Superfoods – what exactly are they? This somewhat, elusive group of foods are called such because when you eat them, you develop special powers, like extreme strength and agility, x-ray vision, and the ability to jump across tall-storey buildings. Nah, I’m just pulling your leg (I had you going there for a minute, didn’t I?)!
In truth, superfoods are said to have properties that are supportive of health and well-being; these are sometimes unique to that particular food itself, thus warranting its classification. They are nutrient-dense (but not usually calorie-dense), and offer concentrated sources of vitamins & minerals as well as other goodies – like phytochemicals, and healthy fats. There’s extensive research regarding superfoods and their contribution to the diet. Some of this relates to the prevention of certain cancers, or playing a role in cardiovascular health, for example. At the very least, eating a range of superfoods could help to improve your nutritional status.
Many foods might be labeled ‘super’, but the reasons given are sometimes a bit vague. I’m going to take a look at those which are most likely to be effective in helping to ward off disease, according to research. Here are this week’s top three!
Until the publically emphasised ‘fat phobia’ loosened up a bit, I think as a nation, we were afraid to touch avocados. However, this oval shaped fruit is now gaining the acceptance it deserves! Delivering a host of nutrients including vitamin B6, folate and vitamin E, avocados really pack a punch.
Most reputedly though, they contain healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, along with lutein – an antioxidant that lends to avocado’s notable green colour. This is thought to help protect the cardiovascular system.
As it turns out, avocados might be more effective in keeping the doctor away than apples.
Beetroot is pretty amazing. It contains useful levels of folate (naturally occurring folic acid), zinc, iron and vitamin C. It’s also rich in fibre and delivers slow-release carbohydrates .The interesting thing about beetroot is that it’s high in nitrates, which increase nitric oxide (NO) synthesis in the body. A powerful vasodilator, NO facilitates blood flow; beetroot juice is therefore, thought to help lower blood pressure and enhance athletic performance. It also contains electrolytes, to aid adequate hydration in the body.
Central to the health-giving properties of beets is undoubtedly their betaine content – a type of phytochemical that’s unique to this veggie. It’s said to have anti-inflammatory effects, and could even be useful in helping to protect against types of cancers, such as that of the breast, prostrate and pancreatic.
3) Raw Cacao
There’s a reason why it’s dubbed ‘the food of the Gods’. Chocolate’s pivotal ingredient contains a cocktail of nutrients to include calcium, magnesium, potassium, and copper, plus an array of B vitamins. It also boasts concentrated levels of phytochemicals (it’s thought to be one of the most abundant sources available). These can help to protect our cells from free radical damage that can lead to disease, and accelerate the aging process.
Also, cacao is said to increase the production of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that make us feel good. Phenylethylamine, which is released when we fall in love, is found in cacao! So when we say we love chocolate, we probably, literally do.