Technically speaking, there is no such thing as a superfood. Dieticians and nutritionists will tell you it is a made-up marketing term to conjure up thoughts of an “almighty food” that can cure all your ailments and provide world peace. The term superfood was merely coined as a way to influence people to buy certain foods.
Superfoods are marketed as nutrient-rich foods that will affect positive change on your health. This is a noble idea and one that is possible if we get rid of the marketing aspect of the term. There are many foods out there that could be deemed “superfoods,” but there is no one cure-all food that is the key to good health and long life. Good health and long life are factors of many aspects, including healthy eating. Healthy eating has shown to reduce the risk of heart disease diabetes, high blood pressure, and, in some cases, cancer.
For some time now, people have said that superfoods can cure cancer, clear up our skin, boost our immune system, and defog our mind. Some of this is true, and one of the reasons that the next time you are looking to change things up in your diet, you should consider adding one of these 10 superfoods.
The egg has a bad reputation as a food that causes heart disease, mainly because eggs contain cholesterol. This is true as a large egg does provide an abundance of cholesterol; however, recent studies have shown that eggs raise your HDL or good cholesterol. On the contrary, eggs are one of the best foods on the planet!
Berries are colorful fruits in various colors that have an excellent nutritional profile. Berries are high in antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C. The most nutritional berries are the following:
- Blueberries – may help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
- Strawberries – The most common berry in the world and high in vitamin C. Strawberries help reduce the chances of heart disease and help control blood sugar.
- Raspberries – High in fiber and antioxidants and benefit heart health.
- Acai berries – contain high levels of antioxidants. Acai berries may help reduce blood cholesterol and reduce some symptoms of osteoarthritis.
- Cranberries – Consumed in juice form, berries are currently used to treat urinary tract infections (UTI) and infections of the stomach.
- Grapes – contain high levels of antioxidants in the seeds and skin. They help reduce cholesterol levels and diabetes risk.
Consume a few portions of berries three times per week and mix up your choices.
Besides being a great source of protein and fiber, nuts also contain the healthy fat that our bodies need. Here are some nuts and their health benefits:
- Almonds – one of the most popular nuts that are high in protein and fat. Almonds help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
- Walnuts – an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and possibly help reduce inflammation.
- Pistachios – are high in fiber, and when eaten in high quantities, they help prevent heart disease. This is excellent news for me as pistachios are one of my favorites, and I can’t stop at a handful. Stay away from the salted ones.
- Cashews – are high in fat, fiber, and magnesium. Recent studies have shown cashews to reduce blood lipid levels and blood pressure. When you’re stressed, reach for some cashews!
- Pecans – often found in pies, the pecan can also be eaten raw. The pecan contains high levels of antioxidants and may help lower LDL or bad cholesterol.
Tomatoes are the most commonly used vegetable due to their flexibility of use in various dishes or by themselves. Tomatoes are a relatively inexpensive vegetable to purchase, and they are easy to grow on your own in the backyard garden or containers on a deck. Tomatoes contain high amounts of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Do you see a trend here with superfoods?
Tomatoes are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Personally, I struggle with the tomato because I don’t enjoy them raw (as I enjoy most all other vegetables), but I like everything that tomatoes are a part of like sauce and my favorite salsa! But put a tomato on my salad or hamburger, and we have a problem.
Cruciferous vegetables may not be a term that you’re familiar with. Though the term may be surprising to you, the name of the vegetables in this group are not. These vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, arugula, Brussels sprouts, collards, watercress, and radishes. Cruciferous vegetables vary in size and color. Still, they hold tremendous nutritional value as they are rich in vitamins and minerals like vitamin K, A, and C. Cruciferous vegetables are also rich in phytonutrients (compounds that help reduce inflammation and lower your risk of cancer).
Diets that are high in vegetables and foods like fish are shown to reduce cardiovascular events. It can never hurt to eat vegetables, so why not add some of these to your diet.
Leafy greens include kale (the stuff we used to use to garnish salad bars as kids), spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard, and collard greens. Leafy greens are all high on vitamins like A, C, K, E, and in some Vitamin B. Leafy greens also contain a large amount of magnesium, potassium, iron, and calcium.
Leafy greens provide fiber that’s shown to lower glucose levels in people with Type-1 diabetes. Those with Type-2 diabetes have seen decreased levels of blood sugar, insulin, and lipids. Leafy greens such as kale also contain antioxidants and high levels of potassium, which can reduce your risk of stroke.
When ordering a salad, make sure leafy greens are abundant in place of lettuces like iceberg.
Most people would not think of olive oil as being a superfood because many would think of olive oil as a fat like butter. Instead, it is full of healthy monounsaturated fats that have shown to lower the risk of heart disease. These healthy fats also promote good cholesterol and help your body to regulate blood sugar. Always look for Extra-Virgin olive oil or Virgin olive oil. Fun fact, Extra virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing of the olive, where virgin olive oil comes from the second pressing. The word virgin in this context means that the olives have not been handled much.
Let’s take a quick minute to review the definition of grains and whole grains.
Grains are the edible seeds of plants. A grain is a “whole grain” if it contains the three key parts of a seed: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole grains then fall into one of two categories, cereals and pseudocereals. Cereal grains come from cereal grasses such as wheat, oats, rice, corn, barley, sorghum, rye, and millet. Pseudocereal grains are cooked and consumed in a similar manner, but they do not come from grasses—grains in this category include quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth.
All grains start as whole grains, but during the process of milling, the grains essential nutrients are lost. That is why it’s so important to eat only whole grains. Whole grains are full of soluble fiber that is great for heart health. Whole grains are also rich in antioxidants, which help fight inflammation and some types of cancer.
The best types of whole grains are the following:
- Oats/Steel cut
Try to include these whole grains whenever possible in your diet.
By definition, a legume is a simple, dry fruit contained within a shed or a pod. The legumes we are all familiar with are peas, beans, peanuts, and alfalfa, but there are many more. Although legumes tend to be small in size, don’t underestimate the power of these little guys.
Legumes are loaded with protein; in some instances, 17% – 25%. They are also heart-healthy, full of fiber, and rich in iron. Legumes are similar to meats, poultry, and fish in their levels of protein and minerals. Many people consider beans and peas as vegetarian alternatives for meat due to their high protein and iron content though everyone should consume them, not just vegetarians.
Greek yogurt dates back to ancient Greece and has always been a staple of many a diet. Real Greek yogurt is made from cow’s or sheep’s milk and contains good bacteria that we need for improved gut health. Good bacteria like Lactobacillus, which in studies has shown to have cancer-fighting properties. Greek yogurt also provides the same nutrients you’d find in milk (protein, carbohydrates, fats, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B complex, etc.)
You could take a probiotic supplement to help with gut health by why not just eat Greek Yogurt and get all the benefits of the good bacteria along with the benefits of milk.
Being healthy includes proper, balanced eating, and not just focusing on a food trend of the week. Proper nutrition involves a diet that is well rounded and consists of eating a mix of nutritious foods daily. Including some of the superfoods listed above will help you on your way to better health and may even prevent health issues down the line.
Do you incorporate any of these superfoods in your diet currently? If so, which ones and how often? Let me know in the comments below.