What are superfoods? Are they really super?

There is a lot of press about superfoods, but what are they?

Superfoods are essentially any food item that contains a large amount of vital nutrients. Whether that be vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, polyphenols, good fats or other health properties that help to prevent or lower the risk of specific diseases. There is no precise, legal, medical or scientific definition of what a superfood really is, which is part of the reason there is so much confusion!

To try and makes things clearer I have listed some foods below that are often classed as superfoods and why they carry this ‘status’. Some you will recognize, others you may not!

Tomatoes. Yes, the humble tomato is a classed as a superfood. But why? Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant rarely found in other foods. Studies have suggested that Lycopene could protect the skin against harmful UV rays, prevent certain cancers, and lower cholesterol. If that wasn’t enough they also high amounts of vitamin C, potassium and fibre.

Blueberries. Probably the most well-known superfood. They are termed ‘super’ because they are full of phytonutrients that neutralize free radicals, free radicals cause aging and cell damage. Blueberries also contain antioxidants which may also protect against cancer and reduce the effects of different age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Açai. These are small purple berries that orientate to in the rainforest of South America. They contain very high levels of antioxidants, in the form of anthocyanins, which help fight cancer and heart disease. Açai is one of the few fruits that contain with oleic acid, a good fat that is also found in olive oil!

Broccoli. A superfood that flies under the radar. Broccoli contains phytonutrients, like blueberries, that can help reduce cancer risk by protecting again cell damage. It is also packed full of vitamin C and folic acid.

Goji Berries. These little beauties are growing in popularity but there is quite a bit of scepticism about whether they are really a super food. They do contain a lot of vitamin C, as well as vitamin A, iron and antioxidant. However, there has been no scientific research that supports the claims that they are good at boosting your immune system or aiding poor circulation.

Hemp Seeds. Believe it or not hemp is related to marijuana, however it doesn’t have the same effect. The seeds are high in protein and contain all the essential amino acids needed for growth and repair. They also have a desirable ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids for heart health, plus are a good source of magnesium and potassium.

Oats. Oats are not only a great source of fibre, but they contain a special type of fibre called beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is proven to help lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Oats are also a rich source of magnesium, potassium and phytonutrients. Magnesium works to regulate blood-sugar levels and eating wholegrain oats may even reduce also reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

These are just a few examples of foods that have fallen under the superfood banner. As you will see some have proven positive health effects, others are not. The important thing to remember is there really is no substitute to regularly consuming fruit and vegetables because they are packed full of essential vitamins, minerals and many other special surprises…

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