Imagine a superfood powerful enough to help you lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of diet related diseases like heart disease and even put you in a better mood. No side effects, no artificial substances. These life-altering superfoods are available right now in your local supermarket. In this week’s article, discover what you should add to your weekly food shop for a healthier and happier you!
The term superfood is a very common term with no legal definition which has led to it being misleadingly used as a marketing tool. It is mostly used to describe food with high nutrient or phytochemical content that may have specific health benefits, or that may be low in saturated fats, artificial ingredients, food additives etc. Some of the best superfoods are:
• Oily fish
• Tea (green or black)
• Apples & Bananas
• Olive oil
Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, potassium and vitamin C. All these substances are essential for your body to deal with all the toxins and reduce cell damage. Therefore, not only can they can help lower your risk of conditions like heart disease and cancer, they are also anti-inflammatory. When selecting berries, keep in mind that the darker they are, the more anti-oxidants they have, and frozen are just as good as fresh. Make sure you have half a cup a day and be sure to include a variety of fruits in your diet.
Omega 3-Rich Fish
According to research the omega 3 fatty acids in fish can lower heart disease risk, help arthritis, and may possibly help with memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. Omega-3s are most prevalent in fatty, cold-water fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel. Aim for 2 or 3 servings a week.
According to research including soy in a balanced diet can lower cholesterol as much as statins, the most widely prescribed cholesterol medicine. Opt for soy milk, tofu, or edamame; no, soy powder and soy sauce don’t really count!
Fiber rich fruit
A diet high in fiber can help you maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The main benefit of fiber is that it helps you feel full for longer which makes it a great tool in weight management. Whole grains, beans, fruit, and vegetables are all good fiber sources so try to include them in most of your meals.
Apples are full of antioxidants, especially vitamin C which is important for healthy skin and gums; in fact, one apple provides a quarter of your daily requirement of vitamin C. Apples also contain a form of soluble fibre called pectin that can help to lower blood cholesterol and keep the digestive system healthy. Apples also provide carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index (GI). Low GI foods are digested slowly; once they are finally broken down in the intestine they are gradually absorbed into the bloodstreams as glucose, causing a gradual rise in blood sugar levels. They may help with weight control, as well as improving diabetics’ long-term control of blood sugar levels.
Not only does broccoli contain antioxidants including vitamin C but it’s a particularly good source of folate (naturally occurring folic acid). Increasing your intake of folic acid is thought to be of major benefit in preventing heart disease. Broccoli also contains an antioxidant called lutein that can delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This condition affects 10% of people over 60 years old and is a major cause of impaired vision and blindness. Finally, broccoli also contains a phytochemicals which are substances with potential anti-cancer properties.
Several large studies suggest that the monosaturated fat in olive oil is good for the heart. Olive oil can help lower bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and increases the good cholesterol levels (HDL). Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants, and this is probably one of the key protective aspects of the Mediterranean diet. However, a tablespoon of oil contains 120 kilocalories so use it wisely!
It is undoubtedly Britain’s favourite drink and it has a range of useful properties. The caffeine content is helpful for alertness, mood and motivation. Moreover, tea counts towards the recommended eight cups of fluid daily, which is the minimum to avoid dehydration. Tea, whether black or green, is a rich source of the antioxidant called catechins which, according to studies, can prevent the formation of sticky blood clots and fat accumulation inside the arteries walls. Therefore it has protective properties against heart disease.
Yogurt is an easily absorbed source of calcium and can be a useful milk substitute for people who can’t digest large amounts of the milk sugar, lactose (lactose intolerance). The numerous benefits of yogurt involve the health of the large intestine and the relief of gastrointestinal upsets. The bacteria which are added to some yogurt (probiotic yogurt) are not digested, and reach the large intestine intact where they are added to the other friendly bacteria and aid intestinal health by fighting infections.
It’s a myth that bananas are fattening. It is true that they are slightly higher in energy than other fruits but the calories come mainly from carbohydrate; excellent for refuelling before, during or after exercise. Bananas are also rich potassium that helps lower blood pressure, and vitamin B6 for healthy skin and hair.
All nuts are generally full of essential vitamins, minerals and fibre. Recent studies suggest that eating a small handful of nuts four times a week can help reduce heart disease and satisfy food cravings. Specifically, brazil nuts are a good source of selenium that may help protect against cancer, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
By Kleio Bathrellou
Associate Nutritionist & Certified Sports Nutritionist