Chances are you’ve heard about “superfoods” more than once or twice. But what does it mean? The word superfood is believed to have been first used as early as 1915. It has gained popularity over the last decade, becoming a common topic in the health and wellness community.
In this article, we share the truth about superfoods and ways in which you can incorporate these superfoods into your diet.
What qualifies as a superfood?
You might be surprised to learn that there is no official, medical, or regulated definition of the term superfood. However, Merriam-Webster defines superfood as “a food that is rich in compounds considered beneficial to a person’s health.”
This can describe many different foods, so what qualifies as a superfood?
You might think of superfoods as those that provide more benefits per bite. These foods are nutritious but offer a little something extra. Superfoods may be higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, yet also offer anti-inflammatory or antioxidant nutrients, phytonutrients, or other compounds that might have health benefits.
What are the best superfoods?
Though superfoods can include exotic-sounding ingredients like açai, goji berries, or maca, there are plenty in the produce aisle at the local supermarket and maybe in your fridge at home, too. Consider adding these everyday superfoods to your cart next time you shop.
Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and cranberries often land at the top of superfood lists – for a good reason. These sweet-tart gems are high in water, fiber, and vitamin C, in addition to other nutrients. Berries boast several phytochemicals that may help fight heart disease and certain cancers, among other benefits.
Enjoy your favorite fresh berries as a snack or tossed into a salad for a pop of color, flavor, and nutrition. Swap syrup for a mixed berry puree on waffles for a colorful brunch treat. Try frozen berries over yogurt or blended into a frosty superfood smoothie.
This group of veggies includes rockstars like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, Bok choy, kohlrabi, and more. Long studied for their benefits for cell health, most cruciferous vegetables are packed with fiber, folate, and vitamin K. Adding to their superfood status, cruciferous vegetables are a source of indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which helps promote healthy immune function and cervical health.
With so many options, you can enjoy a different cruciferous vegetable each day of the week. Try roasted baby Brussels sprouts or stir-fried Bok choy for an easy weeknight side dish.
And here’s an interesting tidbit – crushing or grinding foods like kale and broccoli increases the availability of indole-3-carbinol. So, consider making a broccoli pesto for dinner or add baby kale to a pineapple green smoothie to take advantage of this!
Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These superfoods are best known for their positive impact on heart health. Omega-3s have been shown to help support heart health by promoting healthy blood pressure and triglyceride levels. Research on the impact of omega-3 fatty acids on brain health and more continues to emerge.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential – the body cannot make them so you have to get these fatty acids from food or supplements. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish each week. If you tend to forget about fish as an option, keep packets of light tuna or salmon in your pantry for easy grab-and-go snacks or meals. Whip up a simple tuna salad with Greek yogurt and leftover veggies or top your green salad with salmon for an extra protein punch.
Keep in mind that certain fish may be high in mercury. The FDA and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have developed an advice chart to help you make safe choices when it comes to seafood.
Scientists believe the key flavanol found in green tea, Epigallocatechin gallate, better known as EGCG, may be responsible for its impressive health benefits. And there are many.
Research suggests that drinking green tea may help support healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels – types of fat in the blood. Along these lines, drinking green tea may also help promote healthy blood pressure levels, making it a champion for overall heart health. Notably, some data suggests it might take several cups of green tea per day to achieve these effects. Preliminary research suggests that green tea may also help keep your cells healthy.
Enjoy daily green tea by the cup or get creative by infusing green tea into a recipe. Green tea is the perfect superfood to try as a broth for soup or chilled into an ice pop or latte.
The foods you eat can play a significant role in overall health and how you feel each day. This list is just a taste. Remember that no single food (even a superfood) will give you everything you need – the key to a healthy diet is variety. Focus on filling your plate with plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, and think of superfoods as a bonus.
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