What is a Superfood?By Rick Hay - Food and Nutrition
Superfoods – Do they exist and what are they?
The term superfood is really the buzz word of the health industry at the moment.
There is lots of marketing hype around Superfoods and their medicinal properties which has led to a great deal of confusion.
People are always asking me whether superfoods really exist and if so, what makes a superfood, super.
Superfoods are foods that are nutrient dense and have strong antioxidant properties – a true superfood has a high Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity Score ( ORAC ) and the higher the ORAC score the stronger the food’s antioxidant ability.
This means that most true superfoods will have a positive effect on immune function.
If I were to ask you about superfoods you would probably think of something exotic – perhaps something from the Amazon or Asian Rain Forests like, Chia Seeds, Maca, Acia, Goji Berries or Cacao.
These rainforest foods are indeed Superfoods but the good news is that many every day foods, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices are in the superfood league.
Many are probably in your fridge or kitchen cupboard right now.
Common colourful fruits and vegetables like Raspberries, Blackberries, Beetroot, Blueberries and Spinach all fall into the superfood category.
They all have high ORAC scores and as a result are all good immune boosters in their own right – with Beetroot Powder or Juice being the current standout in terms of enhancing sports performance.
When looking at everyday fruits and vegetables those that are brightly are most likely to be considered a super food.
There is also lots of research currently being undertaken in order to identify the medicinal properties of common culinary herbs and spices.
The results for Turmeric, Cinnamon and Oregano for example, are promising. Turmeric has strong anti inflammatory properties whilst cinnamon is a great blood sugar regulator.
Oregano’s anti microbial and anti bacterial properties show promise.
I would even include some pulses in the superfood category – chickpeas, lentils and beans all are high in fibre and are rich in nutrients.
They are great foods to include into the diet to provide plant based protein – a diet that is high in plant based protein is generally the healthiest.
Foods that are high in fibre also assist with sustainable weight management, satiety and healthy digestive function.
Herbal teas such as Licorice, Spearmint, Raspberry, Lemon Balm and Fennel and Peppermint all have the properties of a true superfood.
These teas can assist with digestion, blood sugar regulation and immune function.
Like any true superfood they are powerful antioxidants that help the body in the fight against oxidative stress and free radical damage.
Teas can indeed be super, but herbal tinctures are like a turbo charged version of the tea.
Traditional medicine options such as Globe Artichoke, Olive Leaf, St John’s Wort, Vervain and Licorice have been used successfully to treat a wide range of health conditions.
Even things like bitter salad leaves – chicory, endive and rocket – come under my superfood category. Their bitter quality stimulates liver and gall bladder function which in turn, has a positive effect on digestion and fat metabolism.
I always recommend that my clients eat as many brightly coloured foods as they can on a daily basis – the more colourful and varied your diet is, the more likely you are to be consuming superfoods.
A healthy diet is not one that just includes the recommended five a day – it’s all about colour, variety and eating as close to nature as you can.
There are many superfood powders and supplements out there on the market.
Many do what they says on the box but I think you need to exercise caution with those that promise the earth or a miracle cure.
We all know that just taking raspberry ketones is not the simple answer to obesity.
I am a fan of the Supergreen powders like Spirulina, Chlorella, Wheat Grass and Barley Grass to assist with alkalisation and cleansing.
I also recommend Acai, Boabab, Lucuma, Beetroot and Maca to help with energy production and sports performance.
Turmeric and Olive Leaf extract are two of my favourites when it comes to boosting immune function and fighting bacteria, viruses and microbes.
I think Algal or Fish Oil is a great addition to a good diet as they boost cognition and mental performance.
Chia Seeds are great to help with satiety and to increase the protein content of a smoothie – they are also high in essential fatty acids which help with healthy skin, hair and nails.