What is a Superfood?
Superfood is a buzzword in the nutrition & health literature these days. It is a commonly used term; even the Oxford English Dictionary includes it as an approved word. A superfood is: “a food considered especially nutritious or otherwise beneficial to health and well-being”.
The term “superfood” has been subject to misrepresentation and misuse by food manufacturers, who sometimes use it as a mere marketing tool. The European Union, for instance, prohibited the use of the term “superfood” to market food products as of 1 July 2007, unless a specific medial claim for product can be validated, supported by credible scientific research. In other jurisdictions the term “superfood” may appear on food packaging without any basis. We should be careful what we believe about this claim.
The “real superfood” is used to refer to foods that have high nutrient value or phytochemical content, the consumption of which has proven health benefits. Normally they are raw vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, grains and certain types of fish. Packaged and processed foods do not tend to be superfoods.
My Favourite Superfoods
I do eat a lot of plant-based superfoods, which – I do genuinely believe – help me to stay fit and healthy. Here are my top 10 superfoods that I love and whose health properties I have confidence in.
Berries including blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are nutritional powerhouses. They contain a moderate-to-rich concentration of anthocyanins, vitamin C, manganese and dietary fibre. They taste absolutely fabulous and are relatively low in calories.
Dark leafy vegetables including spinach, kale, collard greens and Swiss chard. These vegetables fight cancer; improve cardiovascular health and help brain function.
Dark green vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. They contain antioxidants and folate, which help to prevent heart disease. They also contain lutein, which contributes to delaying the progression of age-related macular degeneration, which causes impaired vision and blindness. They also contain sulphoraphane, an anti-cancer phytochemical.
Beans and lentils are very good sources of protein, plus they contain fibre, iron and calcium. The glycaemic index is low so they are digested slowly and are absorbed into the bloodstream gradually.
Olive oil is the primarily ingredient of the Mediterranean diet, which has proven health benefits. The monosaturated fat in olive oil lowers bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol levels. It is rich in antioxidants. Nonetheless, it is very rich in calories, so its best to use sparingly.
Wholegrain bread is the only good type of bread in my view. It has a low glycaemic index, protects against heart disease, while being rich in fibre and containing essential fatty acids.
Green tea is famous for its health properties, especially due to it being rich in catechins, an antioxidant. These protect the artery walls and prevent the formation of blood clots.
Garlic and onion are very beneficial for you if you have high blood pressure. Additionally they fight cancer, kill bad bacteria, improve cholesterol and strengthen heart health.
Nuts including walnuts, brazil nuts, hazelnuts and almonds. Nuts are packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre. Plus they are good sources of plant-based protein. Eating a handful of nuts regularly can help to reduce risk of heart disease. Brazil nuts are especially rich in selenium, which may protect against cancer, depression and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Apples are packed with antioxidants, in particular vitamin C. They contain pectin, which helps to lower blood cholesterol levels and helps with healthy digestion. They support healthy skin and gums, too. The glycaemic index of apples is low.
Other plants that have superfood type qualities I would recommend for regular consumption are tomatoes, grapes, pumpkins, carrots, bananas, pineapples, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, beets, mushrooms, brown rice and dark chocolate. They are very rich in phytochemicals, tend to have anticancer properties, taste fantastic and are generally very healthy for you.
I do not eat meat or fish, as I am a vegetarian. Therefore I do not count fish as my personal superfood. However, fish can be rich in omega-3 depending on its type and origin. If you do eat fish, you may consider salmon, mackerel and sardines in your superfood-based diet. They are good sources of protein, vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, they help reduce blood clotting and inflammation in your system and they may prevent depression and dementia, too.
If you have a personal favourite superfood that you eat regularly, do let us know. We are keen on hearing about further nutritional powerhouses!