We commonly hear about foods that have little nutritional value and provide “empty calories,” but we don’t hear enough about nutrient dense foods, or “Superfoods.” It is important to understand that there is not a standard criterion or approved list of superfoods; they are merely foods that provide added health benefits when included in a well-rounded diet.
Superfoods have high concentrations of essential nutrients and antioxidants that are proven to help prevent disease and improve overall health and longevity. Their benefits include preventing or reducing joint inflammation, improving bone health, lowering cholesterol/blood pressure, and reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
Health Benefits of Superfoods
There is promising research that foods such as tart cherry juice, fatty fish, and berries can suppress inflammation, although the proper amount/recommended frequency of consumption is currently unknown. To reduce inflammation, regularly consume:
- Fresh, frozen, or dried berries and cherries
- A variety of leafy greens such as kale, brussels sprouts, and spinach
- Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, or tuna 1 to 2 times per week
- Heart healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil
Superfoods that improve bone health can also reduce the risk for arthritis, joint problems, and inflammation. To build strong bones, regularly consume:
- Low fat dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Dark leafy green vegetables, especially spinach, brussels sprouts, and broccoli
- Colorful fruits such as strawberries, kiwi, and cantaloupe
- Beans and lentils
- Nuts and seeds, especially almonds
A study performed by the American Heart Association found that women who regularly consumed blueberries and strawberries had a lower risk of a heart attack. Additionally, foods such as fatty fish, avocados, lentils, sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, broccoli, milk, yogurt, and almonds help to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk for heart disease.
Adding Superfoods to your Diet
There are many foods that are nutritious enough to be considered a “superfood.” Your goal should be to eat these foods more frequently, rather than eating more in one sitting. Try the following strategies to increase your superfood consumption:
- Incorporate one superfood with each meal (i.e. almonds on your salad, blueberries in your yogurt or oatmeal).
- Make your plate as colorful as possible. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are loaded with essential nutrients and antioxidants.
- Pack “super-snacks” for in-between meals or pre/post workout.
- Browse the fresh produce aisle when grocery shopping. That’s where you will find most superfoods.
- Buy prepared fruits and vegetables to make it easy to include them in your diet.
If you want to feel great inside and out, incorporate more superfoods into your diet…your body will be glad you did!