metabolism, 3, p.2. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16390538

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 2006. Probiotics in Food - Health and Nutritional Properties and Guidelines for Evaluation. Available at:  ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/009/a0512e/a0512e00.pdf

Fujioka, K. et al., 2016. The Powdering Process with a Set of Ceramic Mills for Green Tea Promoted Catechin Extraction and the ROS Inhibition Effect. Molecules, 21(4), p.474. Available at: http://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/21/4/474

Greger M, 2013. The Science on Açaí Berries | NutritionFacts.org. Available at: https://nutritionfacts.org/2013/08/22/the-science-on-acai-berries/

Harvard Health 2015. What’s the scoop on bone soup? Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating/whats-the-scoop-on-bone-soup

Jayabalan, R. et al., 2014. A Review on Kombucha Tea—Microbiology, Composition, Fermentation, Beneficial Effects, Toxicity, and Tea Fungus.  Comprehensive Reviews in food science and food safety, 13(4), pp 538-550. Available a: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1541-4337.12073/full

Medscape 2016. Blueberries May Boost Memory in Mild Cognitive Impairment. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/860401

Medscape 2016. Could Cocoa Flavanols Improve Heart Health?  http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/857566

Natural Medicines – database, food, herbs. And supplements. Turmeric (2016). http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com

NHS Choices, Superfoods: the evidence - NHS Choices. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/superfoods/Pages/superfoods.aspx

Paramjit S Tappia; Yan-Jun Xu; Naranjan S Dhalla, 2013. Reduction of Cholesterol by Alternative Therapies. Clin Lipidology. , 8(3), pp.345–359. Available at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/805581_2

Qian, D. et al., 2017. Systematic Review of Chemical Constituents in the Genus Lycium (Solanaceae). Molecules, 22(6), p.911. Available at: http://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/22/6/911

Sacks, F.M. et al., 2017. Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association. Circulation, 136(3), pp.e1–e23. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28620111

Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications. "Brazilian Acai Berry Antioxidants Absorbed By Human Body, Research Shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 October 2008. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081006112053.htm

 

 

University of Maryland Medical Center 2017. Pomegranate. Available at: http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/pomegranate

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