You probably heard of the term “superfoods.” But, precisely what are they?
While all food has nutritional value, nutritional value is not created equal. It can vary in quality, quantity, and benefits to the body. For example, potato chips have little nutrition while beans are one of the most nutritionally dense foods.
No Prescription Necessary
Superfoods go beyond meeting normal nutritional needs of the body, such as supplying vitamins and mineral. Superfoods are foods that are abundant in specific nutrients that prevent illnesses, slow aging, and improve energy among other benefits. They can help health conditions like reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. In other words, they optimize the body’s ability to function with mega doses of nutrients.
One of the great things about superfoods is that a prescription is not necessary. Superfoods are readily available at the grocery store. While nutritional value can differ from one superfood to another, the one thing they have in common is that they are whole foods, meaning none of them are a processed food.
Superfoods – Nutrient Value Beyond the Norm
Superfoods has become a buzz term, and foods that have normal nutritional levels have been put on the lists of some superfood lists. However, superfoods are more than that. According to natural food expert and author of Superfoods, David Wolf, superfoods fall into three categories:
- Raw living plant foods
- Super herbs
He also defines superfoods as those that have twelve or more unique nutritional benefits, and they are also nutrient rich which means they have medicinal benefits.
Based on those criteria, here are some top superfoods:
Blue Green Algae
Spirulina and chlorella are at the bottom of the food chain and get all their energy through photosynthesis, meaning they use the sun for their energy source. Because of this, they are dense in nutrients including protein, vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, antioxidants, polysaccharides, and essential fatty acids.
- Spirulina by weight has more protein than meat sources. It boosts the immune system, builds up the blood, help with the development of the nervous system, acts as an anti-inflammatory, good for skin and hair, and can help reduce allergies.
- Chlorella was found by Japanese researchers to prevent hangovers. It detoxes the liver, increases the immune system, and helps to resist viral and bacterial infections. Chlorella benefits don’t end there: It also stimulates the healing of tissues, multiplies beneficial gut bacteria and repairs nerve damage, which is good for degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Goji berries have been eaten for medicinal purposes in China for thousands of years. Interestingly, these little berries contain all eight essential amino acids. They are considered an anti-aging food because goji berries naturally increase growth hormones and help build strength.
Gojis are adaptogens. Adaptogens regulate and normalizes hormones so the body can better adapt to stress. They have nutrients that are good for eyes. Gojis are high in vitamin A, and laboratory studies showed they improved the effectiveness of the flu vaccines. Buy organic and deep red goji berries.
Cacao is a pure form of the cocoa bean before it’s processed into chocolate. So, chocolate does not have the same benefit of cacao. Often cacao is sold as cacao nibs. It has exceptional phytonutrients, high in antioxidants, and magnesium. Most of the population in the U.S. is considered to have a magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium benefits the heart, nervous system, muscles, and bones. Cacao’s nutrients help with digestion. It is rich in tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin that helps improve mood. Cacao is also said to prevent anemia, iron deficiency and reduce the risk of coronary disease and stroke.
Maca root is an adaptogen that helps the body to return homeostasis, which in turn allows the body to adjust to stress. Maca root comes from the Andes mountain in South America. It is rich in antioxidants. It balances estrogen levels, boosts male fertility, improves mood, increases strength, balances stress hormones. It typically comes in a powder form and can be added to smoothies and soups.
This category refers only to organic raw honey and bee pollen products. Typical honey sold in grocery stores is pasteurized and has no nutritional value. Raw, organic honey is high in mineral, probiotics, enzymes, and antioxidants. It helps with digestive tract issues and is suitable for wounds.
Raw honey is also good for energy, endurance, muscle recovery and growth. Research by the British Sports Council found athletes who took bee pollen every day increased their 20 to 60 %. Bee pollen is also good for allergies. It’s important to buy organic and raw honey to get the maximum nutrients. Diabetic and cancer patients should not eat honey, according to Dr. Mike Van Derschelden.
Coconut water and the meat of coconut are high electrolytes and is said to help the blood. Coconut flesh contains lauric acid which is antimicrobial and antifungal. It also helps with metabolism, cholesterol levels, and is supposed to help with thyroid function. Coconut improves memory, helps with nerve function, and promotes healthy skin. Some studies have shown rinsing the mouth with coconut oil may help with dental health.
While these foods have been shown to have extraordinary benefits and the goal of nutrition is to help the body heal on its own, it’s important to remember that they be the part of an overall healthy diet.
Superfoods alone cannot provide all the nutritional needs much less help reverse or improve a medical condition. Also, superfoods are not a counterbalance to unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking. Lastly, superfoods need to be part of a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise.
This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, or treat any health or medical issues. Always check with your health care practitioner before changing your diet or taking any supplements.
- Axe, Josh, DC, DMN, CNS. Cacao Nibs: Superfood that Boosts Energy and Burns Fat (January 18, 2016). Retrieved from https://draxe.com/cacao-nibs/,
- Link, Rachael, MS, RD. Top 5 Maca Root Benefits and Nutrition (No. 4 is Best), (May 16, 2018). Retrieved from https://draxe.com/top-5-maca-root-benefits-and-nutrition/.
- Carey, Elea and Gotter, Ana. 8 Healthy Facts About the Goji Berry (September 29, 2016). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/goji-berry-facts#health-benefits.
- Dr. Oz’s Favorite Superfoods. Retrieved from https://www.doctoroz.com/slideshow/dr-ozs-10-favorite-superfoods?gallery=true.
- Mosley, Michael Dr. Is coconut oil a superfood? (January 9, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/health-42608071
- Link, Rachael, MS, RD. What Are Superfoods? 15 Top Superfoods to Get Into Your Diet (October 17, 2018). Retrieved from https://draxe.com/what-are-superfoods/.
- VanDerschelden, Mike. Dr. Superfoods Part 1. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuWYgL9K4VI.
- What’s so super about superfoods. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/HealthyDietGoals/Whats-so-super-about-superfoods_UCM_457937_Article.jsp#.W8nshC3MwdU.