What makes food a Superfood?
Have you ever wondered what it is exactly about superfoods that makes them so incredibly, well, super? Me too. Superfood in the general sense of a food considered especially nutritious or otherwise beneficial to health and well-being. Let me in on some of the kooky industry terms. You are just four key concepts away from discovering why some foods are worthy of the title. You may be as surprised as I was to find that there really is something to these superfoods above and beyond the others (healthy foods that is)…
- Nutrient density: Nutrient density is rather straightforward. It refers to the ratio of nutrients per calorie. With that in mind, superfoods give the most nutrients possible for the least amount of calories (and who would not want that?!). Nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients are all taken into account in calculating nutrient density. A nutrient dense superfood is the opposite of an empty overly-processed calorie, and the fresher and more whole a food is, the more nutrient dense.
- Aggregate Nutrient Density Index system (ANDI): The term ‘nutrient density’ first came about through the USDA, but was very limited. It initially only covered vitamins and minerals within a food, and nothing else. So, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, an MD focused on disease prevention through nutrition, created a more complex nutrient density system to take into account the full spectrum of nutrients within a food, including micronutrients, antioxidants and phytonutrients. And the ANDI system was born. It rates foods from highest (most nutritious) to lowest (least nutritious) in terms of nutrient density. For example, kale has an ANDI score of 1,000 and soda has a score of one.
- pH balance: pH balance is the measure of acid/alkaline balance in your body using the pH scale of 1-14. An acid body becomes a magnet for sickness, disease and aging, and eating more alkaline foods helps shift your body’s pH and oxygenate your system back into balance. Foods high on the acidic spectrum include refined foods and animal products. To help maintain an ideal pH balance of 7.35-7.45, superfoods to the rescue.
- Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) Value: ORAC measures the ability of just about any substance to subdue free radicals in the test tube, in essence a measurement of the antioxidant activity of any food. The higher the ORAC number, the stronger its antioxidant power. In order to get the most antioxidants into your diet, superfoods are critical, in addition to a natural, whole foods-based diet. Ditch the processed food in favor of acai, goji, mulberries and raw chocolate (cacao), as they prevent the production of free radicals in our body that lead to disease and aging.
Why should you eat Superfoods?
Obviously, it is for the amazing health benefits that they offer. These foods are rich in nutrients and work wonders in keeping your mind and body healthy. But, this is not all. Once you start consuming superfoods on a regular basis, you will start noticing the difference in not just how you feel, but also how you look.
Eating these foods regularly makes your body healthier, helps you flush out toxins more frequently and leaves you with a healthy glow. It also helps you maintain your weight and you can continue to remain healthy without having to take annoying vitamins or mineral tablets. Superfoods in fact contain all the right nutrients in the right proportions. But there is more. So far, you have only read that they contain nutrients. But what nutrients are these?
Typically superfoods contain antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, essential fatty acids, polysaccharides, enzymes and glyconutrients to name a few. However, the best part is that these foods are clean and pesticide free, organic sources of these nutrients, so in effect they act faster and work better.
Clean out your kitchen, tossing as many unhealthy items as you can. Single-ingredient foods – apples, chicken, cooking oil, etc. – are keepers. Packaged foods with long lists of hard-to-pronounce ingredients go out, especially if they contain more than 7% of calories from saturated fat or more than 10% of calories from sugar. Now, turn the page and find out what you have made room for!
You should include these in your diet and see the remarkable changes that they bring in your life. Fill up on these nutrient packed foods, which can help you fight disease. Feel more energetic and even lose weight. The order in each category is random.
- Raw Milk. This superfood is filled to the brim with awesome vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. There is simply no comparison between today’s pasteurized, homogenized, sterile, hormone laden, GMO fed milk and the greatness of whole raw milk from grass fed animals.
Eggs. Each egg has 6 grams of protein but just 72 calories. No wonder researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, found that eating eggs for breakfast (as part of a low-cal diet) helps you slim down.
- Greek yogurt. It has twice the protein of regular yogurt.
- Turkey breast. It has 20 grams of satisfying protein but just 90 calories per 3-oz serving.
- Wild Salmon. You will get all the heart-smart omega-3s you need in a day from just 3 oz.
Sardines. 3 oz provide more than 100% of your daily vitamin D. Sardines are also a top source of omega-3 fats. Try adding mashed canned sardines to marinara sauce and serving over whole-wheat pasta.
- Game meat. This meat is an extremely high grade source of nutrients and energy. This kind of meat has significant health benefits from attaining your nutrients to super food properties. The superfood properties reduce risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease (particularly ones associated with cholesterol). The meat found in supermarkets is profoundly different then wild game meat, this is particularly evident in the lipid profile and chemical pollutant content.
Vegetables and greens
- Brussels sprouts. They have more glucosinolates (compounds that combat cancer and detoxify our bodies) than any other vegetable. For a side dish that will make you wonder why you have been avoiding them, slice each one into quarters, then sauté in olive oil with chopped sweet Vidalia onions.
- Spinach. A half-cup provides more than five times your daily dose of vitamin K, which helps blood clot and builds strong bones.
- Collard greens. They are exploding with nutrients like vitamin A, zeaxanthin and lutein, which keep your eyes healthy.
- Cauliflower White foods can be good for you! This one is packed with cancer-fighting glucosinolates.
- Asparagus. A half-cup supplies 50% of your daily bone-building vitamin K and a third of your day’s folate, it is a natural diuretic so it banishes bloating, too.
- Broccoli sprouts. They have 10 times more of the cancer-preventing compound glucoraphanin than regular broccoli.
- Mustard greens. These “greens” (actually a cruciferous veggie) are a top source of vitamin K. For a tasty pesto, chop them in a food processor with garlic, walnuts, Parmesan and olive oil.
- Watercress. With just 4 calories per cup, this cruciferous veggie delivers a hefty dose of vitamin K, zeaxanthin, lutein, beta-carotene and cancer-fighting phytochemicals.
- Bok choy. This calcium-rich veggie can protect your bones and may even ward off PMS symptoms.
- Garlic. Vampires aside, garlic is a great source of vitamin C, potassium, arginine, selenium and polyphenols. It may look small, but it plays a huge role in our health. It helps fight cardiovascular disease and cancer, and also has valuable antiviral and anti-inflammatory. With almost 100 identified nutrients in a clove of garlic it is a real food powerhouse.
- Kale. It is loaded with fiber, antioxidants, detoxifying compounds, minerals, iron and protein. There are a couple of different varieties of Kale, and the darker the leaf, the more nutritionally dense it is, so go for Red Leaf kale or Lacinato, aka Dino, kale, if available. For maximum healthiness, consume it raw by blending it into smoothies or using it as a base for a salad.
- Ginger. Native from India and China, ginger is pretty much one of the super medicines found in nature. It shows to work wonders in the treatment of everything from cancer to migraines and stomach aches, effective against ovarian cancer treatment as well as colon cancer prevention, prostate cancer, leukaemia, lung cancer and breast cancer, nausea, motion sickness, heart burns, migraines or menstrual cramps, ginger is a good alternative (if not better) to over-the-counter medicine to relief you from all of the above. Ginger also shows to be an effective ally when time to treat cold and flu, to reduce pain and inflammation, stimulate circulation, prevent internal blood clots, lower cholesterol, prevent kidney damage associated with diabetes and to treat baldness.
- Avocado pears. Their healthy fat keeps you satisfied and helps you absorb other nutrients. For a new u twist, brush a halved avocado (pit removed) with olive oil and grill 1 minute. Serve with red onion, sliced grapefruit and balsamic vinegar.
- Tomato. It is loaded with lycopene, which makes your skin look younger and keeps your heart healthy. In fact, a Harvard study found that women with the most lycopene in their blood reduced their risk of a heart attack by 34%. And yes, it is fruit!
- Bananas. They are loaded with several kinds of good-for-you fiber, including resistant starch, which helps you slim down.
- Oranges. One orange supplies more than 100% of the vitamin C you need in a day. It is also a good source of calcium and folate.
- Grapes. They are a leading source of resveratrol, the plant chemical responsible for the heart-healthy benefits of red wine.
- Apples. They contain quercetin, an antioxidant that may reduce your risk of lung cancer.
- Dried plums (prunes). They are packed with polyphenols, plant chemicals that have been shown to boost bone density by stimulating your bone-building cells.
- Dried tart cherries. Researchers at Michigan State University found their potent anthocyanins help control blood sugar, reduce insulin and lower cholesterol.
- Olives They deliver the same heart-healthy monounsaturated fat you get in olive oil, but for just 7 calories per jumbo olive!
- Kiwi fruit. Kiwis are a great source of vitamin C, folate, vitamin E, potassium, fiber, carotenoids, polyphenols, chlorophyll, glutathione and pectin. Unusually for a fruit, kiwis are also a source of vitamin E – the vitamin associated with nuts and oils. One medium-sized kiwi contains as much vitamin C as an orange. Kiwis also help thin the blood, like aspirin but without the side effects.
- Goji berries. They provide overall nourishment by providing an amazing number of rich nutrients. In fact, the number of nutrients that it contains by way of amino acids, vitamins, polysaccharides, human growth hormone, are too many to be listed.
- Acai berries. This South American fruit has been one of the richest food sources for the people of the Amazon but it has started gaining immense popularity across the world as well for some of its excellent health benefits. It is known to contain significant amounts of essential fatty acids such as Omega 3 and Omega 6 as well as monounsaturated oleic acid. Acai berries also have a high concentration of blue pigmented antioxidants and it has the one of the highest ORAC values amongst fruits. As we all know, free radicals are the cause of all harm in our bodies, including the ageing process and Acai berries are excellent in absorbing these free radicals.
- Blueberries. They improve memory by protecting your brain from inflammation and boosting communication between brain cells.
- Strawberries. They are loaded with ellagitannins, phytochemicals that may halt the growth of cervical and colon cancers.
- Blackberries. The king of the berry family boasts more antioxidants than strawberries, cranberries or blueberries.
- Walnuts. Just 14 walnut halves provide more than twice your daily dose of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat that is been shown to improve memory and coordination.
- Brazil nuts. They have more selenium than any other food. One nut delivers your entire day’s worth!
- Coconut. Tropical countries where coconuts abound often take them for granted. However, since they also consume enough coconut water constantly, it is one of the reason for their good health. Coconut water found inside the shell is pure because of the many filters it has had to pass through till it reached the centre. For people with kidney stones, drinking coconut water helps in tackling the pain, while protecting the kidneys from bad calcium sources. Coconut oil and coconut cream contain Medium Chain Fatty Acids, which are instrumental in making the immune system stronger.
- Hemp seeds. Hemp as we know is an extremely versatile product of nature and right from ropes to paper, hemp has been instrumental in making our lives easier. However, in recent times, hemp seed has slowly gained popularity as a superfood because of its amazing powers in keeping us healthy. Hemp seeds make your immune system stronger and helps you fight diseases better.
- Flaxseed. Not only is flaxseed loaded with plant omega-3s, it also has more lignans (compounds that may prevent endometrial and ovarian cancer) than any other food. Store ground flaxseed in your refrigerator and sprinkle on yogurt or salads.
- Pumpkin seeds. This versatile seed, also known as pepitas, has long been treasured by American aboriginal peoples for its dietary and medicinal properties. Now these seeds are receiving the superfood attention they deserve. Of all the nuts and seeds typically consumed as snacks, pumpkin seeds are among the leaders of phytosterols – a naturally occurring compound with an established reputation for cholesterol-lowering properties.
- Sunflower seeds A quarter-cup delivers half your day vitamin E, which keeps your heart healthy and fights infection.
- Quinoa. Pronounced ‘keen wah’, quinoa is a frequently neglected and relatively unknown superfood – containing a perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids. These seeds are gluten-free and a great source of protein and and is considered a complete protein because it contains all eight of the essential amino acids we need for tissue development. Regarded as a sacred food by the Incas, quinoa provides a wide range of vitamins and minerals too. Nothing else packs a punch of nutrition quite like quinoa.
- Spirulina. The superfood spirulina is a blue-green algae and it contains a wide range of valuable nutrients. Firstly it contains 65% easily digested protein, and 18 amino acids. It is a unique vegetarian complete source of protein and much of its protein has been pre-digested by the algae itself and these enzymes go on to assist in the human digestive and absorption process. This source of optimum nutrition’s protein source is superior because it also has lower fat, lower cholesterol and no artificial growth booster chemicals like meat and dairy protein.
- Honey. By honey, we do not mean the supermarket variety that you normally use to drizzle over toast or pancakes. Have you ever considered the differences in that honey and raw, organic honey? The top most one is that the latter is a superfood, recognized the world over for its immense healing and beneficial properties. Honey can help people suffering from diarrhoea, infections, gastrointestinal problems and various other ailments by alleviating their symptoms greatly. Raw unprocessed honey is the richest source of live, healing enzymes which go a long way in sharpening your IQ and making you more mentally alert.
- Royal Jelly. Here is another little known bee product that has gained the status of superfood in recent times. Royal jelly is a thick, milky substance that is secreted from the pharyngeal glands of a special group of nurse bees. Royal jelly contains B5 and other B vitamins as well as amino acids and a host of minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron and manganese.
- Bee Pollen. Bee products are slowly gaining a wide acceptance in the world of nutrition and people are waking up to the fact that bee products are natural and wholesome superfoods. A relatively unknown bee product is bee pollen which has become hugely popular for the numerous health benefits it offers. Bee pollen has an astonishing number of vitamins – eighteen in all, fourteen fatty acids and is 15% lecithin. Bee pollen actually has more protein than meat, eggs or cheese.
- Mushrooms (Shiitake). One serving (about ¼ lb) provides as much vitamin D as you would get from a glass of milk.
- Tea. Both green and black tea prevent hardening of the arteries, according to researchers at the University of Scranton.
- Cacao (Cocoa beans). There is always some sort of research being conducted on chocolate and every time the findings are always positive. Increases blood flow to the brain and enhances brain function, has a high concentration of anti oxidants such as polyphenols, catechins and epicatechins. Anti oxidants as we all know are the holy grail of youth and a disease free life.
Topping-up with synthetic multi-vitamins or mineral pills? The human body is not designed to efficiently assimilate synthetic vitamins and metallic, rock minerals. Unlike synthetic vitamin or mineral pills, the vitamins in food are genuine, undiluted.
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