Superfoods: The A to Z of good stuff in foodstuff
Ever wondered what makes superfoods so very super? Superfoods are nutrient-rich foods that can enhance your health and wellbeing.
New items get added and dropped from various Superfood reference lists each year, with more exotic recent additions including chia seeds, goji berries and quinoa. But what’s really interesting is that all of the current lists still feature the 10 essential supermarket items we've been encouraged to include in our diets for the past 20 odd years. These proven 'superfoods' include:
- Avocados: Help protect against eye disease and lower cholesterol.
- Blueberries: Vitamins C & K, flavonoids, fibre, manganese, anthocyanins
- Broccoli: Helps protect your cells from the damage of free radicals, enhancse immune system function and improves reproductive health as well as being said to help fight cancer.
- Eggs: Quality protein, vitamins A,D, E, many B vitamins, iron, zinc, iodine, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, choline
- Kidney Beans: Insoluble and soluble fibre, protein, magnesium, potassium
- Kiwi Fruit: Vitamin A, C and E, potassium, fibre
- Oats: Zinc, calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, soluble fibre
- Red capsicum: Vitamin C, beta-carotene, lycopene
- Spinach: Great source of iron, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin K.
- Tinned sardines: Omega-3 fatty acids, quality protein, calcium, vitamin D, some B vitamins, selenium
- Acai: Helps fight aging
- Banana: Helps with depression, cancer protection, diabetes, osteoporosis and blindness.
- Barley: Lowers blood pressure, protect against cancer and keep blood-sugar levels stable.
- Cacoa: Regulates digestive system and improve brain power.
- Chia: Great source of omega-3.
- Cinnamon: Helps control blood sugar.
- Coconut: Helps digestion, aids diabetes, supports immunity and digestion.
- Goji Berries: Improves blood circulation, strengthens limbs, improves eyesight, protects the liver, increases libido and boosts immune system.
- Green Tea: Source of antioxidants.
- Hemp: Great vegan protein.
- Kale: Improves digestive health.
- Lacuma: Antioxidant and immune-enhancing activity.
- Lentils: Helps lower cholesterol and support heart health.
- Macca: Better immune system and more energy.
- Manuka Honey: Heals and enhances skin renewal.
- Pomegranate: Three times the antioxidants of green tea or red wine, and may play a role in the prevention of cancer and heart disease.
- Quinoa: Very nutritious and good for your heart.
- Salmon: Great for healthy skin, hair and bones.
- Spirulina: Increases antioxidant protection, fights free radicals, fights the aging process.
- Sweet Potatoes: Help stabalise blood sugar.
- Yoghurt – Restores digestive balance.
There are heaps more that can be added to the list, such as nuts, including almonds and pistachios. And let's not forget watercress, pumpkin and tomatoes... There’s plenty of choice!
A to Z guide to vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that keep crop up in our favourite superfoods:
- Vitamin A – helps in red blood cell production, supporting the immune system, promotes skin health, regulates genes, and is vital for eye health
- B Vitamins – nourish the nervous system and promote healthy skin, hands and hair
- Folate – naturally occurring folic acid (B9 of the B vitamin group), important for foetal development, and promotes blood & cell health
- Vitamin C – powerful antioxidant that defends body against free radicals, promotes skin and blood vessel health, may help prevent arthritis or slow the progression of the disease
- Vitamin D – promotes bone health (essential for absorbing calcium)
- Vitamin E – required for proper function of the body’s organs, antioxidant properties help protect cells from free radicals
- Vitamin K – helps promote cardiovascular and bone health
- Calcium – mineral that is essential for bone health, also used throughout the body in teeth, muscles, blood vessels, endocrine and nervous systems
- Choline – mineral that helps promote brain health and memory, particularly important in foetal brain development
- Flavonoids – antioxidants that help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, preserve memory function, and generally promote overall cardiovascular and brain health,
- Iron – mineral essential for blood and muscle health
- Magnesium – mineral that helps promote muscle health, and the production of energy
- Potassium – mineral that helps control blood pressure and promotes bone health
- Selenium – mineral that promotes cardiovascular and blood health, important for reproductive health and thyroid function
- Fibre (soluble & insoluble) – helps lower cholesterol, improves intestinal health, prevents heart disease and some cancers, reduces blood pressure, regulates blood sugar, aids in weight control
- Omega-3 fatty acids – promote healthy circulation, brain health, lower risk of heart disease, help protect sight and hearing, especially in children
- Protein – nutrients vital for building muscle, and promoting skin health
- Antioxidants – umbrella term for the many types of molecules that inhibit deterioration (by oxidation) in the body’s cells, thereby promoting general health and supporting the immune system
- Beta-carotene – antioxidant that helps rejuvenate skin, protect vision, and may even reduce risk of arthritis
- Lycopene – antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage
- Lutein – antioxidant that helps protect eyes from the sun, promotes eye health and lowers risk of age-related blindness
- Zeaxanthin – antioxidant that helps promote eye health & may protect against macular degeneration
Remember (if you’ve not dropped off after this science lecture…) there is no one food that contains all of the good stuff.
The only truly healthy diet is a balanced diet. If you eat well and eat a wide range of fruit and vegetables, and proteins, carbohydrates and fats, then you will probably consume most of the above and many of the other nutritional requirements that haven’t been included here. And if there’s anything that you feel you may be missing out, then please check with a doctor or nutritionist.