The definition of superfoods varies across different English dictionaries. This term emerged as a result of the global healthy eating movement, with health advocates focusing their efforts on identifying foods that offer extensive benefits to the body. According to the American Heart Association, there are no concrete guidelines to qualify as a super-food.
In general, any food that helps to promote better health, such as reducing the risk of certain illnesses, can be categorized as a super-food. These foods are characterized by their unusually high nutritional value, loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals or other nutrients.
It should be pointed out that the key to a healthy diet does not solely depend on the consumption of superfoods. Instead, a standard healthy meal should focus on incorporating a variety of foods in adequate amounts. In order to achieve this balance, it becomes essential to be educated on the different types of superfoods and utilize this unique knowledge to ensure that each meal offers comprehensive health benefits.
Highly Rated Superfoods for healthy eating
Keeping in line with the concept of a balanced diet, listed below are 12 of the most beneficial superfoods that can be easily included in any meal plans. These suggestions cover all aspects of a typical meal, offering fruits, vegetables, beverages and even snacks.
Avocados are packed with important nutrients that can help to improve many aspects of health. They contain an impressive range of vitamins, protein, potassium and fiber. The combination of these elements helps to reduce stress and prevent sugar cravings.
This fruit also helps to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract and arteries. More importantly, studies have also shown that regular consumption of avocados can help to lower cholesterol levels and reduce up to 20% of blood triglycerides, improving heart health in the process.
All apples are loaded with potassium and Vitamin C. They are an ideal substitute for processed foods and soft drinks as they increase satiation after each meal and curb appetite effectively. Its high fiber content also helps to maintain cholesterol, manage weight, enhance heart health and improve individual mood.
Other nutrients in apples also help to reduce the risk of cancers, asthma, and diabetes. For instance, the antioxidant known as quercetin has been attributed to significantly reduce the risk of lung cancer. For added health benefits, choose organic apples instead.
Strawberries are known for their exceptional content of Vitamin C. No other fruits come close to offering similar nutritional value in terms of Vitamin C. A serving of strawberries adequately satisfies the daily requirement of Vitamin C intake, 74 milligrams for women and 90 milligrams for men.
Other than enjoying the benefits of improved eye functions, the antioxidants in strawberries actively fight against the free radicals in the body, repair skin tissues and improves the immune system. They are also known for preventing cervical and colon cancers due to the presence of a phytochemical called ellagitannins.
Having been constantly overshadowed by strawberries, this super-food only gained global recognition in recent years. One of the distinct health benefits of blueberries is its ability to boost brain power.
As reported by the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center, United States, blueberries can help to improve short-term memory, protect against the onset of Alzheimer’s diseases as well as prevent memory deterioration.
Some research papers have also claimed that blueberries can help to delay decreased cognitive performances in the older population.
Moving away from fruits and progressing into the vegetable section, kale is the first item that springs to mind. Promoted as one of the healthiest plant-based food, it is packed with nutrients and even offers some medicinal properties.
As explained in a breakthrough study, the antioxidants in kale help to fight against the free radical in the body and prevent potential damages that can lead to premature signs of aging or the prevalence of cancer. Other benefits of kale include lowered blood pressure, reduced inflammation, increased protection against viruses, reduced risk of depression, effective management of cholesterol levels and improved heart health.
Alternatively, spinach can be included in meals as an essential source of protein, fiber, zinc, and niacin. This vegetable type is also low in fat and cholesterol, proving itself to be a favorite of many health advocates.
Other nutrients in spinach include folate, thiamin, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, copper and the range of vitamins. The combination of these components protect the body against free radicals, promote a healthy cardiovascular system and enhances cognitive functions, mainly improving memory and increasing mental clarity.
Categorized as a fatty fish, salmon is best advertised for its omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that this element improves memory and can prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
More notably, the rich content of omega-3 fatty acids in salmon fish qualifies it as an effective solution for joint pain relief, mainly due to its anti-inflammatory properties. This is why most anti-inflammatory dietary plans extensively include salmon as the preferred food choice. Additionally, regular salmon intake has also been attributed to protecting the skin from the harmful effects of the sun.
The negligible cholesterol content and exceptional protein value of beans firmly cement its position on this list. It also provides a much-needed variety to regular meals. Beans can also help to ward off certain cancers based on its nutritional content that extends to include folate, magnesium, and fiber.
Different types of beans also offer added unique health benefits. For example, green beans are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin B and can be easily digested to help the body fully absorb its nutrients. On the other hand, the antioxidants in black beans help to soothe the arteries and ensure that they remain pliable.
Eggs have come a long way since it was first discriminated for its high cholesterol content. In the process of changing common perception towards it, scientists have discovered other hidden benefits that eggs can offer. A joint initiative between Harvard, USA, and Tongji Medical College, China, established that regular intake of eggs does not increase the risk of heart diseases or stroke. In fact, it has been attributed to a 25% reduced risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
Some of the health benefits that eggs provide include effective weight management, enhanced immune system, better vision, higher metabolism rate, improved skin condition, stronger bone structure, and higher mental capabilities.
- Green Tea
After a sumptuous meal, nothing is more satisfying than a healthy beverage to fully enhance the healthy experience. In this aspect, green tea leads the other candidates by a mile. Its health benefits have been widely known throughout the centuries, with most treating it as a natural remedy for cancer prevention and various heart diseases.
Celebrated for its high antioxidants content, green tea effectively delays the growth of irregular cells that can potentially mutate to develop a cancerous profile. Perhaps the most obvious reason for its global popularity is its ability to reverse the effects of aging. By promoting better skin condition and essentially stimulating skin cell renewal, it helps individuals maintain their youthful appearance for a prolonged period of time.
The temptation of after-meal snacks is ever present and indulgence in unhealthy snacks can undo all the benefits of a healthy meal. Fortunately, almonds offer itself as an interesting alternative snack.
It is loaded with antioxidants and Vitamin E, which helps to regulate blood sugar, reduces risks of heart diseases, prevents cancer and wards off Alzheimer’s disease. Almonds also actively increase the feeling of satiation, allowing individuals to stay full for a longer period of time and reducing their general calorie intake.
- Dark Chocolate
For those who are looking for more flavor, dark chocolate is the perfect candidate. Other than offering a tasty flavor, studies have shown that dark chocolates can lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases mainly due to its cocoa content.
A research originating from the Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, United States, further explains that eating dark chocolates for at least 5 times a week can help to reduce this risk by up to 57%. Other health benefits of dark chocolates include improved brain functions, reduced cholesterol levels, enhanced blood circulation and lowered blood pressure.
The concept of superfoods revolves around the idea that certain foods are more beneficial to individual health than others. Although there is no specific definition for superfoods, it is widely accepted that any food with high nutritional value that boasts multiple health benefits fall into this category. It is undisputed that these foods do offer extensive advantages to individual health but the main focus in any healthy eating plan is the variety of food incorporated.
With a healthy and balanced blend of different healthy eating choices, it helps the body to absorb a comprehensive range of nutrients that can improve overall health condition. To help individuals achieve this objective, different categories of superfoods are listed above. Ranging from fruits and vegetables to beverages and snacks, individuals are blessed with the freedom of choice to include any super-food into their diets and reward their body with a host of health benefits.
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About the Author
Bochakorn began her education in conventional medicine as a nurse, then shifted to embrace natural healing and integrative medicines. Her training and certifications abroad include: Nutrition and Western Herbal Medicines, Acupuncture and Moxibustion.
During her therapeutic sessions, she may also incorporate other aspects of integrative medicines when required, including: acupuncture, cupping therapy, moxibustion, nutritional, supplements and herbal recommendation.