Eating a nutritious diet rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, are one of the most important parts of living a healthy lifestyle. Some foods are more beneficial to our health than most. We refer to them as “superfoods.”
By Mariza Halliday
What is a Superfood?
There is no exact definition of what makes a “superfood.” However, superfoods are nutrient powerhouses that provide large quantities of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. In addition to this, they all contain one or more of the following:
• Healthy fats thought to prevent heart disease
• Fibre which helps to prevent diabetes and aid in relieving digestive problems
• Phytochemicals which have numerous health benefits
Some Benefits of Superfoods
The high vitamin and mineral content found in superfoods can help your body ward off diseases and keep you healthier. Different superfoods bring different benefits, but here are a few advantages your body can look forward to if you enjoy a balanced diet rich in superfoods:
• Aids digestion
• Fights cancer
• Fights heart disease
• Protects organs from toxins
• Lowers cholesterol
• Regulates metabolism
• Reduces inflammation in the body
The following are common foods on superfood lists and including these in your diet will put you well on your way a healthier lifestyle in no time:
• Berries – These are full of vitamins, soluble fibre and phytonutrients. These are nutrients in plants that offer many benefits. Blueberries are popular superfoods, but strawberries and cranberries are also very healthy.
• Kale – Kale contains high amounts of vitamins A, C and K. It also has fibre, calcium and other minerals. It’s a great addition to any meal for a nutrient punch. Other green cruciferous vegetables such as Swiss chard, collards, mustard greens, spinach, cabbages and broccoli are also considered excellent sources of nutrition.
• Sweet potato, pumpkin or squash – These are excellent sources of fibre, vitamin A and other minerals. They are low in calories, and they are naturally a little sweeter than other vegetables so no need to add extra sugar or butter.
• Salmon – Rich in omega-3 fatty acids that lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Other fatty fish that offer similar benefits include tuna, sardines and mackerel.
• Avocados – Avocados are one of the easiest and most delicious superfoods to infuse into your diet. They reportedly provide the body with significant help in reducing bad cholesterol (LDL) and increasing good cholesterol (HDL).
• Ginger – Ginger is a well-known immune booster and helps fight infection, plus it’s believed to help protect against cancer.
• Natural yoghurt – A good quality natural yoghurt is generally full of good bacteria, calcium, potassium, riboflavin, protein, vitamin B12, magnesium and phosphate. The good bacteria, or probiotics, helps boost digestive health and improves the immune system to help your body fight off infections.
• Tea – High in antioxidants, black and green tea can assist and safeguard your heart and boost your mood.
• Cacao – Cacao is the raw form of one of our favourite sweet treats — chocolate. Beans from the cacao tree are dried, fermented and minimally processed, and they are an excellent source of fibre, magnesium and iron. Cacao also contains flavonoids associated with elevated mood and cognitive function.
Superfoods or Superhype?
While some superfoods may offer an extra advantage to healthy eating, diversity and moderation are equally essential to our nutritional requirements. It’s important to note that while superfoods are good for your health and provide many nutrients you need daily, eating superfoods alone does not contribute to a healthy diet. Eating too much of one type of food can be detrimental to your health and prevent you from getting all the nutrients you need. For this reason, superfoods should be added to a well-balanced diet, not replace one.
WHAT MAKES SUPERFOOD “SUPER”
Also known as a “functional food” because it refers to the food’s ability to affect more target functions of the body than just those that aid basic survival, superfoods consist of the following key elements:
• Clean protein
• Good fats
• Essential fatty acids
• Amino acids
• Also rich in phytochemicals which are known to have disease-fighting properties. Basically, a superfood’s nutrient composition (vitamins, antioxidants and minerals) is notably higher than what the body’s basic nutritional needs for survival require.