Also referred to as Functional Foods, these foods may be natural or processed. With new research findings everyday, the list of Super foods is growing exponentially, including many commonly eaten foods like garlic, chocolate, Broccoli and pomegranate, as well as unusual ones like Yerba Mate, Green Tea and Soy.
Nutritionists believe that in the age of Processed Food, far too many people are over-fed but under-nourished. This is because many of our foods (rice and wheat are prime examples) are robbed of precious nutrients when they are processed. Changing lifestyles and diets have also been identified as the leading cause of cancer, diabetes and other Lifestyle Diseases. Concerns such as these have sparked off an interest in Super foods.
Unfortunately, health and ageing affects everyone so directly, that the quest for the perfect Super food sparks off a new food fad practically every day. Hundreds of so-called Super foods are available today in easy to eat pills, drinks and supplements. As with all products whose health benefits have not yet been scientifically proven, one should not consume Super foods unless they are in their natural form, without consulting a doctor.
List of Superfoods
What Makes them Super?
Our body needs many nutrients, most of which it cannot produce on its own. Our diets, thus, need to be planned to ensure an adequate intake of these essential nutrients. Super Foods are called super because they are very rich in one or more such essential nutrients.
Here is a list of some essential nutrients and how they benefit us --
- Beta-carotene is a phytonutrient that protects cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. It is also a source of vitamin A and enhances the functioning of the immune and reproductive systems. Spinach, broccoli and sweet potatoes are good sources of this nutrient.
- Beta-cryptoxanthin also protects cells from free radical damage and is a good source of vitamin A. Additionally, it substantially lowers the risk of lung cancer and inflammatory polyarthritis. Bell peppers, papaya and oranges are good sources of this nutrient.
- Calcium helps maintain healthy, strong bones, supports the proper functioning of nerves and muscles and aids blood clotting. Excellent sources of calcium include spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, and collard greens.
- Choline ensures the proper functioning of cell membranes, helps nerves to muscle communication and prevents the build-up of the harmful compound associated with cardiovascular disease – homocysteine, in blood. Soy and soybean products, egg yolk, butter, peanuts and peanut butter, potatoes, cauliflower, tomatoes, milk, oranges, lentils, oats, barley, corn, sesame seeds, flax seeds, and whole wheat bread are good sources.
- Chromium helps maintain normal blood sugar and insulin levels and supports normal cholesterol levels. Onions and tomatoes are very good sources, as are brewer's yeast, oysters, liver, whole grains, bran cereals, and potatoes. Beer and wine can accumulate chromium during fermentation and are therefore considered to be dietary sources of the mineral.
- Cysteine helps the body detoxify chemicals and heavy metals, protects cells from free radical damage and helps break down extra mucous in the lungs. Food sources of cysteine include poultry, yogurt, egg yolks, red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, oats, and wheat germ.
- Dietary Fiber helps improve bowel regularity, maintain normal cholesterol and blood sugar levels and keeps the extra pounds off. Excellent food sources of dietary fiber include: turnip greens, mustard greens, cauliflower, collard greens, broccoli, beans and oats.
- Flavonoids help protect blood vessels from rupture or leakage, enhance the power of vitamin C, protect cells from oxygen damage and prevent excessive inflammation in the body. Good food sources include virtually all fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. Other good sources are dry beans and grains (where the color provided by flavonoids is usually in the yellow family). Flavenoids are also found in wine, chocolate and green tea.
- Folates help red blood cell production, prevent anemia and support skin cell production. They help prevent osteoporosis-related bone fractures and dementias including Alzheimer's Disease. Excellent sources of folate include romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, mustard greens, calf's liver, parsley, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, and lentils.
- Iodine enables the thyroid gland to function properly. Sea vegetables are an excellent source of iodine, while yoghurt, cow's milk, eggs, and strawberries are also very good .
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin protect cells from free radical damage and protect the eyes from developing age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Food sources of Lutein and Zeaxanthin include eggs, kale, spinach, turnip greens, collard greens, romaine lettuce, broccoli, zucchini, corn, garden peas and Brussels sprouts.
- Lycopene protects cells from free radical damage and helps prevent the oxidation of cholesterol, thereby slowing the development of atherosclerosis. Food sources of lycopene include tomatoes, guava, apricots, watermelon, papaya, and pink grapefruit.
- Niacin-B3 helps lower cholesterol levels, stabilizes blood sugar and helps body process fats. It is found in beef liver, halibut, asparagus, sea vegetables, venison, chicken, and salmon.
- Omega-3 fatty acids have many therapeutic benefits. They reduce inflammation, keep the blood from clotting excessively, lower lipid levels, inhibit thickening of the arteries and help them to relax and dilate; improve the body's ability to respond to insulin and prevent cancer cell growth. Salmon, flax seeds and walnuts are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Riboflavin-B2 helps protect cells from oxygen damage, supports cellular energy production and maintains the supply of other B vitamins. Very good sources include romaine lettuce, asparagus, chard, mustard greens, broccoli, collard greens venison, turnip greens, chicken eggs, yoghurt and cow's milk.
- Selenium protects cells from free-radical damage, enables the thyroid to produce thyroid hormone and helps lower the risk of joint inflammation. Button mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, cod, shrimp, snapper, tuna, halibut, calf's liver, oats and salmon are excellent sources of selenium.
- Tryptophan regulates appetite, elevates mood and enables better sleep. This is found naturally in nearly all protein foods, but in small amounts compared to the other essential amino acids. The following foods contain tryptophan: red meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds, bananas, soybeans and soy products, tuna, shellfish, and turkey.
Did You Know?
- Include Chinese stir-fries containing broccoli, cabbage and spinach in your family menus. These cruciferous vegetables have valuable cancer-preventing and fighting properties which are maintained when they are lightly stir-fried.
- One simple way of identifying foods with the maximum goodness and nutrients is to look at their colour. A simple rule of the thumb is, the more vibrant the colour, the more nutritious phytochemical pigments the food will have. So look for fruit and vegetables that are bright red, green, orange, yellow or purple. Another related rule of the thumb – by ensuring your plate has foods of at least six colours, you get a plentiful supply of natural antioxidants and phytonutrients etc! For simple recipes with Superfoods, go to The Power of Superfoods.
- Substitute oatmeal porridge for ordinary porridge or cereal for a delicious, exceptionally high fibre breakfast.
- Eat at least four helpings of fresh, clean fruit and vegetable everyday.
- Eat fruit and vegetables that are in season. To reap the full benefits from Super Foods, make sure you are eating them when they are in season. Japanese researchers found three-fold differences in the vitamin C content of spinach harvested in summer versus winter.
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