We all live a super-fast paced lifestyle that lead to super stress, health problems and not to mention, an increased number of health conscious people worldwide. Now, who could give a super health protection that is so sought after nowadays?
Superfoods! Yes, these are nutrition packed foods – mostly plant-based but also some fish and dairy - containing high levels of much needed vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants. Seekers of better health look at these as functional, health enhancing products rather than just a means of sustenance. Adding some of these so called exotic and less mainstream foods to our regular diet may help fill the dietary gaps, which are not met through regular food.
Even though the term “superfoods” has no set scientific meaning and any list of “top” superfoods is purely subjective, let’s look at some of these offering the best of health benefits.
- Teff is a gluten free whole grain that is used as a substitute for wheat or by those who want to take a break from refined carbohydrates. Originated in Ethiopia, it is being touted as a nutritional powerhouse for it contains more protein than any other grain, even Quinoa. Teff can be eaten as porridge or it can be mixed with vegetables to make a salad. It is an excellent source of iron, thiamine, fibre and calcium. Amaranth is a good Indian alternative.
- Goji berries are bright orange – red Chinese berries which are readily available as Goji berry chocolates. Traditionally used in Chinese medicine for over 6000 years, these have been used to control fever, high blood pressure and diabetes. These berries contain vitamin C, vitamin B2, vitamin A, iron, selenium and good amount of antioxidants that boost brain activity, digestion and help regress cancer.
- Black garlic is regular garlic turned black through fermentation. Prolonged exposure to heat and humidity imparts the inky colour and a sweet flavor to the raw garlic. Its beneficial probiotics improve our gut health and the sulphur containing compounds help lower cholesterol as well as impart anti-cancer properties.
- Chia seeds are tiny seeds (a part of Aztec diet) that help to reduce cardiovascular risk. Also helps in weight loss and appetite regulation. It is an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acid.
- Beetroot is an amazing superfood. Beetroot’s deep, overpoweringly red juice has earned it the reputation as the most commanding of vegetables. Besides being a good source of iron and folate (naturally occuring folic acid), researchers have revealed that nitrate is the magical component in beetroot. Nitrates are also found in nori sheets – which is used to make sushi. This sea grown food helps reduce blood pressure and guards against heart disease.
- Acai is a small round berry, commonly eaten sea weed in the Amazon belt. It is also one of the few fruits with oleic acid – the same heart healthy fat in olive. It helps to fight against heart disease, weight loss and prevent ageing. Blue berries, red grapes and red wines have similar antioxidants.
- Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are a good source of vitamin D, protein, some B vitamins and selenium. It’s also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat good for our health. Research shows they help against cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, age-related vision loss and dementia.
- Seaweed is a good alternative to fish for vegetarians. This sea grown vegetable is packed with Omega 3 fatty acid. It has iodine and calcium hence good for people suffering from thyroid. It also has iron, zinc and potassium.
- Kefir, an ancient food from Russia, is made from fermented milk and slightly sour to taste. Similar to yogurt, it has probiotic nutrient profile known to boost the immune system and support good digestive health. Indian alternative is curd.
- Kale lives up to the hype of superfood. It has the highest oxygen radical absorbance capacity and is full of antioxidants such as Vitamin C, beta carotene. Close Indian associates are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mustard greens and spinach.
Other superfoods include beans, blueberries, kiwis, oats, pumpkin, sweet potato, soy, turkey, walnuts.
Without doubt, these superfoods can be a good entry into healthy eating, and understanding their nutritional value is enlightening. But what we really need is a “super diet”, where the emphasis is on a healthy balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables and wholegrain foods.