Superfoods are a special category of foods found in nature. By definition they are calorie sparse and nutrient dense meaning they pack a lot of punch for their weight as far as goodness goes. They are superior sources of anti-oxidants and essential nutrients – nutrients we need but cannot make ourselves. Make sure you’re getting some of these superfoods in your diet today!
Apples are packed full of antioxidants, especially vitamin C for healthy skin and gums – one apple provides a quarter of your daily requirement of vitamin C! Apples also contain a form of soluble fibre called pectin that can help to lower blood cholesterol levels and keep the digestive system healthy. An apple is also a carbohydrate with a low glycaemic index (GI) type. Low GI foods are digested slowly; once they are finally broken down in the intestine they are gradually absorbed into the bloodstreams as glucose, causing a gradual rise in blood sugar levels. They may help with weight control, as well as improving diabetics’ long-term control of blood sugar levels.
2. Baked beans
The humble baked bean is a nutritional powerhouse of protein, fibre, iron and calcium. It contains carbohydrate that, like that in apples, is of the low GI variety. The tomato sauce covering baked beans is also a good source of lycopene, another powerful antioxidant shown to help prevent heart disease and prostate cancer. The insoluble fibre in baked beans is not digested but moves into the large intestine, or colon, where bacteria act on it and produce short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are thought to nourish the colon lining and protect it from carcinogenic (cancer-causing) invaders.
Not only does broccoli contain antioxidants including vitamin C but it’s a particularly good source of folate (naturally occuring folic acid). Increasing your intake of folic acid is thought to be of major benefit in preventing heart disease. Broccoli also contains an antioxidant called lutein that can delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This affects 10 per cent of people over 60 and is a major cause of impaired vision and blindness. Finally, broccoli also contains a phytochemical called sulphoraphane that has specific anti-cancer properties.
4. Olive oil
Several large studies suggest that the monosaturated fat in olive oil is good for the heart. Olive oil lower bad cholesterol levels and increases the good levels. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants – it’s probably one of the key protective aspects of the so-called Mediterranean diet. Watch out for the calories though and remember a little goes a long way.
5. Wholegrain Seeded Bread
Breads containing a lot of seeds and wholegrain have a low GI, which can protect against heart disease, reduce hunger pangs, and help with weight control. They are also packed with fibre, which keeps the gut working efficiently; and seeded breads contain essential fatty acids.
All fish is a source of good-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals, but oily fish such as salmon also contains omega 3 fats that reduce blood clotting and inflammation. Studies show that eating oily fish dramatically recues the risk of having a heart attack, even in older adults. Omega 3 fats also help to prevent depression, and protect against the onset of dementia and can aid towards fat loss.
Tea a range of useful properties. The caffeine content is helpful for stimulating alertness, mood and motivation. You can count tea towards the recommended eight cups of fluid daily, which is the minimum to avoid dehydration. Tea, whether black or green, is a rich source of the antioxidant called catechins. Studies suggest that catechins protect the artery walls against the damage that causes heart disease and prevents formation of sticky blood clots.
Yogurt is an easily absorbed source of calcium. It’s also a useful milk subsitute for people who can’t digest large amounts of the milk sugar, lactose. Yogurt has long been credited with a range of therapeutic benefits, many of which involve the health of the large intestine and the relief of gastrointestinal upsets.
Although bananas are slightly higher in energy than other fruits, the calories come mainly from carbohydrate; excellent for refuelling before, during or after exercise. Full of antidioxidants, bananas are also jam-packed with potassium that helps lower blood pressure, and vitamin B6 for healthy skin and hair.
10. Brazil nuts
All nuts are generally full of essential vitamins, minerals and fibre. Recent studies suggest that eating a small handful of nuts four times a week can help reduce heart disease and satisfy food cravings. Brazil nuts are one of the few good sources of selenium that may help protect against cancer, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
Packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, these berries are also high in potassium and vitamin C, making them the top choice of doctors and nutritionists. Not only can they lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, they are also anti-inflammatory.
Spinach is loaded with calcium, folic acid, vitamin K and iron. Spinach is also rich in vitamin C, fiber and carotenoids. Add its lutein and bioflavanoids and spinach is a nutritional powerhouse all of which helps protect against heart disease, age related memory loss. Foods rich in lutein are also thought to help prevent cancer.
Oats are an excellent source of the complex carbohydrates that your body needs to sustain energy. They have twice as much protein as brown rice, and are rich in thiamine, iron and selenium. Oats are overflowing with health benefits. In addition to lowering blood lipids, particularly the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, oats slow the rise of blood glucose after eating, which is important for diabetes control. Soluble fibre in oats promotes heart health, when eaten as part of a daily diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and insoluble fibre benefits the digestive system. Eating whole-grain oats regularly can also assist with maintaining a healthy weight.
Oranges are a popular superfood because they taste great and have wonderful health benefits. Oranges are one of the best sources for consuming vitamin C because unlike some other vitamins, the human body cannot produce any vitamin C on its own. Oranges are considered a great resource for controlling heart health, preventing cancer, and diabetes. This superfood has a high level of soluble fiber, which can help eliminate fat in the blood stream.
15. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are naturally rich in protein, zinc, essential fatty acids, magnesium, iron, and fiber. Pumpkin seeds are among the leaders of phytosterols — a naturally occurring compound with an established reputation for cholesterol-lowering properties. Phytosterols are also being studied for their potential role in prostate health. Each 1/4 cup (50 millilitre) serving of the seed provides a healthy dose of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and is a good source of minerals, including phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and iron, making it one of the most nutritious and flavourful seeds around.