What Makes Superfoods Super?

Superfoods are foods with high nutritional content that are beneficial to health and help to fight diseases. They are rich in antioxidants and other vital nutrients that are essential components of a healthy diet.

These foods are by no means new since they have been around for centuries.

Within recent times, however, more and more people have begun to rediscover their tremendous health benefits, as they search for answers to many health challenges.

Although our generation has experienced the greatest breakthroughs in medical and technological advancements, sadly, we continue to struggle with some common and largely preventable diseases.

Despite the tremendous gains made in the area of medical science, the incidences of kidney failure, heart failure, hypertension and diabetes continue to increase at alarming rates, affecting millions of people worldwide.

How could this be?... What then is the solution?

The answer lies predominantly in the foods we consume and the lifestyles we practice. Many people, including healthcare professionals, are beginning to realize that optimum health cannot be achieved without considering diet and nutrition.

..."The secret of optimum health starts with a healthy diet."

At the top of the dietary tree are some so called superfoods that include fruits, vegetables, pulses and nuts. They are referred to as super foods because of their high nutritional content and medicinal properties that help to boost the immune system, ward off diseases (such as cancer, heart disease, and kidney failure) and they even slow down the aging process.

Many degenerative diseases can be prevented and in some cases reversed, if we simply changed our diets and lifestyles. Unfortunately, due to ignorance or poor dietary and lifestyle choices, many become victims of preventable degenerative diseases, and suffer needlessly.

The following list highlights some of the more popular super foods and their health promoting properties. This list is by no means exhaustive but it covers some of the most potent and widely available and affordable superfoods.

Please make a note of these foods and include them on your shopping list, so you won't forget to pick them up the next time you go shopping.

The list begins with...

Green Leafy Vegetables

Green Leafy Vegetables

It is common knowledge that citrus fruits like oranges and mandarins are rich in vitamin C, a nutrient that helps to boost the immune system. But did you know that green, leafy vegetables are packed with antioxidants, which are powerful boosters to your immune system? They play an important role in defending the body against free radicals that cause many degenerative diseases.

Watercress, lettuce and kale are good, cheap and widely available green leafy vegetables. This group of superfoods is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins (especially A, B9, C, and E), calcium, iron, and beta-carotene.

  • Fiber promotes healthy bowel function and helps to protect against diseases of the digestive tract, including cancer.

  • Vitamin A plays a vital role in maintaining healthy skin and enhances the immune response by boosting the cells that fight infections and tumors.

  • Vitamin B9 (folic acid) plays an important part in the production of red blood cells and in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. A deficiency of vitamin B9 causes anemia with symptoms of tiredness, insomnia, forgetfulness and irritability.

  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) plays a vital role in the maintenance of cell walls and connective tissues and is essential for the health of blood vessels, skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and all the body's lining surfaces. It promotes the uptake and absorption of iron and is crucially involved in the effective operation of the immune system, since it has anti-infection properties. It is also involved in the metabolism of fats and helps to control cholesterol, thereby helping to reduce the risk of arterial disease. A deficiency of vitamin C can contribute to a range of medical disorders including cataracts, asthma, Crohn's disease and gum disease.

  • Vitamin E is involved in maintaining the health of red blood cells and cell membranes and in resisting infections.

  • Calcium is essential for the growth and repair of the skeleton and teeth.

  • Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, the respiratory compound in red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs to all the body's tissues and organs. A deficiency in hemoglobin causes anemia.

  • Beta-carotene provides potent antioxidant activity.

Why not start with some of these simple superfoods? There are various other green, leafy vegetables that can be easily incorporated as part of a healthy diet. The best way to extract their rich nutrient, however, is by consuming them raw. In some cases, juicing may be required.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

These superfoods are quite common but very nutritious. Tomatoes contain skin-enriching nutrients, beta-carotene and vitamin E. They are also laden with lycopene, which has antioxidant properties and protects against a range of cancers.

Spinach

Spinach

While spinach can be classified as a leafy green vegetable, it deserves to be highlighted as a separate item within the superfoods group.

Why? Two reason...

First, it is extremely nutritious. It is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins (A, B9, and C), minerals, and carotenes (including beta-carotene and carotenoid pigments also called lycopene). Spinach is particularly valued for its rich mineral, carotene, and carotenoid content. The minerals are believed to be beneficial in aiding recovery after illnesses and in the treatment of anemia, high blood pressure, and constipation.

The carotenes and carotenoids in spinach are powerful antioxidants and may protect against various forms of cancer and other diseases, including age-related blindness in the elderly.

The second important reason why spinach should be noted separately from the green leafy vegetables group, is to caution readers. Despite their rich nutrient content, spinach should be consumed in moderate amounts. They contain oxalic acid, which if consumed in large quantities, may interfere with absorption of iron and calcium. In susceptible persons, oxalic acid may encourage the formation of kidney and bladder stones, if used in large quantities.

...So, no need to be like "Popeye", who consumes spinach every few minutes. If you don't know who "Popeye" is, do not worry - he's just a cartoon character who eats a lot of spinach to get super natural strength.

Notwithstanding this caution, both spinach and tomatoes should be on your shopping list. The good thing about these super foods is that they are full of nutrients, widely available and relatively cheap.

Whole Grains

Whole Grains

Whole grains are the next items that should be on every super foods list. Whole grains are found in whole meal bread, brown rice, and whole-wheat products. They stimulate the gut's good bacteria and increase resistance to diseases. This super food is another great immune system booster that can help the body to fight off many diseases and restore healthy biological functions.

So, when next you go shopping pick up some whole meal or whole grain bread rather than white bread; buy brown rice rather than white rice and select other whole-wheat snacks and products.

Nuts

Nuts

Once considered to be fattening party snacks, nuts are truly one of nature's superfoods. Recent research by scientists at a university in Barcelona found that just 13g of nuts a day could cut the risk of heart attack by 30%, because of their high concentration of omega-three fatty acids. The researchers recommend eating a good handful of nuts daily.

However, avoid dry-roasted nuts and honey-roasted peanuts, laden with salt and full of sugar. Instead, opt for nuts that are unsalted, unroasted and as fresh as possible.

Walnuts are hailed for their cholesterol lowering properties. They are also perfect if your brain feels fried after a hard day at work. They contain high levels of omega-three, six, and nine fatty acids, which help to boost neuronal conduction (the firing of nerves in the brain).

Brazil nuts are also very good. They are laden with selenium, which supports the immune system and plays an important role in prostate health... making them great snacks for men especially.

Almonds are probably some of the most potent members of nuts superfoods family. They provide the best source of protein of all nuts. This makes them a good substitute for animal protein, especially for persons with kidney problems who wish to reduce consumption of animal-base products. Almonds also contain copper, zinc, iron, niacin, and vitamins B1, B2, and E. They are also a rich source of oleic acid, the ingredient in olive oil that protects against heart disease.

So, be sure to place these nutrient packed super foods at the top of your shopping list. Keep some on the dinner table and on your desk at work. Rather than snacking on candies and chocolates, have a few almonds, walnuts, or Brazil nuts instead.

If you truly want to minimize the effects of aging, boost your energy, and optimize the functions of your cells and major organs (including your kidneys and heart) the next set of superfoods are absolutely vital. They are among some of the most potent foods that are known to man.

Goji Berries

Goji Berries

Goji berries are small red berries that taste like a mixture between cranberries and cherries. They are loved by celebrities and were named by the New York Times as one of the most potent foods. But what exactly make these tiny berries so potent? They are loaded with nutrients and powerful antioxidants that help to combat cancer, slow down the aging process, and can even boost your sex life.

The following is an impressive list of nutrients found in Goji berries:

  • 19 amino acids

  • 21 trace minerals including germanium, an anti-cancer trace mineral rarely found in foods.

  • 13% protein (more than whole wheat). The complete spectrum of antioxidant Carotenoids, including

  • Beta-Carotene (a better source than even carrots!) and Zeaxanthin (protects the eyes). Goji berries are one of the richest sources of carotenoids of all known foods.

  • Vitamin C at higher levels than even oranges.

  • B complex vitamins, necessary for converting food into energy.

  • Vitamin E, which is rarely found in fruits and usually only found in grains and seeds.

  • Beta-Sitosterol, a known anti-inflammatory agent. Beta-Sitosterol also lowers cholesterol and is used for sexual impotence and prostate enlargement.

  • Essential Fatty Acids, which are required for the body's production of hormones, and smooth functioning of the brain and nervous system.

  • Cyperone, benefits the heart and lowers blood pressure, alleviates menstrual discomfort and used in the treatment of cervical cancer.

  • Solavetivone, a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal compound.

  • Physalin, a natural compound that is active against all types of leukaemia (leukemia), also used in treatment of Hepatitis B.

  • Betaine, which is used by the liver to produce chlorine, a compound that calms nervousness, enhances memory, promotes muscle growth and protects against fatty liver disease. Betaine also provides methyl groups in the body's energy reactions and can help reduce levels of homocysteine, a prime risk factor in heart disease. It also protects DNA.

  • Lycium Barbarum Polysaccharides (abbreviated LBP) - proved to be glycoconjugates, meaning they are exceptional sources of the essential cell sugars (Mannose, Xylose, Rhamnose, Glucose, Arabinose and Galactose) that are necessary for proper immune function and intercellular communication. Goji is the only plant in which all 4 highly bioactive and unique polysaccharides (LBP1, LBP2, LBP3 and LBP4) have been discovered.

With all these nutrients and other health promoting properties, it is little wonder that many Hollywood stars and top athletes use this wonder berry to stay at the top of their game.

Pomegranates

Pomegranates

Pomegranates are loaded with nutrients. These superfoods contain approximately 40% of an adult's daily requirement of vitamin C, in one serving. They are also a good source of vitamin A and E, as well as fiber, iron, and potassium.

Pomegranates contain antioxidants such as ellagic acid, which protects cells from potentially destructive free radicals. New research also suggests that these super foods help to protect against Alzheimer's disease.

Be sure to include pomegranates on your superfoods shopping list along with the next (and final) item on this list.

Oily Fish

Oily Fish

No superfoods list would be complete without a portion of oily fish. A number of major studies have proved that omega-three fatty acids contained in oily fish, help children with behavioral difficulties like ADHD, as well as fighting depression.

These super foods also play an important part in reducing cholesterol and they help to combat cardiovascular disease. Examples of some oily fish are mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, fresh tuna (not tinned), and salmon.

As stated earlier, this is not an exhaustive list of all superfoods, but it provides good, well-balanced options. Maintaining a balanced healthy diet can be quite a challenge but an effort should be made to incorporate as many of these superfoods, as possible, into your diet.

Not only would your health improve but your cells, tissues, and other organs will begin to function better, and you will begin to feel better. Your stamina will improve and your body will be able to effectively fight and prevent many diseases (fewer trips to the doctor).

By incorporating these (and other) superfoods into your diet, you should benefit from a higher energy level, glowing skin, a brighter outlook and a much better quality of life.