We throw the term around all of the time—from acai to turmeric—but most of us don’t really know the ins-and-outs of superfoods. By definition a superfood is a food (such as salmon, broccoli or blueberries) that is rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fiber or fatty acids) considered beneficial to a person’s health.
And that is all true. These powerful foods can give you energy, improve your skin, and prevent disease. Really, almost all whole, real foods are somewhat super.
Here’s your guide to which ones you should be eating regularly, and how to easily incorporate them into your diet to live your most Nutritious Life.
What Makes a Food a Superfood?
Superfoods are particularly high in either one or a combo of antioxidants, fiber, healthy fats (essential fatty acids), and phytonutrients.
By eating a superfood diet, you’re helping to prevent inflammation and along with that things like heart disease, aging, the common cold, diabetes, neuronal degeneration and mental decline.
Even more, superfoods are responsible for glowing skin, energy, gut health and even weight maintenance.
Keri’s 7 Favorite Superfoods
You know they’re delicious (and you love them in a dip!), but artichokes are a veggie many don’t know what to do with. You’ll want to start adding them into your weekly rotation because they’re a super beauty food that may also lower cholesterol.
Artichokes contain luteolin, an antioxidant which prevents cholesterol formation. Artichoke leaf extract encourages your body to process cholesterol more efficiently, leading to lower overall levels. Thus, helping to prevent heart disease.
Artichoke leaf extract may help reduce cholesterol levels and prevent plaque deposits in your arteries. It was as early as the 1930s when scientists first discovered that artichoke extract had a favorable effect on plaques in the arteries.
Fun fact: People who live longest (studies done in Russia) are beekeepers. Bee pollen contains over 250 biologically active substances, including protein, carbs, lipids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other compounds acting as antioxidants.
Bee pollen is loaded with nutrients such as carotenoids, flavonoids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamins E, D and C, and many B vitamins. These various healthful components contribute to its ability to fight inflammation, protect liver cells from harmful toxins, and lower cholesterol and glucose levels in the blood.
Many think of blueberries as a low-calorie, good sweet replacement—and they’re not wrong. But, they’re also loaded with vitamin C, potassium, quercetin and more!
When munching on them, you can think, “blueberries are the bomb for my brain!”
Studies have examined the antioxidant properties of blueberries and how blueberries have the power to improve age-related behavioral decline. Deficits in cognition were seen to be reversed in aged rats by as little as one month of dietary supplementation with blueberries. However, at least two months of supplementation was required to maintain the benefit long-term.
Researchers found that anthocyanins in blueberries cross the blood-brain barrier, and that their concentrations were correlated with cognitive performance.
Early nutrition interventions may even prevent or delay the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, because they can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation superimposed upon a stress-vulnerable aging brain.
Not to be confused with chocolate, cacao beans grow on trees in Central and South America. When processed, they become chocolate, but the raw bean form is what makes them a superfood.
Cacao has a slightly bitter taste, and you can add it to smoothies, baked goods, and hot chocolate.
A spice that is so, so nice.Think of cinnamon as your new best friend that helps control blood sugar and possibly even weight loss.
Researchers conducted a triple-blind placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial. The study found that there was a significant decrease in patients’ anthropometrics including body mass index (BMI), total body fat and visceral fat in patients with the highest BMI. In addition, patients in the cinnamon group experienced a decrease in insulin levels and insulin resistance. Patients in the cinnamon group also generally saw more significant decreases in total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol) and an increase in HDL (good cholesterol).
Goji is a complete protein source. It helps stimulate HGH (human growth hormone) naturally, which helps to maintain, build, and repair healthy tissue in the brain and other organs.
Adding it to smoothies will help build muscle mass, boost metabolism and burn fat.
HGH is also said to benefit the quality and appearance of the skin, slow down the aging process and treat age-related diseases. However, research supporting these claims is limited.
Even more, Goji berries also contain high levels of vitamin A and zeaxanthin, both of which are important for eye health.
We all know by now that nuts are high in fat, but good fat that we need to consume! But pecans are an especially great nut as they are an antioxidant powerhouse that may kick cancer’s butt.
They contain oleic acid, a fatty acid which has been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Pecans also may reduce the risk of colon cancer since they help clean up the gastrointestinal system.
In Brazil, many health disorders are treated with different types of tea, including shell extracts of pecan nuts as they have significant amounts of phenolic compounds.
This green algae is super popular with nutritionists and health professionals alike—and for good reason. Gram-for-gram, spirulina may be the single most nutritious food on the planet. The quality of the protein in spirulina is considered excellent—comparable to eggs. It contains all the essential amino acids that you need.
Phycocyanin is the main active compound in spirulina, which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Next time you are getting that smoothie, add some spirulina for that added boost!
(photo credit: Shutterstock)