What’s a Superfood?
There is no official or medical definition for the word, “superfood.” It’s just a marketing term for a food with exceptionally high nutritional value. Most superfoods are plants loaded with phytonutrients, the good-for-you natural compounds that help protect you from cancer and other health problems. Because health-conscious consumers are willing to pay more for healthful foods, there is a lot of “super-hype” surrounding superfoods. So be aware of that, and be smart about what you buy and how much you pay for it.
Which Superfood is the Best?
Sorry to disappoint you, but there is no one “best” superfood. No single food, not even a superfood, can meet all of your nutritional needs. Your body benefits most when you tap into the synergism that occurs when a variety of plant foods work in combination with each other. The most healthful strategy is to eat many superfoods along with healthy options from across all of the food groups. What we eat is most likely to result in good health when we:
- Eat a wide variety of foods
- Major on plant foods and minor on animal foods
- Pay attention to calorie content
- “Eat the rainbow”
What Does “Eat the Rainbow” Mean?
Plant foods contain literally thousands of disease-preventing phytochemicals. Nutrition researchers have discovered that the color of a plant food is often a clue about the types of phytochemicals it contains. Since phytochemicals work best in combination with each other, it’s smart to eat many colorful plant foods to “eat the rainbow.” The more colorful the assortment of foods on your plate, the more phytochemicals you are getting.
Delicious, Colorful Superfoods
Superfoods are the nutrition “superstars,” so make sure to put plenty of them in your grocery cart every time you shop. A few examples of superfoods are below. Notice how many colors are represented in this list!
One cup of blueberries has just 80 calories and provides about 25% of your daily vitamin C. Blueberries are also a good source of fiber and manganese, and they excel as antioxidants. Other healthy blue or purple plant foods: blackberries, prunes, plums.
ORANGE: Sweet Potatoes
A three-ounce sweet potato has just 90 calories. It’s fat- free, and is a great source of fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, and beta-carotene. Other healthy yellow/orange foods: carrots, mangos, cantaloupe, winter squash, pumpkins, apricots.
BLACK: Black Beans
Fiber, folic acid, calcium, protein, and antioxidants – black beans have them all. They also contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. On top of all this, they are low on the glycemic index, which is so helpful to those with diabetes.
A quarter cup of almonds contains 161 calories and provides about 14% of your daily fiber. These nutritious and tasty nuts also provide protein, vitamin E, calcium, and potassium.
Tomatoes are a luscious and versatile cooking ingredient. Not only that, they are high in vitamin C and lycopene, which has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Other healthy foods in the red category: watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava, cranberries, strawberries.
Popeye knew what he was talking about! Spinach is full of nutrition: vitamins K, C, A, B2, B6, and E, plus fiber, niacin, zinc, and antioxidants. And there are only 30 calories in a one-cup serving. Other healthy green or yellow/green foods: pistachios, avocados, kiwi fruit.
MULTIPLE COLORS: The cruciferous vegetables
Radishes, arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, bok choy, and turnips are all cruciferous vegetables. They are “cruciferous” (Latin for “cross-bearing”) because of their flowers, which have four petals that resemble a cross. These veggies contain fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals, including indoles, thiocyanates, and nitriles, which may help prevent some cancers.
BROWN: Dark Chocolate
No, you’re not dreaming – dark chocolate is considered a superfood! It has strong antioxidant powers and can also help lower mild high blood pressure. The recommended daily portion is one square of a chocolate that is 60-70% cocoa. The health-enhancing phytonutrients are the flavanols in the cocoa.