When I first started exploring nutrition, hundreds of diet plans bombarded me. I had a…
Superfoods and Superfood Supplements are an essential in the diet of any health-and-fitness enthusiast in 2020. In fact, more and more people are jumping onto the bandwagon due to the potent health and immunity-boosting benefits of these supercharged foods that are a boon amidst the pandemic.
In empirical terms, superfoods are any ‘nutrition-dense food’, typically plant-based, that we consume for health benefits. Superfoods are an umbrella-term that bunches together a variety of such supercharged food items, including vegetables, fruits, herbs, algae, seeds, roots, and so on. It might seem as though superfoods are a relatively new entrant into the market, that is definitely not so.
Superfoods have been around for a while, for centuries in fact, and have been integral to ancient and indigenous medicine. While some superfoods had been identified for their stellar health benefits by our forefathers and became fixtures in our pantry over time, others had their potency recently discovered by modern researchers.
While not all the ‘miraculous’ claims one may read online about the benefits of superfoods may be accurate, they do offer quite a wide range of health benefits which are particularly evident in the long run. Superfoods help nourish the body and mind, and meet all its nutritional requirements effectively so it may fortify itself against disease and debilitations.
Given our modern fast-paced yet relatively unhealthy lifestyle, we are exposed to a borderline toxic environment, environmental stressors, poor work-life balance, crumbling mental health- and all of this without the protective aegis of a balanced nutritious diet. Superfoods are a convenient solution to neutralizing this since from a single food item, you get a potent and wide-spectrum list of benefits. While a single superfood offers a variety of benefits, we may amplify the benefits by pairing multiple superfoods in a meal.
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the importance of superfoods has skyrocketed, particularly due to its immunity-boosting powers and ability to calm stress or anxiety. Here are some of the key benefits of superfoods illustrated below:
As we already discussed, the major USP of superfoods is the fact that they are brimming with nutritional benefits. Each superfood is absolutely packed with nutrients and has something unique to offer alongside. We say that these foods are ’dense’ in nutrition as for a remarkably low calorie count, they pack a hefty punch of nutrition- whether it is vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fibers, and so on.
Free radicals are by-products created naturally within the body as an extension of the process of energy production. However, they are extremely toxic for us and can lead to or exacerbate major disorders. Free radical damage has been linked to a plethora of life-threatening diseases and disorders including cancer, immuno-degeneration, heart conditions, neural disorders like Parkinson’s Syndrome, arthritis, and so on.
Antioxidants are kind of like nature’s elite guard against free-radical damage to the body. These natural molecules help neutralize the effect of free radicals. Superfoods are packed with antioxidants and they help reduce, and to some extent reverse, the damage caused by free radicals to our body.
Superfoods that contain high concentrations of flavonoids are typically better noted for their superior antioxidant levels. A useful hack to figure out whether a food may be high in antioxidants is to look at its color- typically, brightly colored fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants.
There has been a clear connection noted between our emotional responses and the food we eat. Nutrients play an important role in regulating stress, anxiety, fatigue, and depression. Since superfoods are nutritionally dense, there is a good chance it can help regulate your stress levels and anxiety, and help boost your mood.
For instance, folates help reduce symptoms of depression, probiotics help us better handle stress and emotion, antioxidants and phytonutrients help boost our body’s response to stress and stress-inducing free radicals, vitamin D is known to promote happiness, magnesium helps control fatigue, depression and anxiety, and boosts testosterone.
Isoflavones, a type of phytochemical, is usually present in high concentrations in certain superfoods. Isoflavones are remarkable for their ability to regulate low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and cholesterol levels in our blood- consequently keeping any cholesterol issues at bay. Superfoods with monosaturated fats help increase the ‘good cholesterol’ levels within our body. Some superfoods also have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for controlling cholesterol buildup and maintaining optimum heart health.
Superfoods carrying different varieties of flavonoids or high levels of vitamin C are ideal for keeping diabetes and high levels of blood pressure under control. Resveratrol, a sort of polyphenol present in certain superfoods, is well-known for its ability to regulate blood sugar levels and controlling symptoms of diabetes.
Superfoods rich in antioxidants, particularly polyphenols, sulphur compounds such as Allicin, and probiotics, help reduce the chances of contracting a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), and aids in alleviating symptoms if already affected.
Superfoods help reduce the discomfort and debilitations associated with menopause to a considerable extent. Superfoods rich in isoflavones help curb bone degeneration (Osteoporosis) and aids in the increase of mineral density in our bones.
Osteoporosis is very common in women approaching or past menopause. Resveratrol, another prominent compound present in certain superfoods, helps control hot flashes and frequent mood swings. These compounds also help regulate, to some extent, a variety of other symptoms of menopause.
One of the major benefits of superfoods is their contribution towards improved gut and gastrointestinal health, and regularized bowel movements. Probiotics and fibers are rich constituents of superfoods that help maintain gut health, and combats irregular bowel syndrome, diarrhea, gastrointestinal infections, etc.
Superfoods rich in antioxidants (particularly catechin) and flavonoids such as quercetin have remarkable anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. Not only that, they are also helpful in combating the harmful effects of chemotherapy.
Superfoods are ‘brain food’ that are great for nourishing the brain and boosting its activity. They help protect against age-related degeneration of the brain, such as memory loss, Alzheimer’s Syndrome, etc.
Some common power-packed superfood ingredients one can easily get their hands on include:
While nothing beats the benefits of wholefood superfoods, it is difficult to effectively incorporate them into our modern hectic lifestyle and irregular diets. To get the most out of superfoods, we would have to consume a variety of these products in conjunction- otherwise, the benefits we receive are not going to be sufficiently broad-spectrum. This can not only be cumbersome, since one would have to spend a long time prepping and planning meals, it would also be very expensive. This is where superfood supplements or ‘green powders’ come in.
They give us the concentrated nutritional goodness of a plethora of superfoods, all from a single serving of the supplement.
Some of the top superfood supplements in the market at the moment include:
While superfood supplements are packed with benefits and organic to a great extent, there always stands the chance of causing an adverse reaction if an ingredient does not suit the body, or hampering recovery after surgery. It is important to go through the ingredient lists and settle for trusted FDA-approved brands that would work with our individual nutritional requirements.