I’m sure you’ve all heard this latest buzzword being loosely thrown across news programs and splashed across the pages of magazines. Everyday we’re bombarded with statements in the media such as, ‘the top 10 superfoods your diet should not be without’ or ‘the newest superfood that all the scientists and doctors are talking about’. So what is a superfood? And how in the world did it get to be so darn super?
If you google the word ‘superfood’, you will get 1,370,000 results! Holy mackerel (and we’ll talk about mackerel later)! It can be overwhelming and confusing for most consumers. So how does a savvy consumer untangle all the hype to find the real meaning behind the term superfood?
Well from a dietitian’s standpoint a superfood is a term used to describe a food that is exceptionally high in nutrients and health promoting properties. In other words, superfoods are foods that give you plenty of nutrition bang for your buck compared to other foods! However it’s important not to just rely on these touted up superfoods alone, as a healthy diet requires a wide variety of foods from all the core food groups. There is no one food that will provide your body with everything it needs. Additionally some superfoods such as nuts are high in fat and kilojoules, and if eaten in excessive amounts, can actually pack on unwanted kilos.
Nutrition Gurus Top 5 Super Foods
Salmon, mackerel and other fatty fish
Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel are high in protein, omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D. They are also low in saturated fat. Eating fatty fish 2 – 3 times per week can provide a number of healthy benefits, including reducing your risk of heart disease.
Tip: Try adding a small tin of salmon to your salad at lunch or have on a slice of toast at breakfast.
Chickpeas are legumes that are a good source of protein, zinc, folate and fibre. Studies have shown that chickpeas can help lower blood cholesterol. They have a bit of a nutty taste to them and can be used in a variety of ways. They are often found in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes.
Tip: Add some chickpeas to your salad or pasta dish, or blend them up and make a low-fat hommus dip.
One of the prettiest coloured fruits around, blueberries are chalk full of antioxidants called anthocyanins. This is the substance that actually makes the blueberry, well blue. This tiny little fruit appears to have some mighty powers. Studies have shown blueberries can help reduce cholesterol, slow ageing of the brain, improve digestion, slow down vision loss, and decrease your risk for certain cancers.
Tip: Throw on top of your yoghurt for an extra satisfying and super snack.
Mmmmmm one of our absolute favourites, of course for all the antioxidants and for its ability to lower blood pressure. Not just any old chocolate will do though, it should contain 60% or more cocoa. Also, if you’re a chocolate fanatic be careful, you only need 2 – 3 squares of this delightful superfood to reap its health benefits, not the whole block. Darn it!
Tip: Hmmmm…I’m thinking I probably don’t need to give you any tips on how to enjoy this one!
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa)
You’ve likely not heard of this grain-like superfood before, but it has been an important staple to the people of South America for over 6,000 years. It’s similar to cous cous in appearance, but with a slightly nutty flavor. Quinoa gets a tick as a superfood, because not only is it high in protein, but it’s a complete protein source that’s suitable vegetarians and vegans. It’s also high in fibre. Quinoa can be used in savoury or sweet dishes, so it’s quite the versatile staple to have on hand in your pantry.
Tip: Cook up some quinoa like you would porridge. Serve with some low fat milk and a small drizzle of honey.
When making any lifestyle change begin with small manageable steps. Start by adding one superfood to your diet every day, or if this seems a bit daunting, try a new superfood every week to help expand your range. Keep in mind this list of superfoods just touches on a few examples of superfoods, there are plenty more out there for you to enjoy. A few of our other favourites include nuts, spinach, pumpkin, citrus fruits, tomatoes, eggs and many, many more. So go for it, experiment. Be brave and try something you’ve never tried before like quinoa or bring back an old favourite that maybe you just haven’t had in a while. And remember, variety is the key here; there is no one food so ‘super’ that it contains all the nutrients our bodies’ require. Grab a handful of blueberries and a couple of squares of dark chocolate and I reckon you will have nearly found nirvana!