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Do 'super foods' exist?

There has been a lot of talk and rumour around supposed 'super foods'. But, do they actually exist and what are their benefits?


Through my research, the term 'super food' simply means a food which is rich in nutritional benefits but with minimal calories. These 'super foods' are loaded with: vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. All of these are essential for good bodily health.


It should be noted that there is no standard criteria or legal definition to classify any food as a 'super food'. However, most superfoods are plant-based which are naturally rich in good nutrients.


Antioxidants


Antioxidants are natural molecules that occur in certain foods. They help neutralise free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are the natural byproducts of energy production that can wreak havoc on the body's cells.


Antioxidant molecules decrease or reverse some of the effects of free radicals that have close links with the following health problems:

  • heart disease

  • cancer

  • arthritis

  • stroke

  • respiratory diseases

  • immune deficiency

  • emphysema

  • Parkinson’s disease

It needs to be stressed that these 'super foods' are not cure foods. They simply help support your body's natural functions when combined with a healthy and balanced diet.


Some studies have shown that 'super foods' high in antioxidants and flavonoids help prevent coronary heart disease and cancer, as well as improving immunity and decreasing inflammation. Regularly eating fruits and vegetables also has strong associations with a lower risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions (see blog about eating fruit and vegetables).


Here are some food sources which are full of antioxidants, and other essential nutrients, that can be regarded as 'super foods'.


Berries

The naturally higher levels of flavonoids in berries have been shown to lower the risk of a heart attack. A few commonly identified 'super food berries' include acai berries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, cranberries, and goji berries.


  • Acai berries: These are small, dark purple berries grown in South America. They contain 19 amino acids and many antioxidants.

  • Blueberries: These are high in fiber, manganese, and vitamin K. Cranberries are high in a particular flavonoid that helps lower the risk of urinary tract infection.

  • Goji berries: These are a small red berry native to Asia that are high in vitamin C and E, along with many different types of flavonoids.

Tea


Tea contains few calories, helps with hydration, and is a good source of antioxidants.

Catechins, potent antioxidants found primarily in green tea, have beneficial anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.


A study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, examined the effects of green tea, white tea and water consumption on stress levels in 18 students. The study suggested that both green and white tea had reduced stress levels and white tea had an even greater effect.


Leafy greens


People often identify kale, spinach and Swiss chard as superfood leafy greens. These foods are rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K, and many B vitamins.


Leafy greens contain an abundance of carotenoids, iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. One cup of kale provides 550 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K, equivalent to over 680% of a person’s daily needs. Kale and other leafy greens are high in fibre and water content, both of which help to keep our digestive systems healthy.


Here are 10 of the best foods which have all the criteria to be a 'super food' and can be easily found in supermarkets.


  1. Blueberries

  2. Garlic

  3. Broccoli

  4. Oats

  5. Eggs

  6. Spinach

  7. Salmon

  8. Almonds

  9. Kale

  10. Green tea

The key outcome to all the studies concerning 'super foods' is ensure that you have a healthy and well-balanced diet. These foods will then be able to support good bodily health.




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