Superfoods are quite the rave these days. Every month, there seems to be a new super fruit or vegetable that you may have never seen or even heard of before. Their amazing benefits are often touted in such a way that they seem more than super. They actually seem magical!
The truth is, there is no superfood that will give you magical powers. Sorry to burst your bubble! Most superfoods are truly amazing but, individually, they are limited. The key is to incorporate an abundance of these foods in your daily diet. Your body needs a variety of healthy foods in order to thrive and achieve real wellness.
That doesn’t mean that you have to go on an exotic and expensive grocery trip to pick up sacha inchi, salsify and maca. The good news is that most superfoods are inexpensive and commonly found either in your own garden or in your local produce market. Try adding a variety of these common superfoods to a green smoothie to super charge your daily nutrition.
Here is a fantastic infographic from Evoke.ie to help you understand what you need to know.
The Following infographic courtesy of Evoke.ie (www.evoke.ie/category/food/)
Which Foods Are Really Super?
Superfoods tend to come with many super claims; a boost to the immune system, protect against heart disease and cancer, and promote weight loss, are just a few. Are all of these statements true? Or, are we just victims of marketing propaganda?
What Is a Superfood?
According the the Oxford Dictionary, a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.
The Origin of the Term
The use of the term “Superfood” has been recorded as far back as the beginning of the 20th century. However, it is only in the last decade that it became popular in mainstream language, possibly as a result of a growing public interest in health food.
The First Superfood
Spinach is probably the first vegetable with a claim to this title. Sales peaked in the 1950s as a result of the popularity of Popeye, the cartoon character who gulped down tins of spinach to give him strength.
Superfood Myths Busted
- The Claim – Gogi berries have been a traditional part of Chinese medicine for centuries. Available in dried fruit or juice form, these shrivelled, red berries are alleged to boost the immune system and brain activity, protect against heart disease and cancer and improve life expectancy.
- The Reality – The BDA argues that you would need to drink 13 servings of goji berry juice to get as many antioxidants as you’d find in one red apple.
- The Claim – The South American supergrain contains up to 18 per cent more protein than any other grain, and amino acids to build muscles and body tissue. Naturally gluten-free, it’s low GI.
- The Reality – Despite the protein, quinoa contains potentially gut-irritating saponins and lectins. Some report gas and bloating after eating it, which might be because of its very high fiber content.
- The Claim – Coconut water has become one of the fastest-growing soft drinks in Europe and the U.S. It is said to be high in potassium and magnesium. These minerals are depleted after exercise, so coconut water is often sold as a post-workout drink.
- The Reality – While coconut water is relatively low in calories (around 20kcal per 100ml), most of these come from naturally occurring sugar. One 330ml serving contains three teaspoons of sugar, half your recommended daily allowance.
- The Claim – With double the antioxidants of blueberries, along with protein, fiber, essential fats, vitamins and minerals, they are also touted as a weight-loss aid.
- The reality – The supposed weight-loss effect is unproven, and few scientific studies have tested the benefit of acai in promoting weight loss.
- The Claim – Loved by everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to Elle Macpherson, this liquidised or powdered grass is an ingredient in juices and smoothies.
- The Reality – It doesn’t even contain enough nutrients to count toward your five-a-day.
The Real Superfoods as Ranked by the Experts
Research at William Paterson University, New Jersey recently produced a list of “powerhouse fruits and vegetables” ranked by the amounts of 17 critical nutrients they contain. The foods are scored by their nutrient density – the content of fiber, potassium, protein, calcium, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D and other nutrients, all considered important to public health. These truly deserve the title “The Real Superfoods”.
- Chinese Cabbage
- Beet Green
- Leaf Lettuce
- Romaine Lettuce
- Collard Green
- Turnip Green
- Mustard Green
- Dandelion Green
- Red Pepper
- Brussels Sprout
- Iceberg Lettuce
Superfoods Trending at the Moment
As we all know, superfoods tend to come and go. Here are the top superfoods people are talking about at the moment and why.
- What – The pollen collected by bees from flowers. It is rich in proteins, amino acids, folic acid and contains all of the B vitamins, including vitamin B12 which can be hard to find in vegetarian sources.
- Potential Benefits – Boosts energy levels, soothes skin conditions, curbs cravings and acts as an aphrodisiac.
- Use – Sprinkle on salads and smoothies.
- What – A root with a rich supply of nutrients, including minerals, vitamins (particularly B vitamins), fatty acids, amino acids and sterols.
- Potential Benefits – Increases energy levels, reduces stress and improves lbido and immune function.
- Use – Maca powder can be added to smoothies, juices, yogurts and fruit salads.
- What – A combination of kale and brussels sprouts that is produced naturally through cross pollination.
- Potential Benefits – A 100 gram serving of Brussel Kale is said to have double the vitamin B6 and twice the amount of vitamin C compared to its father (the Brussels Sprout).
- Use – As part of a meal, similar to as you would with other types of vegetable from the cabbage family.
Sacha Inchi Seeds
- What – The seeds of a plant grown in Peru.
- Potential Benefits – Contains tons of healthy omega fatty acids including 3, 6 and 9. Promotes the reduction of high cholesterol levels and excess weight gain.
- Use – The seeds can be eaten whole or you can purchase the oil to add to a smoothie.
- What – A white root vegetable which goes by the name of “oyster plant”.
- Potential Benefits – Low in calories, high in fiber and helps keep weight and belly fat down.
- Use – The root can be used like a potato – fry, mash, roast or bake. While the shoots and flower can be added to salads.
- What – A seaweed which is rich in minerals – iodine, potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron.
- Potential Benefits – Regulates metabolism, promotes healthy skin and hair and helps the functioning of the thyroid gland.
- Use – In salads and stir-fry’s or add kelp powder to smoothies.