A beginner's guide to superfoods
You’ve likely come across the word superfoods. Superfoods are having a moment. They are trending. But what exactly are superfoods and why are they so great? Superfoods are foods that are mostly plant-based, are considered to be nutritionally dense, and are therefore some of the healthiest foods to eat. Superfoods contain antioxidants, which help ward off cancer; healthy fats, which promote heart health; fiber, that prevents diabetes and digestive issues; and phytochemicals, which is what gives foods their color, and is good for your health. It’s easy to incorporate the vast array of these foods into your diet, and reap the benefits, once you have a foundational understanding of superfoods.
So what are the best superfoods?
Below is a list of superfoods for you to incorporate into a healthy eating plan.
Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries—berries are a super fruit. The berry family is rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals. The phytochemicals that give berries their color are also known as flavonoids. Studies have shown that flavonoids may reduce the risk of heart conditions in young women. It’s also been suggested that berries can help increase insulin sensitivity and protect your cells from high blood sugar. So, eating berries can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and promote a healthy weight. They are also high in fiber. High fiber foods take longer to digest and leave you feeling fuller for a longer amount of time. This can prevent overeating or unhealthy snacking throughout the day. Include them in your diet by throwing them into a smoothie or tossing them on top of some yogurt.
Dark Leafy Greens
This list includes kale, swiss chard, collards, cabbage, mustard greens, and spinach. Dark leafy greens are a great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, and fiber. They contain carotenoids, which are anti-inflammatory, and protect against some types of cancer. While some dark leafy greens are bitter in taste, there are many ways to enjoy them as part of your diet. Spinach can be put in a smoothie and it practically disappears, overpowered by fruit flavors and protein powder. Baking kale with a fun seasoning makes a yummy, crunchy snack. You can also add greens to any soup or stew to make it even more nutritionally dense.
Beans & Legumes
Kidney, black, red, and garbanzo beans are all excellent sources of insoluble fiber and plant-based protein. Insoluble fiber lowers cholesterol and leaves you feeling full for a longer period of time, therefore reducing the risk of overeating or snacking. You can incorporate multiple superfoods in a minestrone soup that contains beans and greens. A hearty three-bean chili is another delicious way to get this superfood into your diet. For a healthy snack, try whipping up your own hummus by pureeing garbanzo beans and adding desired seasoning—garlic and olive tapenade work well.
Nuts & Seeds
Almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds—these are just a few of the many foods that fall into this category. Nuts and seeds are packed with healthy fats, fiber, and protein. They also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can protect against premature aging and heart disease. While nuts and seeds are generally high in calories, they are actually shown to help with weight loss and weight maintenance. This superfood can be enjoyed as a nut butter—think almond butter smeared on apple slices. Chia seeds are a great way to add protein and extra nutrition to a smoothie or oatmeal. Just make sure you pay attention to the serving size, as they are high-calorie foods.
A superfood fan favorite, dark chocolate makes it onto the list for its ability to reduce stress and inflammation. Dark chocolate has a higher percentage of cacao, and cacao is shown to be an immune booster! It’s also shown to help with memory, mood, and cognition. And, perhaps surprisingly, dark chocolate is also highly nutritious—it’s full of fiber and minerals. Some studies have shown that it can decrease LDL (the bad type of cholesterol) and improve HDL (the good kind.) It’s important to choose quality dark chocolate that is at least 70% cacao. The darker the chocolate the less sugar it usually contains. Like nuts and seeds, dark chocolate is calorie-dense, which means you should pay close attention to serving size. Mybite vitamins use dark chocolate to make the vitamin taking experience delicious and hassle-free.
Yogurt, kefir, kombucha, pickles, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, natto (fermented soybeans), and kimchi are a few fermented foods that make it on the superfoods list. Yogurt and Kefir are a great source of calcium and protein. They also, like most fermented foods, contain probiotics. The good bacteria from probiotics protect you from other potentially harmful bacteria. If you don’t consume dairy for health reasons, incorporate a calcium supplement like Mybite Calcium.
Adaptogens are herbs, roots, and fungi that may help your body adapt to stress. They have traditionally been used in Chinese Medicine, but have gained popularity in Western culture over the past few years. Stress has a taxing effect on your body. It can weaken the immune system and lead to other illnesses. Finding ways to keep your stress in check is essential for your wellbeing. Some adaptogens include Rhodiola, Ginseng, Holy Basil, Ashwagandha, Maca, and Cordyceps. Some benefits of these remedies include the reduction of stress-related fatigue, depression, anxiety, inflammation, cortisol levels, body mass index, and blood pressure.
Natural ways superfoods promote sleep and relaxation
Ashwagandha and Holy Basil (also called Tulsi) are also used to promote sleep and relaxation. If you’re someone who has trouble sleeping, it’s important to find a remedy that works for you. Adequate sleep is essential for health and wellness. Melatonin and L-Theanine can also help with sleep and are non-habit forming. Try Mybite Sleep for a yummy after-dinner chocolate treat that will help you get the perfect night’s sleep. Many of these adaptogens come in pill, tea, or powder form. Adding maca powder to a smoothie is a tasty way to get a dose of natural stress relief.
Green Tea & Matcha
Green tea and matcha both contain a large amount of EGCG, a natural antioxidant that helps fight cell damage. According to studies, green tea can improve brain function. This is largely due to caffeine, but unlike other sources of caffeine, green tea has L-theanine, which can cross the blood-brain barrier. Green tea has an effect on your neurotransmitters that has an anxiolytic effect. It also creates dopamine, which is what makes us feel happy! If you’re looking to shed a few pounds, green tea can help you with that as well. It increases fat burning and boosts metabolic rate. It’s also been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, some types of cancer, and obesity.
Superfoods and your goals
Whatever your health goals are, there are sure to be some superfoods that can help you achieve them. Whether you’re trying to lose weight (look to green tea and berries), lower your blood pressure and reduce stress (adaptogens), or boost your immune system (dark chocolate and fermented foods), your health and wellness will be aided through the incorporation of superfoods. Your body will thank you.