Most of us approach nutrition with a “what to avoid” or “need to eat less” mindset and fair enough – with the world getting ever fatter (no insult intended, it’s just a fact borne out by international statistics over the last 30+ years) most of us would do well to eat less in general and to avoid much of the junk we currently consume. But what about a more positive approach: are there foods we should actively seek-out and eat? Is the idea of “superfoods” actually valid? Well, there are no magic foods that will heal all ailments, prevent all disease, generate slimness & happiness, etc. But there certainly are several foods that are known to be really really healthy and we can, loosely at least, consider these as “superfoods”. Certainly, these are foods most of us should eat if and when we can. Let’s consider some…
Berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc. These fruits are high-fibre, naturally sweet (with all fruit it is important to know that you’re getting sugar and so you need to be moderate since sugar is unhealthy), and rich in antioxidants (immune boosters).
Dark leafy greens – spinach, kale, Swiss chard, etc. These vegetables are good sources of calcium (especially important for women), vitamin A, vitamin, C, Iron (although to be fair you do have to eat a LOT of spinach to get much Iron), fibre, and phytochemicals (plant foods that are good for human health).
Olive oil – perhaps the healthiest oil, olive oil is rich in vitamin E but its main benefit is that it is a monounsaturated fat, which is the best kind for heart health. CAUTION: Olive oil, like all fats and oils, is a high-calorie food (fats contain twice the calories, per gram, as compared to carbohydrates and proteins) and so most of us should eat only moderate ammounts.
Legumes – chickpeas, soy, lentils, beans, peas, etc. These plant foods offer protein, low-GI carbohydrate, fibre, and folate. They are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Legumes are probably one of the most under-rated and under-used healthy food options.
Fish – fatty fishes like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and pilchards are the best options but all fish-types offer quality protein and omega-3 fats, which are excellent for heart health.
Nuts – nuts are an excellent source of plant protein and healthy fat (monounsaturated) that can reduce heart-disease risk. Once again though, some caution: nuts are high-fat foods and therefore high-calorie so we need to consume them in moderation. Peanuts (especially oily salty peanuts) are the least-healthy nut option so rather look for a variety of nuts to eat.
Cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, etc. These offer fibre, vitamins, and phytochemicals so we should all develop a taste for these wonders.
Green tea – when drunk “correctly” (plain tea, no sugar no milk), green tea is a calorie-free drink that includes low ammounts of caffeine and several powerful antioxidants. Green tea has been associated with a reduced risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers (this association is suggestive rather than conclusive; more research is needed).
This is an incomplete list but long enough to give you some great ideas on better, healthier shopping.
Some of these “superfoods” may be costly and beyond the budgets of some of us (e.g. fresh tuna, imported berries, some nuts, boutique olive oils). But most of them are not especially expensive and can be included in our weekly shopping easily enough. It’s really worth learning about these foods, and other great healthy options. Please add your own ideas and suggestions below.