It seems like every week there’s a new “superfood” making headlines. One week it’s kale, the next week it’s avocado. In fact, the word “superfood” has turned into a marketing buzzword and these days it seems like the word is being slapped onto just about anything. With all the confusion and misinformation, many people are left wondering: what are superfoods, anyway? Here’s a quick guide to superfoods and why we need them in our diet.
What are superfoods?
The term “superfood” is generally used to refer to plant-based foods that have exceptionally high nutritional value or very high nutritional density in the form of vitamins and minerals, and minimal calories. Superfoods are also known for being packed with antioxidants.
There is currently no legal criteria or definition that defines a food as a superfood, but selected fruit, veggies, nuts, spices and even teas have been upgraded to superfood status.
Why do we need superfoods?
Superfoods are in no way magical, nor do they guarantee a body free from disease or health conditions, but when incorporated into a healthy diet, they can help strengthen the body’s immune system and improve its functionality.
One of the most important nutrients superfoods have to offer, is antioxidants. Antioxidants occur naturally in certain foods, and they are essential in neutralising free radicals (these are by-products of energy production and they are known for causing various health problems). Free radicals have been linked to cancer, heart disease, arthritis and various other conditions. Antioxidant molecules can decrease, and in some cases even reverse, the effect of free radicals on the body. Studies have shown that superfoods high in antioxidants also have the ability to decrease inflammation in the body.
What types of foods are superfoods?
Superfoods are usually plant-based: either fruits or vegetables. Some of the most common superfoods include:
Berries: Berries have high levels of flavonoids (plant chemicals found naturally in fruit and veg), which aid a healthy heart. The berries most commonly believed to be superfoods are blueberries, goji berries and acai berries.
Mango: Mangoes contain more than 20 different vitamins and minerals. Just one serving provides you with 100% of your daily required vitamin C intake!
Green leafy vegetables: Think spinach, kale and broccoli. They are rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K, and many B vitamins. Leafy greens also contain an abundance of carotenoids, iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
Beets: Beets are very nutrient-dense, and contain potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamin C. They can help improve circulation and cognitive function, and some studies have even shown that they may contribute to improved athletic performance thanks to their ability to help enhance blood flow.
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