You’ve definitely heard the word ‘superfood’; it’s everywhere – from grocery stores to social media and every place in between. But, what exactly are superfoods and why are they suddenly so popular? And what do they do for you?
By definition, superfood is “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” In simpler words, superfoods are foods that are extremely high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other micro and macro nutrients essential for the optimal functioning of your body. It is safe to call them the superheroes of food.
Superfoods fuel your body with energy, and they offer a multitude of benefits. They promote healthy skin, nails and hair. They also help maintain healthy body weight and lower the risk of many lifestyle-related health problems. Superfoods come in many forms – grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds and more. Let’s take a look at some of the most common superfoods and what they do for you.
- Quinoa: You’ve probably heard a lot about how quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse and we cannot agree enough. This supergrain is predominantly grown in the Andean region of South America and widely exported across the globe. This power-packed grain (actually a seed) is known as a complete protein, which means that it contains all nine essential amino acids that are required for your body to function well. These essential amino acids cannot be produced by your body and need to be obtained from the foods you consume. Quinoa is also high in potassium, iron, fibre and antioxidants. This needs to be your pantry staple!
- Blueberries: The best things come in small packages and blueberries are proof of that. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and are also high in potassium and vitamin C, K and E, making them a must-have in your diet. They have a naturally occurring compound called anthocyanin, phytonutrient, that gives blueberries their colour and all their health benefits. Blueberries are anti-inflammatory and are known to improve heart health, bone strength, skin health, blood pressure, diabetes management, cancer prevention and mental health.
- Banana: Bananas are one of the world’s most popular fruits, making them an easily accessible superfood to add to your diet. It goes without saying that bananas are a great source of fibre and potassium, but they are also rich in other vitamins and minerals and other plant compounds such as dopamine and catechin that have been known to reduce heart diseases. Some of the other benefits of bananas include increased satiety, better digestion and the stabilization of blood sugar levels.
- Raw Cacao: There is a lot of confusion about cacao and cocoa. While they are both from the same tree, they are significantly different. Cocoa is the fermented, roasted and processed by-product of cacao beans, while raw cacao is the purest form of chocolate that there is. Raw organic cacao has over 40 times more antioxidants than blueberries and is one of the highest plant-based sources of iron. It’s also rich in calcium, minerals and vitamins, and is a natural mood elevator and antidepressant.
- Chia Seeds: Chia Seeds date back as far as 3500 BC. The Aztecs and Mayas used chia to sustain themselves in battles and on long running and hunting expeditions. “Chia” means strength in Mayan, and there couldn’t have been a more appropriate name considering its impressive nutritional profile. They are rich in protein, fibre, antioxidants and are a great source of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Add a spoonful to smoothies and shakes to reap the benefits of this superfood.
- Lucuma: Lucuma is a South American native fruit that has been consumed since 200 AD and known as the “gold of Incas.” This sweet tasting fruit is rich in antioxidants that protect your body from free radicals. It also contains polyphenols and carotenoids, which can protect against chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart diseases. Lucuma is rich in soluble and insoluble fibre that prevents constipation and contains calcium, iron and vitamin C, and is mostly consumed in powdered form or in pulp. Add a spoonful to your smoothies, use in cooking or in baking for added sweetener.
- Maca: Maca is magic! It grows predominantly in the Andes mountains and looks like a hybrid between potato and white radish, Maca has a nutty taste to it. It is a natural mood enhancer and is known to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. It is said to increase libido in both men and women and increase fertility. Some studies indicate that Maca even helps relieve symptoms of menopause in women. Other interesting benefits include improved learning and memory, and boost in energy and sports performance… We told you it’s magic!
- Turmeric: Turmeric has been a staple in herbal medicine for centuries and recently science has been backing up claims that it contains bioactive compounds called curcuminoids, which contain medicinal properties. The main active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, is said to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is also a strong antioxidant. Studies show that curcumin may lower the risk of heart diseases and prevent cancer. It can also help ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and can be used in treating Alzheimer’s.
Nature has blessed us in abundance, and we are only scratching the surface with this list.
While superfoods are packed with nutrition, it is necessary to understand that they won’t automatically shield you from health problems and diseases. Eating one or two superfoods while having an otherwise poor diet won’t really help you. It is imperative to maintain an overall clean and balanced diet to take advantage of the benefits these superfoods offer.