SuperfoodsThe term “superfood” is frequently used in the media. However, many people remain confused by the term and what makes a superfood actually super.

In the past, superfoods were perceived to be fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries or kale, but in recent years, several more foods have been added to the superfood list.

This article should give you an insight into why a superfood is super, and why they should play a leading role in your everyday diet.

It’s all about the nutrients:

All foods contain different quantities of different nutrients. However, a superfood contains a higher amount of nutrients per gram compared to other foods. These nutrients could simply be essential vitamins and minerals or illness fighting antioxidants.

These foods are nutrient dense, with most of the nutrients needed for a healthy balanced diet. Superfoods are generally low in calories, which makes the content level of nutrients even more impressive. For example, a cup of blueberries contains approximately 80 calories, but provides 36% of the daily recommended level of Vitamin K, as well as 24% of the Vitamin C required, and high levels of dietary fiber and manganese.

Disease protection:

Many superfoods provide some degree of protection from diseases and illnesses. Generally, this is due to the high level of antioxidants present, but there are other factors which can influence the health benefits.  For example, many people are aware that blueberries have been shown to reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer.

However, oats are now considered a superfood, as not only are they low in calories and high in protein, they also can reduce cholesterol levels and provide protection from developing heart disease. Generally, superfoods are considered super because their regular consumption can create a positive impact on health, especially in combination with a healthy balanced diet.

Research has shown that even without making major dietary changes, introducing a variety of superfoods can provide health benefits.

Measuring the nutrients in superfoods:

The complete list of superfoods is considerable, it’s also getting longer, as new research highlights positive effects from certain foods. This can make it challenging to define which are the very best superfoods, that provide the most nutritional benefit.

However, there are a number of systems used to measure the nutrients contained within different foods.

ANDI: The Aggregate Nutrient Density Index is a great example of this type of system. It measures the nutrient levels in each food and assigns a score. Foods can be ranked between 1 and 1000, the higher the number, the higher the amount of nutrients and therefore the healthier the food.

ORAC: Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity is the value which measures the effectiveness of a food for subduing free radicals. Free radicals are toxic molecules, they are caused by the normal process of cell metabolism and a result of external factors such as solar radiation, exposure to harmful chemicals, environmental pollution or inhaling tobacco smoke.

Superfoods will generally measure high on the ORAC scale because of their high antioxidant content. Some examples which are at the high end of the ORAC scale include acai berries, mulberries, goji berries and high cocoa solid dark chocolate. All of these foods are strongly associated with a number of health benefits, including protection from developing diseases and improving existing conditions.

Superfoods are indeed super, they offer some amazing health benefits. However, it’s important to realize that they are not a miracle cure.  Superfoods should be an integral component of your diet, but in order to have a healthy balanced eating plan, you should ensure that you also consume a good balance of healthy fats, carbohydrates and protein. This will ensure that you have all of the nutrients needed for basic body function, this will help you to feel fit and healthy in the long term.

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