We all know that eating healthier is vital to our wellbeing and quality of life. But, even amongst healthy foods, there stands a subcategory that is considered the most nutritious. They are known as “superfoods”.
Superfoods are particular foodstuffs that are packed with nutritional benefits and are typically low in calories. Best of all, they usually taste good to boot. These super healthy foods are known to supercharge your body, your mind, and can help alleviate your ailments.
Here, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular superfoods and their benefits.
Currently, there is no formal categorization of a “superfood.” This means there aren’t any criteria that a superfood must meet in order to be categorized as such.
Despite this, nutritionists and dieticians typically use the term to refer to natural, unprocessed foods, that are high in nutrients and low in calories. These superfoods are high in:
Not called “super” for nothing, here are the main benefits of superfoods:
Superfoods go beyond simply meeting nutritional requirements and, instead, can give a little boost to your health. This includes lowering cholesterol and helping to regulate your blood sugar.
While no food is a magic pill for achieving your ideal weight, superfoods are great for regulating your weight. This is down to superfoods being mainly unprocessed and plant-based. The regular inclusion of these bulkier, fiber-filled options in your meals helps satiate your hunger with fewer calories.
A lot of superfoods contain antioxidants. “What are they good for?” I hear you ask. In a nutshell, antioxidants are naturally occurring molecules from plants that have been shown to tackle the effects of a specific kind of atom called “free radicals,” which are correlated to arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and other issues such as heart disease.
Their inclusion in a healthy diet is vital to staving off future disease and avoidable health complications. The easiest way to do this is by introducing superfoods to your diet.
Superfoods also contain a lot of the good stuff we need for a happy, healthy life. Vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, iron, and vitamin C can be found in abundance in these plant-based foods.
While no single food will tick all the boxes, here are some examples of superfoods that, together, will give you spring clean your body and give you a healthy boost.
Beets are great for your liver and are therefore an ideal superfood to help detoxify your body.
As well as their high level of antioxidants, beets encourage the activity of phase II enzymes in the liver that help rid the body of xenobiotics. These are chemicals that the body considers foreign to it and can affect your overall feeling of health and wellbeing.
High in healthy fats, avocados benefit your whole body, perhaps most significantly your skin.
Packed with vitamin E, C, and fatty acids, studies have shown avocados are associated with supple skin (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20085665/), and can protect against sun-damage (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23638933/).
To maintain regular bowel movements and alleviate constipation, fennel is regarded as one of the best superfoods.
This green pronged, pale-bulbed vegetable is extremely high in fiber which is known to help your bowel contract. It also contains a chemical agent (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51729852_Functional_foods_with_digestion-enhancing_properties) that is known to relax specific muscles in the gastro-intestinal tracts that can be beneficial for constipation sufferers.
High in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and manganese, broccoli is a superfood powerhouse. Being a cruciferous vegetable, it is relatively bulky and has been shown to help regulate weight (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4578962/) over time.
Asparagus is great in its own right but becomes a superfood for pregnant women.
Rich in vitamin K, asparagus helps with blood clotting and can help prevent excessive blood loss during delivery. It’s also calcium dense, benefitting both you and your baby’s bone strength. Most significantly, asparagus is packed with folate, one of the most essential nutrients during pregnancy, helping prevent neural tube disorders.
Ideally eaten first thing in the morning, oats are a slow-release form of energy that will keep you going right through until lunch. Oats will stabilize your blood sugar levels and keep you feeling energized.
High in fiber, potassium, magnesium, and protein, oats are also a heart healthy food.
The only nut to contain a decent amount of omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts are also chock full of vitamin E. This vitamin is known to help protect hair against the sun, specifically UV DNA damage. They also contain a safe amount of copper, which can help bring out the undertones in your natural hair color.
Despite not being the most common foodstuff on shopping lists, quinoa is fast becoming recognized as one of the world’s best superfoods. It is especially beneficial for healthy looking nails.
This is thanks to it being a healthy, plant-based complete protein source and contains more calcium than milk. It also contains the nail-benefitting vitamins E and B, as well as some essential fatty acids.
An abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids, fish such as mackerel, tuna, and salmon, have been linked to lower blood levels of a protein called beta-amyloid. This protein has been correlated to people with diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
A great alternative to meat, beans and pulses are the plant world’s protein solution but with none of the dietary cholesterol that contributes to heart disease. Also containing iron and a tonne of fiber, beans can be used as-is in dishes or added to soups and casseroles.
While superfoods can be eaten on their own, their inclusion in a well-balanced and interesting diet is the best way to ensure they are being had regularly. While our list above has tried to include some of the most common superfoods that you will be able to find at your local grocery store, similar foods can be substituted without issue.
Broccoli, for example, could be substituted for brussel sprouts which is equally as nutritious. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, superfoods such as fatty fish can be replaced with a variety of nuts, chia seeds, and even seaweed in the form of raw capsules and nori. Simply by including more natural and fresh ingredients into your diet, you will reap the benefits of common superfoods.
There are no risks in consuming superfoods. Like all things, however, over-consumption of one particular food is often not a good idea, so including these superfoods as part of a well-rounded diet is always recommended.