Understanding Superfoods: The Wide World of Nutritional Powerhouses
You’ve heard the term “superfoods” before, but chances are good that you’ve chalked it all up to marketing hype. In some cases, you’re right. In others, not so much. The reality is that there are actual superfoods out there, particularly if you compare these natural options to the over processed, ultra-fat-infused diet many of us eat every day. So, what should you know about superfoods and their benefits?
What Is a Superfood?
First, understand that the notion that there are foods out there that will instantly cure disease is false. There is no miracle cure. There is no food of which you can eat just one, and automatically enjoy lower blood pressure, or alleviate diabetes. It doesn’t work that way.
With that being said, there really are nutritional powerhouses in the natural world that pack quite a punch.
When part of a balanced diet, they can provide significant health benefits over time.
The Wide World of Nutritional Powerhouses
So, a superfood can be considered as any food that offers significant nutritional density, lower fat content, and helps to improve bodily functions. There are many of them, and they include some very familiar names:
- Flax Seeds
- Wasabi (authentic wasabi)
- Greek yoghurt
The list goes on and on. You’ll also find some exotic sounding names on the list, such as acai, or dragon fruit. They capture the public imagination but there is no actual scientific evidence to suggest they do more than just offer good, solid nutrition.
Why Superfoods Matter Despite the Hype
Yes, all the hubbub around so-called superfoods can make it seem like they’re a wonder treatment for every ailment under the sun. To others, it makes them leery of even bothering with the foods. However, there are good reasons to eat these foods even if you don’t put much stock in their super-ness. They do contain elements that you need, and they can have profound impacts on your health.
Antioxidants fight free radicals within the body and can be responsible for everything from combating the signs of aging to fighting cancer within the body. Most superfoods contain high levels of antioxidants.
No, it’s not particularly sexy, but fibre is vital for a healthy, well-functioning body. It keeps you full longer, helps to manage blood sugar and more.
Higher fibre foods have also been shown to be effective at reducing blood pressure and even fighting cancer.
Most superfoods contain very high levels of vitamins, including vitamins A, C, K and others. Most of these play a critical role in immune system operation.
Fish is one source of healthy omega-3 fats, but you can also find relatively high levels of these fats in many nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.
Kale is noted for its high mineral content, but so are other foods that may or may not make the list of superfoods, depending on which one you’re reading. These include broccoli, Swiss chard, spinach and mustard greens.
The Effect of Preparation and Cooking on Super Foods
While some foods need to be cooked in order to unlock their nutritional potential, that’s not true across the board, particularly with fruits. All food preparation will alter the nutritional content of the food.
For instance, cooking with heat (even something as relatively mild as boiling) can reduce the nutritional value of any food, particularly veggies.
The addition of salt, butter and other additives will also affect how healthy any dish made with these foods is.
Superfoods should be part of a balanced diet and can provide health benefits, but care must be taken to ensure they’re prepared correctly and that they’re not used as some sort of perceived panacea.