Super foods are pure unprocessed whole foods that have a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are nutritional power-houses that have a high phytochemical/phytonutrient content, which is known to have disease-fighting properties. Phytochemicals/Phytonutrients can strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes to name a few.
What are Phytonutrients/Phytochemicals?
They are chemicals in plants – apart from vitamins, minerals and macronutrients – that are incredibly beneficial to our bodies. The term “phyto” comes from the Greek word meaning plant. There are thousands of them and they have various functions. They can be antioxidants, boost the immune system, be anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and help with cellular repair. Fruits and vegetables that are brightly coloured tend to have high concentrations of these chemicals and the highest concentrations are usually found in their skins. Examples of phytonutrients you may have heard about are lycopene in tomatoes, carotenoids in carrots and anthocyanins in berries.
What we eat has an incredible impact on our bodies and even our lives. Our diet affects how we feel, our mood and energy levels to name a few and if we follow a healthy diet, it can help guard against so many diseases. Eating a wide variety of healthy foods, including superfoods helps to ensure that we give our bodies the best – and of course whenever possible, try to eat organic foods.
Meet the Super Foods
Below is a list of the more common, easily obtained super foods that we can easily find in our stores most months of the year. To find out more about the functions of certain vitamins and minerals, you can go to the handy vitamin and mineral chart.
Almonds: They are a great source of calcium – containing four times more calcium than milk, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc and vitamin E and are high in protein and fiber . They also contain monounsaturated fats which help prevent heart disease. Eat them raw to maximise their super food goodness.
Apples: To me, apples are an amazing super food that my whole family loves. They contain quecitin which is a phytonutrient that helps prevent damage to LDL (good) cholesterol, keeping the arteries healthy thus lowering the risk of heart disease. They also contain pectin which is a soluble fiber which helps so lower the bad HDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Pectin also binds with heavy metals such as lead in the body and removes them from the gut.
Avocados: Despite previous bad press, avocados are a deliciously nutritious super food. They are high in healthy monounsaturated fat, fiber, Vitamin E, potassium and folic acid (folate). They are the best fruit source of beta-sitosterol which is a substance that can reduce total cholesterol as well as being high in lutein which is known to protect against cataracts, keeping the cardiovascular system healthy and preventing prostrate cancer.
Beans: Beans are an incredible super food high in antioxidants and a great source of soluble fiber which traps bile that contains cholesterol in the digestive tract and removes it from the body before it is absorbed. They are high in protein and incredibly low in fat and can help lower cholesterol. Beans help keep blood sugar stable which is beneficial to those with diabetes. Beans are also known to reduce the risk of cancer – especially breast cancer. They contain calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, magnesium and folic acid (folate).
Blueberries: They contain incredibly high amounts of antioxidants including a flavonoid called anthocyanins which combat the effects of toxins and pollution and are thought to have anti-ageing properties. Blueberries also contain ellegic acid which is a phytonutrient thought to prevent abnormal cellular changes. They are also anti-inflammatory, reduce allergic reactions and keep capillaries healthy which is great if you bruise easily or have varicose veins. Blueberries help strengthen the immune system and are a great source of vitamin C and fiber.
Broccoli: Broccoli contains more vitamin C than oranges and is high in beta-carotene and potassium which help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Is an amazing super food that contains anti-cancer substances, especially helping to prevent gastric cancers, breast cancer and stomach ulcers. Broccoli increases the body’s resistance to illness and aids the body’s detox capability. It is rich in glucosinolates which seem to detoxify all sorts of toxins including carcinogens, which are substances that can trigger cancer. Studies have shown that eating broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, radish, turnip, cress, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi and mustard three times a week can lower your risk of colon cancer by up to 60 percent!
Cinnamon: Cinnamon is great at stabilising blood sugar levels and studies have shown that just ½ teaspoon of cinnamon a day can lower the bad LDL cholesterol level in the blood. It has even been proven that cinnamon can help relieve arthritis pain and is a great source of fiber, calcium, iron and manganese.
Flaxseeds (Linseeds): Flaxseeds are the best plant source of Omega 3 fatty acids which reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and inflammatory diseases. It is excellent brain food and contains high levels of a phytonutrient called lignin which helps improve cholesterol.
Garlic: This super food contains powerful antioxidants and has amazing cancer-fighting properties. Garlic lowers cholesterol and prevents the deposits on artery walls – called atherosclerosis. It also thins the blood which is a safer, healthier alternative to taking an aspirin every day which can cause bleeding in the stomach. Studies have shown that garlic has the ability to prevent development of breast, colon, prostrate, skin, stomach and oesophagus cancers. It is a brilliant immune-system booster and encourages the growth of cells that attack cancer cells. Garlic can also help prevent stomach ulcers and stomach cancer. It contains high levels of a phytonutrient called allicin which gives garlic so many of its healing properties.
Honey: This delicious super food is a fantastic immune system builder. It is high in antioxidants which protect our bodies against free radicals. Honey is anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal. Raw honey is the best as the processing of honey often removes the phytochemicals found in the honey and propolis. Some phytochemicals found in propolis are known to have anti-tumour and cancer-preventing properties.
Kiwi Fruit: Kiwis are great because they contain more vitamin C than oranges and are also an excellent source of potassium, vitamin A and vitamin E. Vitamins A, C and E are antioxidant vitamins that protect us against free radicals – protecting us from all sorts of diseases ranging from cancer to cardiovascular problems and obesity. They are also high in fiber which helps control blood sugar, lower blood cholesterol levels and protects us against intestinal cancers and heart disease.
Low Fat Yoghurt: Has a higher calcium value than other dairy products and also contains protein and potassium. Many are enriched with probiotics which improve the balance of bacteria in the gut.
Oats: Oats are a wonderful whole grain super food. A bowl of oats is the best way to start the day – especially if you have heart disease or diabetes. Oats are high in fiber, antioxidants, manganese, selenium, vitamin B1, magnesium, phosphorous and protein.
Olive Oil: Can help reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke as it is high in monounsaturated fat.
Onions: Onions have cancer-fighting properties due to the sulphur compounds and quercetin. Quercetin is a flavonoid which boosts the immune system, reduces inflammation and promotes detoxification. Onions as well as leeks and garlic can lower the risk of breast, stomach, lung and oesophageal cancers.
Oranges: They too have disease and cancer-fighting properties. They contain a flavonoid called hesperetin which protects against heart disease, infections, inflammation and cancers. They also contain potassium, folic acid (folate) and lots of pectin which lowers cholesterol.
Pomegranates: Are rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals that can also help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol. Pomegranate juice is becoming very popular and has shown to increase blood flow to the heart. A study has shown that people who drink the juice have more oxygen going to their heart during exercise.
Pumpkin: Pumpkins are high in beta-carotene and are the best source of a powerful cancer fighter called alpha carotene. They also contain high levels of Vitamins C, E and B5, potassium, calcium and fiber. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc and essential fatty acids.
Quinoa: Quinoa is one of the best super foods we can get. It is high in protein – which is great for vegetarians – as well as being high in fiber, iron, zinc, vitamin E and selenium which helps control weight and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Salmon: Is a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids which is essential for brain and heart health. Omega 3 fatty acids also protect against cancers and relieving diseases such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
Soy: Soy contains lot of soluble fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, as well as disease-fighting phytonutrients that can help reduce the risk of cancers.
Sweet Potatoes: They are high in vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C, calcium and potassium.
Tea: Black and green teas are known for their antioxidant properties and can help prevent against breast, lung and digestive cancers. Green tea contains powerful antioxidants called phytophenols that protects cells from free radical damage. Studies have shown that people who drink more tea have higher bone density, thus tea can help prevent osteoporosis.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes contain high levels of lycopene which has powerful cancer fighting properties – especially prostrate, lung and stomach cancers. Cooking the tomatoes ensures that the lycopene is more easily absorbed in the body, increasing its effectiveness. Tomatoes are also high in potassium, beta carotene and vitamin C.
Walnuts: They are high in essential fatty acids – especially omega 3 fats – which are crucial for heart health. A quarter cup of walnuts provides 90 percent of the daily value for omega 3 fats. Studies have shown that eating a handful of nuts five times a week reduces the risk of heart attack by between 15 and 50 percent. Walnuts are also a great source of vitamin B6, manganese and copper.