Is This a Super Food?
What exactly is or isn’t a super food. Every few months there seems to be the latest hype about a certain drink or certain food you should be eating. What’s the difference between a regular fruit or vegetable and a superfood?
Superfoods are usually plant-based, but you also get some fish. Superfoods are foods that are nutritionally dense and have a lot of antioxidants and some minerals and plenty of vitamins. Foods high in antioxidants are thought to help prevent cancer. Foods with healthy fats are thought to help avoid heart disease, lower cholesterol and promote hormonal health.
Foods high in fiber are thought to guard against digestive problems. It’s worth pointing out that there are no set criteria by any major health organization on what technically is a superfood and what is not.
Blueberries are commonly referred to as a super food because not only are they rich in vitamins, but also fiber and phytochemicals. You can find the same nutrients in other kinds of berries, like strawberries and cranberries. Foods high in flavonoids like blueberries are thought to improve heart health.
Exotic fruits I’m talking about fruits like acai berry, dragon fruit, rambutan or pomegranate. These fruits are beneficial, but there is no scientific evidence that they are any better than any other fruits, like blueberries.
Fruits like pomegranate are known for having anti-cancer properties. But other fruits like red raspberries are just as good and also contain ellagic acid. Ellagic acid is a natural antioxidant thought to reduce oxidative stress and found in fruits and vegetables like peaches, grapes, pomegranate, walnuts, pecans, cranberries, raspberries and strawberries.
Kiwifruit is another fruit rich in antioxidants and high in vitamin C. Kiwi fruit is also thought to help with sleep because of its high content of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and it helps to regulate mood, appetite, digestion, sleep and memory.
Other foods with similar antioxidants are citrus fruit, berries, melons, apples and pears.
Beans and whole grains are another food that have been called superfoods. Beans are a great source of low-fat protein and they contain insoluble fiber and insoluble fiber lowers cholesterol and soluble fiber helps you to feel full.
Whole grains have not had their nutrients stripped out of them like refined grains and have similar benefits to beans, but they don’t have as much protein.
Kale is a super food. Similar to a lot of other dark, leafy greens like spinach, swiss chard, broccoli and cabbages. These leafy greens are loaded with vitamins A, C and K, and you also get some fiber, calcium and other minerals. Broccoli is a vegetable that has calcium, folate, fiber, and vitamins A, C, K, E and the B vitamins from one vegetable.
High fatty fish like Salmon, sardines, mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are thought to lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, inflammation and promote brain health.
Not a Super Food
Coconut oil is claimed to have a range of health benefits because of its medium chain saturated fatty acids. Coconut oil has become popular in recent years with some companies making big claims on its health benefits, but there is no scientific research showing coconut oil helping lower cholesterol or improving heart health etc. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with coconut oil, but neither is it a superfood or any better than organic olive oil.
Almond milk has really grown in popularity in the last 5 years and there have been claims you get the same benefits as whole nuts. Nuts, in general are high in protein, antioxidants, fiber, and minerals. Almond milk is made from blanched skinless almonds, but a lot of the nutrition is lost during processing and the almonds make up a small part of the overall ingredients. Most companies add calcium and vitamin D to the almond milk to increase the nutrients. Unless you have a specific health issue or are a vegan, there’s no reason to think almond milk is any better for you than low fat cow’s milk.
You may have heard over the years that honey can help your allergies. Maybe you’ve heard it’s a healthier sugar. Any type of sugar isn’t good for your diet and that includes honey and maple syrup. Studies haven’t found any evidence to back up claims about helping with allergies and hayfever. While some of these foods are thought of as super foods, is a leafy green labeled a super food any better than another leafy green like asparagus?
Our ideal diet is one that has large amounts of plant-based foods with a selection of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthful animal products. Superfoods are good to have in our diet, but they are not the be all and end all.
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