Most of us can identify foods that are considered healthy or unhealthy, but do you know which ones are considered “super food?”
“Super foods” possess special powers, you might say. They power our brains, fuel our bodies, lower cholesterol and protect against heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes and respiratory infections. As an added bonus, super foods can even put you in a better mood.
Two key things distinguish a food from a super food: a super food is unprocessed, and it is packed with higher nutrients per calorie as compared to other foods.
Rich in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients, these familiar, affordable and readily available healthy foods — you can find them at your grocery store or farmers market — may be used in easy-to-cook recipes or eaten raw.
“Super foods” fall into one of five categories: vegetables, fruits, proteins, calcium-rich foods, grains or miscellaneous.
Here are a few examples of super foods:
Blueberries: Blueberries are rich in fiber and vitamin C, as well as contain high levels of antioxidants and important phytochemicals believed to destroy cancer cells in the liver. Related foods include purple grapes, cranberries, boysenberries, raspberries, strawberries, currants, blackberries, cherries and all other varieties of fresh, frozen or dried berries.
Oats: Look for the word “whole” listed as the first ingredient. Bread products should have at least three grams of fiber per serving. Related foods include wheat germ, ground flaxseed, brown rice, barley, wheat, rye, quinoa, yellow corn and couscous.
Omega 3 fatty acids: Omega 3 fatty acids help lower heart disease and alleviate arthritis symptoms, and they are high in monounsaturated fats, which can lower cholesterol. They are most prevalent in fatty, cold-water fish, such as wild salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel. Others forms of Omega 3 acids include eggs, flaxseed and walnuts.
Raw cacao: Raw cacao can be found in dark chocolate – before it’s been processed and sweetened. It is filled with iron, magnesium and fiber, and it is abundant in antioxidants and neurotransmitters. These elevate your happiness level.
Red wine: Red wine is rich in antioxidants and has high levels of resveratrol, a plant phytoalexin linked to a decreased risk for breast and prostate cancers.
Soy: Soy lowers cholesterol as much as statins, the most widely prescribed cholesterol medicine. However, extra soy is not recommended if you have a history of breast cancer. Soy can be found in tofu, soy milk and edamame.
Spinach: Spinach is a good source of fiber and calcium. The darker the greens, the better, as they contain more bioactive phytonutrients. Related foods include kale, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, romaine and orange bell peppers.
Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are high in fiber and have a lower glycemic index value than white potatoes. This helps slow the breakdown of glucose in the bloodstream.
Tea: Both black and green teas have antioxidants. Green tea also has ECGC, an antioxidant that may help lower cholesterol. Brewed tea is better than instant.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a good source of fiber, beta-carotene and vitamin C. When cooked, a tomato is also an excellent source of lycopene, and it can potentially reduce the risk of developing prostate, breast, lung and colon cancers. Related foods include red watermelon, pink grapefruit, red-fleshed papaya and strawberry guava.
Remember, no single food can provide you with everything you need to be healthy. It is important to choose a variety of “super foods” from each category to meet your daily nutritional needs.
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