Superfoods: Nature’s Best in Your Dinner Plate
What are superfoods? Superfood is a term describing a meal that has been prepared specifically to have an exceptional nutrient density. They are not the usual mash potato and beef steak that you eat on a regular basis, but have multiple ingredients that you don’t normally eat. It’s mostly plant-based protein foods but sometimes may include fish and dairy. The idea behind preparing superfoods is to allow the body to absorb more than the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of nutrients by increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, healthy meat and dairy products in a meal plate, while reducing the carbohydrates in the meal.
Keeping that in mind, one can easily restore one’s health if you’re malnourished or underweight, or boost your energy and immune system in a short amount of time.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA) superfood is more of a label than a specified food group and there are no set criteria for determining what is and what is not a superfood. Most health professionals think that the term “superfood” is only meant for marketing purposes, still making healthy foods cool again by using this terminology is something experts support. Superfoods contain a variety of nutrients, such as antioxidants, good cholesterol, fiber, and phytochemicals. Fitness instructors often recommend their clients to eat more superfoods for weight loss, as this makes losing weight more efficient.
History of Superfoods
It’s hard to give a definitive answer to someone asking “what are superfoods?” much less figure out when people started using that phrase. But it is believed that the term “superfood” was first coined by a Canadian newspaper back in 1949 where the paper encouraged people to eat muffins, because they used to bake them with fruits like berries and other superfoods (fruits that contain high amounts of antioxidants). The term superfood later became sort of a marketing tool in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Companies that sell specific foods, dietary supplements, foods with selected food additives, and other food types that fall under this category sell them at a much higher price than if you’ll buy the ingredients individually.
The reason why they do this is, because they claim that they’ve done the proper research on which fruits, vegetables and dairy products to mix to give customers the maximum health benefits of superfoods. The hype that superfood has created has become a $137 billion USD industry and is still growing! Despite this no government health agency nor health experts are for or against it – they stay neutral to the subject, but it is a fact that the ingredients in these superfoods are real, unprocessed, and in their original form and are health-giving indeed.
Types of Superfoods
While these plant-based protein foods collectively known as superfood may not be Ambrosia (the food of the gods that makes them immortal in Greek mythology), multiple scientific studies have shown that certain foods have higher concentration of nutrients that give unmatched health benefits compared to others. We’ve compiled a list of food groups that belongs in the superfood category and the science to prove it.
According to this recent research from South China Institute of Botany of The Chinese Academy of Sciences which was published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) there is a correlation between superfoods rich in antioxidants and flavonoids and the prevention of cancer and coronary heart disease. Furthermore, their conclusion also suggests that these enzymes not only reduce inflammation but also improve immunity to it. Eating superfoods may improve health and prevent health conditions and chronic illnesses that are related to unhealthy lifestyle.
Studies also show that berries being rich in flavonoids can reduce the risk of a heart attack. All types of berries have high flavonoids content and if you consume any of the different types (i.e. acai berries, blueberries, raspberries, tart cherries, cranberries, and goji berries) several grams a day, you can stop worrying about heart attack or any related coronary heart disease.
Below are the different types of berries and their health benefits:
- Acai berries: Grown particularly in South America, these deep purple-colored berries have lots of antioxidants and 19 amino acids.
- Blueberries: Rich in fiber, anti-inflammatory and a good blood sugar regulator – manganese, and potassium, blueberries can be considered as a standalone superfood. Meanwhile, its cousin, the cranberry contains high amounts of flavonoid that can cure UTI (urinary tract infection).
- Goji berries: Native to Asia, these tiny crimson-colored berries are packed with high amounts of Vitamins C and E plus various kinds of flavonoids. Healers and eastern medicine experts use them to treat people with high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as promote kidney, liver and eye health.
You can buy goji berries, blueberries, acai berry powder and other similar products online. Some of them are also sold as superfoods.
What are superfoods? Superfoods are like soybeans. It has been found by researchers that soybeans contain a high amount of isoflavones, which is a type of phytochemical. They are a naturally occurring chemical in plants. Researchers found out that isoflavones help remove LDL (low-density lipoproteins) in the blood stream, which in turn help reduce high blood pressure, allergic reactions and heart disease. Isoflavones in soy also help prevent age-related memory loss as well as keep your bone density at optimal levels even in old age, or in menopausal stage in women.
We know from the get go that tea are super antioxidant foods. This is a fact that no one disputes as its health benefits has been observed throughout written history! Tea is good for hydration and has enough calories to keep you up all day. The green tea, in particular, is known among Asians as a natural elixir that prolongs life and new studies has proven this theory, as the antioxidant chemical catechins has anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. This means that it can help prevent cancer and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
This new research published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology discovered that green tea and white tea have antidepressant properties, which could help people cope with stress and probably PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) – further study is needed to confirm this.
Leafy Green Vegetables
When in doubt just go back to the basics and eat your leafy greens! These were the words of a father to his grown up 22-year old son and he’s not wrong about it. Swiss chard, beet greens, and collard greens, as well as moringa leaves, kale, brocoli and spinach are all hailed as superfoods due to the nutrients they contain. Vitamins A, C,E, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, protein and most of the B vitamin complex are just a few of the health-giving goodness they have. They also have carotenoids which can help decrease the risk of developing cancers and eye disease. They also help your digestive system by providing enough fiber in your diet. They are nicknamed as the “vegan protein.”
The omega-3 fatty acid is great for healing people with arrhythmia and other types of cardiovascular diseases, and fish like the trout and herring have a high concentration of omega-3. They also help remove bad cholesterol from your blood stream and ease up their growth on your arterial walls as plaque. Our unrelenting curiosity for the incredible health benefits in these naturally-produced edibles is ultimately the answer to the question on “what are superfoods?”
A few people outside the archaeological society know about raw cacao benefits and that’s because the Mayans and other ancient South American peoples have been using it for more than a thousand years since they were here last. Based on the research done by the scientists at Yale University Prevention Research Center, cacao powder which is used in manufacturing dark chocolate is rich in the antioxidant known as flavonoids. This antioxidant helps prevent coronary heart disease and certain types of cancer, as well as boost your immune system.
Grapes and Grape Juice
Natural grape juice extract is known to have a polyphenol compound called resveratrol, which is classified as an antioxidant and is good for the heart. But did you also know that red grapes’ skin has resveratrol present in it also? It’s amazing how people have no idea how life-changing these super antioxidant foods can be if we only include them in our diet.
New research from the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER) in India and Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Florida reveals the potential effects resveratrol has in treating diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy. These are conditions are caused by late stages in people with diabetes where the nervous system and the eyes degrade due to high blood sugar levels.
The Department of Neurology at Georgetown University, Washington DC conducted a study on how resveratrol could be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, as well as lower blood sugar level, reduce hot flashes and mood swings that occur to women in their menopausal stage. However, further research is needed before they can have conclusive results and develop medical treatment methods for these diseases.
Quercetin is one other flavonoid that grapes naturally produce. It is a natural anti-inflammatory chemical substance that has the ability to tear down LDL cholesterol in arterial walls, which can help prevent atherosclerosis. Scientists also think that quercetin can destroy cancer cells.
These new vegetables, fruits and herbs are on their way to gain the title of “superfoods:”
- Blue-green algae
- Beets and beet juice
- Brazil nuts
You have the option to buy super greens powder weight loss, or prepare them as a meal yourself, or you can do both. But don’t obsess over them and bankrupt yourself just so you can have all these superfoods we’ve mentioned in this article. And remember it takes time to create a healthy lifestyle, so just work with what you have and proceed with a plan one step at a time. List down the items you need, go to the local supermarket and find the produce, then prepare your budget and come back for a one-time bulk purchase. This way you can narrow down your search for the items that have the highest nutrient content for the cheapest price they offer. Replacing as many processed foods as possible with whole foods will drastically improve health.