This article discusses what superfoods are, what they do for the body, and how to get maximum nutritional benefits through them.
In the health and wellness industry, an increasingly popular buzzword that marketing teams use to label certain grocery items is “superfood,” which begs the question, are they really that much better for you? The simple answer is, “yes!” but it’s important to distinguish what makes certain foods “super.” Not all food is created equal when you consider the calorie intake of a bag of chips versus a cup of blueberries. This distinction is not just dependant on calories specifically, superfoods must also have a high nutrient value that enriches the body both mentally and physically. The benefits that come from just one of superfoods’ health properties is enough to help reverse or decrease serious health conditions when paired with a well-balanced diet for maximum nutritional value. Whether you are looking to boost your health or just spruce up your lunch, the wide world of superfoods has plenty to offer.
What are Superfoods?
While there isn’t “any standard criteria or legal definition”1 that classifies a food as being “super,” typically these good eats are low in calories and have a high nutritional density, including vitamins, minerals, protein, fatty acids, and antioxidants. Superfoods are the opposite of what we would consider to be “junk foods,” which contain a high number of calories, fat, sugar, and manmade chemicals.2
Many superfoods are characterized by their rich colours, so if you see that your plate is looking rather beige, chances are there is an opportunity to add some “super” to your diet. Five foods that can be eaten alone or added to your meal for an extra boost are:
- Leafy greens
- Seeds such as chia, ground flax, sunflower, etc.
- Legumes: peas, beans and lentils
Since these are meant to help boost your diet’s nutritional value, it only makes sense to lean towards organic to avoid chemical contamination from fertilizer or preservatives that can affect the overall nutritional value.
What do Superfoods do?
There are a multitude of effects that superfoods can have on the body, both mentally and physically. Examining just one of the beneficial properties opens up a whole new world of healthcare. For example, antioxidants are molecules that “neutralize free radicals,” which are “natural by-products of energy production that can wreak havoc on the body.”1 Over time, antioxidants can decrease or reverse the effects of the following health problems:1
- Heart disease
- Immune deficiency
- Parkinson’s disease
And that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to superfoods. By simply adding a tablespoon of chia seeds, ground flax, and organic hemp hearts to your morning smoothie you will get “9.5 grams of protein, 15 grams of fat, and 10.7 grams of carbohydrates,” all of which are necessary to help the body energize, repair and grow.2 Maintaining a healthier, happier lifestyle has never been easier than seeing what superfoods can do for you.
A Word of Caution
All of this said, superfoods are not a cure all. As Dietitian Penny Kris-Etherton explains, “‘A lot of people have unrealistic expectations about these foods, thinking they’ll be protected from chronic diseases and health problems. They may eat one or two of these nutrient-dense foods on top of a poor diet.’”1 Like anything health-related, it’s all about balance. There must be a commitment made to eating a well-rounded diet in order to get the best nutritional value. However, don’t be afraid to join the office pizza party either! Even adding some tasty arugula on top is better than nothing and will give you a little extra pep in your step.
Everyone could use a little boost during their day, which is why it is so important have foods that deliver a high nutrient density for both body and mind. Not only do these superfoods energize you, but they also encourage repair and growth to help fight against serious health issues such as heart disease and stroke. Incorporating these foods into your daily routine is as simple as adding blueberries to your yogurt or leafy greens to your stir fry. Small adjustments go a long way and while it’s amazing what these little changes can do, it is important to have realistic expectations. To maximize your nutritional value, incorporate superfoods into a well-balanced diet, but know that you can still add some “super” into almost any meal or snack, regardless if you consider that snack to be junk food.
Join us for Superfoods Part 2 where we dive into bowl of leafy greens and explore all the benefits this superfood group has to offer!
Download this resource Superfoods: Part 1 – What Constitutes as Super?.