Superfoods: so much more with every mouthful
There are just some foods that are, well… super. Super good for you, that is. They are the “superfoods”, nutrient-dense edibles that doctors and nutritionists tell us help prevent disease and do more for your body than does the average mouthful. While there is no legal or medical definition of what constitutes a superfood — the term is not in common currency among scientists — it can be said that numerous foods are so plentiful in phytonutrients, those plant-derived chemical compounds with potential health-promoting properties, that what they can provide to the body is beyond the realm of the majority of our daily diets. Think of it like this. There are healthy foods (that apple a day or the garlic to ward off everything from colds to vampires) and then there’s food that’s incredibly healthy for you. Superfoods have been trumpeted as nutritional elements to fight disease, boost the immune system, invigorate brain function, and even reverse the aging process — all without having to seek out unusual or hard-to-find food items, or learn a new way of cooking dinner. You’re probably eating a number of superfoods on a regular basis now, even without knowing it. Many of the superfoods you hear about won’t surprise you:
- Salmon with its rich bounty of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D and renown for preventing heart disease, arthritis and some types of cancer
- Blueberries with immune-boosting vitamin C, antioxidants said to improve brain function, and dietary fibre for the digestive system.
- Spinach that’s heavy with iron, calcium and a storehouse of vitamins (look what it did for Popeye and while we can’t guarantee your forearms will bulge to cartoon proportion, you will be beefing up the body against cataracts and cancer. But what about the underrated cinnamon, pumpkin and avocado? There are plenty of surprising superfoods packed with amazing nutritional power.
Goji Berries Touted as one of the healthiest foods on the planet, the small red fruit that looks like a raisin has been used in Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years. It contains protein, which is uncommon for a fruit. A tonic for the liver, support for the immune system, and a kickstart for the libido, goji berries contain abundant cancer-fighting antioxidants. Hemp Seeds Easily digested and loaded with fatty acids, minerals, and protein, the benefits run from decreasing arthritic symptoms to sudden cardiac arrest. They also have the full amino acid spectrum to provide a complete protein source as well as maintaining and growing body tissue. Great in a smoothie or in salad dressing. Avocado High in fat, yes, but primarily monounsaturated fat, which means it doesn’t clog arteries. They’re also high in potassium, which can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, B vitamins to promote healthy skin and muscles, vitamin E to protect against cardiovascular disease, as well as fibre to aid in digestion. Pumpkin The fruit contains antioxidants like carotenoids which defend against cell damage, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, which can help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration, an eye disease that can result in blindness. Cinnamon Helps slow the rush of sugar to the blood, which in turn helps prevent weight gain. Also an anti-inflammatory, which means it can help delay the onset of aging. Dark Chocolate Look for chocolate with at least 70 per cent cacao for omega-3 fatty acids (to help reduce the risk of heart disease), magnesium, iron, and phenylethylamine to enhance one’s mood. It should be understood, however, that while a diet supplemented with superfoods is superb, they shouldn’t be all that you eat. A balanced diet, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and dairy, is essential.