What do blueberry pies, chocolate-covered strawberries and apple strudels have in common? Yes, they all contain superfoods — just hold the sugar to attain optimum benefits.
Basically, foods that are nutritionally dense and contain high levels of much-needed vitamins and minerals with a supposed capacity to positively affect health, are bestowed upon them the ‘superfood’ title by the food industry. They can also be a quality source of antioxidants, shielding your body from cellular damage and boosting your immune system.
We take a quick look at some of these powerhouse options for you to include or combine them together in your next meal prep for a more powerful boost.
Not to worry, these berries are not the ones that will cause an Oompa-Loompa-like reaction. These delightful little blue buttons are nutritional superstars — they are rich in vitamins A and C, as well as an age-defying antioxidant called anthocyanin, which essentially gives blueberries their deep blue colour.
These powerful antioxidants may help protect skin from damage due to the sun, stress and pollution by moderating the inflammatory response and preventing collagen loss. In addition, one particular study published in the journal Circulation discovered that a high intake of phytochemicals, known as flavonoids — which are found in blueberries and other kinds of berries — may reduce the risk of certain heart conditions in young women.
Native to the rainforests of South America, the açai is a small purple berry that has been labelled as a anti-aging and weight loss aid. Similar to blueberries, açai contains very high levels of antioxidants in the form of anthocyanins, which help combat cancer and heart disease. Furthermore, it is also one of the few fruits that comprises oleic acid — a healthy, monounsaturated fatty acid identical to the one found in olive oil.
Avoid açai juices as they normally contain added sugar. Instead, opt for unsweetened frozen açai, so you can blend with any sweet fruit to make a smoothie without the added sugar or preservatives.
Meet Bruce Lee’s younger brother — Broco Lee.
This lean, mean green machine is chock-full of vitamins, minerals, disease-fighting compounds and the fibre essential in any diet. Though all members of the cruciferous vegetable family are extremely healthy, broccoli stands out for its exceptionally high levels of vitamin C and folate, both of which can reduce risk of heart disease, certain cancers and stroke.
Moving on to another member of the cruciferous vegetable family, kale is a rough and tough green dynamo, known to have the largest amount of antioxidants compared to any other fruits or vegetables. Related to broccoli and Brussels sprouts — albeit a different taste altogether — kale is a great low-caloric source of calcium, iron and fibre. It is also packed with vitamins K, A and C, as well as carotenoids, flavonoids and isothiocyanates, which have been found to decrease cancer risk.
Hailing from Mexico, chia seeds are the go-to superstars for the health conscious and fitness buffs. And it comes as no surprise — they are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, iron, magnesium, calcium and vegetarian protein. Chia seeds offer an excellent alternative approach to getting plant-based omega-3s in your diet, especially if you are someone who does not eat a lot of fish.
In addition, chia seeds are packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can protect against oxidative stress
They are, however, high in calories. Chia seeds can be a powerhouse ingredient for those attempting to bulk up, but for those going towards the opposite end of the spectrum, portion control is key.
Do not be fooled by its tiny, grain-like appearance. This vegetable seed packs some serious nutritional prowess. Quinoa is one of the only seeds that provides all nine essential amino acids your bodies cannot produce on its own. It is high in fibre and protein, fat-free, gluten-free and has a low glycemic index, which means you do not have to worry about any spike in your blood sugar levels.
Try boiling quinoa seeds in green tea water, and subsequently combine it with another superfood to make a single dish. This will ramp up the amount of antioxidants and nutrients you are receiving with every spoonful, without any change in the taste.
Kefir is an ancient drink that originated in Russia. Similar to yogurt but with a thinner consistency, kefir is made from fermented milk and is slightly sour. Its popularity has risen in recent years because of a growing interest in probiotics. Fermented, probiotic-rich foods like kefir have several associated health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, reduced cholesterol, improved digestion and anti-inflammatory effects even for the skin.
Complement Your Superfoods
Incorporating these superfoods in your meals can certainly benefit your overall health and may prevent certain chronic diseases. Having said that, it is important to apprehend that there is no single food that holds the key to good health or disease prevention.
Achieving optimal health through food and nutrition entails more than focusing on one or two of the latest food trends. On the contrary, good health is best supported by eating a variety of nutritious foods every day in the right quantities, as part of a balanced diet.