A healthy diet should be predominantly based around fresh foods, and while all fresh foods are good for you, there are some absolute star performers that should be part of any diet.
Superfoods are those foods that are higher than normal in the vitamins and minerals that we need, and have a great protective effect on the body. We’ve put together a list of some of the superfoods that should make it into your everyday diet.
Blueberries contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanidins, which are great for combating the oxidative stress that contributes to ageing. As well, blueberries also contain vitamin C, folic acid, fibre, carotenoids, and hundreds of other compounds.
While all nuts improve levels of cholesterol in the body, walnuts are an excellent source of plant-based omega 3 fatty acids. For the maximum benefit, eat walnuts unsalted and dry roasted.
Almonds are a great superfood as they contain protein, fibre, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, and zinc. Almonds are also high in vitamin E, contain heart-healthy fats, and have smaller amounts of folic acid and vitamin B2.
Avocados contain heart-healthy fats, fibre, folic acid, vitamin E, and potassium. They are also one of the leading fruit sources of beta-sitosterol, a compound that can reduce the total level of cholesterol in the body. Avocados are also high in an antioxidant called lutein.
Broccoli is a true superfood, as it contains a huge range of protective substances. One of these is sulforaphane, which kills the Helicobacter Pylori bacteria (that causes stomach ulcers), as well as destroying carcinogenic compounds and then creating enzymes to eat any left over carcinogens. Another is indole-3 carbinol, which helps the body to metabolise oestrogen. Broccoli also contains beta-carotene and potassium.
Cocoa is the main ingredient in chocolate and it contains antioxidants known as flavonoids. The flavonoids have aroused considerable interest recently because of their beneficial effects on human health. They are reported to have antiviral, anti-allergic, antiplatelet, anti-inflammatory, antitumor and antioxidant activities. However, this is not an excuse to indulge in chocolate! Chocolate still contains a lot of fat, and you should aim to eat small amounts of dark chocolate that has a high percentage of cocoa in it.
Flaxseed is the richest plant source of omega 3 fatty acids. These acids are able to help reduce heart disease, stroke, and inflammatory diseases, as well as being linked to other conditions in a positive manner. Flaxseed also contains high levels of lignin, a phytoestrogen that improves cholesterol profiles and reduces the activity of oestrogen within the body.
Onions are packed with sulphur compounds, and a flavonoid called quercetin. Quercetin may have anti-cancer properties but it also boosts the immune system, encourages detoxification, and reduces inflammation.
Pumpkin is high in levels of beta carotene, and it is the highest source of alpha carotene, which may be even more powerful than beta carotene. Pumpkin is also high in the vitamins B5, C, and E, potassium, calcium and fibre.
Salmon is one of the best oily fish to consume and it is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, which is essential for brain and heart health. Other oily fish which are good include tuna and mackerel.
Black, green, and even white tea have all been recognized for their antioxidant properties. Tea is rich in polyphenols which is 100 times as effective as vitamin C, and thus can help protect cells from free radical damage.
Tomatoes have high levels of a carotenoid known as lycopene, which may help to reduce the risk of cancer. Tomatoes are best eaten cooked to make the lycopene easier to absorb. Tomatoes are also rich in potassium, vitamin C and beta carotene.
Wholegrains include things such as brown rice, millet, oats, and wholegrain bread, and eating large amounts of wholegrains can help to prevent heart disease. They are also an excellent source of fibre, which prevents constipation, encourages the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut and helps the body remove toxins. Wholegrains are an excellent source of “slow release energy”, as they don’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
Wine, especially red wine, has been shown to be good for heart health. White wine contain tyrosol and caffeic acid, which reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Red wine is rich in polyphenols, which benefit the heart, and moderate levels of red wine can lower homocysteine, platelet stickiness, and the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood. However, wine is still alcohol and it is important to drink it in moderation as it is still a toxin.
All the above are great to eat as a part of a healthy balanced diet. Too much of any one food can be damaging on your body. As the saying always goes, "everything in moderation".