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Superfoods: Fact or Fad?
‘Superfoods’, the hottest trending category in health and wellness. We’ve all heard of them, but what exactly makes superfoods super? And what do they mean for our everyday health?
The concept of nutritionally superior ‘superfoods’ is becoming increasingly popular in the health and wellness industry. From acai berries and matcha powder to salmon and chia seeds, there is a multitude of foods that have been dubbed by the media as nutritional powerhouses. They are noted for reducing the signs of ageing, fending off illnesses and revolutionising hair and skin. While these reports claim to be backed by scientific evidence, are they true?
We spoke to our Great Earth in-store Naturopath Kate to discover the truth behind the superfoods and their contribution to our health and wellbeing.
Today’s Western diet consists of many highly processed, low-nutrient, fatty foods. Along with a more sedentary lifestyle, this combination is leading to higher rates of obesity and chronic disease within the Australian and global population.
A food is termed a ‘Superfood’ when it holds a significantly higher level of nutrients compared to conventional foods. Superfoods are considered vital to a healthy diet as they contain large amounts of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, fibre, healthy fats, flavonoids, and phytonutrients – all of which are essential for good health, disease prevention and healing the body. There are many different foods that are now considered to be superfoods. They include dark leafy greens, berries, green tea, matcha, cacao, bee products, nuts and seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, microalgae (spirulina, AFA, marine phytoplankton), turmeric, aloe vera, kefir and fermented probiotic-rich foods, eggs and salmon.
My top 3 favourite superfoods are:
1. Dark leafy greens
An excellent source of phytonutrients, which are essential for healing in the body. They also contain folate and zinc, which are particularly influential on auto-immune conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. Dark leafy greens also contain anti-inflammatory carotenoids, important for disease prevention and ageing well. Additionally, they are a source of fibre which is generally lacking in the western diet. Fibre is very important for healthy bowels and preventing certain chronic diseases. I particularly like to add greens powder and broccoli sprout powder to a morning smoothie for that extra hit of nutrients.
Best known for their high antioxidant properties, they contain an abundance of fibre and the vitamins and minerals that can assist in preventing cardiovascular disease. Cranberries and goji berries are great when mixed with a handful of nuts as a nutritious snack on the go, or in powder form to add to smoothies and breakfast bowls.
3. Algae supplements
Spirulina, chlorella and vegan omega3 are another favourite group of superfoods, especially for vegetarians and vegans because they contain various nutrients and bioactive compounds. Microalgal derived proteins have complete Essential Amino Acids (EAA) profiles, with protein contents higher than conventional sources such as meat, poultry and dairy products. Microalgae are excellent sources of vitamins such as Vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C and E and minerals such as potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium and iodine. Algae supplements can also promote cardiovascular health and may protect against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Furthermore, algae assists in preventing inflammation and oxidative stress, which may help reduce cholesterol levels, aid in heavy metal detoxification from the body, and provide energy for today’s busy lifestyle.
The key to absorbing optimal amounts of nutrients is to eat a variety of organic, seasonal produce to make up a colourful plate. The more colours that are on your plate, the greater variety of goodness you are putting in your body. So, now that you know what makes a superfood ‘super’ have fun experimenting with new and colourful foods that will help you enjoy healthy living every day.