Superfoods are nutritionally beneficial foods that have several nutrients such as vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, etc., healthy fats and fibers that are needed for the body’s well-being. They are usually derived from plant sources but could include dairy products and animal products like fish.
In reality, there is no specific category of superfoods, but the term was coined as a marketing theme to describe foods that are considered beneficial to the body. So, there’s no standard criteria or requirement for any food to be termed a superfood. Superfoods are simply meals that can help combat chronic diseases, reduce the risk of obesity, improve the body’s organs’ functioning, and provide several health benefits.
The antioxidants and phytonutrients present in these foods help improve the body’s immunity, fight cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and other related diseases, and reduce inflammatory processes in the body.
Although these foods offer several health benefits, they do not provide a guarantee or absolute protection from chronic diseases. Consuming superfoods daily as a part of your diet is excellent and beneficial, but they should not replace an overall balanced and healthy meal.
While there are several superfoods, some of the popular ones are as follows:
- Berries: Berries like raspberries, acai, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, and goji berries are superfoods that are rich in healthy fibers, vitamins, minerals, and they have a high phytochemical (flavonoid) content. Thus, they help in preventing the risk of cardiovascular disorders, cancer, and chronic inflammations. They can also be used along with other medications to treat GI and immune-associated conditions. Besides these functions, some of these berries have individual health benefits. For example, cranberries can be used by patients who have UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections). The berry holds a phytochemical that is effective in treating this bacterial infection. Goji berries are also rich in vitamins (Vitamins C and E) and can treat high blood sugar and hypertension. You can eat berries as snacks or add them to your meals like cereals or yogurts.
- Fish: Fatty fishes like salmon, mackerel, herring, and trout are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals like selenium, and potassium which helps to prevent the buildup of plaques in the vascular vessels. They also help lower the risk of cardiac diseases, diabetes, chronic inflammation, and high body cholesterol. Including these fishes in your meals will not only reduce your vulnerability to chronic diseases but will improve your overall health status.
- Eggs: Eggs are rich sources of vitamins, irons, amino acids, choline, antioxidants, and other beneficial nutrients. Eating eggs can cause an increase in the healthy fats in your body and lower your risk of having heart diseases. Eggs are also useful in improving vision and protecting the eyes.
- Legumes: These are rich sources of healthy fibers, plant-derived protein, vitamins, and minerals necessary for the body’s well-being. They help prevent obesity, treat elevated blood pressure, diabetes, and other diseases. These legumes include kidney beans, red beans, soybeans, lentils, etc.
- Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, cashew nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pine nuts, etc., are good examples of superfoods. They are highly nutritious and contain many antioxidants. As a result, they are used to treat several diseases like obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, stroke, and heart attack. Nuts are delicious and can be eaten raw as snacks or added as toppings to other meals. They are widely available and should be taken regularly to enhance the body’s wellness.
- Olive oil: This is a natural oil extracted from olive fruits. It has many nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins highly beneficial to the body and can help fight diseases. It’s a rich source of monounsaturated fats and oleocanthal – an antioxidant that aids in preventing chronic inflammatory processes. Severe inflammation is usually a significant risk factor for diseases like obesity, cancer, diabetes, etc. As a result, the potent anti-inflammatory effects of olive oil effectively reduce the risk of having these diseases.
- Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are a rich source of carotenoids that reduce vulnerability to specific cancer types. They are also rich sources of healthy fibers and vitamins. They have been proven to effectively prevent retinol deficiency, cancer, and risk of heart diseases, managing diabetes, chronic inflammation, and regulating blood pressure. Likewise, they give you a healthy gut and enhance your immune system.
- Ginger: Ginger has several nutrients, including gingerol (an antioxidant) responsible for its medicinal effects. It can relieve pains from severe inflammation, reduce the risk of diseases like cancer, and relieve nausea, especially in pregnant women.
- Garlic: Garlic is a highly medicinal plant that has been used for years to treat diseases. It helps boost the body’s immunity, lower high blood pressure, reduce the risk of dementia and high cholesterol and enhance the overall body’s health.
- Turmeric: Its antioxidant effects help to prevent cardiac diseases, eye problems, and cancer, while its anti-inflammatory properties are beneficial to people with arthritis and inflammatory conditions.