What’s so “super” about superfoods?
We’ve all heard the term “superfood,” but what does it really mean? What makes a food “super”? Unfortunately, there’s no legal or medically recognized definition for the term, but many nutritionists would agree that a superfood is a nutrient-packed powerhouse full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and polyphenols. These foods will typically have multiple health benefits and are often low in bad fats and sugars. A cheat to help spot the nutrient packed fruits and vegetables at the grocery store? The more color they have, the more antioxidants they typically have!
Blueberries: This round, delicious berry is full of antioxidants, phytoflavinoids, and is rich in potassium and vitamin C. According to WebMD, research shows they can lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and are anti-inflammatory. They freeze beautifully so you can buy them in bulk at the farmer’s market for year-round health benefits! A handful a day can go a long way.
Cranberries: Second only to blueberries in being “super”, cranberries are a superfood you should enjoy year round. These bright colored beauties have more nutrients than nearly every other fruit and vegetable including strawberries, spinach, broccoli, and cherries! Add some cranberries to your next cereal or oatmeal bowl or throw some in with your next pork roast for a little extra flavor and nutrient pop. And maybe that cosmo cocktail isn’t that bad for us after all? (We’re hoping it’s true!)
Acai Berries: A few years ago it was reported that acai may help with weight loss and combat the effects of aging. While the jury is still out regarding some of the trendy uses of acai, it’s an indisputable antioxidant powerhouse. In fact, some studies show that acai may be one of the world’s highest ORAC foods. ORAC (oxygen radical absorption capacity) is a measurement of how well antioxidants neutralize free radicals and the higher the value, the more impact it has. The acai is even rated higher than the blueberry and cranberry! Toss a handful into your smoothie and even if it doesn’t help shed the pounds and smooth the wrinkles, know that you’ll be adding rich nutrients to your diet.
Kale: This leafy green has made its way onto almost every restaurant menu. You can even find it in salads at fast food restaurants! But what about kale makes it so super? It’s an antioxidant superstar full of vitamin C, beta-carotene, kaempferol, and quercetin. Research shows that by reducing the free radicals in our bodies, many health issues can be avoided, reduced, or eliminated. Throw some into that green smoothie or onto your next salad to give your body an antioxidant boost. Kale is also popular as a cooking vegetable, but keep in mind that exposure to heat can quickly decrease the Vitamin C content, so go light on the temperature when throwing this veggie into the mix.
Goji Berries: The goji berry has been part of traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years as “Gou qi zi” or “Wolfberry”. While just recently popular in the western world, the dried red berry has traditionally been used as a medicinal herb benefitting the eyes and promoting a healthy immune system. One thing is certain – they are rich in antioxidants and are packed full of vitamin C! A great substitute for raisins in your oatmeal—less sugar, more super!
Chia Seeds: Thirty years ago you may have smeared them onto an animal-shaped pot to grow grassy-like “fur,” but the humble chia seed has come a long way! Native to Mexico, these tiny seeds are full of rich omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and fiber. Shake some into your cereal bowl, mix in yogurt, or blend it into your smoothie to add a bit of nutty flavor and good nutritional benefits!
Now that you know a bit more about superfoods, try to merge a few of these into your daily diet for an added nutritional bonus. Your body will thank you and you’ll definitely feel better for it!