There’s a lot of talk about super foods. Foods that are somehow better than the rest, that have special abilities to fend off cancer and heart disease, to slow the aging process, to alleviate arthritis. So what are they, and how do we get them into our diet? Well, we’ve been eating them all along, from blueberry pancakes to the garlic dressing on our salads. Whenever you’re eating natural whole foods your eating super foods, there are really a number that can fall into the category, from tomatoes, to salmon, yogurt, even chocolate. The reason a food is considered super, is that it is packed with a high content of the essentials, the nutrients that your body can’t produce on its own, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids. In particular, super-foods are loaded with antioxidants, which inhibit and repair the damage done by free radicals. The most common antioxidants are vitamins A, C and E, selenium, lutein and flavenoids, which are found in abundance in fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains. There are five foods to focus on, that are so rich in nutrients that they can be directly linked to disease prevention and anti-aging. They are garlic, broccoli, walnuts, blueberries and tea.
Versatile garlic, packed with flavor, is the most traditional super food. It has been used as an herbal remedy for the common cold for its antiseptic properties for centuries. Garlic is also packed with antioxidants, particularly selenium, and is known to prevent heart disease, high cholesterol and cancer. And the ways we can enjoy garlic are endless. Chopped and sauteed in olive oil garlic can be used as a base for soups, sauces, marinades, anywhere where you’d like the extra flavor and nutrition. Garlic cloves are also great roasted whole until they caramelize, or diced and folded in with mayonnaise to make a tangy spread.
Then of course, the juggernaut of nutrition, broccoli. A member of the cruciferous vegetables family, along with cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and kale, broccoli supplies vitamin C, iron, calcium, folic acid, and fiber. Broccoli is always best eaten raw, as that’s how you’ll get the most nutrients, but if you are cooking your greens, trying steaming instead of boiling, as water will leech vitamins while cooking.
We tend to steer away from too many nuts, as they are known for their high fat content, but read a little more into the story behind one of nature’s best treats and you’ll find that they are actually the perfect snack food, walnuts in particular. All nuts are a good source of unsaturated fats, and good cholesterol, something that the body needs. Walnuts are packed with omega-3’s, which are necessary for cardiovascular health, brain function, and have anti-inflammatory properties. One quarter cup of walnuts provides 90.8% of the daily recommended value of this sought after fatty acid. They are also a great source as manganese and copper. Walnuts are something that you can thrown on just about anything, a cup of yogurt, stir-fried veggies, or bake them into muffins and breads for that extra crunch.
Blueberries are one of the most popular super foods because ounce for ounce they supply one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants. If you are looking for the fountain of youth, try blueberry juice. Any fruit that is dark in color, such as pomegranates, and cherries will also serve as a powerful source of free-radical destroying antioxidants.
And finally, the fifth super food is tea. The camellia sinensis plant provides all true teas, from white, to green, to black, depending on the oxidation period of the leaves. Tea is another great source of antioxidants. As well it has anti-microbial properties, which are wonderful to help clean the mouth of bacteria after a big meal. Not only can you drink tea, but it is also great used as a seasoning, just crumble the dried leaves into any dish.
Eating a balanced diet is key to giving your body the nutrition that it needs, but always keep in mind the super foods for optimal health.