Updated: Jun 14, 2020
We’ve all heard the term ‘Superfood’ but what does that mean exactly? It’s pretty simple really, superfoods are nutrient dense, packed with vitamins and minerals and help our bodies fight the battle against diseases...all the while making us feel better by providing antioxidants, fibre, and essential nutrients (1).
Sounds pretty good right...so here’s a list of some key ones you might want to start adding into your diet.
*This is just a small fraction of foods that are incredibly beneficial to our health, honestly all Fruit and Vegetables have benefits so try them all*
Just a quick breakdown on what you primarily get from your delicious 'superfoods'.
ANTIOXIDANTS are chemicals that protect against the harmful effects of free radicals by stabilizing them. Free radicals are chemicals naturally produced in every living cell and known to cause cell damage, they are scavengers and for all intents and purposes rob from other cells. The more antioxidants present in the body, the less damage free radicals can cause.
NUTRIENTS are the vitamins and minerals found in the foods we eat. They include vitamin A (as carotenoids), vitamin C, the B vitamin folate, magnesium and potassium. Some superfoods also contain protein, good carbs and essential fatty acids, like omega-3s and GLA (gamma-linolenic acid). Our bodies need these for every type of function we perform, I really cannot stress enough how good you can feel when you get enough fruit, veg and protein in your diet which are naturally packed with these essential nutrients.
FIBER is a major player in all things digestion, so be aware of getting your RDA, 21-25g daily for women and 30-38g for men (See 20 Health & Nutrition Tips or Reading Labels posts for more info). Primarily fibre aids in digestion, improves absorption of nutrients, increases insulin effectiveness and promotes feelings of satiety.
Blueberries are the richest of most fruits and vegetables in anthocyanins, a coloured water soluble pigment that has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties (2). Bioflavonoids contained in the blue, purple & red pigments and were found to be beneficial in protecting the brain against Alzheimer’s disease and the eyes against age related macular degeneration. They are also used as an aid in the treatment of urinary tract infections by protecting the urethra and bladder from E. coli. A source of vitamin C, fiber, pectin, manganese, vitamin E and vitamin B2 you can’t really go wrong with the Blueberry!
Goji berries have been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat conditions like kidney problems, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, low energy and skin conditions. They contain 18 amino acids, 11 minerals, 6 vitamins, 8 polysaccharides, 5 unsaturated fatty acids, phytosterols and carotenoids, more protein than meat and more iron than spinach. They have a strong antioxidant activity, boost the immune system and brain function while helping to protect against heart disease and cancer. Now that might sound like a miracle food but do try to not over consume it either, everything in moderation my friends, everything in moderation...except processed foods just ditch those all together.
Dark Chocolate or cocoa beans are high in fat and have useful amounts of protein, some B vitamins and trace elements, like iron and magnesium. Most chocolate contains more sugar than cocoa mass, which depletes the B vitamins though, always try to stick to a 70% cocoa or higher chocolate. Rich in flavonoids like proanthocyanidins which makes it a potent antioxidant food. It also contains arginine which may prevent or treat heart and circulatory diseases, combat fatigue, and stimulate the immune system (3). You really can’t go wrong with good quality dark chocolate, 1 to 2 squares a day is perfectly ok and beneficial!!
Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, anchovies and tuna) contains B vitamins, vitamins A and D and minerals like iodine, fluorine, cobalt, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and copper. They are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which can reduce blood stickiness, high blood pressure & cholesterol levels. Can be beneficial in arthritis as the omega-3 fatty acids are strong anti-inflammatory. The mercury can accumulate in fish in the form of methyl mercury, which is more toxic than pure mercury. So while fish is good for you, be very mindful of the source and keep fish intake at 2-3 weekly especially with Tuna or any canned fish.
Wheat grass can be considered a “living food” rich in vitamin E, chlorophyll and many nutrients. It cleanses the blood, rejuvenates the body and increases resistance to disease; it is a tonic which helps with conditions such as fatigue, anemia, toxemia and cancerous growths. Wheat grass juice is a powerful detoxifying agent which helps to increase the enzyme level in the cells, aiding the rejuvenation of the body and digestion of nutrients. I’m reminded of Buckley’s tagline here ‘taste awful but it works’, luckily just a shot will do wonders and you can always get it in powder form and mix it in with smoothies.
Pomegranate has a potent antioxidant activity due to punicalagins which are good in the maintenance of a healthy cardiovascular system. They are rich in iron, astringent, used to control diarrhea and expel intestinal worms, can help treating bladder disturbances, strengthening gums, and soothes mouth ulcers.
Green tea contains a high amount of catechins, a group of antioxidant polyphenol flavonoids that can help to reduce inflammation and work to help fight cancer. The largest amount of catechins are called EGCG which provide antioxidants and cell protection. Green Tea also contains caffeine and the amino acid L-theanine which has anti-anxiety effects while increasing dopamine production. When paired with the caffeine the two seem to have a synergistic effect that is potent in improving brain function (5).
Depending on the person green tea may increase metabolism having a fat burning effect. I can personally vouch for drinking a cup after a meal and having it relieve the feeling of fullness within 30 min. Last but not least it also reduces cholesterol, blood pressure, fights colds and prevents gum disease. New research also suggests that the catechins in green tea protect against age related degenerative illnesses, like Alzheimer’s. Now drink up!! If the taste is not for you try Mint Green Tea, it’s refreshing and far less bitter.
Broccoli contains large amounts of Sulphur, Iron and Chlorophyll, which purifies the blood. It is high in fibre, protein, and minerals, while also being rich in vitamins A, B9 (Folate) and C, with more vitamin C than oranges. It contains sulforaphane, a sulphur based compound which helps to kill cancer-causing substances in food when released in the gut, increasing production of powerful enzymes that destroy carcinogenic substances such as those found in heavily barbecued meat. The compound I3C found in broccoli was found to increase DNA repair proteins, preventing genetic information damage and lowering the risk of developing cancer. Being rich in antioxidants and fibre this wonderful veg will also help to support digestion and bowel movements (6). There are a myriad of claims that I could list off here for you but the gist is broccoli is good for you, will help with aging, cancer prevention, immune support, digestion, and more. Love it up in any way you can!!
Garlic contains various potent Sulphur compounds such as Alliin and Allicin which boost immunity, have antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-thrombotic effects. Allicin extract in cream form was found to kill the so-called “superbug” (MRSA) which is resistant to antibiotics in treating skin disorders such as eczema and acne. It is also used to prevent and treat colds and flu, lowers blood pressure and reduces blood stickiness, preventing coronary thrombosis, heart attacks and strokes. It has also been found to inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors, reduce yeast infections, allergies and stress. This amazing little food can also be used as a remedy for children with intestinal parasites such as pin-worms or tapeworms, and just when you thought it couldn't possibly do any more for you it also treats athlete’s foot. So forgo the bad breath and get it into ya!
Beetroot is rich in vitamins B1, B2 and C, plus minerals like potassium, manganese, phosphorus, silicon and is rich in beta carotene. It is used to detoxify the liver, purify the blood and improve circulation, lowering the risk of heart attacks. Beetroot is rich in dietary nitrates which the body converts to nitric oxide, a gas that provides oxygen to every cell of the body for optimal function. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, relaxing arteries, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure.
No food, including those labelled 'superfoods', can compensate for unhealthy eating. All unprocessed foods from the major food groups could be considered 'super' and all of these foods are beneficial as part of a balanced diet.
It would be very simple to incorporate at least 4-5 of these foods into your diet daily. Think Broccoli Salad with Beetroot, Pomegranate, Feta, some Seeds, and top it with Smoked Salmon or some Tuna. Wash it down with a cup of Green Tea and treat yourself to some Blueberries or a couple squares of Dark Chocolate...magic!!
1. (The Nutrition Coach Network no author 2012) Published online by The Nutrition Coach Network, 2012. Available at: http://www.thenutritioncoachnetwork.com/downloads/handouts/ncn-patient-handout-superfoods.pdf
2. (Khoo et al 2017) ‘Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits’ Published online by Food and Nutrition Research, Vol. 61, 2017. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5613902/
3. (PubChem no author 2019) ‘Arginine’ Published online by PubChem, 2019. Available at: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Arginine
4. (Whole Food Market no author 2007) ‘Supplement with Superfoods’ Published by the Whole Food Market, 2007. Available at: https://www.uccs.edu/healthcircle/sites/healthcircle/files/inline-files/Superfoods.pdf
5. (Gunnars, K 2018) ‘10 Proven Benefits of Green Tea’ Published online by Healthline, 2018. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea
6. (Hill, A. 2018) ‘Top 14 Health Benefits of Broccoli’ Published online by Healthline, 2018. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-broccoli
7. (NHS no author 2019) ‘Eat Well’ Published online by the NHS 2019. Available online at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/what-are-superfoods/
8. (M. Sharon), The Complete Guide to Nutrients, 7th Edition, London, 2017