What Are Superfoods Exactly?
Plant-based foods that remain close to their state in nature, and have little to no processing before being consumed, are considered “whole foods”. Examples of whole foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. A “superfood” is a fairly new marketing term that refers to a whole food that is high in nutrient density and low in calories.
Superfoods are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Health benefits are said to include:
- reduced risk of heart disease and cancer
- Improved brain function
- helps to fight memory loss
- helps you lose weight
- promotes a healthy complexion, nails, and hair
- increased energy level
Antioxidants found in superfoods, for example, help neutralize free radicals in our bodies. A free radical is a natural byproduct of chemical processes, such as cell metabolism. Free radicals are associated with human disease, including cancer, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and many others. They also may have a link to aging, which has been defined as a gradual accumulation of free-radical damage, also known as “oxidative stress”. Substances that generate free radicals can be found in the food we eat, the medicines we take, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. These substances include fried food, alcohol, tobacco smoke, pesticides, radiation, and air pollutants.
The body is under constant attack from oxidative stress. Oxygen in the body splits into single atoms with unpaired electrons. Electrons like to be in pairs, so these atoms, called free radicals, scavenge the body to seek out other electrons so they can become a pair. This causes damage to cells, proteins and DNA.
The best health food possesses three of the following four criteria:
- They must be a good or excellent source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
- Be high in phytonutrients and antioxidant compounds, such as vitamins A and E and beta carotene.
- They must be readily available.
- Have the potential to help reduce the risk of heart disease and other health conditions.
Superfoods are packed with these benefits. Some common Superfoods include Avocado, Black Beans, Oats, and Blueberries.
Avocado – Ounce for ounce, the avocado fruit is among the richest in fiber, folate, potassium, vitamin E, and magnesium. Its nutrient richness comes from healthy monounsaturated fat, which helps lower cholesterol.
Black Beans – antioxidant superstars and one of the greatest natural sources of dietary fiber. Just one cup of black beans provides nearly 50% of your daily value for fiber, 30% of your daily value for protein, and about 20% of your daily value for iron.
Oats – with minimal processing, oats are rich in beta-glucan, a heart-healthy fiber that can help lower cholesterol. They are low in sodium, and a good source of protein and carbohydrates for energy. Oats also promote healthy gut bacteria and increase feelings of fullness.
Blueberries – packed with antioxidants, phytoflavinoids, potassium, and vitamin C. Not only can blackberries lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, but they are also anti-inflammatory, according to WebMD.
This is by no means a complete list of superfoods (we found a great list here) and it should be noted that Superfoods are not a cure-all food. Rather than consuming these “superfoods” on top of a poor diet, it is recommended to incorporate these into a balanced diet of equally nutritious foods. We hope these “What Are Superfoods Exactly?” tips help you in your own life as well as when discussing healthy lifestyles with your clients.
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