Superfoods – Why You Should Eat Them
If you read anything about sports nutrition, healthy eating, or just nutrition in general, I’m sure you’ve heard the term “superfood.” If not, well, you have now.
A “superfood” is a food, most often a whole or unprocessed food that has been known to be nutrient packed and also potentially provide other health benefits from phytochemicals. While last month we talked a bit about plant-based eating, there is good evidence that certain foods provide really good health benefits. And you don’t have to be vegetarian to increase the number of phytochemicals or superfoods in your diet.
A phytochemical is a chemical compound found in plants that can have biological significance. They can act as antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory benefits, and potentially other benefits as well. Here is a list of phytochemicals from wikipedia. And here is what the American Cancer Society has to say.
Note: there are some rules on US food labels about claims that food manufacturers and distributors can make, and it’s really important to take marketing messages of health benefit claims (especially from non-whole food sources) with a grain of salt. Take a food you are interested in, head over to PubMed, and then do a search on it. You’ll see scientific articles of studies that have been done on that food.
There is a lot of evidence out there that certain foods do provide an extra kick of nutrition. Going through the list of superfoods (google will pull up a lot of lists) may help you get more variety in your diet and ensure you are choosing extra nutrient-dense foods.
Here is a partial list of Superfoods:
Blueberries (and other dark berries)
Cacao (cocoa – the less processed the better)
Kale (and other dark leafy greens)
Soy (edammame, tofu, tempeh)
Tomatoes (even the canned sauces!)
Tea (green or black)
Most of these are plant-based (phyto=plant) but some animal products do have benefits like the Omega-3 oils in salmon, selenium and B-vitamins in turkey.
For the active person (and really everyone) choosing a diet that contains a good number of plant-based foods and other ‘whole foods’ will most likely help you feel better, have more energy, and possibly keep some diseases at bay.
Now that I’ve given you a brief primer on superfoods, here’s a recipe for a zesty quinoa salad that contains from the list above: quinoa, black beans, tomato, and onion. Salads like these are great because it’s easy to throw in other foods that you might enjoy to get even more nutritional kick.
What are your favorite superfoods and how do you use them in your everyday diet?