By Teemu Virtanen
Last month, we published an article about acai, a Brazilian superfood, explaining its potential benefits and how it can boost your skiing performance. That fruit is quite exotic and may not be that easily available for you to use, but you don’t need to go seeking these wonder foods in remote places. All you need to do is to pay attention to what you eat on daily basis as many foods you regularly consume can be considered superfood.
But what is superfood? Actually, there is no such thing as superfood, at least nutritionally speaking. It is actually a marketing term for nutrient-rich foods with a supposed capacity to positively affect health. It’s important to understand that there is no single food that holds the key to good health or disease prevention. But it is a universally used term for certain types of food, and it will not go away. So, it may make sense to take a closer look at some healthy options that are easily attainable.
Based on my online research, I have selected 8 foods that are common to everyone and we use them quite regularly, and they are indeed worthy of the esteemed superfood title.
Dark green leafy vegetables (DGLVs) are an excellent source of nutrients including folate, zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C and fiber, and they can potentially reduce your risk of chronic illnesses including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
They also contain high levels of anti-inflammatory compounds known as carotenoids, which may protect against certain types of cancer. Some well-known DGLVs include kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, turnip greens and spinach.
Berries are a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. The strong antioxidant capacity of berries is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and other inflammatory conditions. Berries may also be effective in treating various digestive and immune-related disorders when used alongside traditional medical therapies. Some of the most common berries include raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, currants, cloudberries and so forth.
Eggs have historically been a controversial topic in the nutrition world due to their high cholesterol content, but they remain one of the healthiest foods. Whole eggs are rich in many nutrients including B vitamins, choline, selenium, vitamin A, iron and phosphorus. They’re also loaded with high-quality protein, and they also contain two potent antioxidants, zeaxanthin and lutein, which are good for your eye health.
Nuts and seeds are rich in fiber, vegetarian protein and heart-healthy fats. They also pack various plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can protect against oxidative stress. Research indicates that eating nuts and seeds can have a protective effect against heart disease.
Common nuts and seeds include:
- Almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts.
- Peanuts — technically a legume, but often considered a nut.
- Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds.
Garlic is a plant food that is closely related to onions, leeks and shallots. It’s a good source of manganese, vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium and fiber. It is a popular culinary ingredient due to its distinct flavor, but it has also been used for its medicinal benefits for centuries. Research indicates that garlic may be effective in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as supporting immune function and playing a role in preventing certain types of cancer.
Olive oil is naturally extracted from the fruit of olive trees, and it has high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyphenolic compounds. Adding olive oil to your diet may reduce inflammation and your risk of certain illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. It also contains antioxidants such as vitamins E and K, which can protect against cellular damage from oxidative stress.
Salmon is a highly nutritious fish packed with healthy fats, protein, B vitamins, potassium and selenium. It’s one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for a variety of health benefits, such as reducing inflammation. If you add salmon in your diet, you may also lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes. The downside of eating salmon and other types of seafood is the possible contamination with heavy metals and other environmental pollutants.
Avocado is a highly nutritious fruit, although in the culinary world it’s often considered as a vegetable. It’s filled with nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. Similar to olive oil, avocado is high in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs). Eating avocado may reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and certain types of cancer and it can reduce inflammation in your body.
As you can see, it’s not that hard to find these superfoods in your local grocery store, and you can easily boost your performance and strengthen your health by eating these foods on regular basis. Now, when preparing for Vasaloppet or any other challenge that may lie ahead, make sure that these eight superfoods are on your plate and enjoy the new Super-You!