The Promise of Super Foods

Super Foods

With the growing idea that food is medicine, it is helpful to have knowledge on the specific foods that this idea is referencing. There are a few key questions that should be addressed when thinking about food. What are these so-called “super foods”? Is there a difference between the marketing hype on super foods and the true value of super foods?

Also, how do super foods have the capability to reverse disease and prevent many common illnesses’ suffered by today’s population?

In order for a body to look younger, feel healthier, and ultimately live longer it is important to know how super foods can help a person reach their health goals. Super foods are defined as a food that contains a high level of essential nutrients and other compounds that benefit your health (Reinhard 8). In order to understand super foods it is crucial to realize that the list encompasses a vast amount of foods ranging from fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, legumes, nuts, herbs, grains, meats, dairy, and supplements.

The content of these foods is really what makes them a ‘super food’. Take for instance a chili pepper; a chili pepper contains a compound by the name of capsaicin, a substance that has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells (Reinhard 10). When consuming food, a person should not always just rely on taste, but rather on nutrient rich foods that provide an adequate level of nutrients and calories.

It is important to distinguish marketing hype versus actual truth on super foods and why they are beneficial. Interpreting the meaning of super foods can be hard since there are many different categories that a super food can come from and this makes it hard for some people to understand which foods have the true value of a super food.“According to current scientific understanding, the potential benefits of eating foods that are high in either nutrients or phytochemicals, or both, include the fact that they may help lower our risk of developing certain chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes” (Reinhard 10).

If an individual wants to improve their diet including more plants is a definite must. Whether you like fruits and vegetables or not, by including them in your diet it’s a surefire way to defeat free radicals, immunity problems, along with a host of other diseases and illnesses.

The first class of super foods that should be included in a person’s diet is plants. By including more plants, one’s diet will contain more essential nutrients and other compounds needed for biological activities in the human body.

Many super foods have the capability to reverse disease. Through the use of antioxidants these foods can help the body with DNA repair and detoxification. There are some specific super foods which are beneficial for the process of detoxification including spirulina. “The use of spirulina a blue-green algae is thought ease the side effects of the detoxification process” (Skinner and Wells 2383).  With the inclusion of antioxidants found in plants, nuts, and fruits the body can fight oxidation.

Two particular well known antioxidants found in plant super foods are phytochemical antioxidants carotenoids and polyphenols. “Carotenoids include beta-carotene, which can be converted to active vitamin A in the body, and lycopen, lutein, and zeaxanthin” (Reinhard 11). The other antioxidant, “Polyphenols include flavonoids, phenolic acids, lignans, and stilbenes; subgroups of the flavonoids include flavanols, flavones, flavonols, flavanones, isoflavones, and anthocyans (Reinhard 11). All these antioxidants along with vitamins and minerals can be found among plant super foods.

Furthermore, herbs contain a large amount of medicinal value and originated in Eastern medicine. It is important to consider herbs in the categories of super foods because they are still consumed even though a lot of times not by themselves but rather an addition to a plate or meal in place. Herbs are also useful in teas and extracts for people to use for their own consumption. One such herb that is known for its properties is nettle. According to the OWC Research Staff, “Nettle which is used in cases of mild anemia since it is said to be one of the highest sources of plant-digestible iron. For this reason, women are encouraged to take in as much nettles as possible during menstruation, postpartum recovery, and lactation. Nettle is beneficial during pregnancy. It is a mineral rich nutritive herb with vitamin K to guard against excessive bleeding. It improves kidney function and helps prevent hemorrhoids” (Top Super Foods for Healthy Longevity-New Comprehensive Nutritional Information).

Another well known herb is garlic which has its own super food nutrient capacity. Garlic has long been talked about for its therapeutic benefits that the plant contains as well as compounds responsible for functions such as fighting disease. According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Medicine, “Reports on the use of various agents, one of which was garlic, on markers of heart disease. Some of the markers that were reduced included inflammation and platelet aggregation” (Reinhard 155). Garlic is also used to reduce the risk of certain cancers due to the phytochemicals present in the super food.

To obtain an ageless body, and an ageless mind. Certain super foods present in a person’s diet can aid in this achievement of great health. Although a lot of super foods are conventional regular foods that you might pass by at your local grocery, there are also some of the exotic types that may draw the attention of people who are not well versed in nutrition. One group of super foods which has a lot of foods that are less common; or not such house-hold names belong to the fruits and berries.

There may also be mixed opinions on the implementation of certain fruits.  For instance some scientists may claim blueberries a more common known berry as a super food while another may consider goji berries a super food. It’s not that either claim is on the right or wrong-side, but rather both have great medical properties. For cases like blueberries versus goji berries it may come down more to the consumer and what qualities they are shopping for and what price. “The tiny, dried goji berries are sweet with a zing, like a cross between a cranberry and a cherry” (Hirsch 42). A blueberry contains several phytochemical compounds that can combat diseases because they are among one of the few foods naturally colored blue. “A 2010 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry compared the antioxidant content of several berry fruits and found that blueberries contain a “complex spectrum of anthocyanins” that is responsible for the fruit’s high level of antioxidant activity” (Reinhard 133). Ultimately both have shown to have a place in the nutrition research conducted on antioxidant activity and free radical fighting abilities.

We all know food comes from an abundant amount of sources but the fact is that people must know where their food is coming from and super foods enable this idea since they are whole and unprocessed. “In a recent issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that among more than 6,000 women, those with the highest intake of cruciferous vegetables had a lower breast cancer risk than those of the fairer sex with the lowest intake” (Kadey 113). Time and time again nutritionists have been ranting on about the benefits of whole foods and the good news they bring along to our bodies. The main reason for all the hoopla over vegetables and particularly cruciferous ones are due to their density of good for you nutrients in particular the antioxidants and enzymes. Then if you add to that the high fiber content which keeps your stomach staying full and away from cravings ultimately this leads to the avoidance of unwanted body fat. “Dietary fiber slows digestion and draws water into the digestive tract, causing stomach distention” (Kadey 114).

Dietary fiber is very useful for those who have problems with constipation and can help with weight loss for many people. Not to mention fiber can also be beneficial towards cholesterol levels. “Cruciferous vegetables, such as sprouts, broccoli and cabbage, contain compounds called glucosinolates. When glucosinolate-containing vegetables are chewed, sliced or crushed, the glucosinolates break down and form isothiocyanates, which have been shown in in vitro experiments to induce potentially anti carcinogenic defence mechanisms. Yet the research in this case goes further; as naturally occurring glucosinolates are limited to the cruciferous vegetables, researchers can investigate whether subsets of the population who consume larger amounts of cruciferous vegetables are afforded some degree of disease protection. Thus, there may be science behind the adoption of the super food tag for a vegetable like broccoli” (Lunn 171). With all the wide range of beneficial properties in cruciferous plants like broccoli it is essential to include foods that are commonly known for beneficial health affects. With overeating being a big problem in American society and rising obesity rates who wouldn’t want to look at vegetables and their potential as a super food and combatant to weight gain. When you think about that perspective many questions can be raised.

A common misconception in American Society is that all fat is bad for you. However this myth has been debunked and news is spreading on the benefits of nuts. Nuts are big part of super foods potential because not only are nuts highly nutritious, but they also pack essential fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Take for instance almond butter which, “California researchers reported that after four weeks of almond butter intake, a small group of men and women significantly reduced their dangerous LDL cholesterol levels and slightly raised their beneficial HDL cholesterol” (Kadey 115).

Not only are nut butters filling but they make a great addition to toast or a sandwich compared to just peanut butter. There are many nut and seed butters which are now getting their names out and being put up on the shelves of grocery stores. Some of butters and spreads that are also available include pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, cashew butter, hempseed, and soy butter. Hempseeds are becoming less of a taboo and moving more into the ideal of super foods because of their protein and an ideal 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids. “A recent Harvard School of Public Health study suggests the omega 3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) found in hemp can reduce the risk of heart attack” (Kadey 116).

Hemp is a super food which can be used in a variety of different ways including in protein powders, shelled seeds, milk, butter, and oil. It is also has good amounts of minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and iron as well as a lot of fiber. This particular super food the hemp seed should become more widely used as a substitute for whey for people who develop allergens to lactose in milk.

One common food group that is often overlooked or underrated for its great abundance of energy supply is the grain group which is very much a super food. Grains are relied upon as a large source of carbohydrates and energy for most people. Some well known grains that provide great benefits includes oats, bran, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, barley, brown rice, wild rice, and whole-wheat bread. One such grain although not in fact a grain or cereal but rather a pseudocereal which comes from the dried fruit of buckwheat. Buckwheat has many uses including as a suitable substitute for those who are sensitive to wheat or gluten who may have celiac disease.

According to a 2009 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, “Reports showed that buckwheat extract lowered blood cholesterol in rats with high cholesterol, and exhibited antioxidant activity in the blood. A 2008 study from the same journal reported on DCI in buckwheat extract, and its ability to lower blood glucose and improve glucose tolerance in mice” (Reinhard 172). Another great grain that qualifies as a super food is Oats which have long been endorsed for their ability to lower cholesterol levels and particularly LDL level’s. Oats are a true super food. “Low in calories, high in fiber and protein, oats are a rich source of magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, thiamin, and pantothenic acid. They’re also a valuable source of phytonutrients, such as polyphenols, phytoestrogens, lignins, protease inhibitors, and vitamin E” (Pratt 77).

A common question that may be asked by people in opposition is how can someone incorporate super foods into their diet? Also are super foods even affordable for the average person? While these are questions which may raise concern in some people it is now known that super foods are expanding in category and they are becoming more easily available at some local grocery stores. According to the OWC Research Staff, “You can now take an array of super foods daily for less than the cost of a Starbucks coffee” (Top Super Foods for Healthy Longevity-New Comprehensive Nutritional Information).

The key is that it is possible for many people to afford and buy super foods. A common theme among most people however, is that not everyone may want to be spending their hard-earned cash right on groceries and particularly on the so-called healthiest food on the planet. Ultimately it comes down to how much an individual cares and believes in their own health. If someone is willing to give up or sacrifice certain foods and going out to eat and other food expenses the idea is very much possible.

Ultimately it comes down to an individual’s dedication to their health and how they want to spend their money. If people started spending more money toward their health, or at least put health into the decision-making process of selecting foods, today’s obesity rate might look a little different. But with that not being the case it is time that some people start looking into incorporating a healthier life-style rather than pleasure-seeking fun and foods which add up costs.

Our population in the U.S. would really benefit from the nutritional density that accompanies super foods since these foods are so healthy that they can restore an unhealthy body to a healthy state through dedication and rejuvenation. Eating super foods and super food concentrates are something that really should be added to every person’s diet.

The main ideas of super foods are to help a person dodge the bullets of bad health and the host of indignities that may come with bad nutrition. A healthy lifestyle when used by people may help a person feel better emotionally and physically with the idea, that a person is able to take their health into their own hands based primarily on knowledge.

Through research and reading, many folks can discover foods which may be beneficial to an individual’s needs. Since every food has its own different nutrients it is good to keep an abundance of foods within your reach. Ultimately when asking questions such as do super foods have the capacity to reverse disease and prevent the many common illness’s I believe very much so.

From my research I have found that food can have a great influence on life and healthy living for that matter. Without nutrient dense foods, many bodies would be malnourished and break down by accumulating toxicity from unhealthy substances that everyone gets exposed to. Without essential nutrients and ingredients that the body needs for its composition, it becomes more difficult to achieve an adequate ability to thrive and be an active human being.

Now in an ever expanding industrialization, it can be hard to focus on the basics of food production and incorporation of raw natural super foods. Consumers are constantly bombarded with GMO’s and unhealthy filler ingredients.

However with the right mindset and the right education, people who are willing to dedicate or sacrifice time and their comfort; can regenerate their health in a positive way. Obtaining super foods is becoming easier as the message and knowledge of the qualities of living food spreads. The availability of super foods is now bigger than ever. It is crucial to become aware of the numerous benefits. As Thomas Edison once said, “The doctor of the future will give no Medicine, but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in the diet and in the cause and prevention of disease” (Pratt).

Whether a person wants to make major improvements in their health or small steps to achieve health and well-being food does make a difference. Ultimately the foods that are consumed have dramatic effects on weight and the internal makings of the body’s functions. Through the use of super foods the potential for malnutrition should become negated and good health should not only become a possibility but a reality and way of life.

Here is a list of some foods that make my list of Superfoods:

  1. Whole Eggs. Cheap and rich source of protein: 7g/egg. The yolk contains most nutrients. Half the protein, vitamins A/D/E and cholesterol to naturally increase your testosterone levels. Don’t worry too much about cholesterol in eggs, dietary cholesterol isn’t bound to blood cholesterol. If you are concerned about bad cholesterol, focus on lowering your body fat levels.
  2. Omega Fish Oil. This reduces inflammation (joints/skin/heart/brain), lowers body fat and increases testosterone levels. You should get 9000mg EPA/DHA per day. Consider getting a supplement it is definitely worth the health benefits!
  3. Wild Salmon. Cedar plank salmon is one of my favorite meals off the grill. Salmon is known as one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. It also provides roughly 20g of protein per 100g serving. Farm raised salmon is usually more deficient in omega-3, since they’re corn/grain fed. If you can, go for wild salmon.
  4. Blackberries. Strong antioxidants that prevent cancer, heart, and eye diseases. Buy it fresh or frozen they make a great compliment to any breakfast item or salad. For a recipe check this out: Blackberry-Peach Energy.
  5. Chia Seeds. Loaded with antioxidants these are also a good source of protein. Not to mention they have a high fiber content that makes up the carbohydrates, and also serve well for weight-loss. They also help you stay full, without being too bloated.
  6. Flax Seeds. Source of fiber, protein & omega-3. Grind the flax seeds in a coffee grinder if you have one to get the most out of them. Take 1tbsp with breakfast oatmeal or a smoothie. Or add it to your pancake batch!
  7. Coconut Oil. One of my favorite cooking oils. Most people freak out about the saturated fat content in coconut oil, however due to the fact that it is derived from a plant source and not an animal, the body breaks it down differently. Contains lauric acid which converts in the body into monolaurin; a great chemical used to combat bacteria and viruses.
  8. Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Should contain 70% monounsaturated fats, that protect against heart disease and cancer. President Thomas Jefferson also once stated that we should cover all southern states in the U.S. with Olive trees. Make sure you buy Extra Virgin Olive Oil, it contains more polyphenols and tastes better.
  9. Almonds. A delicious snack for between meals or before bed. Raw almonds, not the roasted type are high in fiber and protein along with antioxidants.
  10. Grass-Fed-Beef. An expensive item that is well worth the health benefits. Due to the careful control of grass-fed cattle, they have a much healthier diet of wild grass rather than corn and grains. If you ever watch the film Food Inc.; you can begin to understand the scary mistreatment of cattle in America.
  11. Broccoli. High in cancer-fighting phytochemicals and anti-estrogenic indoles. Broccoli is also high in soluble fiber and low calorie,  which helps people with fat loss.
  12. Kale. This cruciferous vegetable is an excellent source of vitamin K. As a result it can prevent heart disease and osteoporosis. It also has many cancer fighting properties.
  13. Spinach. Another cruciferous vegetable, happens to be a good source of calcium, fiber, and chlorophyll.
  14. Quinoa. The South American “king of grains”. Quinoa is higher in fiber and protein than rice or oats. It also tastes good and it is gluten free. Try to buy the whiter quinoa, it’s a little better quality. Quinoa is good whether you eat it pre-workout or post-workout.
  15. Turkey. One of America’s favorite birds to eat, especially on Thanksgiving. This meat is a good source of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that the body doesn’t produce. It is great for muscle repair and it can help stabilize mood.
  16. Tomatoes. I personally don’t like the taste of tomatoes but I force them into my diet, because I know that they’re too healthy to leave out. High in lycopene, which prevents cancer. The lycopene in tomato paste is 4 times more bioavailable than in fresh tomatoes. If you include tomatoes in a raw salad or make your own tomato sauce with olive oil, it is great for muscle recovery.
  17. Grapefruit. Helps with skin complexion, energy levels, and can help prevent heart disease and obesity.
  18. Pomegranates. Loaded with antioxidants and a rich red color, pomegranates have a strong ability to help protect the heart against plaque, heart disease, and atherosclerosis.
  19. Ginger. A great food that can be shredded and added to beverages, salads, or stir-fry’s. It’s also great for juicing. Ginger happens to be one of the greatest immunity boosters and it is also great for absorption and assimilation of essential nutrients in the body.
  20. Avocado. Full of healthy fats that are anti-inflammatory, thus preventing inflammation. It also has great carotenoid antioxidant capacity.
  21. Wheat Grass. If you are a juicing person, try out wheat grass. It isn’t exactly the tastiest shot you’ll ever have, but it is high in chlorophyll and many vitamins and minerals.
  22. Green Tea. Last but not least on my short list of super foods. Green tea is just a terrific drink of choice for breakfast or lunch. Strong in antioxidants, polyphenols, and a natural diuretic. Green tea is great for those looking for fat loss, cancer prevention, better circulation, and better blood sugar balance. Drink green tea, not coffee. Also, you can buy a nifty teapot and brew some loose leaf green tea!

Works Cited

  1. “Avocados.” Avocados. The George Mateljan Foundation, n.d. Web. 23 Dec. 2014. <http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=5&gt;.
  2. Fuhrman, Joel, M.D. “Powerful Health Benefits of the Pomegranate. “Powerful Health Benefits of the Pomegranate. Dr. Fuhrman.com, n.d. Web. 23 Dec. 2014. <https://www.drfuhrman.com/library/article19.aspx&gt;
  3. Gunnars, Kris. “10 Proven Benefits of Kale.” Authority Nutrition. N.p., 23 Dec. 2014. <http://authoritynutrition.com/10-proven-benefits-of-kale/&gt;.
  4. Gunnars, Kris. “11 Proven Health Benefits of Chia Seeds (No. 3 Is Best).” Authority Nutrition. N.p., 08 June 2014. Web. 23 Dec. 2014. <http://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-health-benefits-of-chia-seeds/&gt;.
  5. Hirsch J. The New Super Foods. (Cover story). E: The Environmental Magazine [serial online]. March 2008;19(2):42-43. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed February 29, 2012.
  6. Kadey, Matthew G. “Super Foods.” Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine 317 (2009): 112-116. Consumer Health Complete – EBSCOhost. Web. 29 Feb. 2012.
  7. Lunn, J. “Superfoods.” Nutrition Bulletin 31.3 (2006): 171-172. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.
  8. Masci, D. (2001, February 23). Diet and health. CQ Researcher, 11, 129-160. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/
  9. OWC Research Staff. “Top Super Foods for Healthy Longevity-New Comprehensive Nutritional Information.” Online Wellness Community, 18 Nov. 2011. Web.  29 Feb. 2012.
  10. Pratt, Steven G M.D., and Kathy Matthews. SuperFoods HealthStyle Proven Strategies for Lifelong Health. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006. Print.
  11. Reinhard, Tonia. SUPERFOODS: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet. Buffalo: Firefly Books Inc, 2010. Print.
  12. Vorvick, Linda J. “Tryptophan: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” U.S. National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 10 Oct. 2014. Web. 23 Dec. 2014 <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002332.htm&gt;.
  13. Skinner, Patricia, and Ken R. Wells. “Wigmore Diet.” The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. Ed. Laurie J. Fundukian. 3rd ed. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 2009. 2381-2383. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 29 Feb. 2012.

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