Top superfoods you should be eating
by Monique Farrugia
Food has been regarded as a form of medicine from the beginning of time. However, as we have moved into the modernised world of today, it is no longer viewed as an element of healing but rather as something we need simply to satisfy our appetites. As the term 'superfoods' has started to become popular, we seem to be reviving the old belief that food could be your ticket to health, while it can actually have healing properties.
We're all familiar with the word 'superfood', but what is it really? Although there is no technical definition, a superfood can be considered as containing many nutrients, which are linked to the prevention of certain diseases and which offer several health benefits. Here we examine some foods, which can be easily found at your grocery store and supermarket and are believed to be beneficial to our health.
A symbol of good health, it's not surprising that apples have made it to the list. They are a nutrient-dense fruit containing many antioxidants, while they are packed with fibre and potassium. They are also low in calories, cholesterol and sodium, while they are free of fat.
Even though many people tend to prefer the flesh of the apple, most of its healing powers actually lie in the skin since it contains large amounts of a compound called quercetin. In the antioxidant world, quercetin is deemed to be exceptional as it helps protect the body from free radicals - those nasty molecules in our bodies that can increase the risk of disease and quicken ageing.
Evidence has also shown that people who eat an apple a day have a lower risk of heart disease than those who eat fewer apples. Heart disease is not the only malady to feel quercetin's power. The compound is also believed to have anti-cancer properties that might help prevent the spread of cancerous cells and inhibit tumour growth.
Quercetin aside, apples are perhaps best known for their fibre. They contain both soluble and insoluble fibre, including pectin. Soluble fibre absorbs water, forming into a gel-like material in the digestive tract (similarly to what happens when you add water to oatmeal), while insoluble fibre does not do this (think of what happens when you add water to celery). As a result, insoluble fibre eases the movement of substances through the digestive system and increases stool bulk, hence why it has long been recommended for relieving constipation or irregular stools. On the other hand, soluble fibre helps lower cholesterol, as well as reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Pectin, a type of soluble fibre, appears to reduce the amount of cholesterol produced in the liver, while it slows down digestion which in turn slows the rise in blood sugar. This process is particularly beneficial for people with diabetes.
Apples are not only excellent for your health, but they are also very convenient to keep handy and eat anywhere, anytime. So the next time you're heading out, simply drop an apple in your backpack, purse or briefcase and eat it as a snack instead of a sugar-dense packaged cereal bar. Yet, remember that it's important to eat the entire apple with the skin on to reap all its amazing benefits. I guess an apple a day really does keep the doctor away so ensure you purchase a bunch.
This fruit deserves to be on the list too! Avocados are packed with nutrients and antioxidants, such as Omega 3, magnesium, potassium, folic acid and fibre and are rich in Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K. They also have copper, iron and magnesium. Containing more calories than almost any other fruit on the planet, you might be wondering why should such a fattening item be on a superfoods list? The high-fat content, in this case, is actually a good thing because avocados do not contain just any fat, but they are filled with monounsaturated fat particularly a type called oleic acid. Such fats have many health benefits, some of which include the ability to help you lose weight, reduce the risk of heart disease and decrease inflammation.
In addition, avocados are also rich in fibre which is good news for people who are suffering from diabetes. The monounsaturated fats in this fruit have been found to improve fat levels in the body and help control diabetes. The oleic acid in avocados can also help people lower their cholesterol level. Also containing folate making it the perfect food for mums to be, this helps prevent life-threatening birth defects of the brain and spine. Unfortunately, many women do not get enough folate from their regular diets, but avocados can actually go a long way in fixing that. So the next time you're making a salad, make sure you get some avocados and add them to the mix!
Coldwater fish like the Alaskan salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and anchovies contain the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s benefit the fish by helping them stay warm in cold waters, but in humans, such fats offer many health benefits. They can boost overall heart health, while there has been evidence showing that omega-3s actually prevent unwanted clotting in the bloodstream which can be very harmful since it can block the flow of blood to the heart, possibly causing heart attacks. In addition, the oil found in such fish is thought to raise the levels of ''good'' cholesterol which helps keep fatty deposits clogging your arteries - say goodbye to sludgy arteries! Not only do these fish protect your heart, but they can also help fight colon and breast cancers, promote larger birthweight babies, whereas they also have anti-inflammatory properties which can help relieve conditions like arthritis. The American Heart Association recommends eating coldwater fish at least twice a week so make sure you get your hands on some.
Your parents were right in encouraging you to eat broccoli as a child! This superfood is a nutrition-dense disease fighter. It has shown to fend off serious conditions such as heart disease and cancer, while the sulforaphane it contains gives broccoli the ability to combat free radicals, cancer and arthritis. The isothiocyanate found in this vegetable also contributes to the prevention of cancer progression and growth. In addition, indole-3-carbinol is not only known to hinder the growth of breast, cervical and prostate cancer but also helps to boost liver function. High in vitamin C, fibre, calcium and folate, this veggie is also an ideal choice if you want to lose weight thanks to being a source of soluble fibre, which evidently helps curb overeating. Having a high fibre content, broccoli takes longer to digest than other foods, making you feel fuller for longer.
Saving the best for last! Chocolate as a superfood?? This might come as a complete shocker to some, but it's certainly good news. Well, believe it or not, chocolate is a yummy and healthy treat, but you need to choose your chocolate wisely. For the greatest health benefits, choose chocolate that is at least 70 per cent cacao or cocoa. This type has the most antioxidants and the least amount of sugar. Antioxidants are known to lower blood pressure and they are beneficial for cholesterol and blood sugar. Some have also claimed that dark chocolate improves their mood. Hmmm... maybe this is why we crave chocolate when we're feeling sad? However, keep in mind that dark chocolate is still high in fat and calories, so don't go gobbling 5 dark chocolate bars after reading this article. Research has shown that around one ounce a day is a happy medium between getting the nutrients and the benefits of dark chocolate, without getting too many excess calories.
Powerful, and nutrient-packed, overloaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and more, superfoods pack a punch when it comes to boosting your health and energy levels, making them incredibly potent in comparison to other foods. So go ahead, fill your kitchen cupboards and fridge with these items to transform your body and mind. Visit these supermarkets and discount stores, as well as grocers and mini markets across Malta and Gozo.
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