It seems every time we pick up a newspaper we read about superfoods. Many foods are being labeled super, but which ones are the top five superfoods to add to your shopping list?
Superfoods are so called because they are rich in a particular nutrient or phytochemical, making them good for us. Each time you eat a natural food, for example, a blueberry, you are eating a cocktail of numerous beneficial compounds with potent health benefits.
Phytochemicals (phyton means plant in Greek) are not classified as nutrients, like vitamins, however they play a role in our body’s biochemistry by affecting our health just as significantly as vitamins and minerals do. Superfoods are loaded with them and each one has a beneficial effect in the body, such as boosting the immune system, acting as antioxidants or stabilizing hormones. Let’s have a closer look.
Top 5 superfoods to add to your shopping list
1. Blueberries. These are a winner. Packed full of antioxidants, they score high on the ORAC list (“oxygen radical absorbance capacity” – a measure of a food’s antioxidant capacity). They are particularly rich in proanythocyanidins, a type of bioflavanoid responsible for the antioxidant action, as well having a synergy with vitamin C, helping it do its job in the body. They are antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic and can be therapeutically used for bleeding gums, gout, arthritis, varicose veins, capillary fragility, bruises, strains and inflammation. Other great sources of this potent phytochemical include red wine, grapes and other red/purple berries.
Tip: Use them to snack on or throw them into your smoothie.
2. Garlic. Most of its health benefits are attributed to sulphur compounds, especially allicin, which aids liver function. Regular consumption of garlic has been linked to lowered rates of prostate, colon and lung cancer, as well as significantly lowering cholesterol and preventing atherosclerosis, hence its fame as a number one heart protector. Garlic also helps to thin the blood, preventing blood clots. A safer way for sure to maintain blood health than aspirin, which can cause stomach bleeding.
Tip: Use it liberally in your cooking.
3. Flax seeds. These are loaded with omega-3 fats, protein, minerals and special compounds called lignans, which help with hormonal balance in the body by binding to oestrogen receptors, stopping synthetic sources of oestrogen, such as those from plastics, environmental toxins and synthetic chemicals, getting there first. Everybody today comes into contact with these synthetic oestrogens, which have been proven to increase your risk of hormonal cancers. Flax seeds provide protection for men as well as women. Lignans however, need to be activated by the probiotics in the intestines, so take a good probiotic regularly to boost their effect. The omega-3 content of flax seeds enhances skin, hair and hormonal health.
Tip: Grind them and sprinkle on your breakfast.
3. Broccoli. Packed with sulphoraphane, glucosinilates and indoles, this cruciferous vegetable really packs a superfood punch. These special phytochemicals help the liver detoxify and play a helping hand in detoxification of hormones, as well as having potent anti-cancer effects – even more reason to eat up your greens. Other vegetables with similar properties include Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale.
Tip: Best steamed to retain the nutrients or eat raw with hummus and dips.
4. Sprouts. The closest you’ll get to the sun’s energy, fresh from your own window seal! Seeds, nuts and beans contain dormant energy and nutrients ready to burst into action upon coming into contact with sunshine and water. This first sprouting contains very concentrated nutrients in order for a plant to grow. Any sprout from a superfood will have even more potent phytochemical power, for example broccoli sprouts contain over 50 times the nutrients of fresh broccoli. Sprouts are a true living food, whereas fruits and vegetables stop growing when plucked from the plant. Sprouts continue growing up until they are digested, thus imparting a subtle “life force” to the body.
Sprouts are also packed with enzymes which enhance our body’s own digestive and antioxidant enzymes. They have a high concentration of nutrients, especially B vitamins, minerals, protein and are easily digested.
Tip: Choose sprouts such as broccoli, beetroot, pumpkin seed and flax seed, as well as sprouts of grasses, such as wheatgrass, for juicing.
5. Seaweed and algae. These are rich in trace minerals and protein and contain more minerals than any other food source. They have a remarkable ability to combine with other vegetables, grains and legumes and help maximise absorption of nutrients. They are great sources of iodine and selenium, so are very supportive of thyroid function, as well as having anti-inflammatory properties.
If they have been harvested from clean waters, they are useful for removing toxins and heavy metals from the body. The high chlorophyll content of these foods is extremely beneficial for its cleansing, alkalising and anti-carcinogenic properties.
Tip: Spirulina, chlorella & wild green algae are good protein ‘building’ foods with high chlorophyll content and micronutrient profile that can simply be added in powder form to smoothies or juices. Seaweeds such as wakame, kombu and arame can be added to salads, or try making your own nori rolls with nori seaweed strips.
You are what you absorb!
You are not only what you eat, but what you absorb from your food. Live, fresh superfoods give your body easy to absorb nutrients in their natural form. No processed food can be called a superfood, as superfoods are whole, natural and packed with health-giving properties. Eating as many raw foods as possible will enhance your body’s digestive ability when combined with nutrient-dense superfoods. Just a few small changes can make a huge difference to your energy and vitality and keep illness at bay. So get sprouting, grind your flax seeds every morning, eat your greens and snack on bright purple and red berries. It’s as easy as that!
Article by Jo Rowkins dipNT MBANT, nutritionist and founder of awakening health.