The Buzz about "Superfoods"

We hear about them , some swear by them but are there foods that have so called super powers? Is it another myth?

The term “super foods” has been given to foods that have shown to provide beneficial properties for our health in growing research. These foods include nutrients such as:
**Vitamins e.g. Vitamin C which is known for its role as an antioxidant.
**Fibre which is important for maintaining a healthy digestive system and has a cholesterol lowering effect.
**Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats which are found in nuts,oils & fish.
**Phytonutrients or ‘phytochemicals that are known to promote good health.
Note: Antioxidants are compounds that naturally occur in food and help protect the body from cell damage.
Recently, people have dubbed a huge variety of foods as “super foods” but I thought I would put down my list of top 20 foods that I believe have beneficial qualities for our health:
– Lean red meat – Olive Oil
– Broccoli – Avocado
– Salmon – Blueberries
– Tomatoes – Oats
– Beans – Chickpeas
– Almonds – Carrots
– Apples – Lentils
– Zucchini – Walnuts
– Strawberries – Kiwi fruits
– Spinach
– Mushrooms
I find that the biggest myth about “super foods” is :
Mega-doses of super foods are a cure to certain diseases.
E.g.: Antioxidants in food as a cure for cancer.
Fact: No specific food can act as a cure to illness. Including such foods as part of a healthy and well balanced diet is a way to lower your risk of developing certain diseases. Therefore, including such foods should be seen as a way to promote good health and to prevent illness and not as a ‘cure’.

How do we get the maximum nutrition from “super foods” ?
Knowing how to store and cook your foods properly is always the way to preserve their nutrient content. The following tips could be useful:

· Keep leafy and root vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and some salad vegetables in perforated bags in the fridge to avoid shriveling or wilting due to water loss.
· Store fruit such as apples and berries in the fridge. Keep your fruit dry and do not wash before storing.
· Keep wholegrains and cereals in containers with tightly fitting lids. Store them at room temperature in a dark place.
· When cooking vegetables, avoid boiling them in large amounts of water and keep cooking time to a minimum. Nutrients could be lost or destroyed. Steaming rather than boiling vegetables is also preferred.

Is DARK CHOCOLATE a “Super Food”??
Chocolate is a food that looks, tastes and smells good. There has been growing research regarding its benefits (especially dark chocolate) as part of a nutritious and well balanced diet. Nutrients called ‘catechins’ have been found in chocolate (particularly in cocoa) and are believed to have a protective effect against heart disease and cancer. This gives cocoa beans their antioxidant properties.
Chocolate is also high in fat and sugar and should be consumed in small amounts to avoid excess calories. The reason why dark chocolate is a better alternative to milk chocolate is due to its high cocoa content making it richer in antioxidants.
Facts on Phytonutrients
Phytonutrients, also known as phytochemicals’, are naturally occurring chemicals that are found in all foods of plant origin. Phytonutrients are said to have an antioxidant effect where they are believed to protect cells from certain diseases. Good sources include:
– Wholegrains
– Broccoli
– Citrus fruits
– Tomatoes
– Soya Beans
– Dark leafy vegetables

Bottom line – A diet that compromises of all food groups in appropriate quantities will provide you with the maximum nutrition! Every food group will contain some type of “super food” so make sure you aim for the right balance of foods!

This post is part of an article I wrote which was published in Gulf News’ Friday Magazine.

Leave a Reply