Imagine a pill powerful enough to meet all of our floundering, high maintenance health needs. A pill that helps lower cholesterol, reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer, and has no side effects aside from increased mood and performance levels. Although this Super-pill doesn’t exist, don’t worry--we have an alternative suggestion.
Meet The Superfoods, the foods considered by health specialists as the mightiest power players in the world of nutrition. “Superfood” is a health term referring to a list of foods that contain high concentrations of crucial nutrients that have been proven to help prevent (and in some cases reverse) the effects of aging, stress, Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers. We are all familiar with the age-old mantra, “you are what you eat,” but in food culture saturated in artificial flavoring and clogged with over-processed additives, it is increasingly important to give Superfoods a bit more attention.
Well-known health resources like WebMD and Harvard Health Publications consider diet to be a key factor in treating various ailments and maintaining overall body health; incorporating a variety of these Superfoods into your daily eating is considered a smart way to help maintain weight, fight disease, and increase lifespan—no mystery pill required. Although a single, concrete consensus determining a set list of Superfoods is unlikely to arise due to the sheer variety of diets worldwide, there are a few Superfoods that come up most frequently in journal articles and health resources. Those most mentioned include beans, blueberries, broccoli, avocado, oats, oranges, pumpkin, wild salmon, spinach, tea (green or black), tomatoes, walnuts, and probiotic-rich yogurts (like Greek Yogurt or Kefir). Yet we at Smart Lunches are too curious to follow a list alone—we want to know why these kinds of foods are so good for us to eat. So, to satisfy our curiosity, we did some research that we would love to share with you:
Antioxidant Superfoods—like blueberries, spinach, oranges, pumpkin, and tomatoes—are bursting with antioxidants, phytoflavinoids (compounds that protect our bodies from stress), potassium, and vitamin C, making them the top choice for doctors and nutritionists. The general rule of thumb for such foods is that “the more color they have, the more antioxidants they contain.” But remember, all Superfoods are whole, unprocessed foods, so the fluorescent blueberry Slushie from Sonic unfortunately doesn’t make the cut.
Omega 3-rich Superfoods—like salmon, walnuts, and avocado—target the heart, joints, and memory. The omega 3s and monounsaturated fats in such foods help lower the risk of heart disease, aid in memory loss and the onset of Alzheimer’s, and are said to help reduce the effects of depression.
Fiber Superfoods—like oats, broccoli, and beans—also maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels. As an added bonus, these foods make you feel full longer, making them a handy tool for weight management without the risk of blood clot, stroke, or heart attack (unlike other weight loss supplements).
New research has also shown that dark chocolate is another food that is both packed with antioxidants and carries the ability to lower blood pressure. The darker the chocolate, the better (aim for at least 60% or higher cocoa content).
The moral of the story? There are other ways to remedy health ailments and meet our bodies' various needs besides a cabinet of vitamins or a capsule of diet pills. Eat your fruits and veggies. Eat your nuts and fatty, cold water fish. Eat your oatmeal and beans. Eat your chocolate, and don’t be afraid to supplement your Superfood eating habits with moments of indulgence as well. As is stated by Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, eating “is really about the whole package—the combination of nutrients and micronutrients that occur together in different foods that improve the overall quality of your diet.”
The value of instinctual eating has dwindled in the midst of diet trends and supplementary pills, but its underlying mantra still remains crucial: teach your body to crave what it needs.