What Makes A Food "Super"?
Posted: Aug 09 2018
As a health-conscious reader, you are probably well aware of the far-reaching benefits of eating a diet with optimal nutrition, full of fresh produce, rich in good fats, muscle-building proteins, and plant-based carbohydrates. Indeed; your physical well-being largely depends on what you consume on a day-to-day basis, ideally providing you with all the macro- and micronutrients your body needs to reach (and remain in) top shape, throughout your life.
In recent years, you might've been introduced to a term, "superfoods," that's being used increasingly, promising an extra boost in health, performance, and longevity, without the use of extra vitamins and supplements, by merely incorporating these unique food choices in your daily diet. It may sound too good to be true, but these superstars of nutrition absolutely exist, and you need to learn about them to utilize their power to help to level up your overall health and vitality.
If you are already eating well regularly, including lots of unprocessed food, you may be wondering whether there is an added benefit in consuming such superfoods. You may also be curious about what exactly qualifies something to be an extra-healthy superfood in the first place. This article should answer your questions about what makes a food superfood, as well as how to find them.
What Does the Term 'Superfood' Mean?
According to LiveScience, superfoods are extra-healthy food choices that are superior to others, mostly due to being packed with a large number of beneficial nutrients that offer added protection to various organs or the entire body. While there are no specific criteria that set aside superfoods from regular food that are considered healthy, certain types of plant-based foods, dairy, or seafood are so nutrient-dense, that they have earned outstanding attention and publicity from researchers, dieticians, and other, health-conscious individuals, over the past few years.
While healthy eating habits are inevitably needed to keep your body happy, superfoods are thought to deliver an additional boost and a considerable amount of micronutrients whenever consumed. Adding them regularly is ideal; however, they are powerful enough to offer significant benefits even when they are eaten only every once in a while.
As for the most common health benefits, superfoods are known to lower the risk of certain chronic diseases, such as various heart conditions, while offering a wide range of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, or antioxidants, depending on which of these fantastic food choices you choose to incorporate into your diet. As a result of superfoods, you can usually also expect a more glowing skin, faster hair and nail growth with increased strength and luster, while shedding some unwanted pounds, if any.
In essence, what makes a food superfood is the density of nutrients and the robust health benefits offered in every single bite, on top of a regular dietary advantage, especially in comparison to nutritionally lower-ranking, less than ideal food choices.
How to Find Superfoods in Every Food Group?
Believe it or not, there are superfoods in virtually every food group, offering incredible health benefits, even when compared to other, similar options. With a little forethought and research, you can learn to find them easily, just by taking a look at each food's nutritional values on a reputable dietary website.
Pick a type of vegetable or fruit, or any other type of food you are interested in, and take a look at its serving size. See how much fiber, vitamins, minerals, or healthy macronutrients it contains. Compare your favorites and see how some options are more packed with nutrients in every single bite than others. Learn to incorporate them into your daily diet in some shape or form, either by eating them fresh or by using them in the place of other, nutritionally lower-ranking ingredients in your favorite recipes.
Next, we will take a look at every food group to find those superfoods your health will benefit the most from when choosing them whenever you can.
What Are the Best Superfoods in Every Food Group?
Using the nutritional values provided by the website of nutritiondata.self.com, the most well-known and nutrient-packed superfoods in each food group are the following:
As you might have guessed, a large variety of superfoods belongs to the group of vegetables due to the large number of nutrients, minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins offered at every bite taken. Indeed, it is quite difficult to find vegetables that are not nutritional powerhouses, greatly aiding your health from every angle.
In our opinion, the most beneficial superfoods in this group are cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetables, like kales, swiss chard, radishes, or such magnesium-, calcium-, and iron-bombs, like kelp or watercress.
Fruits are another wonderful food group full of superfoods that are rich in free radical-fighting antioxidants while hydrating your body with vitamin-infused fluids. All fruits contain essential vitamins and minerals. Berries, particularly blueberries, blackberries, currants, or cranberries are on the top of your list of much-needed superfoods, offering a wide range of dietary benefits, from protecting your heart, eliminating infections, boosting your brain and neurological health, while preserving your vitality and youthful looks, as well.
Grains have been getting a bad rep in the recent years, to the point of many concerned health-conscious banishing them from their regular diet altogether. Needless to say, there are indeed harmful types of grains you should avoid, but to completely eliminate them is unnecessary, especially when there are so many amazing options to choose from, all of which that could be considered superfoods based on their nutritional profile.
Whether you substitute your regular grains with buckwheat, amaranth, farro, millet, or quinoa, you can rest assured that you have added essential minerals, potassium, a surprising amount of vitamins, often without the added digestive burden of processing gluten.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are great at protecting your brain and eye health, speeding up your metabolism, and restoring your optimal hormonal balance. They are a crucial component of your daily diet, so much so that it is difficult to pick a clear winner as the best superfood within this category. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds are all more than worthy contestants to mention, delivering essential, healthy fatty acids to your every cell, along with fat-soluble vitamins.
Eggs and dairy products are full of vitally important vitamins like vitamin D, as well as digestive enzymes or good bacterias. Your best choices have a minimal amount of added sugars and come from free-range sources. Don't worry about their fat content either: they provide high-quality nutrients to supercharge your health with.
Butter, especially ghee, an ancient Ayurvedic oil, may protect you from cancer and mental dementia, while fermented dairy proteins, such as Greek yogurt, fulfill your body's need for calcium, intestine-protecting enzymes, and amino acids.
Not only protein superfoods contribute to increasing your muscle mass while decreasing your body fat percentage, but they are also chock-full of healthy fats, promoting heart, neurological, and hormonal health. According to Kyani Team Genesis, important fatty acids such as omega 3s are easily found in Alaskan sockeye salmon, anchovies, sardines, and mackerel; but don't underestimate such traditional foods like grass-fed beef or eggs either. They provide an impressive amount of protein, while also packed with anti-aging enzymes your skin and hair will be grateful for.
Fats and Oils
While healthy fats and oils that could be considered superfoods can be found in every food group, it's still important to look at them closer because of the incredible range of benefits offered by some of them. Especially in the 21st century, when our modern diet is so full of the unhealthy type of fats that make so many health-conscious individuals fearful of consuming too many grams of fats and oils, it is crucial to realize that without a considerable amount of fat consumed each day, obtaining optimal health is impossible.
Beneficial fats lower blood cholesterol, fight inflammation, promote joint health, eliminate free radicals, and even lower blood pressure, and fix modern-day diseases, such as metabolic syndrome. The best types of oil for your health, hands-down, are olive, avocado, coconut, peanut, sesame, or grapeseed oil. Don't be afraid to use them for cooking every time, sprinkled on your dishes liberally, or even eat a few tablespoon-full in-between your regularly scheduled meals, or first thing in the morning.
Final Thoughts About Superfoods
Undeniably, superfoods are an important part of your diet to obtain their fantastic health benefits that can contribute to your well-being, vitality, and longevity. On the other hand, keep in mind that consuming these nutrient-dense foods alone will not miraculously transform your health, especially if you don't eat healthy on a regular basis.
Superfoods should not be added merely to cancel out the harmful effects of a diet that's indulgent in sugars, simple carbohydrates while lacking fresh ingredients and beneficial nutrients. When your eating habits are already optimal, however, superfoods can deliver fabulous results over a relatively short amount of time, and if you consistently stick with them you will enjoy them in your new, youthful, and upgraded body, for many healthy decades to come.