What are they?
No single food can provide all the nutrients our body needs. But there are a few nutritionally dense foods that have earned the title of being “superfoods”.
The vitamins and minerals found in superfoods can help one ward off diseases and stay healthy. They promote heart health and improve energy levels. Superfoods are consumed to protect one’s organs from toxins, regulate metabolism and help lower cholesterol. Here are a bunch of commonly consumed superfoods and the benefits they provide.
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables:
These are great sources of folate, zinc, magnesium, vitamin C, calcium, iron and fibre. They are known to reduce many chronic illnesses including diabetes and heart diseases. They contain carotenoids (anti-inflammatory compounds) which may protect against cancer. Some are bitter. You can include these in soups, curries, smoothies and salads. The most commonly consumed DGLVs are Kale, Spinach, Turnip Greens, Broccoli and Lettuce.
Berries contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. Consuming berries can reduce cancer, heart failures and other inflammatory diseases. They are also known to treat digestive and immune-related disorders. These are versatile in culinary applications. You can consume them for breakfast, in salads, smoothies or desserts. The most common berries are raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and strawberries.
A lightly caffeinated beverage, originally from China, green tea has several health benefits. It contains antioxidants and polyphenolic compounds which have anti-inflammatory properties. Green tea contains epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC). ECGC helps prevent chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart diseases. Research also shows that green tea aids weight loss.
Legumes and pulses are plant foods containing peas, soy, lentils, beans and peanuts. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, nutrients and fibre. They are also known to prevent and manage various diseases. They reduce the risk of diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure.
Nuts and Seeds:
These are packed in fibre, proteins and healthy fats. These are also composed of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. They are known to have a protective effect against chronic diseases. Despite being calorically dense, nuts and seeds are a part of a balanced diet. Most commonly almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and chia seeds are consumed.
Closely related to shallots, onions and leeks, they consist of vitamins, selenium, fibre and manganese. Garlic is a popular culinary ingredient. It has also been used widely for its medicinal properties. It is effective in reducing blood pressure and cholesterol. It supports one’s immune function and is known to prevent certain types of cancer.
The root of a flowering plant from China, ginger is widely used for its medicinal properties. It is also a culinary flavour enhancer. It contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. It manages nausea, reduces pain as well as reduces the risk of chronic illnesses like dementia, cancer and heart diseases. Ginger can be used as an oil, juice, or in a dried/powdered form.
Turmeric is a yellow spice originally from India. It is used for cooking and has multiple medicinal benefits. Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. It is known to be effective in treating chronic diseases like diabetes, heart illness and cancer. turmeric is also used to reduce pain and aid wound healing. Its absorption in the body is a difficult process. This can be enhanced by pairing it with other spices like black pepper.
A criticism superfood has received is that while the food might be healthy, the processing might not. Preservatives, additives and copious amounts of sugar added to these when sold commercially can make them harmful. Optimal health can be achieved by including whole foods and nutrition in one’s daily diet. Good health is supported by different nutrients, vitamins and minerals.