We hear the phrase ‘superfoods’ a lot but it can be a little vague as to what these really mean. There’s no set definition of a superfood and that’s why the list can be different depending on who you speak to. But there are some foods recognised as superfoods without question – so why would you get these into your diet.
Key to having the right diet is eating foods that are high in nutrients and minerals that the body uses to fuel itself. Superfoods are foods that are particularly dense in some or a number of nutrients and minerals that they provide a boost all in one go. Obviously, you don’t want to limit your diet to just superfoods – balance is always key. But where you can it is worth including them.
While the list of superfoods can change, there are some that always make the list and are often scientifically proven to bring the benefits they are associated with.
Blueberries top most lists and have a load of vitamins in them as well as soluble fibre to help the digestive system and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals known as flavonoids that are found in berries are particularly good at reducing some heart conditions in young women. All berries have this goodness in them, but blueberries tend to have a higher ratio, hence their superfood status.
Kiwi is another fruit that shares benefits with other fruits such as melons, citrus fruits, apples and pairs but at a higher amount. It contains vitamin C and has a lot of antioxidants in them – these fight those free radicals that are responsible for so many problems in the body including ageing and possibly even cancer.
Kale may be the most famous superfood at the moment and does live up to its reputation. Like all the leafy greens, kale is rich in vitamins A, C and K as well as fibre, calcium and other minerals. Kale has the highest levels but don’t rule out Swiss chard, spinach, cabbages or collard mustards for their similar benefits.
Salmon enters the list along with other fatty fish such as sardines and mackerel because they contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids. These lower the risk of a stroke or heart disease as well as a number of other benefits.
There’s a reason that everyone is obsessed with avocado at the moment – it actually is good for you. It contains fats, but these are good, monounsaturated fats that help heart health. They also contain vitamin C and K and more potassium than a banana. So that whole avocado toast thing isn’t just a trend – there are real benefits to eating the stuff.
Eating in balance
Like anything, too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Kale, for example, has been linked with causing upset stomachs if you eat too much (but ‘too much’ is a really crazy amount anyway). The key to having the right diet and eating well is eating in balance, including these superfoods and others to ensure you give your body what it needs.
Neal McGaffin is the owner of Reform Studios in Belfast. As well as promoting daily exercise they also promote the correct intake of food including these superfoods.