Superfoods have been a darling of the nutritional community for several years now, but what exactly about them makes them special, and which foods make the list?
According to functional medicine experts, this class of foods is embraced for its myriad of health benefits. The term is fairly broad but refers to the nutritional value of certain whole foods.
Superfoods are a diverse group of nutrient-rich natural foods, which can have a positive effect on your body. They’re favored because they contain a large percentage of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, and antioxidants to fuel your body with extra energy and healing. Superfoods don’t need to be exotic and can be relatively affordable.
For instance, berries, leafy greens, olive oil, nuts, yogurt and whole grains make the list of benevolent edibles. But don’t be afraid to break out of the box — and your comfort zone at the same time to nourish your body with these powerhouse foods.
Where to begin? Try combining cacao and stevia into a chocolate smoothie or give your skin a boost by making a drink with acai or spirulina to aid your body in releasing toxins. Consider adding chia seeds or flax seeds to oatmeal, or bread to get more omega 3’s and fiber.
Other superfoods you might consider adding to your shopping list include:
Berries: These are quite the rock star of the fruit world. High in fiber, rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants, they may help stave off diseases like dementia.
Nuts and seeds: Need an easy and healthy snack? They have protein and fiber, and can make you feel full. Walnuts, flax meal and chia seeds all contain ALA omega-3 fats, which are converted to EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Regular intake of omega-3 fats will help protect your brain, in particular.
Beans and legumes: Beans help reduce cholesterol. Plus, they’re loaded with fiber and protein and they’re low-calorie.” They’re also rich in iron, potassium and magnesium. Look for dry beans or low-sodium canned versions so you’re not getting overloaded that way.
Dark leafy greens: These pack a mean punch when it comes to folate, zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C and fiber. They’re also known to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They also contain high levels of anti-inflammatory compounds known as carotenoids, which may protect against certain types of cancer. You might consider adding kale, swiss chard, collard greens, turnip greens, and spinach.
Green tea: Green tea has constituents known for strong anti-inflammatory effects. One of the most prevalent antioxidants in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. This compound is likely what gives green tea its apparent ability to protect against chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Research also indicates that the combination of catechins and caffeine in green tea may make boost weight loss efforts.
Eggs: They call it the incredible, edible egg for good reason. Whole eggs are rich in many nutrients including B vitamins, choline, selenium, vitamin A, iron and phosphorus. They’re also loaded with high-quality protein and contain antioxidants known to protect vision and eye health.
Garlic: Though more of an ingredient than a main event, garlic offers a good source of manganese, vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium and fiber. Research indicates that garlic may be effective in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as supporting immune function. What’s more, sulfur-containing compounds in garlic may even play a role in cancer prevention.
Olive oil: A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil should be in everyone’s pantry. That’s because it can reduce inflammation and your risk of certain illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. It also contains antioxidants such as vitamins E and K, which can protect against cellular damage from oxidative stress.
Just as it’s important to be intentional in your food selection, where you shop matters, too. You can’t beat the freshness of items sourced from local farmers markets and food hubs. (By the time produce is shipped to most grocery stores from halfway around the world or country, it’s not as fresh and has lost some flavor and nutrition.) You can find a directory of farmers markets here. Maintained by the Agricultural Marketing Service, the Directory is designed to provide customers with convenient access to information about farmers market listings to include: market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, accepted forms of payment, and more.
And whether superfood or not, research shows that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins can reduce risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Here’s to super-charging your health with superfoods!
If you have specific questions or concerns about superfoods, please feel free to contact us at (703) 822-5003. We’re here to walk alongside your health journey however we can. Here’s to your health!