Super foods are foods that are high in chemical compounds called ‘phyto-nutrients’ that have been proven to have a role in lowering the risk of disease and maintaining health. “Super foods help increase the overall quality of diets,” says nutritionist Victoria Pawlowski. “You get more nourishment per calorie. All have antioxidants which help combat daily stresses on the body that come from pollution, stress, poor diet. They cause havoc with our cells and antioxidants help to counter that and help prevent aging, cancer, heart disease.”
Here is a list of popular super foods and their health benefits. These are all items that are easy to find in local supermarkets, and can become part of a daily diet with little effort.
Oatmeal is full of fiber that fills the stomach, and suppresses appetite, reducing the urge to snack. The fiber in oatmeal helps lower the absorption of cholesterol and reduces blood sugar levels. This helps lower risks for both diabetes and heart disease. Buy whole or rolled oats, instead of quick cooking or instant oats.
Yogurt is a good source of calcium, and can help lower the risk of osteoporosis in women. Calcium has also been shown to lower weight gain in dieters. This super food also helps to encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut which boosts immunity in general and can help reduce the risk of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and colorectal cancer. Women who eat yogurt regularly have been shown to have reduced chances of getting bladder and vaginal infections.
Berries contain large amounts of potassium and Vitamin C, as well as being full of anti-oxidants and phyto-flavonoids, compounds that help fight infection. In fact, berries contain the highest levels of antioxidants of any fruit. One cup of strawberries contains a full day’s supply of Vitamin C. Blueberries and cranberries are good for preventing urinary tract infections. Berries have anti-inflammatory properties and can help lower risks of cancer and heart disease, as well as other diseases of aging, like Alzheimer’s. Eating berries helps lower women’s risk of breast, oral and colon cancers, as the phyto-chemicals they contain appear to slow the growth of tumors.
Black beans are high in fiber and nutrients, such as folic acid, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. They also contain phyto-chemicals that help lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. Black beans help regulate blood sugar levels and appetite, as they are digested slowly. In addition, this super food contains no cholesterol, and is low in calories. Black beans are an excellent source of low-fat protein, ideal for weight loss programs. A study from Tulane University School of Public Health in New Orleans found that people who ate four servings of beans a week lowered their heart-disease risk by 22% compared to people who ate one serving or less.
One of the richest sources of anti-oxidants of any food, dark chocolate helps lower blood pressure and heart disease risk by lowering cholesterol, and reducing blood clots and inflammation in arteries. It may also lower the chances of getting diabetes. Health experts recommend eating chocolate bars that contain at least 70% pure cocoa.
Cold-water fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines are rich in omega-3 oils, “We know that the omega 3s you get in fish lowers heart disease risk, helps arthritis, and may possibly help with memory loss and Alzheimer’s,” says nutritionist Elizabeth Somer, author of The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals, “There is some evidence to show that it reduces depression as well.” Omega-3 oils also help lower cholesterol.
This super food contains a powerful anti-oxidant called ECGC, that may help lower cholesterol. A recent study in Japan showed that regular green tea drinkers had lower cholesterol rates than non-drinkers. Studies in Europe have demonstrated that ECGC slows the growth of cancer cells.
This super food contains five times the recommended daily allowance of beta-carotene, which helps lower cancer risk. Beta-carotene helps the immune system fight off colds and infections, and has a role in protecting the skin from sun damage. Sweet potatoes also contain high levels of Vitamin C, potassium and iron.
It is important to remember that eating super foods alone cannot create health if people engage in harmful behaviors, like smoking, or have pre-existing conditions. Health experts recommend eating super foods as part of a healthy lifestyle.