From fitness enthusiasts and busy moms to strict vegans and vegetarians, many people are making superfoods an important part of a healthy diet. "Superfood" is a trendy way to describe a nutrient-rich food associated with certain health benefits like maintaining or achieving a healthy weight, reversing effects of aging, increasing energy and strength, improving brain and eye health, preventing diseases, helping with mental and emotional clarity and satisfying your body down to your cells. Overall these nutritional powerhouses provide large doses of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, fiber and amino acids in each serving.
Truth be told, these superfoods are nothing more than real foods from our planet. They are the foods Mother Nature herself created versus the man-made, refined artificial foods jam-packed with chemicals and sugars. The energy and satisfaction you'll feel after eating a banana is far different from a bag of Skittles.
Here are a few examples of superfoods and what they're known to accomplish:
- Goji berries — Used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 5,000 years, these berries are thought by some to be an edible fountain of youth. Full of amino acids, tons of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and more, this is one berry you should work into your diet.
- Bee products — Bee pollen is the most complete food found in nature, containing nearly all B vitamins and all 21 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.
- Tumeric — Prevents and reverses inflammation and reduces pain. It's rich in antioxidants and enhances liver function to detox toxic carcinogens.
- Acai berry — With immune stimulating and antioxidant properties, acai berry lowers cholesterol and is high in vitamin C and ellagic acid, which boosts the immune system and suppresses the growth of cancer.
- Maca root — This aids in digestion with calcium, vitamins B1 and B2, B12 and fatty acids. It also helps endurance during workouts. Maca root is also the perfect way to get a noncaffeinated boost if you're jonesing for that big cup of coffee.
- Chia seeds — The Aztecs ate this little seed before going into battle because they thought it gave them power. Looks like they were right! This tiny seed can absorb 10 times its weight in water when added to food and drink. It makes you feel fuller, increases muscle hydration and controls your blood sugar by slowing down how fast you burn carbohydrates, giving you longer-lasting energy. It also contains omega-3s and is packed with a daily dose of fiber.
- Spirulina — The oldest living organism still around on earth, it contains all the amino acids of a complete protein and nutrients such as B complex vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, zinc, copper, iron, selenium and essential fatty acids.
- Kale — Low in calories and high in dietary fiber, it helps with regular digestion and prevents constipation. Kale contains essential nutrients that battle bacteria that can coat the stomach lining and cause gastric cancer. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Including some of these foods regularly along with other fresh, whole, locally grown, seasonal foods and green-fed and finished, organic beef and dairy and wild-caught fish is one of the easiest and tastiest ways to promote vibrant health.
Holistic health coach and nutritional consultant Ann Musico has changed her life for the better by simply eating spirulina daily. "You can get it in capsule form, but I like the powder which I mix with water every morning," she says. "I have experienced many benefits including maintaining a healthy weight, uneventful menopause with no hot flashes or other problems, healthy, pain-free joints and incredible energy."
Getting more superfoods into your diet
Angela Hadi, SheKnows reader, admits to being a believer of the power of superfoods. "Last year about this time, I was 15 pounds heavier and was constantly trying to find ways to reduce the weight and feel better. I tried buying an expensive juicer and decided to create my own juices that focused on what was wrong with me. What I found is that by juicing dandelion and taking a shot of it per day, I feel more refreshed, less bloated, have warded off early signs of sickness and have even maintained a decent weight. I'm also a strong believer in fresh ginger. It has helped with my circulation and libido (which is always a winner with my hubby!)."
Elle Penner, M.P.H., R.D. for MyFitnessPal, gives the following three tips to eat more superfoods without over-thinking it:
- Add nuts and berries to your breakfast. Try blending them into a smoothie, sprinkling on top of yogurt, a bowl of cereal or whole grain toast with peanut butter.
- Fill half of your dinner plate with vibrant fruits and vegetables. The more colorful, the better.
- Eat a serving of ground flaxseed, walnuts or salmon each day. They're all rich in healthful omega-3 fatty acids, and flaxseed and walnuts are also high in fiber.
Please beware that superfoods are "superintense." Do your own research before taking/eating them and make sure you don't overdo it. For example, ingesting too much maca powder in one sitting can have adverse effects — especially if you're slowly getting into healthier eating. Make sure you read books, articles and talk to your doctor and/or a nutritionist.
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