We’re pretty sure you’ve come across this term in one way or another in recent times. Article upon article talks about these seemingly exotic fruits, vegetables, and seeds, which when consumed, will make us healthier. While there’s some truth beyond these claims, what is the whole truth, really? Is this a recently discovered, miraculous kind of food that is the answer to all our health and fitness prayers? Or just a clever marketing ploy?
As Manasa Rajan, Health Coach at cure.fit puts it
Superfoods refer to a group of foods that provide the maximum amount of micronutrients per calorie.
We’re talking vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and the likes. However, it’s important to remember that while no standard criteria or legal definition exists for the category, it can be safely said that most superfoods are plant-based. In addition, they usually possess at least three of these characteristics:
- A good source of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. High in phytonutrients and antioxidant compounds, such as vitamins A, E, and beta carotene
- Reduce the risk of heart disease or other health conditions
- Readily available
If you’re still unsure, another great way you can identify a superfood is by colour. A number of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables contain more antioxidants than their mildly coloured counterparts, and can be considered part of this group.
Now that we know what they are, let’s look at some of the different types:
Don’t let the name fool you. Chances are, your diet includes these veggies already! This group simply refers to vegetables such as broccoli, sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and radishes. While these vary in terms of colours, shape, and size, they come with several common benefits.
Most are great sources of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins K, A, C, folate and sulforaphanes. Add their phytonutrients to the list, and you have a superfood that
Seeds and Nuts
Yes — almonds, or badaam, as they’re better known in India, are superfoods! So are walnuts, cashews, as well as certain seeds like those of pumpkin’s and apricot’s. These are an excellent source of healthy fats, flavonoids, and fibre.
If you’re already one of those who can’t start the day without soaked badaam, then you’re on the right track.
Traditional ingredients such as ginger, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon — spices that we use very often in our daily food preparations are also great superfoods!
But, how do superfoods benefit us?
As mentioned earlier, superfoods are mostly plant-based, and this means, they’re high in fibre as well. While fibre is not digested by our GI enzymes (digestive enzymes), they are highly effective when it comes to easing bowel movements, absorbing water in the intestines, and promoting healthy gut bacteria — all crucial to proper digestion — and who doesn’t like that?
Improve heart health
A number of superfoods have properties that work towards lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol levels as well as helping to lower blood pressure. Some add soluble fibre to your diet, which expels bad cholesterol from your body before it gets into circulation, while others give you polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL. Most superfoods also contain plant sterols and stanols, which stop the body from absorbing cholesterol. While some superfoods rich in omega 3 fatty acids help promote a healthy heart beat. The benefit? Dramatically reduced risk of heart disease.
Various superfoods possess properties that make your metabolism more efficient. For example, cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, both of which contribute to healthy metabolic rates. Lentils are rich in iron, a deficiency of which can lead to weight gain. So, including a good mix of certain superfoods in your diet will definitely lead to a higher possibility of weight loss!
Superfoods enhance the function of immune B cells, which are key in producing disease-fighting antibodies. The anti oxidants and antibacterial properties of superfoods protect your body against any germs or bacteria. Flu season? What’s that?
How can you make superfoods part of your daily diet?
You’ll be happy to know, it’s easier than you think!
All you have to remember is that overcooking certain superfoods can lead to a dip in nutritional value, so when incorporating things like green, leafy vegetables in your curries, make sure you add them towards the end of the cooking process.
You can incorporate walnuts in your meals very easily. Grab a few pieces when you’re hungry or simply toss a few into your salad to add that crunch. If you fancy something sweet, try this simple candied walnut recipe
The best part though, is that a typical Indian diet, across regions, already incorporates a number of superfoods such as ginger, garlic, lentils, and chillies! Use these to add some punch to your tea-time snack.
Give your dal a bit of a kick, or layer your parathas with more flavour… the possibilities are endless!
So there you have it — everything you need to know about superfoods and how to consume more of them. Go ahead and give your diet a healthy twist!
Credits — Manasa Rajan