It’s a word we hear a lot these days but what are they and do we really need to eat them?
Superfoods are nutrient-dense, natural foods that contain high concentrations of essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics and antioxidants). When eaten on a regular basis as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, superfoods can enhance and improve your health.
Eating superfoods can be effective in helping you to achieve and maintain physical health. The important thing to understand however is that whilst these nutrient dense foods will enhance your health, they need to be part of a diet that overall is a healthy one. Eating kale or broccoli once a week whilst continuing to eat a diet high in sugar and processed foods is not going to make you suddenly healthy.
Superfoods, combined with healthy eating (I suggest an emphasis on plant based foods) will give you long term health benefits.
Healthy eating needs to be a lifestyle that you practice every day and for the majority of your meals: think 80:20 as a good guideline.
The superfoods suggested here are based on the research by Dr Josh Axe, a wellness physician who is passionate about transform people’s health and lives with a natural approach to eating rather than “fast, frozen and instant”.
What Superfoods should I be eating?
Sadly our environment is becoming more toxic so it’s essential to eat foods that protect us as well as those that nourish and energise us.
Depending on what your health needs are, certain superfoods can assist you. You don’t need to incorporate all the superfoods listed in your diet every day. Incorporating a range of superfoods in your diet over the course of your week will give you the range of the nutrients that will help to enhance your overall health and well-being.
Algae is seaweed and comes in the form of green, blue-green and brown.
High in fibre, algae can also support your digestive system and help to eliminate toxins from your body. By adding algae to your diet you will support your immune system, promote healthy gut flora, and increase your white blood cells to fight infection, inflammation and toxicity in your body.
Green algae reduces cholesterol and is high in beta-carotene, vitamin D, gamma linoleic acid (GLA), and 9 essential amino acids.
Blue-green algae is high in protein (Spirulina is 65-71% protein), a source of vitamin B12 and contains 22 amino acids. Containing anti-tumour properties, blue-green algae can enhance your immune function, wound healing and vascular function.
Brown algae contains fucoxanthin which helps to promote weight loss.
Algae can be taken in powder form: add a scoop to filtered water, coconut water or vegetable juice
Almonds are nutritionally dense containing monounsaturated fats, amino acids, fibre and minerals that all help the body to build muscle and burn fat. Regular consumption of almonds (a small handful of about 16-20 almonds) can help to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL levels as well as control blood sugar levels.
Almonds are a great snack to eat between meals and will enhance your health rather than a sugar laden, processed one which can harm your health.
Avocados are great for your skin and can assist with balancing your hormones and the absorption of other nutrients. They also contain carotenoids that support your reproductive and immune systems and eye health.
High in Vitamins B, K and E, potassium, and omega-9 fat and containing healthy fats, avocados will reduce the risk of heart disease, increase HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and protect your cells from free radical damage.
A member of the cruciferous vegetable family, broccoli contains essential antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and fibre that needs to consumed daily.
Broccoli contains the most vitamin C and fibre of all the cruciferous vegetable as well as vitamin A, B2, K folate, magnesium, potassium and omega-3. The nutrients in broccoli help to build muscle, lower cholesterol, detox your body systems as well as reduce your risk of cancer by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in your body.
Broccoli can be eaten raw or cooked (gently steamed). Juice it, add to salads or stir fries.
High in fibre, iron and manganese, cinnamon can lower blood glucose levels and increases insulin sensitivity in diabetics and regulate blood sugar levels which assists with your body burning fat stores as well as reducing blood pressure.
Boosts your metabolism.
Contains antioxidants that protect your cells from free-radical damage than can cause aging.
Coconut contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs): these are healthy fats that will help your body to use its own fat stores hence helping you to lose weight.
Can reduce your cholesterol, LDL cholesterol levels, triglycerides and help your body to absorb and assimilate fat soluble vitamins, calcium and magnesium.
Coconut can assist your immune system in fighting off bacteria, viruses and fungal overgrowth such as candida, and enhance your physical performance and hydration.
- Chia & Flax Seeds
High in fibre, healthy omega-3 fats and antioxidants these seeds assist in digestion and detoxing: being very high in fibre they are a natural laxative helping to move food through your digestive tract.
Chia seeds contain boron and calcium and are also high in the fatty acid, linoleic acid which helps your body to absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Linseeds are high in the B group vitamins, magnesium and manganese which help to reduce inflammation in your body.
Cocoa contains flavonoids and anti-oxidants that can enhance mood, boost cardiovascular health, slow blood pressure, reduce blood clots, enhance your nervous system and brain function, help to protect your skin from UV damage, and slow the aging process.
Cocoa is the main ingredient in chocolate, however not all chocolate is beneficial. White chocolate contains no cocoa and there is minimal cocoa in milk chocolate: both these are more sugar than cocoa. The key is to eat only dark chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa. This chocolate has a bitter taste and you will find that you will only want to eat a few squares which is all you actually need to get the health benefits.
- Cultured Dairy Foods – Kefir and Amasi
Fermented foods contain lactic acid bacteria known as probiotics and lactobacilli which enhance the digestion process. Cultured dairy foods will assist your digestion, reduce inflammation, boost immunity and detox your body.
Tap water contains fluoride and chlorine that can kill the probiotics in our systems so eating cultured dairy foods will help to replace the lost probiotics
When choosing cultured dairy foods, it’s important to choose fermented dairy products that are made from grass-fed cows, use low temperature to process, and are free of a protein called beta-casein A1.
- Free Range Eggs
Eggs are a valuable source of bioavailable protein and omega-3 fats essential for building and maintaining muscle.
Free range eggs contain more omega-3 fats, less saturated fat, less cholesterol, more vitamin A, E and D and beta-carotene than caged factory eggs so when you choose to by free range eggs, you are doing your health a favour as well as the hen’s.
How a hen is raised, housed and fed makes a huge difference to the nutritional quality of eggs. Hens need to be allowed to live cage free, eat grass, worms and small bugs as well as grains free from antibiotics, to move freely outside in fresh air and natural sun light.
It’s not natural for hens to be live their lives confined in cages, eating only grains containing antibiotics and being kept under artificial light and this is reflected in the nutritional quality of eggs from caged hens. When hens are kept this way, the egg quality and nutrition is compromised.
Garlic is antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-coagulant, antiseptic and anti-fungal so has the ability to kill viruses, bacteria, parasites and cancer cells. As a source of anti-oxidants, garlic can protect you from toxins, skin cells from free radical damage and slow the aging process.
Containing vitamin C, B6 and manganese. Garlic is also a fuel for probiotics and helps to support our immune system against colds, flu and other infections.
Can help to prevent an enlarged prostrate for men and candida in both men and women.
Chewing parsley, peppermint or chewing gum, or eating a piece of dark chocolate can minimise the odour from your breath.
- Grass fed beef and dairy
If you do eat meat and dairy, it essential that you choose high quality products from grass-fed cattle that has been fed on grass free from pesticides and fertilisers rather than grain. Cattle are natural herbivores so when they eat their natural diet, they have greater levels of zinc, iron, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B12, A and E, and less fat. When cattle are forced to eat an artificial diet of grain that contains antibiotics, hormones and pesticides, the quality of their product is greatly reduced. When we eat beef and dairy products, we are then also consuming what they have eaten.
One of the more nutrient dense green leafy vegetables, Kale lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes and boosts your metabolism. Containing Calcium, Manganese, Vitamin B6, A, C and K, Luetin, Beta-carotene, it will strengthen bones, improve vision and aid digestion
Can be eaten raw or cooked.
- Purified Water
Our bodies are approximately 70% water so it’s essential to remain hydrated. Drinking water regularly throughout your day will also assist with flushing environmental toxins from your body systems.
As mentioned earlier, our world is becoming increasingly toxic which is affecting our water. Analysis of town water supplies is showing that tap water will often now contain toxic pollutants that include arsenic, fertilisers, heavy metals, industrial solvents and pharmaceutical drugs.
This toxins build up in our fat stores and remain there unless you take steps to reduce your toxic exposure. Even the containers that you buy water in can leach toxins into the water so store and drink water from glass or BPA free containers.
- Raspberries and Blueberries
Both berries are high in antioxidants which protect your body from free radical damage due to oxidation. Organic berries have higher levels of antioxidants compared to commercially grown ones, so choose these where possible.
They also contain Vitamin C and collagen so will reduce inflammation, fight cancer cell growth, support skin and gums, improve memory and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Berries are best eaten raw: enjoy them on their own, in smoothies, salads and on cereal
Turmeric contains curcumin which is a powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation and oxidative stress, enhances immune function, fights infection, slows aging, and assists muscles and joint recovery.
Inflammation in the body is a major cause of degenerative diseases such as arthritis and Alzheimer’s so regular consumption of turmeric in small amounts can reduce inflammation and assist with healing.
Being one of the herbs with the highest ability to eliminate free radicals in your body, turmeric can also improve blood flow and mental focus and help to lower stress levels.
- Wild Salmon
Salmon contains high quality protein, essential amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, D, B6 and E, calcium and iron that all contribute to slowing the effects of aging and maintain heart and brain health.
Whilst fish has long been recommended as part of a healthy diet, it’s important to eat wild salmon rather than farmed salmon. Farmed salmon lacks the nutrients that wild salmon develop from swimming freely and eating the natural diet for wild salmon. Farmed salmon are raised in pens and feed an artificial diet of foods that is not natural to fish and exposes them and you to chemicals and pesticides.
The red-orange colour of wild salmon is due to a fat soluble anti-oxidant called astaxanthin. This antioxidant can help to enhance your immune system and reduce stress and inflammation.
How to incorporate these superfoods into your diet
Healthy eating is a lifestyle choice that will give you more energy and nourish your body. Superfoods don’t need to be eaten in isolation. By combining some of them and regularly adding them to your meals, you can enhance your health as well as enjoy a delicious meal.
Some superfood combos to try
- Smoothie: a base of coconut water + a scoop of spirulina + avocado + kale + blueberries/raspberries + chia seeds
- Breakfast: chia seeds + cinnamon + coconut milk served with a blueberries/raspberries + almonds + shaved coconut
- Dinner: saute broccoli + kale + garlic in coconut oil – serve with pan fried salmon + a handful of almonds (raw or toasted)
- Hot Chocolate: melt a couple of squares of 70% cacao dark chocolate in coconut milk and serve with a sprinkling of cinnamon
Until next time, wishing you a day filled with love, laughter, happiness and Superfoods.
Joanna 🙂 xo