Learn about Superfoods
Nutrition & Food
You may have heard quite a buzz in media about Superfoods. Superfoods are described as natural low calorie foods that contain essential nutrients like antioxidants, plant flavonoids and polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals, in high amounts. Essential nutrients are nutrients that we need to consume as the body is not capable of creating these nutrients on its own. Superfoods are characterized by their natural contents of antioxidants, fiber, healthy fats, macronutrients and micronutrients. These types of foods are natural whole foods that have not been processed, from farm to the marketplace, to eliminate any of the natural content of the food. A few examples of super foods are plants and vegetables, fruits, and nuts of many varieties.
- Antioxidants are micronutrients including enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. It is easy to remember what antioxidants do if you know what oxidants are. Oxidants are responsible for damaging cells, protein, and genetic material. This process of oxidation creates molecules called free radicals. Antioxidants fight free radicals. Although no food can stop the process of oxidation or the progress of free radicals, these nutrients help slow the process.
- Flavonoids are found in leaves, stems, and seeds of plants. They are aromatic antioxidants produced by plants as a natural defense against the process of oxidation, caused by internal functions and external or environmental conditions, and parasites. They contain substances that give the plant colors or pigments. Plants with skins that are deep colors like purple, blue, and red, like dark grapes, blueberries, plums, and pomegranates are great examples of flavone rich foods.
- Polyphenols are similar to flavonoids in that they possess flavonoids but also contain an incredibly diverse subclass structure. Polyphenols also aid in the fight against free radicals and the process of oxidation. Plant polyphenols are found in tea, coffee, dark chocolate, and in many small dark fruit skins. They, too, act as antioxidants and are thought to have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.
- Fiber is divided by two main groups, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber attracts water during digestion and slows digestion of foods which can have several health benefits including aid to stabilizing blood sugar and blocking absorption of cholesterol. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve or attract water and passes through your digestive system in nearly intact. In proper amounts, this is a very healthy form of fiber because it helps you pass waste naturally aiding in the prevention of constipation.
- Fats, like all fats, have 9 calories per gram. Healthy fats are considered by their ability to help with vitamin absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Fats are categorized by their liquidity at room temperature.
- Unhealthy Fats
- Saturated fat is solid at room temperature, meaning it is not in liquid state. Saturated fats from animal sources are considered bad fats. Too much saturated fat in your diet isn’t good; it can raise your cholesterol level and lead to disease.
- Trans fat is a form of fat that has been processed to make it harder at room temperature. This process is called hydrogenation. Look for hydrogenated fat in food labels, it will be labelled as hydrogenated oil or shortening and note the amount when considering your food choices. It is advised that people not eat trans fats. Trans fats are found in almost all processed foods.
- Healthy Fats
- Unsaturated fat is characterized by its liquidity at room temperature. It is liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fat is found mostly in oil form as a derivative of plants. Unsaturated fats ware healthier fats. There are two basic forms of unsaturated fats, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.
- Monounsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils, nuts, avocados, and other plant sources. Monounsaturated fats are considered healthier fats because ether are thought to be valuable in assistance of lowering low-density lipoproteins (LDL or bad cholesterol. Additionally, these fats are thought to assist in supporting high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or good cholesterol.
- Polyunsaturated fat is also found in vegetable oils but is chiefly present in our diet as a result of eating nuts, seeds, seafoods like salmon and other fish. There are two types of polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are again found in vegetable oils, seafoods like salmon, sardines, and other oily fish, but also in nuts.
- Omega-6 fatty acids are, as described above, found in vegetable oils, poultry, nuts, and cereals. It is advised that supplemental form of both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids may not be beneficial to health. Speak with your doctor before supplementing with any form of supplemental fatty acids.
- Macronutrients are simply proteins, carbohydrates, and fats required for living.
- Micronutrients or trace elements include at least iron, cobalt, chromium, copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, zinc and molybdenum. Micronutrients also include vitamins, which are organic compounds required as nutrients in tiny amounts by an organism.
Choosing to include Superfoods in your diet is a wise choice. Eating a variety of herbs, like aloe vera, ginseng, echinacea, and other herbs help to support healing and energy. Add seaweeds like kelp, arame, and kombu, as they contain high concentrations of antioxidants. As mentioned above fruits, nuts, and plants are all superfoods. Try wheat grass, barley grass, wild algae, and dark leafy green vegetables for a boost of many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants!
1. Lieberman, S, Bruning, N (1990). The Real Vitamin & Mineral Book. NY: Avery Group, 3
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