The term ‘superfood’ has been bandied about the food industry over the past couple of years, at times used on food packaging with loose claims of often unrealistic health benefits. There is no official definition of what a ‘superfood’ actually is, and so the title has been too often claimed by food marketers as a means of glorifying their product.
This caused the EU to recently ban health claims on packaging due to a lack of scientific evidence, and so leading many of us to wonder whether superfoods are simply a con, a myth or at best an overrated marketing ploy. But moving away from the fads and claims of marketing gurus, several so-called ‘superfoods’ have been scientifically proven to have a significant positive impact on health. With this in mind, The Hut delves into the world of superfoods to pick out five to power your life and ways you can easily integrate them into your weekly diet.
What are superfoods and why are they good for you?
Superfoods are food types, often plant-based but also including some fish and dairy, which are known to be particularly dense with nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants. The rich goodness of superfoods has seen many of them attributed with positive health impacts ranging from improving blood circulation and better sleep to reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease.
The Superfood Top Five
Available to buy from most supermarkets, blueberries contain the highest antioxidant content of all fresh food. Oxygenated radical cells in the body are known to provoke the development of diseases and illness, and so blueberries help reduce this potential for dangerous cellular growth. Blueberries are also rich in vitamins, phytochemicals and soluble fibres, all of which are claimed to boost the immune system, memory, vision, and the brain as well as helping to reduce the effects of aging.
Making it part of your day: Blueberries are a delicious and extremely versatile type of berry that many already intake on a regular basis. You can easily make blueberries a part of your daily diet, whether you add them to your porridge, a smoothie, or use them in baking blueberry muffins or your morning pancakes.
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Currently undergoing something of a phase in the beauty world where its richness is being used to hydrate skin and hair, coconut oil is a “good fat” rich in lactic acid and dietary fibres which helps counteract the effects of “bad fats”. With potential health benefits including improved digestive and cardiovascular health, weight loss and a bolstered immune system, making coconut oil a part of your life is a must.
Making it part of your day: Coconut oil is a natural replacement for all processed oils and margarines, making it one of the easiest superfoods to integrate into your cooking routine. Most recipes can be adapted to include coconut oil and so you can quickly access all the nutritional benefits of coconut oil, especially compared with the negative health impacts of typically used oils such as sunflower and rapeseed.
Perhaps one of the best-known superfoods, the deep, vibrant green colour of this vegetable gives away its richness in nutrients and goodness (this is also true of other dark, leafy greens such as spinach and cabbages). Loaded with vitamins A, C and K, as well as fibres, calcium and minerals, kale is known to lower cholesterol, protect teeth, bone and eye health, as well as aiding blood circulation.
Making it part of your day: Similar to spinach, kale is available all year round and can readily be made part of your weekly diet. It is a versatile food stuff that can be fried, boiled or used as part of a salad. Without a uniquely potent flavour, you can also add kale to smoothies and shakes to bump up the health benefits of your concoction.
A native of the Americas and Mesopotamia, the cacao bean is famously used in the production of chocolate and is known to be rich in antioxidants, magnesium and lipids. As well as promoting cardiovascular health, cacao is also responsible for the uplifting effects often associated with chocolate, battling free radicals and a known preventer of feelings of depression.
Making it part of your day: Raw cacao powder can simply replace cocoa powder at the base of all your chocolatey treats for you to access all of its health benefits. From fudge cake and chocolate muffins to tiffin and hot chocolate, you can even integrate raw cacao powder into unthought-of areas of your diet such as dusting over your morning porridge or yoghurt.
An exotic berry from South America packed full of antioxidants and healthy fats, acai berries offer a panoply of potential health benefits including improved heart health (thanks to its anthocyanins), reduced inflammation and improved circulation, as well as helping to promote weight loss. Another little-known fact is that the acai berry can also be used topically as a moisturiser and can protect skin from cellular damage.
Making it part of your day: Acai berries have become one of the more popular superfoods, used in acai bowls topped with other superfoods including blueberries and kiwi. Acai berries are said to contain a taste not too dissimilar to dark chocolate, and so make for a flavoursome addition to breakfast porridges and smoothies too.