Eating a nutritious diet rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants is one of the most important parts of living a healthy lifestyle. Whilst exercise is also a key part in leading a balanced life, what you fuel your body with really makes a difference. A great way to know that what you’re eating is full of the good stuff, is by incorporating superfoods into your diet.
What are superfoods?
Superfoods are considered to be nutrient powerhouses that provide large quantities of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Although there is no strict definition of what makes a ‘superfood’, most superfoods are plant-based due to their nutrient dense organic nature. The term was coined for marketing purposes, so nutritionally speaking there is no such thing as a superfood. But the term has gained hugely in popularity over the past couple of years – so what are the benefits of superfoods?
The benefits of superfoods
The high vitamin and mineral content found in superfoods helps your body to stay healthy and avoid illness. When they’re incorporated into a well-balanced diet, these foods can promote heart health, weight loss, improve energy levels and even help achieve clearer skin. Antioxidants found in many superfoods are compounds that may help delay or even prevent cell damage in the body, they can also reduce the chance of cancer. High levels of fiber present in many superfoods can help prevent diabetes and digestive problems, whilst these foods also regulate metabolism and reduce inflammation.
That sounds great, but what are some examples?
Berries and Fruits:
- Acai berries: have a unique nutritional profile for a fruit, being higher in fat and lower in sugar, they’re also loaded with antioxidants and can improve cholesterol levels.
- Goji Berries: Native to Asia, these little berries are packed full of good stuff. Even a small serving is high in iron, vitamin A & C and fiber. These berries have been used in traditional medicine to ward off illness and infection and naturally enhance immunity.
- Blueberries: Other than being delicious, blueberries are super high in antioxidants – they have even been used for neurological conditions, such as those linked to ageing.
Veggies and Greens:
- Kale and spinach: these DLGV’s (dark leafy green vegetables) are an excellent source of nutrients such as zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium vitamin C and fiber. Kale in particular is very low in calories whilst being high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and asthma. Although these greens can taste quite bitter but by blending them in a smoothie or soup, you wouldn’t even know they are there!
- Sweet potato: the fiber and antioxidants in sweet potatoes can promote the growth of good gut bacteria, whilst they’re also rich in vitamins and minerals, namely vitamin A. Plus who doesn’t love sweet potato fries?!
Nuts, Seeds, Spices and Grains:
Oh, so many good things in this category! Oats, cinnamon, chia seeds, flax seeds, almonds and quinoa to name a few.
- Quinoa: is one of the most nutritious grains out there, comparatively high in protein and fiber to rice or other grains. It also includes plant antioxidants called flavonoids, namely quercetin, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer and anti-depressant effects.
- Chia seeds: a personal favourite, sprinkled on porridge, granola, in smoothies – this seed is high in omega-3, protein and fiber. It’s easy to include in your diet and great if you eat a more plant-based diet.
- Cacao: unlike cocoa powder, cacao is made by crushing cocoa beans and removing the fat or cocoa butter. Cacao, whilst also tasting great, can lower your blood pressure due to the high quantity of flavonoids, it can also reduce your chance of diabetes, heart disease and inflammation.
Protein and Drinks:
- Salmon: is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Salmon is also rich in vitamin D and selenium (a vitamin hardly anyone gets enough of), it prevents cell damage and can benefit your hair, skin, nails and bones.
- Kefir: is a cultured, fermented milk drink, originally from the mountainous region that divides Asia and Europe. It is similar to yoghurt – but thinner in consistency, drinkable yoghurt if you will. It has a tart, sour taste but is a fantastic source of probiotic, which is great for your gut and digestion.
- Eggs: Other than their amazing versatility, just one egg contains a huge variety and amount of vitamins and minerals.
Just one egg contains:
- 40% of your daily vitamin D requirements
- 25% of your daily folate requirements
- 12% of your daily Vitamin B2 requirements
- 20% of your daily selenium requirements
- Vitamins A, E, B12, as well as iron, iodine and phosphorus.
Eating superfoods alone is not a substitute for a varied and balanced diet, but by incorporating some of these nutrient-dense foods into your weekly meals, you will fuel your body with all the right stuff. What you put in effects what you can put out!