The Top Superfoods You’ve Actually Heard OfMarch 27, 2017
You know those people who are always glowing and smiling and sprinting for kilometres up hills seemingly without fatigue? Sure, they might be Olympic athletes but we bet they’re on something else too: superfoods!
We asked nutritionist and dietician Joyce Haddad to break down what exactly makes a food super, and how to eat them in your everyday diet.
Is there an official definition of a superfood?
There is actually no real meaning to what ‘superfoods’ are, but to me, they generally mean any food that is high in important nutrients (vitamins and minerals, but more specifically: antioxidants). These foods are believed to be super because the nutrients in them provide health benefits that are not provided by ‘non-superfoods’.
The super thing about superfoods is generally the amount or type of natural antioxidants found in them. Antioxidants are important because they are able to fight the harmful free radicals in the body, which damage DNA and cells and lead to many diseases. Therefore, the more variety of superfoods we get, the larger the variety of antioxidants, and the more help we have to fight diseases.
Are there any everyday ingredients defined as ‘superfoods’?
Definitely. We are continuously learning about exotic new foods labelled as ‘superfoods’ and in the process, we are forgetting about the foods we’ve always had and grown up with which are just as ‘super’ as the new and exciting foods, like: good old oats and the always underrated legumes.
Can you overdo it? Is there such a thing as too many superfoods?
You can definitely have too much of a good thing. But that’s like everything in life, isn’t it?
Our bodies always need a good balance of every nutrient – therefore, stuffing it with a lot more antioxidants than it actually needs can lead to an insufficient amount of ‘pro-oxidants’. Antioxidants and pro-oxidants are like ying and yang – pro-oxidants are usually considered the evil twin of antioxidants in the body, but their balance is very delicate. Although a good amount of ‘superfoods’ containing antioxidants are good for us, too many can actually tilt the balance and lead to muscle impairment. Research has found that rodents who were given too many high doses of antioxidants had impaired muscle function!
Don’t let this scare you from superfoods, though. Overdosing on antioxidants is actually pretty difficult and will only happen if you’re having something like 2 kilos of blueberries and 6 antioxidant supplement pills per day. But you wouldn’t do that, because you’re not silly.
Do you have a favourite superfoods recipe? (sweet or savoury)
Yes! I love my dips, and hummus is the easiest one to make and full of antioxidant-rich ingredients, including chickpeas, extra virgin olive oil, tahini and garlic.
Top 20 Superfoods
Feeling fatigued? The modern world can be stressful but with Greek yogurt you’ll hardly notice! One cup of Greek yogurt can contain as much as 17.3g of protein, which your body uses to build: muscles, cartilage, bones, skin, hair and blood. As if that wasn’t enough, Greek yogurt is also brimming with B12, calcium potassium and probiotics, the miracle workers responsible for keeping your gut healthy. Try it with fruit and rolled oats, or use it as a substitute sour cream, butter or milk in your favourite recipes.
Part of the cruciferous vegetable family, this humble tree packs a super punch! Known to reduce risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke, Broccoli contains through the roof levels of antioxidants, folate and vitamin C, which aids in iron absorption. Add it to your stir fry or try roasting in the oven with oil, salt, pepper, and if you’re feeling fancy, add cheese!
Think your skin lacks lustre? Why not indulge in the cheeky blueberry! Ultrahigh in cell-restoring antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin K, fibre and manganese, blueberries prevent against heart disease, cancer and even aid memory retention as well! The best part? They are delicious. Add them to your cereals, smoothies or even pop them in your salads!
For all the beach bums out there, salmon should be a diet staple. Why? Studies suggest salmon can protect skin from the damaging effects of UV rays. Teeming with protein and all-important omega-3 fatty acids, Salmon is a nutritious addition to any diet. Try it topped with tarragon, parsley and basil, or add it to your kale-almond pesto pasta.
These little berries protect against heart disease and cancer and help to boost immunity and brain function. Sprinkle them on top of your cereal or add to your favourite smoothie to reap these lush rewards. Just remember: there’s no such thing as a miracle food cure, and Goji berries are best when eaten as part of a balanced diet.
Super effective in promoting urinary health, not to mention their cancer fighting properties, kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. Packed with vitamins and minerals, kale is dense with phytonutrients that protect against cardiovascular disease, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. A welcome addition to any salad, place them in a baking tray and top with olive oil, salt and pepper to make kale chips: a delicious snack!
The ‘water’ in its name might make you think this guy is low on superpowers – not so! Watercress reduces thyroid hormone production works with the bodies natural defence systems to improve cellular protection. Containing more iron than spinach and blowing oranges out of the water due to their vitamin C content, watercress is truly a health powerhouse. Whip up any salad and add raw watercress or combine it with any sandwich.
For the golden oldies out there, Prunes have the capacity to increase bone density! Naturally rich in hyroxycinnamic and anthocyanins, prunes are one of the most antioxidant rich foods on the planet. Blessed with extreme amounts of fibre, prunes also act as a natural laxative, perfect for unclogging those pipes! We recommend snacking on some prunes while your watching your favourite documentary.
Beetroot is nature’s power pack when you need a performance boost or feel low in energy. Rich in nitrates, our body converts nitrates to nitric oxide, which also lowers blood pressure. A side bonus? Beetroot contains high amounts of boron, which is required to produce the human sex hormone. Beetroot juice is easy to prepare: combine coconut water, a frozen banana and a peeled beetroot. Throw them in your blender. Enjoy!
We can all do with a detox. Brussels sprouts are rich with cancer-fighting glucosinolates, as well as detox-activating substances (isothiocyanates) that will keep you looking and feeling your best. Roast them with olive oil and sweet onion. You’ll be surprised how good they taste!
Are those bones starting to feel creaky? Bok choy is an excellent source of calcium that has the ability to keep you active for longer. Additionally, bok choy protects against UV rays and high-intensity blue light. Enjoy in salad, stir-fries or even in soups!
Long known in history as containing medicinal properties, garlic has been proven to cure yeast infections by killing the yeast. Used for centuries and highly effective in reducing blood pressure and combating heart disease, garlic is more than just a tasty addition to your meals. Eat raw or roast in the oven with your favourite vegetables.
Feeling sick? Half a dozen oysters will give you a quarter of your daily iron, double the zinc and all the selenium you could possibly ask for. Added bonus? Oysters can really spice things up in the bedroom! Slurp them raw with a slice of lemon and watch yourself come alive.
Feeling a little blue? Indulge! Pistachios have almost as much potassium as a banana, which helps you smile. The best part is that they’re cholesterol free, so go nuts! Best served raw, chew these bad boys down and enjoy the private mouth party.
Green tea is calorie free and their combination of catechins and antioxidants assists your body to fight fat. Did we mention those catechins also help reduce the size of tumours? For best results, always drink organic green tea. It’s a great choice if you have a habit of reaching for sugary drinks during the day, although we admit we can’t go past a Matcha White Hot Chocolate.
A healthy heart is a loveable heart. Grapes are exceedingly beneficial in maintaining a healthy ticker due to their resveratrol content. Not only that, they are simply divine in summer. Bring them to your next pool party, or drop them into the mouth of your lover.
Is a fast metabolism just lucky genetics? Maybe not. Oatmeal has been shown to improve metabolism, while also being high antioxidants and fibre. A great way to start the day, oatmeal is beautiful before yoga with blueberries, mango or even banana.
If we’re honest, we all want to stay young forever. Chia means “strength” in Mayan and for good reason. Loaded with omega-3, fibre, micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, Chia’s antioxidant properties fight free radicals and promote skin elasticity. A must in smoothies, impeccable in cakes, chia seeds are the way of the future
Looking to bliss out? Sure you are! Cacao contains the mood improver anandamide, which is responsible for your euphoria. Surely we don’t need to tell you that cacao also contains four times the antioxidant content of dark chocolate, and a staggering 20 times that of blue berries. What’s the kicker? Cacao also acts as an aphrodisiac. Share a cacao smoothie with your partner and see fireworks every night of the week.
Ah, the humble tater. It’s good to see you on this list! Turns out potatoes are far better for us than we realise. Containing more vitamin C than three avocados and five and a half times the amount of fibre than a banana, potatoes are easy on the wallet and packed full of vitamins and minerals. Bonza! Try them mashed with garlic, butter and chopped parsley and a sprinkle of pepper.
Joyce’s top 3 tips to incorporate superfoods into your diet
- It is usually easy to get enough fruit into our day, but this is not the case for vegetables. So, when making smoothies, add as many veggies as you can. Spinach is always used as the basis of all my smoothies.
- Legumes are so versatile. Add them to all your recipes – salads, soups, casseroles, pasta sauces, chilli con carnes, you name them! They are the perfect superfood to include in all your main meals.
- Use high quality extra virgin olive oil in your cooking, no matter which way you decide to cook. This particular olive oil actually has a high heating temperature – so it is the perfect addition to the basis of any cooked recipe, but it can also be consumed raw as a part of a delicious salad dressing.
Joyce Haddad is a Qualified Nutritionist, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Master Personal Trainer with a passion for health and wellbeing. Her aim as a health professional is to help the public make informed and REALISTIC nutritional choices and ensure everyone has a healthy relationship with their body and with food. She manages A Dietitian’s Mission where she engages with the public about evidence-based nutrition information. Follow her everywhere!