Not many months go by without one vegetable or nut being declared a superfood that will help us live longer and healthier lives.
Perhaps there is some hype in many of the claims we read about, but there can be a lot of truth as well. Here is the low down on some foods that can provide our bodies with the boost needed to ward off disease and ageing.
Like all tree nuts, walnuts are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, beneficially recognized for heart health. But it is distinguished for two main reasons: its significant antioxidant content and its richness in omega-3 fatty acids. Several studies link regular consumption of nuts and oilseeds with various health benefits such as its cholesterol-lowering effect. Walnuts play a significant role in lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Virgin Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil is a high-quality non-hydrogenated, non-deodorized, and unbleached oil which has not undergone any refinement. It is obtained from the fresh pulp of coconut. Virgin coconut oil is a source of nutrients essential for health and general well-being. Virgin coconut is made up of medium-chain fatty acids that are not metabolized like other fatty acids: they stimulate the metabolism, promote weight gain and nourish nerve cells directly. Lauric acid (representing 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil) has antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties and is effective against infections. Coconut oil is also great for hair care and skin.
Thanks to its high vitamin C content, papaya contributes very effectively to the defence of the body and the fight against infections. It contains Provitamin A which is converted in the body into vitamin A, a vitamin essential for cell growth, maintaining a good condition of the skin and mucous membranes, as well as night vision. It also has powerful detoxifying and antioxidant properties, allowing it to play a useful role in protecting against cancer and the fight against cellular ageing. Papaya also provides significant mineral supplements in the diet. Its high-density potassium and calcium are an asset for cardiovascular prevention (a potassium-rich diet can have a beneficial effect against hypertension). Its fibres stimulate the smooth functining of the intestines.
Ginger is a medicinal plant that has been used for over a millennium. It is used to combat nausea, reduce inflammation, and asthma. Ginger contains numerous antioxidants that protect your body’s cells against free radicals. Ginger can also help with digestion. Indeed, some studies have indicated that it stimulates the secretion of bile and activity of different digestive enzymes. If you are craving for a cleansed and healthy body, ginger is your perfect detox alley.
Studies have indicated that regular consumption of broccoli has many health benefits. The vitamins, antioxidant compounds and fibre in broccoli play a significant protective role in our bodies. Many studies have shown that regular consumption of this superfood can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. Broccoli contains lutein and zeaxanthin; two antioxidant compounds in the family of carotenoids and is associated with reducing the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
The Carrot (Daucus Carota)
This magical food has more than one trick in its vines. Carrot plays a key role in preserving the health of our eyes and our arteries. Its strong beta carotene levels (provitamin A), a powerful antioxidant, protects our cells against free radicals. In turn, it’s insoluble fibre captures toxins and facilitates their elimination. Suffice to say that, to prevent cardiovascular diseases, cancers and keep skin healthy, it’s a queen!
Known to be a pseudo cereal, quinoa is a super-grain that is rich in fibre and high-quality proteins. It is a tiny little grain that looks a lot like rice, but is completely gluten-free. It has a nutty flavour, is mild and with a light texture that is similar to couscous. There are many reasons why quinoa is called the super-grain and is considered to be a superfood.
Apart from fibre and protein, quinoa is loaded with minerals like potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, folate, iron, copper, and zinc. It contains more than 10% of the RDI(Required Dietary Intake) of vitamins B1, B2, B6 and small amounts of vitamin E. Phew! That’s a lot, isn’t it? Well, that’s not all. Quinoa also contains antioxidant flavonoid plant compounds like quercetin and kaempferol, and others.
Another new superfood in the market and for a good many reasons is turmeric. A routinely used spice in many Asian countries, turmeric has been touted to have immense healing properties according to the ancient Hindu medicine system of Ayurveda. Obtained from the root of the plant, turmeric contains high amounts of manganese, iron, fibre, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium and vitamin C.
Apart from these nutrients, what makes turmeric a superfood are two ingredients– curcumin and turmerone. It is these constituents in turmeric that give it antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric is also known to be a natural protector against Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, apart from helping in reducing blood sugar levels, cholesterol, management of skin ailments, boosting immunity and digestion.
These are tiny nutrient bombs and one of the most popular superfoods out there. They are tiny seeds obtained from Salvia hispanica and is a close cousin of the mint. Did you know that ‘chia’ itself means ‘strength’ in Mayan? Chia seeds are nutrient-rich but low on calories. They are one of the most fibre-rich seeds and are terrific for healthy digestion, maintaining optimum cholesterol and blood glucose levels in the body.
Chia seeds also contain powerful antioxidants that protect your body cells from free radical damage – the primary cause of many diseases. They are a rich source of protein and contain all essential amino acids required by your body. Due to their high protein and fibre content, chia seeds make for a great weight-loss food. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and manganese.
Just like quinoa, kale is a superfood that is rich in flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol. Also, like most leafy greens, kale is also very high in antioxidants. It is also vitamin C and beta-carotene rich. The best part of kale, however, is that it is a storehouse of iron.
Apart from this, kale is a great source of other minerals like calcium, and vitamins like thiamine, folate, vitamin B6, among others. Other constituents that make kale a superfood are – phytochemicals like glucosinates (that break down to form sulphur compounds and are anti-carcinogenic), and carotenoids.
Moong sprouts or green gram sprouts are a routine part of Indian cuisine and for good reason. It is considered to be a superfood because it is low in calories, high in proteins, fibre, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, folate and many other minerals and vitamins. Sprouts are very healthy for our body as they are alkaline, clean and exceptionally nutritional. They are easy to incorporate and make simple dishes like salads and gravies. Due to the high fibre content, moong sprouts help maintain healthy digestion. Eating moong sprouts also helps bring down your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, while maintaining healthy digestion. Are you ready to try a moong sprouts salad?