‘Super-food’ is a term given to foods which are rich in nutrients and known to have considerable, unique benefits to our health and well-being. Usually they are fruits or vegetables but the term can also apply to drinks, meats, nuts and others foods. There are dozens of super-foods with super-powers that offer extraordinary and unique health benefits! The 12 featured in this list are some personal favourites and can easily be found in your local shop or market.
The avocado tree originates from south-central Mexico but is now known, and grown, across the globe. Avocados are loaded with over 20 vitamins and minerals including several crucial B vitamins. Packed with fibre, potassium and healthy fatty acids, these soft, green fruits not only taste delicious but can actually help to lower cholesterol and help to protect eye-sight. My favourite is avocados on toast, or home-made guacamole.
Beetroots were first domestically grown in the Middle East. Beets are low in calories and fats, and high in vitamins and minerals. Containing; nitrates, folic acid and potassium they can help with memory function and immunity. The deep, purple beets are also great for digestive health, reducing inflammation and can help to prevent the formation of cancerous cells. I like to boil and pickle fresh beetroots, and then use them in side-salads.
Blueberries generally grow wild in North America and Canada. Blueberries are sweet and small but with big benefits. They are high in anti-oxidants and Vitamin C, which is great for the immune system and also collagen production in the skin. Blueberries help with heart function, high blood-pressure and hypertension. Fresh or frozen, blueberries can be easily incorporated into your diet. I enjoy blueberries as a snack or with yogurt or cereal for breakfast.
Broccoli is believed to originate from the North Mediterranean. Over 27 million tonnes of this popular, green super-food are grown and consumed throughout the world every year! As well as its links to brain, heart and digestive health the modest broccoli is known to contain natural compounds that neutralize carcinogens and prevents cancer cells from growing and spreading. My choice of broccoli is boiled, then baked in a creamy cheese sauce.
Coconuts were first domesticated for consumption in Southeast Asia. Coconuts are rich in anti-oxidants and contain healthy fats which can reduce cholesterol. The soft white flesh inside of a coconut improves digestion and absorption of nutrients. Coconuts are anti-viral, antibacterial and anti-parasitic. Coconuts can enhance physical and athletic performance, and protect against kidney and bladder infections. I usually add coconut flesh and milk to smoothies, and use coconut oil to protect my skin in the sun.
Green tea was first adopted as a drink in East Asia. Green tea is a known ‘super food’ and has exceptional benefits. Green tea can protect the brain from aging, therefore reducing risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Its high levels of anti-oxidants can expel free radicals from the body, help to prevent diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and also burns fat to help with weight control. Research has linked green tea compounds with a reduced risk of cancer. It is also believed to have calming and anti-ageing qualities. I try to drink at least 2 cups per day and sometimes make iced-green tea when the weather is hot.
Kale originated in the east Mediterranean. Dark and leafy, green Kale is a relative of the cabbage plant and is one of the most nutritious plants on the planet. Kale is dense with vitamins, calcium, copper, magnesium and potassium but contains extremely few calories. It’s an excellent source of Vitamins C and K, and has powerful heart-protective, blood pressure-lowering, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-depressant and anti-cancer effects. I like to steam some kale and add it to a side-portion of mixed leafy greens with dinner.
Pomegranates originate from the Mediterranean. Pomegranates are crammed with nutrition and are famed for their high anti-oxidant content. They contain an extremely powerful anti-oxidant named punicalagin – this has a rejuvenating effect on cellular function which reduces the risk of uncontrolled cell reproduction, whilst slowing down the ageing process. Studies suggest that pomegranates can contain triple the amount of anti-oxidants of green tea. Pomegranates reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, support digestion and brain function and can help to ease joint pain and protect against dental plaque. Pomegranate seeds are delicate, sweet and slightly crunchy. I enjoy pomegranate seeds as a snack or sprinkled on a salad.
The Salmon fish is native to the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The subtle tasting, pink meat of the salmon is a high source of lean protein and is rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids. It contains elevated levels of potassium which helps to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. It can help with heart function and weight loss and may help reduce bad cholesterol by reducing inflammation in the arteries. The many vitamins found in Salmon help to transform food into energy, create and repair DNA and improve brain functions. I enjoy foil-wrapped salmon, grilled on a BBQ with herbs and lemon.
Sweet potatoes (yams or kamotes) are thought to originate in Central or South America and come in a variety of colours including; orange, purple and white. The starchy vegetable is rich in anti-oxidants, fibre, minerals and vitamins. Sweet potatoes help with healthy vision and brain function and boost both the digestive and immune systems. Some sweet potatoes contain anthocyanins which are anti-oxidants that, in studies, have been found to slow the growth of certain types of cancer cells, including those found in the bladder, breast, colon, and stomach. Sweet potatoes taste great and can often be used in place of the traditional potato. I like sweet-potato mash and sweet-potato fries.
Tomatoes hail from western South America and Central America. The humble tomatoe is already a widely consumed food, but their health benefits are somewhat secret. Tomatoes are anti-carcinogenic which means they help to prevent certain cancers. They are great for the heart and kidneys and can help to repair damage to the lungs caused by smoking as they contain coumaric and chlorogenic acids. They are also known to benefit the function of the eyes and improve the appearance of skin and hair. Tomatoes can be found in many types of dishes all over the world but my preferred sources are pizza and pasta sauces as well as salads, sandwiches and sun-dried tomato snacks.
It is thought that walnut cultivation first began in Spain. Walnuts, like most nuts, contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, or ‘good fats’. They help with brain, heart and digestive function and can possess mood-boosting qualities as they support the function of the central nervous system. Walnuts also contain high levels of protein and are usually eaten roasted or raw. I like to snack on a mix of walnuts, almonds and cashew nuts before or after a workout because they provide energy and are rich in protein.
So these were my top, 12 super-foods and their super-power properties, but there are many more not in the list! Super-foods can be found everywhere and incorporated easily into many dishes. It’s not necessarily about eating ‘clean’ or ‘healthy’ as the vitamins and minerals from these foods can be absorbed by the body no-matter how they are cooked and consumed (see my point about tomato sauce in pizza!). But it’s good to know which foods can have real, positive effects on our bodies, our organs and our over-all well-being. Including a mix of these types of foods in our diets can go far in helping to prevent the on-set of serious diseases, and also opens us to discovering different foods that might have other unique benefits. Do you like any of these super-foods? Tell us in the comments below