According to the American Dietetic Association ,”superfoods are purported to have more significant health benefits than other types of food because they provide high amounts of one or more beneficial components”.
The concept of “superfoods” has captured much interest in the press. I think we all know we can’t live on one food alone, but a diet filled with wholesome foods serves us best nutritionally and forms the foundation for good health.
For healthy adults and children the goal is to promote health and reduce overall risk for some chronic diseases. Health and prevention is a two part process. First, eat a “super diet”. Include many of the foods below on a regular basis. (There are many, many “superfoods”. This is only a small representation.) Second, get up off your can (rather than reading blogs?) and move. Physical activity is key to healthy muscles, bones, and bodies. Now for a short list of some of my favorite superfoods. Note: phytochemicals are naturally occurring chemicals found in plants and antioxidants are a compound that prevents free radical damage to cells in the body. You’ll see these terms sprinkled liberally throughout the list.
Avocados may have a bad reputation for high calories and fat, but most of the fat in this fruit (yes, fruit) is monounsaturated, and avocados are packed with nutrients. Avocados contain about 60 percent more potassium than bananas and contain more vitamin E (which helps prevent muscle damage and reduces inflammation) than most other commonly eaten fruits. Make guacamole, chop it up and put it on top of a bowl of chili, or slice is and serve on a sandwich.
A medium-sized banana contains a whopping dose of potassium and, in case you haven’t heard, potassium is one of the body’s most significant minerals, critical for proper cellular and electrical functions. As an electrolyte, potassium actually carries a tiny electrical charge with it throughout the body. It regulates the water and acid balance in blood and tissues and is one of the most important nutrients for normal growth and building muscle. Use in a smoothie, slice and put on a bowl of hot oatmeal, or eat out of hand for a quick snack on the go.
Rich in antioxidants and anthocyanins (the blue color pigment), blueberries promote a healthy urinary tract and enhance night vision. Not to mention the phytochemical lutein and the natural sources of dietary fiber that may reduce the risk of diabetes, circulatory problems, and memory loss. Use frozen blueberries during the winter time when fresh aren’t available. Sprinkle fresh blueberries on spinach salad or make a yogurt parfait.
A readily available vegetable, broccoli boasts high amounts of vitamin C . Part of it’s powerhouse protection is derived from phytochemicals that give your immune system a boost. Use fresh in salads, or cooked in soups, pasta dishes, or cut into spears, sprinkled with a pinch of kosher salt and fresh lemon zest.
Now we’re talking. Who knew chocolate was so good for you! Loaded with polyphenols (antioxidants that help the body’s cells resist damage from free radicals), and known for the prevention cardiovascular disease as they minimize the oxidation the “bad cholesterol” also known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol which is a major factor in the promotion of coronary disease such as heart attack and stroke. Polyphenols may even help fight infections and regulate other immune responses. But not all chocolate is a “superfood”. Just remember that the higher the percentage of cocoa content, the higher the amount of antioxidant. I don’t really need to tell you how to use chocolate in your kitchen do I?
Eggs are nature’s perfect protein in a low-calorie package. Rich in many vitamins (including vitamin E), minerals and micronutrients, like lecithin and lutein, that may protect against eye disease and certain cancers. The uses of eggs are endless – make a fritatta, hard boil for a quick snack, create some egg drop soup or if you’re up for nostalgia – eggs in a basket for breakfast.
Salmon and other cold-water fish, such as tuna, sardines, mackerel, and halibut contain oils that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This “good fat” will protect your arteries against plaque build up and is effective in lowering the “bad” cholesterol. There is a note of caution with fish. Farmed salmon has higher levels of chemical contaminate than wild, but wild salmon is seasonal and far more costly. Large fish, such as tuna and swordfish, should also be consumed in limited quantities because they may contain higher levels of mercury than smaller fish.
Nuts contain healthy monounsaturated fats, protein, fiber and a host of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, selenium and magnesium. Every nut has its own particular nutritional strengths. Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, while almonds are high in linoleic acid (Omega-6 fatty acids). Sprinkle toasted nuts on some sauteed green beans, use nuts to make pesto, or crumble over a dish of vanilla yogurt.
A major source of antioxidants, Vitamin C, E and beta-carotene (decreases risk of heart disease, cataracts, and some cancers, boosts immunity and slows the aging process). Ultra rich in iron, and loaded with significant amounts of riboflavin, vitamin K (to strengthen bones), dietary fiber and folate (can reduce risk of heart disease). Frozen spinach has just as much of these nutrients and is often less expensive and easier to cook with. To retain more of the nutrients, saute fresh spinach in a large skillet with olive oil and garlic. It’s no wonder Popeye was so strong.
Rich in lycopene (reduces risk of prostate cancer) and contains coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid that block the effect of nitrosamines (which also cause some cancers). Rich in vitamin A (fights eye disease), vitamin C (aids the immune system) and potassium which lowers blood pressure. Use diced in chili, sliced on a veggie sandwich, or crushed in homemade tomato sauce.
The seeds of various plants and grasses, whole grains are a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin B, folate and fiber. The powerhouse vitamins and minerals, and the hundreds of phytochemicals in whole grains, may help prevent cancer, heart disease and birth defects. And fiber helps lower cholesterol, may protect against certain cancers, aids bowel function and decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Ancient grains such as quinoa, barley, amaranth, and teff add interesting flavors and texture to any meal.