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What Are Superfoods & Why Should You Eat Them?

No food has super powers, but some are considered to be superfoods. These are are foods that offer incredible health benefits for their nutritional profile. There are no specific criteria that must be met for a food to be categorized as a superfood, but they are natural foods that tend to be low in calories, while being exceptionally nutrient dense. Most superfoods come from plant sources, but some dairy and fish fall into this group as well.

What is in a Superfood?

Superfoods have amazing nutrients, usually consisting of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, flavonoids, antioxidants and fiber. The health benefits of these compounds include cancer prevention, promotion of immune and heart health, and inflammation and cholesterol reduction.

Vitamins and minerals are necessary for basic bodily functions and play an essential role in everyday health. These nutrients are more readily used by our bodies when they are from natural foods instead of supplements. Healthy fats help prevent heart disease and lower cholesterol. Flavonoids help prevent cancer and reduce inflammation. Antioxidants protect cells from damage and are vital for the prevention of cancer and heart disease. Fiber promotes satiety, as well as helps to lower cholesterol and provide glucose control for the management of type 2 diabetes.

Which Foods are Superfoods?

Many berries are considered to be superfoods. Cranberries, blueberries, acai berries, goji berries, raspberries, and tart cherries all possess the nutritional makeup that categorize them as superfoods. Berries are high in flavonoids and are a good source of fiber. According to the American Heart Association, berries are linked to reducing the risk of heart attacks in women. Avocados contain heart healthy fats, cinnamon and garlic reduce inflammation, and chia seeds are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.

Dark, leafy greens and lentils are packed with nutrients that promote cellular health. Ginger contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, while pumpkin and green tea offer an abundance of antioxidants.

Some animal sources of superfoods include Salmon, which helps prevent heart disease thanks to its omega-3 fatty acids. Kiefer and yogurt are also on the list because they support the immune system and have nutrients that help prevent cancer.

How to Cook with Superfoods

Most superfoods can easily be added to your favorite dishes. Top granola, yogurt or oatmeal with berries, add some avocado to tacos or wraps, include chia seeds in smoothies, and sprinkle cinnamon on your cereal or dessert. Add dark, leafy greens, lentils and salmon to your salads, use pumpkin and ginger in your baked desserts, and try replacing one drink each day with a cup of green tea. Yogurt and Kiefer both make great substitutions for after-dinner treats. Incorporating superfoods into your diet provides numerous health benefits and may even offer an opportunity to try a new variety of foods.

Superfoods offer great health benefits while taking up a relatively small amount of your calorie budget. Working them into your daily diet is a great way to boost your immune system, decrease inflammation and give your body the compounds it needs to help prevent heart disease, cancer and other diseases. In other words, superfoods provide quite a bang for their buck. In your nutritional budget, superfoods are Mother Nature’s cost-effective healthcare.

Reach out to your provider if you have more questions about superfoods or about nutrition.

Robin Duhon, RD, LD, LMNT
Robin Duhon, RD, LD, LMNT

Robin Duhon MPPH, RD, LD, LMNT is a registered dietitian for CHI Health Weight Management

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