As the winter season is in full swing, my attention turns ever more to the power of good nutritious foods that will sustain my health and energy levels through these cold months. As I looked more in depth into finding these foods and beverages, I came across the ever confusing hype of ‘Superfoods‘. Through advertising and the media, we are forever being bombarded with this terminology, but what exactly is a superfood and what makes them so life-saving?
Here is the Oxford dictionary definition: ‘A nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being’
Well am sure after reading that you feel more assured about what a superfood is. Yes, me neither, this term could be applied to a vast variety of food. So to help to clear the air a little more, I kindly asked registered dietician and award winning food blogger Nicola Whitehead to explain a little more about what these types of foods contain –
“So called superfoods are foods that are essentially packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and/or essential nutrients, which means that they are great for our overall health and wellbeing. Superfoods could be bursting with protein and essential omega 3 fatty acids e.g. salmon, packed with antioxidants, fibre and vitamin C e.g. fruit or a great source of soluble fibre e.g. oats.”
There are a number of foods that have been labelled as super, but here are some of my favourites that are apart of my daily intake.
Broccoli – otherwise known as the ‘midget tree’ (for all you Lean in 15 followers), this leafy green vegetable is featured in both my lunch and dinner nearly every single day. It has high levels of fibre, which keeps you feeling fuller for longer, as well as high levels of vitamin K and A which actually can help boost vitamin D deficiency. It can also help aid inflammation of the stomach, helping support good digestion too! There is really a lot praise up about this mighty veg.
Almonds – This is my favourite whole nut snack, because of its delightful creamy crunch, but it contains the essential fats our bodies need to reduce our risk of high cholesterol and heart disease. There is also a good level of magnesium, which is important for our circulatory system. Whether it is in whole or nut butter form, this nutty gem is great addition to a healthy diet.
Kale – All hail the magnificent kale! Packed full of vitamin K, A and C, along with several other vitamins and minerals, Kale is a show stopper in the ‘superfood’ world. Its anti-oxidant benefits are key to its title, because without high levels of anti-oxidants, oxygen metabolism would not be as successful. Plus it is reported that this vegetable has cancer fighting potentials, due to the fact it helps prevent oxidation stress and inflammation.
Oats – The wonder breakfast ingredient, that I can’t even go a couple of days without, as excellent source of fibre fuelling the body for a busy day, as well as keeping bad cholesterol low and stabilising blood sugar levels. So there is even more reason to warm your heart and soul with a bowl full of oaty heaven.
Blueberries – The royalty of all the superfoods. These tiny berries are bursting with nutritional sources, supporting the nervous and digestive system, brain health, which can improve memory loss. Also they are said to have anti-cancerous benefits. There high concentration of a group of anti-oxidant plant compounds, reportedly prevent the growth of cancerous cells as well as kill them off.
Cocoa – Yes there is actually proof that having a good dose of chocolate is good for us! I am sure that I am not alone in rejoicing for this one. It is claimed to cut risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and increasing elasticity in blood vessels. Though I do suggest that you choose a quality and rich chocolate so that there as little artificial ingredients as possible or none at all – dark chocolate being my favourite choice!
However, these facts are about to be put to the test, quite literally because, scientist discover these life-changing foods benefits by using a high dose of these nutrients, to such a level that we can’t actually include them in a normal healthy diet. Plus these results only give scientists an idea of the health properties and physiological effects of these ‘superfoods’ but there is no true guarantee.
To complete a full investigation into each food to clarify their superfood status, would be tremendously complex. These studies are done with one particular food in isolation, so there is no conclusion to how they would be absorbed when combined with other food groups. But they say that by eating variety can actually improve the absorption of these nutrients, so the message is BALANCE!
Nicola sums up this debate really well –
“My personal philosophy for healthy living is to focus on eating more of the ‘good food’ (including superfoods) and then you’ll naturally eat less of the ‘not so good food’ i.e. biscuits, sweets and cake – foods which other than providing taste and calories, don’t provide much else!”
The aim is to achieve a BALANCED intake, including all food groups as they all have there impact on our overall health. Labelling foods as ‘super’ gives us them impression that all other foods are not as important, when in fact this are. But by selecting more of the good nutritious food sources will help you to stop choosing those that should only be enjoyed on occasion, or even very rarely.
I embrace a 80/20 principle; 80% of my intake comes from great food sources that are packed with great benefits, and the other 20% is for those indulgent treats that everyone needs to keep them satisfied and not feeling so deprived of there favourites that they don’t fall back into bad habits.
Though this has got to be one of my longest and most jab-packed blog posts yet, I really hope you have found it useful and can now have a clearer understanding of what our heroic ‘superfoods’ can do for us in a healthy lifestyle.
Huge thanks to Nicola Whitehead from ‘Nic’s Nutrition‘ for allowing me to include her take on this subject! She is has a wealth of information on her website, which actually led me to become more passionate about nutrition!