Superfoods: Why so “Super?”
It seems that the latest “buzz word” regarding food is “superfoods.” What makes a superfood and why are they super? Do they wear little capes? Do they fight bad guys and save people ironically falling from the sky? Hmm… Not likely, but they are quite valuable for your health.
The actual definition of superfood is “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” Though many people have said that it is simply a marketing tool to sell products with a certain ingredient, the overall addition of these foods to your diet will do more good than harm. The idea behind superfoods and their power is switching your diet from foods that have more calories and fat than actual nutrients to their healthful counterparts: fruits, veggies, grains and legumes, which are vitamin powerhouses.
Growing up, mom always told you to eat your greens. Well, it turns out mom was right! The darker the color of a fruit or vegetable – think spinach, blueberries, and beets – the more condensed nutrients that delicious superfood will have! It is no surprise that people today aren’t getting the recommended vitamins and minerals that their bodies need; this is where superfoods and their ultimate “super-ness” come in. Superfoods have been said to have wondrous beneficial qualities like preventing chronic diseases, improving eyesight, increasing mental agility, and even helping you lose some body fat. (Sign us up!) So what’s the big idea here? How are these seemingly common fruits and vegetables “super?” Let’s break it down.
What makes a superfood, well… super?
In a simple answer: a high concentration of vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.
As mentioned before, the brighter (or darker) a fruit or veggie is, the higher concentration of the good stuff. We want to naturally acquire as many different nutrients as we can from the foods that we eat, so it totally makes sense that eating fruits and veggies – superfoods – that are higher in concentration results in a more diverse and plentiful variety of vitamins and antioxidants.
First up, vitamins.
“Well, can’t I just take Vitamin C as a supplement?” First off, we are huge supporters of dietary supplements, as they can be the perfect addition to anyone’s diet and help “fill the gaps” where maybe we decided to eat French fries for lunch instead of a salad. But there is no doubt that eating an orange is better than taking a Vit. C tablet. With eating the physical fruit, you are getting other very important things for a healthy bod, like fiber, carbohydrates, and other vitamins and minerals. Fiber alone, should be enough reason to grab that fruit and get to peelin’.
“Phyto” in Greek means plant; hence, phytochemicals are chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants. They are majorly responsible for the color and other properties of fruits and vegetables (the purple-blue color of blueberries and the robust smell of garlic). Phytochemicals are actually broken down into different categories that all work a little differently. Hormonal action, stimulation of enzymes, interference with DNA replication (they may prevent cancer cell growth but do not interfere with normal cells), anti-bacterial effect, physical action, and antioxidant are all under the phytochemical umbrella of awesomeness. While we’re not going to specifically talk about each one of these puppies – you can do that on your own time – we would like to point out that while phytochemicals are considered a “non-essential nutrient,” we still very much want these in our diets. Also note that phytochemicals are in wholesome, plant-based foods, not refined or processed foods.
In case you didn’t know, antioxidants are molecules that inhibit the oxidation of other molecules. In turn, delaying or even preventing some types of cell damage. We need these babies in our lives. They are like little molecule janitors who clean up the mess of environmental molecular damage. These are what separates the foods from the superfoods. The more antioxidants, the “better” the fruit or veg is. You see, antioxidants are measured on the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity scale, or ORAC. This method of measuring antioxidants helps identify the heavy hitters. Some of these top foods (and spices) include cinnamon, cloves, bran, goji berries, pecans, artichokes, acai berry, and turmeric. Adding these superstars to your diet can only bring good things, my friends.
In our book, superfoods are total rockstars helping you on your epic quest of health awesomeness. And, in our head, they wear little capes that flutter in the wind as they zoom through our bodies and add their rad and abundant nutrients. Which superfood is your favorite? Tweet us @BioTerraHerbs and let us know!