20 Essential Super Foods

 

If you are what you eat then you need to eat healthy to feel great and super. Food is information to the body. But taking healthy eating to the next level requires eating smart. Eating smart is where every bite you take counts as an opportunity to improve your health through nutrition and building your diet around the most nutrient-dense, potent, disease-fighting foods, called Super Foods. A “Superfood” is food that is exceptionally high in specific nutrients, thought to be particularly beneficial to health. Below we discuss, in our opinion, 20 of the most essential Superfoods.

Beans All bean, peas and lentils are good for the heart. Beans are rich in soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol, as well as insoluble fiber, which makes you feel full and regulates your digestive system. They’re also a low-fat source of protein, carbohydrates, magnesium, and potassium. Edamame (whole soybeans), in particular are great because they are great sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Beans can easily be substituted as the meat or poultry option is a dish, perfect for vegetarians or it can be added to a salad, side dish, stews, soups or as a snack.
Avocado Avocado, which is technically a fruit, is considered a “superfood” due to its antioxidant, potassium, vitamin E, fibre (½ avo has 7g fibre) and healthy fat content.
Milk  Milk, known for its calcium content. has been shown to have a multitude of benefits including lowering blood pressure, assisting weight-loss, preventing weight-gain, preventing osteoporosis, and newly it is becoming more and more popular as a post-workout muscle recovery drink. With its role in weight-loss, if you do not consume enough milk your body releases hormones that cause your cells to retain calcium-and fat. Therefore if you drink enough milk, you actually absorb less fat. Calcium supplementation has been shown to not have the same significant effects as milk. It is recommended to have 3 servings of low-fat dairy per day.
Yogurt  Yogurt has all the benefits of milk as mentioned above, plus active cultures that boost the number of germ-fighting bacteria along your intestinal walls which help to keep your immune system strong. Studies show that people who eat yogurt most often are less likely to catch a cold than people who rarely eat it. Like milk, yogurt contains calcium that not only boosts fat-burning but also helps you feel fuller, making it an ideal food for weight loss. Lactose-intolerant individuals may tolerate yogurt better than milk. It is recommended to have 3 servings of low-fat/fat-free dairy per day.
Eggs  Eggs are considered “superfoods” because they are nutritious, economical, versatile and rich in quality protein. Also considered the gold standard in terms of providing all the right nutrients for muscle growth. 1 egg contains 4 grams of high biological value protein, which means your body utilizes the protein well. Eggs are also rich in choline and lecithin which are known to help brain development, enhance memory, prevent high cholesterol and assist in weight-loss.
Kiwifruit  Kiwis are among the most nutritionally dense fruits where one large kiwi supplies your daily vitamin C requirement. Kiwis can help protect the body from asthma, cardiovascular health, blood sugar control, protect from macular degeneration, skin health, and protect our DNA. Kiwis contain unique phytonutrients, antioxidants. Potassium, vitamin A, C and E and are a rich
Dark Chocolate  Chocolate has several health related benefits, most of them coming from an active compound in cacao called theobromine. Theobromine acts as a natural vasodilator (dilates your blood vessels to allow more blood flow and oxygen), a diuretic (increasing urination to rid body of excess fluids), and a heart stimulant. Therefore, benefits have been shown in lowering high blood pressureheart healthcholesterol lowering benefits, PMS, and possible mental focus/acuity. Many of the health related benefits you see with chocolate are to unprocessed cacao powders, raw chocolates, and dark chocolates all of which contain no added preservatives and colourings.
Salmon  Salmon is a “superfood” for a number of reasons but primarily due to its high omega-3 fatty acid content. These fatty acids are known to play a role in slowing memory loss, boosting heart health and play a major anti-inflammatory role. Salmon is low in kilojoules, high in protein (20g in 90g portion), is a good source of iron, and is very low in saturated fat. While saturated fats lead to obesity, the polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish appear to correct and prevent obesity, according to a study published in Clinical Science.
Hemp seeds  Hemp seeds are small seeds from the hemp plant loaded with nutrients, especially magnesium, potassium, iron, protein, vitamin E, and omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids. Hemp seeds are slightly sweet and nutty with a neutral flavor and can easily be added into recipes to enhance nutritional value. Hemp seeds are a fantastic way for plant-based dieters to get a great amount of protein and healthy fats into their diet in a very small volume.
Maca  Maca is a root vegetable from the broccoli family which is grown in Peru. It has been used for centuries by the South American cultures for hormonal balance, aphrodisiacstamina, reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, physical strength, endurance, and mental focus/clarity. Although there may not be scientific research to prove any benefit, the high mineral and vitamin content justifies this root to be a “superfood”. Maca has a rich, malty, nutty flavour that is generally used in a powder form that can be added to almost anything, from oatmeal, smoothies, baked goods, desserts or cereals.
Almonds  Almonds have shown benefits in lowering cholesterolreducing heart disease and general cardiovascular disease due to their mineral content, antioxidants (mainly vitamin E), healthy fats, and plant-based protein and fiber. Almonds have also been shown to help reduce weightbody fatdigestive health, and regulate blood sugars. The high mineral content found in almonds also improves energy levels, particularly due to the minerals copper, magnesium, manganese, and vitamin B2.
Spinach  Spinach is a dark green leafy vegetable coming from the cruciferous vegetable family providing all of their known benefits including powerful detoxification properties. Spinach is high in fibre, calcium, folic acid, iron, and 1 serving provides almost a day’s recommended dosage of beta-carotene. Cruciferous vegetables have been studied in relation to their cholesterol lowering effect due to the fiber and antioxidant content. Spinach also lowers risk for certain types of cancer and is generally an anti-inflammatory food. Spinach is also extremely versatile and can easily be incorporated into meals.
Broccoli  As a cruciferous vegetable, broccoli is rich in soluble fibre which helps to lower cholesterol, especially when cooked. Broccoli has powerful overall health benefits from its antioxidants, sulforphane, as well as minerals, vitamins, and fiber. For cancer protection, it is recommended to consume ½cup/day or 2 cups/week of cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli contains great amounts of fiber which help our digestive system to be regular, keeps us fuller for longer and helps to improve blood sugar control.
Tomato  Tomatoes are named a “superfood” almost primarily due to its lycopene content which a powerful antioxidant and is responsible for their red color and a myriad of health benefit. There are several varieties of tomatoes including red, heirloom, green, yellow, cherry, plum, beefsteak, campari, and grape. Tomatoes have been studied in great detail for their relation to cancer protection, due to its antioxidant content. Specific antioxidants in tomatoes also protect the bones, liver, kidneys, bloodstream, and may also work to reduce the damage to cell membranes. Tomatoes provide overall cardiovascular support and decreases the risk of heart disease, lowers cholesterol, supports bone health, and the minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants are great for general health. Tomatoes are more nutritious when cooked than when eaten raw since lycopene becomes more bio-available to the body after it’s been heated. Therefore to include it in your day, you can have a glass of tomato juice with breakfast and have a tomato-based sauce a couple of times a week.
Sweet potato  Sweet potatoes are a rich source of vitamin A, beta-carotene, containing over 100% in 120g. Sweet potatoes also contain antioxidants, particularly vitamin C and E, iron, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and are high in fiber which helps with digestive health and blood sugar control. They’re also excellent as part of a post-workout meal as they are a rich source of easy digestible carbohydrates, a bit of simple sugars, fiber and potassium. Sweet potatoes can be boiled, grated into hamburgers, oven-baked as wedges/fried or mixed into a potato-salad.
Beetroot  Beetroot is incredibly rich in fiber, antioxidants, particularly those involved in supporting the liver and detoxification. Beetroot in particular has great anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties. It is also versatile as it can be boiled, grilled, eaten raw or cooked, added to a salad or even used in baking for its rich colour.
Quinoa  Quinoa, known as a pseudo-grain since it is technically a seed is a gluten-free grain. It has a light, mild flavor and it’s higher in protein (8g per cup cooked) than any other grain around and is rich in “good fats”, named unsaturated fats. Quinoa is also a great source of fiber (5g per cup) and B vitamins, iron, selenium and zinc.
Blueberries  Blueberries are possibly the best fruit you can eat since they are packed with more fibre, anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals per gram than any other fruit. The group of antioxidants, anthocyanins, are responsible for their blue color and rich antioxidant levels, which gives these little berries the label “superfood”. Blueberries antioxidant content has also shown to help improve cognitive function and brain health, overall immune support, insulin resistance, anti-cancer benefits, cardiovascular and nervous system health. Blueberries provide better blood sugar regulation for sustained energy because they contain a large amount of fibre, are lower in sugar than some fruits and are low GI. Blueberries also help reduce blood fat levels and have therefore been labeled as a “belly fat burning food”, which is also great for digestion and “debloating” our tummies due to the fiber content.
Goji Berries  Goji berries, also known as the wolfberry, are small red berries grown in south of China. Goji berries are deemed a superfood due its nutrient-density, specifically in anti-oxidants. Goji berries also contain 18 amino acids, fibre, phytochemicals and are rich in iron, selenium and vitamin B12. If you’ve never tried a goji berry before, they taste like a raisin and a cranberry mixed together.
Water  Since none of the other “superfoods” would matter without water, it needs to be included in this list. Water flushes toxins from your system, regulates body temperature, acts as an insulator for joints, prevents kidney stones, and supplies the body with a raft of crucial minerals.

 Written by  – Megan Lee for @FuturlifeZA

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