There’s a lot of hype surrounding so-called superfoods and their medicinal properties. It seems there’s a new study claiming the cancer fighting properties of exotic fruits almost daily. Take away the questionable “miracle working” claims of superfoods and what you’re left with is a group of vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats and fish that are dense with key nutrients that most of us are deficient in because of our imbalanced Westernised diets.
What exactly classifies one food over another as being super? Not all superfoods are exotic and expensive and certainly not deserving of the title. Most are everyday vegetables, fruits and nuts readily available at our local farmers market or supermarket. Superfood is an unscientific marketing term used very loosely in various misleading contexts. Claims that a certain food, Blueberries in particular will decrease your risk of cancer or that eating Broccoli daily will keep your memory as sharp as a knife. Such foods do indeed come under a special category of those found in nature, which are low in calories and rich in nutrients. Many are superior sources of antioxidants and essential nutrients compared to any other food – hence the term “Super” foods.
None of us can deny the scientific proof that eating a healthy balanced diet correlates directly with increased energy, vitality and overall good mood. Also equally undeniable is the fact that a balanced diet containing these superfoods will decrease the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, strokes, promote brain function, improve fertility and promote an overall healthy lifestyle. But this cannot be achieved from a few berries or nuts alone. If we incorporate plenty of these foods into our diet, increase our vegetable and fruit intake while lowering processed and refined foods, which are high in saturated fats and sugar then our bodies, will thank us in the long run. There isn’t much point in expecting miracles from a few nutrient dense foods fi we continue to smoke and drink to excess and flood our systems with toxins. We must also consider the fact that many superfoods are exotic and probably clock up thousands of air miles and weeks in cargo before finally reaching our shelves. So maybe eating local organically grown fruits and vegetables is every bit as beneficial to us if not better, probably cheaper and doesn’t leave a Carbon Footprint. An example of which is the ridiculously overpriced Goji berry compared to our own humble Blackcurrant, which happens to have a considerably higher vitamin C content.
Below is a list of some of these foods and their health benefits and medicinal properties:
• Berries – dark red variety in particular are very high in antioxidants which may protect us against cancer, heart disease and slow signs of aging.
• Nuts – in their raw state, not the salted MSG coated variety are said to contain “Heart Smart Fat” and keep us satisfied and full for longer than carbohydrate based snacks like crisps, crackers and rice cakes.
• Oily Fish – salmon, mackerel, tuna and herring are a great source of protein and are high in Omega 3 fats which are vital for heart disease prevention and good for the skin and brain because of their inflammation reducing properties.
• Legumes – family including beans, peas, lentils, and soy beans are extremely dense in many key nutrients providing plenty of protein, iron, potassium, selenium, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins while also being devoid of saturated fats and cholesterol. Beneficial in the treatment of diabetes, lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and cancer prevention.
• Dark leafy greens – cabbages, kale and spinach are all nutritional powerhouses packed with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Probably the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. They provide us with iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamins K C E and many of the B vitamins but also beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin which protect our cells from damage and our eyes from age related problems among many other effects.
• Kelp and other Seaweeds – all packed with unspoilt minerals straight from the ocean. Used in many forms from supplements to powders or in its fresh state in salads, soups and breads. It’s a powerful source of iodine essential for thyroid balance especially hypothyroidism.
• These are just a few of the many powerful medicines from nature’s edible pharmacy. so whatever we choose to label them, be it superfood or other just remember that we don’t have to travel around the world to a rainforest to obtain them when many of them are growing in our own back gardens.