Superfoods are the superheroes of the food world; they all have unique properties to fight off the evil free radicals. Superfood nutrients help protect our immune system, brain, organs, cells, tissue, blood; the whole body. Superfoods are the simple way to stay healthy and get more bang ounce for ounce.
Super foods are super because they contain Phytochemicals, a group of powerful antioxidant compounds that prevent cells from oxidizing, causing tissue and cell damage. In plants, phytochemicals act as a shield from: attacking insects, toxic pathogens and the sun’s harmful ultra violet rays. When we eat these plants, the healing and protective nutrients are passed into the human body.
Phytochemicals are continually being researched for their ability to slow down and reverse malignant tumor cells, as well as their ability to inhibit cancer cell growth and produce new healthy cells.
Superfoods are high in fiber, providing overall health for the body. There are two types of fiber:
- Soluble fiber dissipates in water and helps level sugar and cholesterol in the blood.
- Insoluble fiber helps with digestion and constipation, passing through the intestine cleaning waste and helping to excrete it.
Diets low in fiber can lead to intestinal issues, prostate cancer, and diverticulitis; diets high in fiber help to prevent heart disease, diabetes and lower the risk of intestinal diseases.
There are many kinds of superfood, some exotic, some you eat everyday and some you may have never heard of; I still am not sure what a goji berry looks like.
My list of the Top 5 Superfoods is based on their powerful healthy punch and general availability.
1. Avocados are an unusual fruit because they contain polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFA’s), which are normally found in ocean plants like seaweed, rare in land plants. PFA’s protect the skin by blocking out harmful UV rays and reduce inflammation leading to skin or cellular damage. They are high in:
- Vitamin K
Avocados are high in vitamin E, used to make new red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. This helps to regulate blood sugar, lowers bad LDL cholesterol by reducing oxidation within cells that is associated with heart disease.
2. Cacao Beans have been used in Mayan cultures for thousands of years and are the natural form of chocolate and cocoa powder. Most chocolate seen on grocery store shelves has been over-processed, leaving very little of the beneficial health most packages claim. I buy these cacao nibs from whole foods and a great way to get the cacao benefits without the bitter taste is to grind the cacao beans in with your coffee beans for an added boost.
Pure, unprocessed cacao or chocolate made with higher percentages of at least 72% cacao contains B complex, protein, fiber, antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.
What makes the cacao bean extra special is the theobromine it contains. This alkaloid releases endorphins and dopamine in the body creating a general feeling of happiness, dilates blood vessels to lower blood pressure and is a mild stimulant without affecting the central nervous system like coffee can. It also is what causes the bitter taste in dark chocolate and the reason why dogs have bad reactions after eating.
3. Chia Seeds have started to appear in everything from cereals to yogurts, but chia seeds are not new, they have been around at least since 3500 B.C. Both the Mayans and Aztecs from Central & South America incorporated chia seeds into their diets for the healthy and medicinal benefits they offered.
Chia seeds might be super tiny but pack a nutritional punch to make up for their size. High in omega 3 fatty acids, B complex, fiber, potassium and protein; chia contains 500 times more calcium than milk.
Also, here is a little trivia fact for you, ‘Chia Pets’, those fun, clay planters sprouting green hair people love to give as Christmas gag gifts are chia seeds. Who knew you should have been eating what you grew.
4. Seaweed contains both plant and ocean nutrients that are available in four different varieties: brown, red, green and blue green. I buy packaged roasted seaweed because it’s easy and convenient. Look for brands that do not have extra oils and ingredients added. This brand has seaweed, sesame oil and sea salt.
One of the extremely unique qualities of seaweed is it shares a very similar chemical composition to human blood. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, two Japanese doctors were able to successfully use a seaweed water mixture to substitute human blood during transfusions.
Seaweed has high levels of potassium helping to maintain normal blood pressure, fiber, B12, iron, Vitamin C, D, E, K, protein and 10 times more calcium than milk. It contains an array of phytochemicals like fucoxanthin, which has the ability to burn fat and reduce bloating and an antibacterial chemical that has been shown to inhibit the growth of dangerous pathogens.
5. Kale is sometimes left off of lists because you see it everywhere, but there is a reason and their benefits cannot be denied. Kale contains two very important carotenoids that live in the retina of the eye, maintaining tissue health and preventing disease, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Kale is also comprised of many beneficial antioxidants like beta-carotene, needed by the body to convert into vitamin A; as well as calcium, vitamin C, E, K, folate, fiber, potassium and manganese. There are many types of kale so do a taste test to see which one is your favorite.
(photo courtesy of trendsnutrition.com)
Superfoods are super because they stand out above the rest. They are filled to the brim with antioxidants, cancer-fighting preventers, cell regenerators and essential nutrients the body cannot make on its own. Superfoods heal the body, provide healthy bacteria for digestion and kill free radicals to keep the human body at optimum health.