Is there really such a thing as superfoods…or just certain foods that are super for your health? So called superfoods are all the rage these days.
As a Registered Dietitian, I don’t believe any singular food is a superfood, yet I strongly believe there are a category of foods that are super to routinely include in your diet when it comes to holistically living and eating well. Similarly, in the case of gut health superfoods, there are foods that are super for your gut health.
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What makes a food super?
When you think of superfoods, what comes to mind? Foods that will make you feel better, be healthier, lose weight easier, slow down the aging process, improve your heart health and promote a good mood? You wouldn’t be wrong by thinking that certain foods can improve each of these things. They absolutely can, so let’s look at some of the ways this is possible.
Superfoods are often synonymous with functional foods. Functional foods are items such as probiotics, prebiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, herbs and spices, fiber, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and fermented foods. Functional foods have positive health benefits, beyond just the nutritional value of the food itself.
Foods that fall in the superfood category boast amazing health benefits and have a high nutrient density. These foods are rich in nutrients such as antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, flavonoids, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Let’s look at two powerhouse antioxidants.
Fruits and vegetables that are blue, purple, red, and orange get their color from a natural pigmentation called anthocyanin, a flavonoid. Berries, particularly black currants, blueberries, and blackberries contain a high concentration of anthocyanins and are known for their health-promoting effects. Black currants are known to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress even more effectively than blueberries due to their high concentration of anthocyanins.
Polyphenols, commonly found in foods such as fruits and vegetables, seeds, tea, cocoa and wine, are powerful antioxidants. The Mediterranean diet is an example of a diet that contains high levels of polyphenols. The Mediterranean diet is rich in olive oil, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fatty fish, and red wine and lower in dairy, red meat, and processed foods.
While bad foods and lifestyle choices promote aging, on the flip side, eating the right foods can not only help lower blood sugar and inflammation, but also slow down the cellular aging process. Dr. Shawn Talbott, author of The Secret of Vigor, explains that specific nutrients in certain super foods have anti-aging properties.
- B-Complex vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin) help control blood sugar and increase mental and physical energy levels
- Calcium supports bone health and boosts metabolism
- Vitamin D supports bone health, mood support and has anti-cancer properties
- Carotenoids are an important antioxidant that protects the skin from sun damage
- Flavonoids are antioxidants that help reduce heart disease, cancer and diabetes risk
- Turmeric, Curcumin and Ginger have anti-inflammatory properties
- Resveratrol, a flavonoid, boasts anti-aging benefits and increases life span
Best Gut Health Superfoods
When it comes to gut health superfoods, it’s all about nourishing a healthy gut; promoting bowel regularity, supporting the good bacteria in the gut and building a thriving microbiome. This is critical to maintaining overall mental and physical health. Unfortunately, the standard American diet doesn’t lend itself to gut healthy foods. Refer to the list below for the best gut health superfoods that you should regularly incorporate into your diet.
- Leafy Greens – spinach, kale, bok choy, swiss chard, dark green leaf lettuce
- Berries – blueberries, blackberries, black currants, strawberries, raspberries
- Ancient Grains – quinoa, barley, millet, farro, couscous, wheat berries
- Legumes – black beans, soybeans, lentils, kidney beans, garbanzo beans
- Seeds – flax, chia, hulled sunflower and hemp seeds
- Oats – stone ground, rolled oats
- Fermented Foods – kombucha, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, yogurt
- Prebiotic Foods – garlic, onions, leeks, artichoke, asparagus, apples, green bananas
The statement, “You are what you eat”, couldn’t be truer! The foods you do or do not put in your body absolutely affects the way you feel. The health of your gut is directly related to your overall health and wellbeing. Incorporating several of these gut health superfoods daily should become a priority if you are looking to improve the way you feel and function, physically, mentally and emotionally.
The purpose of this information is to inform and empower the reader to make positive lifestyle changes. The intent is not to replace medical advice or instructions given by your doctor or healthcare provider.
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Angela Lewis Lago MS, RDN, LDN is a Registered Dietitian. She specialized in Clinical Nutrition Management , Malnutrition, Gut Health and Mental Wellness. Angela holds a Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition & Dietetics and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.