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Superfoods - Why So Super?

17 Aug

What are superfoods and what makes them so good for us? Is it all just media hype or can consumption of certain foods truly boost your health and vitality? 

The term ‘’superfood’’ refers to whole, unprocessed foods that contain high levels of nutrients compared to their calorie count and are usually high in vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants.  The term was coined and pushed by marketers and has become a success story in the field. Many people have started ordering particular foods only because it has been labelled as a ‘’superfood’’ by sellers. 

Traditionally, superfoods are nutrient powerhouses, packed with high doses of vitamins and minerals which our body needs to ward off diseases and stay healthy. They can also contain other important nutrients such as antioxidants, healthy fats, fibre, and phytochemicals.

Here are five everyday superfoods which are reported to be beneficial for our health and well-being...

Berries 

They may be small in size, but don’t be fooled, berries are bursting with nutritional value. They are some of nature’s most powerful disease-fighting foods, and they are also pretty good at boosting energy levels and cognitive function. They contain high levels of antioxidants and phytochemicals, vitamins and other natural compounds.  

Berries are believed to keep your brain young, your skin glowing and help prevent the effects of aging. Research has shown that these super fruits help prevent the development of cancer and reduce the risk of heart diseases, arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure. Some nutritionists believe that if you make only one change to your diet, it should be to add berries. They are a good source of vitamin K (aids wound healing), vitamin C, fibre and manganese (an energy-boosting mineral). British scientists have discovered that a bowl of blueberries in the morning can help prevent tiredness in the afternoon. They believe the antioxidants in berries stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain and keep the mind alert. 

Nuts

Raw organic nuts have plenty of health benefits. Rich in essential nutrients such as protein, fibre, energy, vitamins, minerals, and packed with antioxidants - nuts have it all! 

Eating nuts is said to keep your heart healthy, lower cholesterol and help with weight control. Five large epidemiological studies have found that frequently eating nuts lowers the risk of heart disease by anywhere between 15 and 51 percent. They are a great source of healthy plant-based fats which your body needs for optimal function. Actually, most of the fat in nuts are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are great for “good” cholesterol. According to a recent University of Florida study, eating a handful of almonds each day is a simple way to improve your diet and reduce snacking on junk food.

Nuts are beneficial for blood sugar control as well. A study published in PLOS One, found that tree nuts - including almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, and pecans - among others - may improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a naturally sweet treat, and worked their way into the superfood hall of fame by possessing: calcium, potassium and vitamins A and C. One large potato has more than 70% of our Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C, which is more than double the level in white potatoes. They are a great source of the mineral manganese - an essential nutrient and an important component in the metabolism of carbohydrates which helps steady the levels of blood sugar, even in individuals with type 2 diabetes. 

Their rich orange colour indicates that they are high in carotenoids such as beta carotene. Carotenoids help to maintain eyesight and boost immunity; they are powerful antioxidants that help ward off cancer and protect against the effects of aging. Studies at Harvard University of more than 124,000 people showed a 32 percent reduction in risk of lung cancer in people who consumed a variety of carotenoid-rich foods as part of their regular diet. Another study of women who had completed treatment for early stage breast cancer, conducted by researchers at Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL), found that women with the highest blood concentrations of carotenoids were the least likely to suffer a cancer relapse. 

Avocado

Dubbed the "alligator pear" because of its textured skin, the avocado is an incredibly popular fruit and is prized for its nutrient value. Some people avoid avocados due to their high fat content. However, they are rich in monounsaturated fats which can reduce the level of “bad cholesterol” - one of its biggest superfood health claims. The monounsaturated fat helps to lower cholesterol, decrease the risk of heart disease and can boost brain activity. A study found that after seven days on a diet that included avocados, there was a significant decrease in low density lipoprotein (LDL) - “bad” cholesterol - as well as an 11 percent increase in high density lipoprotein (HDL) - “good” cholesterol.

Avocados are also very high in potassium, an important mineral that most of us don’t consume enough of through diet alone. Potassium is important for muscle control because it builds protein, improves nerve function and also reduces blood pressure levels. In addition, avocados contain some important vitamins and minerals that boost our immune system:  one avocado consists of approximately 1/3 of the daily requirement of vitamin K and folate, lots of pantothenic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. 

Last but not least, avocados are well known for their beauty-boosting benefits. The D-manno-heptulose sugar that is found in avocados has been shown to improve the skin epidermis by boosting collagen formation, while oil extracted from this super fruit is said to boost moisture levels in both skin and hair. 

Dark Chocolate 

As long as it is eaten in moderation, dark chocolate is considered an excellent healthy treat. It is made from the seed of the cocoa tree and is a powerful source of antioxidants. Cocoa is packed with magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese and phosphorous. 

However, not all dark chocolate is created equal. It is important to look for chocolate which has a high percentage of cocoa and low sugar content. Unfortunately, the majority of chocolate sold at the moment is milk chocolate which contains a very limited amount of healthy cocoa and a large amount of sugar. White chocolate doesn’t contain cocoa at all - it is made entirely from pasteurised milk and sugar, and is technically classed a fudge by most confectioners. 

Less is definitely more when it comes to this superfood. Studies show that no more than 1 to 2 ounces of dark chocolate per day can reduce risk of blood clots, lower the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, improve skin quality and even sharpen problem-solving skills.


From all the evidence out there, it’s clear that superfoods are not just the media hype that some people claim. Adding a couple of these wonder foods to our day-to-day diets will definitely improve our health, especially when done in combination with a balanced diet and an active lifestyle. 

Tagged In: Healthcare
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