Superfoods – what is it and why should you introduce a superfood into your diet?
Those who pay special attention to their daily diet are certainly familiar with the concept of superfoods, also called superfoods in English. It is worth getting acquainted with it a little closer, the individual products that fall within the scope of this definition, which can significantly help not only to maintain good health, but also to maintain proper body weight.
What are superfoods?
More commonly used is the English name for this type of food, so we will also use it. By the term superfoods we mean all foods that have a high content of essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals or flavonoids or antioxidants. We primarily include fruits and vegetables, both exotic and growing in nature also in our country.
At the same time, such products must be characterized by only natural origin, from organic cultivation, without the use of harmful chemicals. It is also worth remembering that this is actually a contractual definition, in science there is no concept of superfoods. However, if a company wants to label its products in this way, it must also include a so-called health claim on them confirming their beneficial effect on health, necessarily confirmed by research.
Thanks to this, their consumption can cause an improvement in health, but they are only an addition to a properly balanced diet, comprehensively affecting the body and helping, among other things:
- fight overweight or obesity;
- inhibit natural cellular aging processes;
- reduce the risk of developing many dangerous diseases, including cancer;
- strengthen the work of the immune system;
- increase resistance to the negative effects of stress;
- reduce the amount of health-threatening free radicals.
What exotic products do we count as superfoods?
Now that we know how superfoods affect the human body and why it’s worth introducing them into your diet, it’s time to find out which products are counted among them by healthy eating experts. The first group of frequently consumed superfoods are fruits and other plants that have exotic origins, and examples of products particularly recommended from this group are:
One of the first fruits to earn the honorable title of superfoods, consumed most often in dried form, which does not mean that they have lost their valuable nutritional properties in the process. Berries goji, or fruit of the Chinese thorn, are still a source of many compounds even essential for the human body.
They have in their composition B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin and niacin), vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, unsaturated fatty acidsdepleted Omega-3, flavonoids, dietary fiber, amino acids (zeaxanthin and lutein) and numerous minerals, zinc, phosphorus, germanium, copper, selenium, calcium and iron. Thanks to these ingredients, they gain extensive abilities:
- improving weakened immunity;
- regulate blood glucose and cholesterol levels;
- strengthening the heart and circulatory system;
- normalizing blood pressure that is too high;
- anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antioxidant;
- optimizing the functioning of the nervous system, resulting in better memory and concentration;
- preventing osteoporosis;
- allowing the body to cleanse toxins more effectively;
- protecting against macular degeneration, retinal damage and vision loss.
Originating from the hot forests of South America, where they have been used in natural medicine in this region of the world for centuries. Their positive, multifaceted effects on health cannot be underestimated, so they should be included in any properly balanced diet, not just for weight loss.
Again, the active ingredients of Acai berries, vitamin A, B, C and E, unsaturated acids of the Omega group, phytosterols, fiber, amino acids and salts of zinc, chromium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, potassium and calcium are responsible for this. The most important health-promoting effects are:
- helping to reduce weight without the risk of yo-yo effect, thanks to the improvement of the digestive system;
- curbing excessive appetite and constant snacking between meals;
- protecting cells from the effects of oxidative stress caused by excess free radicals;
- increase in the overall efficiency of the body and more vitality;
- slower course of aging processes;
- normalization of blood cholesterol levels, especially its “bad” fraction LDL, and glucose levels;
- more efficient functioning of the heart and cardiovascular system;
- improved thought processes, memory, concentration and cognitive abilities.
Certainly familiar to any follower of healthy eating, and these small seeds hide enormous power and are a good source for supplementing any nutrient deficiencies. In terms of composition, Chia seeds, or chia seeds, boast a large amount of vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E and the same minerals as in Acai berries. The action of the seeds comes down primarily to:
- supporting the heart muscle;
- restoring the elasticity of blood vessels, which improves blood circulation and oxygenation of every cell in the body;
- increased intellectual performance, with their ingredients making us have a better memory and absorb new information faster;
- more effective protection against disease and infection, thanks to a more efficient immune system;
- more efficient digestion and metabolism, thanks to improved intestinal function, among other things, which contributes to maintaining a healthy body weight;
- anti-stress and anti-depressant effects.
Having an extremely broad and obviously positive effect on health, also characterized by a high content of valuable nutrients. Spirulina is a small algae, found in nature in the warm lakes of South America and Africa, with a characteristic green-blue color, used in the form of a powder obtained from them.
In their composition the most important is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), whose action is supported by vitamin A, thiamine (vitamin B1), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B12 (cobalamin), vitamins C, E and K, as well as polyphenols, polysaccharides, essential amino acids and numerous minerals. Properties of spirulina worth highlighting are:
- antioxidant, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity;
- bringing blood pressure to a compatible level;
- counteracting cardiovascular diseases;
- more efficient detoxification of the body, especially removal of heavy metals;
- reduction of LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides;
- reduction of insulin resistance;
- supporting weight loss.
Which Polish superfoods are worth introducing into your diet?
In addition to the exotic superfoods listed above, it is worth including in your daily diet our native products that can be included in this group. These include not only popular vegetables and fruits, and we should pay special attention to such Polish superfoods as:
You would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of flaxseed, the seeds of the common flax plant, whose medicinal properties have been known for thousands of years. Flaxseed contains a wide range of active compounds, without which there is no way to maintain full health, vitamin A, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid), B12, vitamin C, D, E and K.
Their action is complemented by minerals, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, potassium, selenium, calcium and iron, which has a beneficial effect on such properties of flaxseed as:
- prevention of cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, venous thrombosis, coronary artery disease;
- support of the digestive system, resulting in better digestion and less susceptibility to irritation of the stomach or intestines;
- relieving symptoms of respiratory ailments, sore throats, mucous membrane irritation, coughing;
- lower risk of cancer, thanks to the presence of powerful antioxidants;
- reduction of some of the symptoms accompanying menopause, facilitated by the simultaneous regulation of the body’s hormonal balance;
- cleansing of toxins and unnecessary metabolic products;
- greater resistance to stress and other, equally harmful, states of nervous tension.
Another fruit counted among superfoods, whose medicinal properties cannot be denied, as they are confirmed by numerous professional scientific studies. They are used not only in the kitchen, as an addition to many dishes, but also in medicine, and not only natural medicine, and in cosmetics. Their effects are directly related to the content of large amounts of vitamin A, C, E and K, as well as beta-carotene, which is supported by lutein and minerals.
Of equal importance are phenolic acids, anthocyanins, flavonoids, tannins and flavonoid glycosides, together responsible for the unique effects of cranberries, both fresh and dried:
- lowering “bad” cholesterol and blood pressure;
- alleviating infections and conditions in the urinary tract;
- inhibiting the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria in the urinary bladder;
- supporting kidney function and the risk of kidney stones;
- supporting the cardiovascular system and reducing the risk of heart disease;
- maintaining blood sugar levels in line with standards;
- removing carcinogenic compounds from the body.
A vegetable that is definitely worth having in your kitchen, not only for its taste, but also for its content of trace elements, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron. The medicinal properties of kale are also influenced by vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin K, in doses even exceeding the daily requirement, and sulforaphane, a very powerful antioxidant.
Kale is also appreciated for its extremely low calorie content, only 40 kcal in 100 g, which promotes weight loss, and its other valuable medicinal properties are:
- antioxidant, allowing to get rid of most free radicals;
- strengthening the weakened immune system;
- effective support of the brain and nervous system;
- faster healing of wounds and counteracting hemorrhages, external and, above all, the most dangerous internal;
- more effective operation of the cardiovascular system, normalization of blood pressure;
- reduction of oxidation of the LDL fraction of cholesterol.
Green parsley parsley
Which needs no introduction to anyone, is constantly present in our traditional Polish cuisine. However, it is important not only this one use of green parsley, which contains almost all the nutrients we need every day. Among other things, it satisfies the body’s daily requirement for vitamin C, also provides B vitamins, including the particularly valuable folic acid, and vitamin K.
When we add dietary fiber, essential oils, amino acids, chlorophyll and large amounts of flavonoids, together we get a health cocktail responsible also for:
- more thorough detoxification of the entire body;
- antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects;
- increased iron absorption due to the presence of a large amount of ascorbic acid;
- support the work of the kidneys and other elements of the urinary system;
- decongestant and analgesic effect;
- alleviating the effects of fatigue and strengthening the performance of the body;
- increasing resistance to stress, which is facilitated by the presence of magnesium.
Of course, these are just examples of superfoods, there are other products that are worth including in your menu, such as:
- Maca root;
- citrus fruits;
- white mulberry;
- chili peppers;
- walnuts and pumpkin seeds;
- green barley and wheat;
- honey, including Manuka.