Are Superfoods really all that super for your health?
I'm sure this question pops into your head when you read the latest news on the next great superfood that’s storming the market. Of course, the media makes a big deal about how great superfoods from acai to yum-yum berries are for you…but what are the real facts behind the superfood mystique?
What Really Makes A Food A Superfood?
How can you tell a real deal superfood from the media hype and myths? The first thing you need to look at when examining a superfood is the science-based evidence around the claims. Let’s take the granddaddy of them all, the acai berry. These little, tart, purple berries grow deep in the Amazon rainforest and are known to be high in cell-rejuvenating antioxidants.
As you eat acai berries, they scavenge and destroy deadly free radicals with their antioxidant super powers. The dark purple pigment of the berries fills it with two powerful compounds called anthocyanin and polyphenols, both of which boost heart health, help you shed fat, aid digestion, and improve your immune system.
But, So They Really Work?
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition found that the anthocyanin and polyphenol content of acai pulp neutralized free radicals, but acai’s effect on body weight and glucose levels were minimal, at best. However, the nutrients found in acai can improve our general health and slow down the ongoing aging process.
Here’s What You May Not Know About Superfoods
While these foods are powerful, you have to do more than eat a big bowl of acai fruit every day. Although delicious, relying on one superfood as a magic bullet is a short-term approach to overall health and nutrition.
Wait…Don’t you believe in the power of superfoods?
I do. I’m a superfood lover. My biggest problem is the way superfoods are marketed to consumers. This berry will make you look younger, this seed will make you feel better, or this drink will make you stronger.
Many superfoods, supplements, and products made with them are marketed in the same way the pharmaceutical companies peddle you a “pill to fix your ills.” It needs to stop. It’s irresponsible.
I firmly believe in the research studies and science-based evidence that prove certain superfoods are next level nutrients. However, consumers need to be aware that superfoods need to be combined with overall good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle plan.
Let Me Share My Story With You
I was a chubby child. When I became an adult, I experienced some trauma, made several poor life decisions, and turned to comfort foods to soothe myself. At the time, I reasoned eating a piece of cake was better than turning to alcohol or prescription medications to stop my pain. I realized I was damaging my health but, more importantly, I wasn’t confronting and dealing with my problems head on. I’d gained over 100 pounds, and was steadily getting fatter and more disgusted with myself. I was miserable, and it was no way to live.
Then my body started to rebel and gave me a serious lightbulb moment. I ended up being hospitalized with a life-threatening blood clot, but it wasn’t until later on that I realized I had to make serious changes. I needed to find a way to work through my pain without turning to food.
As an emotional eater, food made me feel better. I ate to feel safe and secure. I realized I needed to consume the right foods – foods that tasted delicious and foods that my body craved – even if I didn’t know it at the time. Superfoods can improve your total body wellness, but only if you eat them as part of a holistic healthy eating plan.
You can’t just eat a dark chocolate torte and think that the cacao content is going to improve your blood pressure. The sugar in that torte will cause your blood sugar to spike and the resulting glucose will eventually turn to fat if it can’t be absorbed by your muscles.
When thinking about superfoods, cacao, chia, moringa, cupuacu, and dragon fruit are intriguing and even sound a little bit sexy…but you won’t get the benefits from these superfoods unless the other 90% of your diet is made of every day nutrient-rich whole foods that are just as beneficial as superfoods.
I’ve put together a list of everyday superfoods that your body needs to keep you feeling sharp, energized, and happy throughout your busy day.
5 Hidden Every Day Superfoods That Your Body Craves
These popular nuts contain powerful anti-cancer biochemicals. It isn’t just the omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts that are responsible for these benefits. Researchers from Marshall University School of Medicine, West Virginia, United States, discovered that walnuts inhibited breast tumors and slowed the growth of prostate, colon, and renal cancers. Walnuts even decreased insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) a hormone found in prostate and breast cancer. Why not eat a handful of walnuts as part of a healthy cancer prevention based diet?
2. Shiitake Mushrooms
The second most cultivated mushroom, we’re eating a lot of this delicious fungi. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s been known as a medicinal mushroom for centuries.
One fascinating finding is that shiitake mushrooms are bursting with B-vitamins, so much so that they’re almost a B-complex supplement on their own. They can even cool down chronic inflammation and boost your overall immunity.
3. Bone Broth
Collagen, collagen, collagen. In the human body, nothing gets created without this amazing protein. Your bones, skin, hair, nails, and muscle all need this protein, without which, you’d be a big blob of jelly…appealing right?
To keep your bones strong and halt fine lines and wrinkles, you need a lot of collagen, especially after age 30 (when collagen production starts to decrease around 1% per year). The best way to get it is by making bone broth. Homemade bone broth is like chicken soup on steroids. It can balance your gut flora, help reduces wrinkles, reverse inflammation, and even remineralize teeth. Try an easy bone broth recipe here.
If you want to take a shortcut (and not have to make your own bone broth) try collagen peptides. Collagen peptides are the short chain amino acids naturally derived from collagen. Look for collagen peptide powders that are pasture raised, rBGH free and non-GMO, like this one from Great Lakes. They’re bio-available and easily dissolve in hot or cold water.
One of the most nutritionally-dense fruits you can enjoy, avocados are packed with beta-carotene, glutathione, lutein, and omega-3s, just to name a few.
One of the little-known benefits of avocados is that they’re great for your eyesight.
Lutein is a carotenoid found in avocados. It protects the eyes from oxidative stress damage that can eventually lead to macular degeneration and cataracts. A one-cup serving of avocado will meet 38% of your daily need for vitamin K, 24% of vitamin C, and 20% of potassium. In contrast, a medium banana only offers 12% of your recommended daily allowance of potassium.
5. Sulfur-Rich Foods
Sulphur rich foods like cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, grapefruit, grass-fed beef and kale are important sources of glutathione. Glutathione is often called the “mother” of all antioxidants because the others don’t work without this special one. Glutathione acts as a detox agent for your body and helps prevent chronic diseases. Dr. David Katz at Yale University’s Prevention Research Center says, “Most serious chronic diseases are associated with low levels of glutathione.”
I lost 100 pounds over two years by eating everyday superfoods like these and including more exotic superfoods (that are also delicious) as I discovered them. One of the most important things I’ve learned about nutrition is that if you focus on keeping 90% of your daily diet rich in everyday superfoods like arugula (rocket), red onions, garlic, cage-free organic eggs, wild fish and game, red bell peppers, and even lemons, it can have a tremendous impact on your health.
Not Just For Today…For The Rest Of Your Life
Eat exotic superfoods, eat everyday superfoods, but most importantly, love the food you eat so your food loves you back and fortifies your body, mind, and spirit for years to come.