Superfoods: What are They and Do You Need Them?
Superfoods are a set of foods that are described with supposedly more health benefits than other food groups and have a dense nutritional package. However, most dieticians, nutritionist, and doctors don’t usually use this term because most fruits, vegetables, and specific type of meat are loaded with nutrients and none of them possess the single element to good overall well-being. It is thought that the term superfood was used by the food industry as a marketing strategy to influence consumer behavior.
The term superfood was first used in the late 1940s in a newspaper column published in Canada. In it, they were describing the health benefits of a muffin. It was until the 20th and 21st century that the term was globally used as a marketing strategy in selling a particular food product. The sellers would advertise that their products could improve consumers’ health, prevent diseases, and fight any existing illnesses. We may also find in some self-help books touting a list of specific foods as superfoods. There were even instances when marketers would sell their products on unreasonably high price.
In Europe, to regulate the use of the superfood label on specific products; they have prohibited its use unless producers can provide credible scientific research proving their claims. The health information unit of the European Union says that it’s absurd that individuals would have a diet based solely on superfood classification. Because vitamins and minerals can be found on most plant and meat-based products
It’s hard to define definitively what a superfood is. Basically, most plant and some animal-based foods are abundant with nutrients and can be defined as a superfood. In fact, international health committees like the Food and Drug Administration of the United States and the European Food Safety Authority hasn’t officially defined superfoods. Despina Hyde, a dietician at the New York University’s Medical Center stated that superfoods don’t have their own food group and it is more of a marketing term than a scientific term.
Since superfood has no official definition, listed below are foods or food groups that may be considered as “super” and above other food categories:
Berries are the most popular among superfoods and considered one of the healthiest fruits around. It is not only delicious but also rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and fibers.
Studies suggest that blueberry, in particular, may have a more potent form of phytochemicals comparing to other types of berries. This compound breaks down the accumulation of fats in the arteries reducing risks of cardiovascular diseases. Daily consumption of berries may indeed improve health and may even prevent cancer.
Other types of berries include:
Green tea contains caffeine and can be a healthier alternative to coffee. One serving provides a calming effect and because of its high fiber and antioxidant content, it detoxifies the liver as well.
Recent research suggests that the polyphenol content of green tea may help prevent the development of cancer cells. Though this study is still partial and inconclusive, it shows promising results.
In one study of about 30,000 women conducted in Iowa, researchers observed that women who drank green tea twice a day have a lesser risk of colon cancer than those who don’t drink green tea.
Salmon meat is well-known for its rich omega-3 fatty acid content. It reduces the risk of heart disease by lowering triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
It is an essential nutrient, meaning our body can’t produce them and we have to incorporate them in our daily diet to benefit from them. According to research, the daily recommended allowance for adults is at least 300 to 550 mg of omega-3 per day.
The omega-3 fatty acid is common to fish. However, salmon meat is the best source of this essential nutrient. About 100g of salmon meat has 2,300mg of omega-3—that is about four times more than the daily recommended allowance. For wild salmons, it has at least 2,600mg of omega-3 fatty acid.
Turkey meat is rich in protein and has high amounts of niacin and vitamin b6—nutrients that help the body’s production of energy. It also contains a certain type of amino acid called tryptophan, which triggers the production of serotonin and strengthens the immune system.
We may not think of meat products as a source of antioxidant, but turkey meat contains a compound called selenium. It is a potent antioxidant that protects the body from diseases that causes chronic illnesses. It also enhances immunity and thyroid hormone health.
Leafy green vegetables
Leafy vegetables may be the ultimate superfood. This is because leafy green vegetables, in general, are abundant with all kinds of vitamins and minerals. Some example of these nutrients includes fibers, antioxidants, iron, vitamin c, calcium, zinc, magnesium, etc.
Vegetables are essential in our daily diet. Regular consumption lowers the risk of chronic illnesses.
Some of the healthiest leafy vegetables:
- Beet greens
Cinnamon is rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Regular intake may help the body to regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol levels, and boost the immunity system.
Research also suggests that cinnamon may also contribute to the overall health condition of the nervous system. They also added that it may hinder the development of diseases like Dementia and Parkinson’s. It breaks down the accumulation of certain proteins that cause clogs in the nerve arteries.
Eggs are a good source of high-density lipoprotein—it reduces risks of stroke and heart disease. It also contains high levels of choline, which improves cognitive functions.
There was a time when eggs are thought to be the culprit for strokes and heart-related diseases, however, in recent studies; the health benefits from eggs are finally recognized. While it is true that eggs contain a high amount of cholesterol, these cholesterols are called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or in other terms good cholesterol. This kind of cholesterol supports the regulation of cholesterol levels, thus, lowering the risk of heart disease.
Nuts are an excellent source of dietary fibers, proteins, dietary fats, and antioxidants. It improves cholesterols in your body and it also enhances learning and memory capabilities.
Some examples of common nuts are: