The term “superfoods” has been tossed around a lot in recent years, but many people still don’t understand what the word means. In short, according to LiveScience, it refers to a food or group of foods that is especially nutritionally dense.
What type of foods are superfoods?
Superfoods are usually vegetables or fruits but can also be fish or dairy items that are thought to have extra health benefits. Unfortunately, there are no specific guidelines to definitively determine what makes up a superfood. But there are some foods that have garnered more attention than others for their impressive nutritional makeup. Check out some of the top superfoods and what they bring to the nutritional table.
Kale is commonly touted as a superfood because it contains high amounts of minerals and antioxidants, but other leafy greens have as many and, in some cases, more.
Spinach reportedly has fewer calories per serving than kale and is high in protein, calcium, iron, and magnesium, all of which play essential roles in the body’s functions.
Some nutritionists recommend dandelion greens as an alternative to broccoli because they provide four times as much calcium and more vitamin A and K.
Swiss chard is considered a superfood because it has vitamins A, C, and K as well as minerals like magnesium, potassium, and iron. It also has fiber, regulates blood sugar levels, and boasts antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
Acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) is a trendy superfood, sourced from the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. Resembling a blueberry, acai contains numerous antioxidants that are easily absorbed by the body. Some studies suggest that the berries may also fight cancer and lower cholesterol, but more research is needed. Although you can find them covered in chocolate or incorporated into smoothies, opt for acai that contains no sugar to get the most benefits.
Cherries and wild blueberries are also superfruits although they can get overlooked. A favorite summer fruit, cherries are a wealth of unique antioxidants and have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular inflammation. Wild blueberries contain antioxidants that neutralize free radicals that may cause cancer and heart disease and affect aging. The tiny powerhouses contain anthocyanin, an essential for eye health, and protect the brain against aging.
Walnuts have a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as antioxidants and components called phytosterols that may be responsible for slowing cancer growth. Another source of omega-3 fatty acids is salmon, which can be considered a superfood.
Although superfoods tend to have a reputation for being exotic, like acai berries and other fruits from far off lands, you can find less expensive versions of superfoods closer to home. Grab a handful of berries or cherries during the summer when they are ripe and in season or enjoy frozen or dried variations during the winter.