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So, what’s up with all the hype about “superfoods?”
Is there really such a thing?
Or is it just the latest marketing term used to sell something?
Technically, there’s no specific criteria to identify superfoods, and they aren’t even recognized as a category of foods.
Yet, everyone seems to be on the “superfood bandwagon” these days.
In general, most people interpret the word to mean a food that offers exceptional health benefits over and beyond what you would expect from most foods.
That’s a pretty good definition.
Foods classified as superfoods have properties that boost your immune system and decrease your chance of disease.
So, these are foods that are not only nutritious, but have exceptional health-promoting qualities as well.
Most superfoods come from plants, but fish and dairy qualify as well.
Susie’s previous three columns:
Are Carbs public enemy No. 1?: Absolutely not. They’re really important
Just go to bed: Night snacking can lead to weight gain because of food choices
Although there are many foods that people might consider to be superfoods, this is my “Top 10” list.
Avocados. These are an unprocessed source of heart-healthy mono- and poly-unsaturated fats. They also contain magnesium, which helps regulate blood pressure and blood sugar.
Add avocado to your salads, make it into guacamole for dipping, put it on your toast or bagel, add it to your smoothies, or just eat it plain with a little salt and pepper.
Beans/Legumes. Beans are the ultimate multi-taskers. They are not only high in protein and fiber but are rich in vitamins and minerals not found in great amounts in many other foods, such as iron, zinc, folic acid, calcium, and potassium.
These include black, pinto, navy, kidney and garbanzo beans, split peas, lentils, black-eyed peas, and soybeans.
Add them to your soups, salads, make them into dips, and serve with rice and burritos. Use an assortment of legumes to make a delicious veggie chili! Include legumes in your diet at least once a week — more is better!
Berries. All types of berries — blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, elderberries, blackberries, cranberries, and more – are all loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Their rich colors are indicative of the high levels of disease-fighting nutrients.
Eat ’em plain, stir into yogurt, add to cold or hot cereal, include in tossed salads, and blend in with your smoothies.
Citrus fruits. Oranges, lemons, limes, pineapple, tangerine and grapefruit are all rich in fiber and vitamin C, as well as the bioflavonoids that boost the immune system and aid in tissue growth and repair.
Citrus fruits are delicious to eat on their own. But you can also add them to green salads, squeeze into juice, or use as a base for your favorite cocktails.
Cruciferous vegetables. These include the cabbage family vegetables — kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, arugula, etc. Not only are these an incredible source of vitamins and minerals, but they contain sulforaphane, which is a powerful cancer cell killer.
They can be stir-fried, boiled, or added to soups, casseroles and pasta dishes and salads. Roasting caramelizes them and brings out the natural sweetness. A little balsamic vinegar will enhance the flavor.
Fish and seafood. All fish are excellent sources of lean protein and iodine. A bonus is the omega-3 fatty acids that fish contain. Omega-3s help reduce inflammation in the body, help prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure, improve blood circulation, prevent arteries from hardening and decrease risk of stroke. Fish has long been considered “brain food,” and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Include fish in your diet at least twice a week to get the most benefit possible. Salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna steaks and anchovies are the richest sources of omega-3s.
Nuts and seeds. These are another totally unprocessed source of heart-healthy fats. They are rich in antioxidants and can help reduce the risk of heart disease. All nuts and seeds are great, but walnuts are “supernuts” as they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, making them unique in the nut world.
Eat them raw or slightly roasted without added salt sugar or oil. Try different types of nut butters — peanut, almond, or cashew. Mix in with yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, and sprinkle on top of salad, stir-fries, and cottage cheese.
Olive oil. Olive oil is the king of the oils. It is the oil richest in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and is a staple in Mediterranean diets. It is a good source of vitamin E and polyphenols which help reduce risk of heart disease.
Use olive oil in place of butter or margarine whenever possible. Use it in salad dressings, when sauteing, or simply drizzle it over your veggies.
Onions and garlic. This group also includes spring onions, chives, leeks and shallots. These are rich in beneficial sulphur compounds which gives them their distinctive smell and taste. They have antibacterial and antiviral properties, as well as playing a role in cancer prevention.
Eat them raw in salads (even fruit salads!), include with soups and stews, sauté with stir-fry veggies, and add them to casseroles and sandwiches.
Yogurt. A great source of protein and calcium. Yogurt contains live cultures commonly known as probiotics. These are the “good bacteria” that keep your digestive system healthy and working smoothly and fight off harmful bacteria, boosting the immune system.
Cottage cheese, buttermilk, kefir, feta and blue cheese, kimchi and kombucha tea are other examples of other fermented foods which contain probiotics and have these same properties.
Just one caveat: beware of superfood label claims on packages of processed foods. Most often these foods are poor sources of nutrition and might just happen to contain a small amount of a superfood ingredient.
And remember this… most superfoods don’t come in packages.
Susie Bond is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist in private practice. Contact her at [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Here are 10 superfoods sure to boost your immunity, make you feel better