Friday, August 2, 2013

What the Heck are Superfoods anyway?

When the mood strikes, pizza probably sounds like a super food to be chowing down on.  But what are people talking about when they refer to some foods as “superfoods”?  And why should you care?  To find out, read this concise intro to super foods.  We’ll cover the basics and a bit more, including: 
  • What are superfoods?
  • What makes superfoods so super?
  • How can I get superfoods into my diet?
Super foods

What are superfoods?

Superfoods are a category of natural foods that are, bite-for-bite, unusually high in nutritional value.  Most of the foods typically included in the category of superfoods are not only nutrient dense but also lower in calories, and are generally high in phytonutrient content. 

Unless you’ve been delving deeply into health foods, many superfoods may be completely new to you, such as maca root powder, blue-green algae, wheat grass, barley grass, spirulina, and chlorella.  But many more commonly consumed foods are also commonly categorized as superfoods, such as blueberries, spinach, dandelion greens, kale, sardines, and pistachios. 

What makes superfoods so super?

Superfoods fuel your body better than highly processed foods.  Those who regularly consume superfoods often rave about such benefits as increased levels of natural energy, more balanced hormone systems, faster healing from injuries or illnesses, increased mental alertness, and a general sense of well being.
The benefits you may experience from a diet high in superfoods may also result from what other foods do not provide by comparison – from what your diet lacked but needed before you began regularly consuming superfoods.  Many of the superfoods are eaten in a raw or dehydrated state, preserving their phytonutrient content (plant nutrients that are killed from heating and other processing methods).  Also, superfoods are an excellent source of antioxidants, which may help you counteract the negative effect of free radicals.  As well, many foods grown in soil that has been depleted of its mineral content can make even farm-grown natural foods less nutritious.  With the nutrient-dense nature of superfoods, you can still be sure you’re getting a good quantity of essential vitamins and minerals.

Fresh kale

How can I get superfoods into my diet?

To boost your diet and your health by consuming superfoods, get an easy start by increasing your intake of these common, easy-to-find, and easy-to-prepare foods:
  • Spinach – Research suggests that spinach can help prevent certain cancers, age-related macular degeneration, and cardiovascular disease.  Simply substitute spinach for lettuce in your salad to start your ride on the superfood train.
  • Kale – This nutrient-rich green can easily be added to your salad.  Learn more about kale.
  • Blueberries – Loaded with antioxidants, just add a half cup to your next serving of Greek yogurt (another superfood) and your healthy benefits may include decreased aging effects of degenerative diseases, improved motor skills, and better urinary tract health, according to some studies.
  • Wild salmon – This seafood is rich in healthful omega-3 fatty acids and protein.  Make a salmon-and-kale salad and you’ll be going whole-hog with superfoods.
  • Honey –  This sweet additive to your favorite tea, cereal, or bread is full of beneficial antioxidants and oligosaccharides – a substance that boosts the levels of good bacteria in your colon.
  • Greek yogurt – a healthy protein source that’s loaded with gut-friendly bacteria.  Use Greek yogurt as a low-fat alternative to sour cream. You can even make your own Greek yogurt fairly easily.
HoneyIf you want to experiment with some of the more exotic superfoods, many of which are highly concentrated sources of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients – try these:

Are there superfood recipes?

There are more superfood recipes available online than you can shake an organic stick at.  To get you started, try these:
For a few hundred more recipes that use superfoods, simply do a Google search for “superfood recipes.”

Greek yogurt with blackberries

How can I learn more about superfoods and super-healthy dieting?

Some good resources for delving deep on superfoods:
  • Learn about specific superfoods in this Top 10 Superfoods article.
  • Read The World’s 127 Healthiest Foods, nearly all of which are generally considered superfoods.
  • For a serious education on superfoods, check out the book Superfoods For Dummies by Brent Agin, MD, and Shereen Jegtvig.
For more information on health-speak, make sure and check out these other what-the-heck articles from FamilyWize What the Heck Are Free Radicals Anyway? and What the Heck are Antioxidants Anyway?

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

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