The word superfood gets thrown around so often that the word super has all but lost any power it had. We need an upgrade…Ultrafood? Megafood???
But what’s in a name? Is a superfood by any other name still just as nutritious? Just because it’s a buzzword doesn’t mean you have to have it. You can still boost health, longevity, and energy with some clever additions to your diet.
These foods come in many different forms but what they all share in common is either unusually high amounts of either nutrients, or antioxidants, or both.
I’ll tell you about some of my favorites, and a few that I think are over-hyped. However, I need to be clear on something first.
A Word Of Caution
These foods may be “super”, but they can’t work miracles. If you are still eating a large amount of processed food and sugar, you would be better served by cutting down in that area first.
This may seem obvious, but as a former emotional eater I understand all too well how tempting it is to believe there’s a magic bullet that will make me healthier, in spite of an unhealthy diet.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy. But if you struggle with your weight, and with eating the right foods, you may be an emotional eater. You can find out for sure by taking my free quiz here.
If you understand that these superfoods are just one part of an overall health plan, then you are in the right frame of mind to jump right in and enjoy these superfoods.
The Great Superfoods You’ve Already Heard About
Trying to add new foods that you’ve never heard of to your diet can be overwhelming. To help ease that a little I figured we could start with a couple of foods that should be very familiar.
Each food going forward has an ORAC score attached. This number basically represents the amount of antioxidants in the food, with the higher score containing more antioxidants and the smaller number having fewer antioxidants.
This number isn’t the “end all, be all” because some foods have lower antioxidants but are still good to eat for other reasons.
Not many fruits can complete a taco salad quite like an avocado. Besides being delicious, avocados are loaded with healthy fats, and pack more potassium than a banana. Healthy fats like avocados can make you feel fuller longer and help you lose stubborn belly fat, too.
ORAC Score: 1922
You know you’ve loved these delicious fruits since your first bite of blueberry pancakes. While you might want to steer clear of the pancakes these days, blueberries are loaded with antioxidants. They are also high in vitamin K, vitamin C, and manganese.
One study in older adults demonstrated fewer errors on the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT) after consuming the equivalent of one cup of blueberries per day. We could all use a little increase in brain function!
ORAC Score: 4669 (and a whopping 9621 if they are wild blueberries)
Speaking of brain food, omega-3 fatty acids aren’t just a good idea, they are downright essential! Not getting enough over time can lead to memory loss, mood disorders, and possibly, even Alzheimer’s disease.
Your body doesn’t make this stuff on its own so you need to either take a supplement or get it from foods like salmon and sardines. Salmon makes for a better dinner (in my opinion) and it’s loaded with protein and potassium.
ORAC Score: 30
Okay, so they aren’t foods, per se, but the antioxidant count on these spices are impossible to ignore. Not to mention that they are already in your spice rack, so you might as well use them.
The spices we’re talking about are clove, rosemary, cinnamon, oregano, and turmeric. These ORAC values vary between the spices. For example, cloves are the highest (at over 60 times higher than blueberries) and turmeric is the lowest (27 times higher than blueberries).
It’s super simple to incorporate these spices into your daily life. Just add them to whatever you are cooking! You just can’t go wrong with spicing up the things you were going to eat anyway.
ORAC: 127,068-290,283 (this range depends on which spice you use)
The Lesser-Known Ones You Should Stock Up On
This little mushroom goes by many names. Whether you call it Maitake, hen of the woods, or sheep’s head, you still have a delicious and nutritionally-dense superfood.
Maitake mushrooms are high in vitamin D, and have been shown to slow down the growth of cancer cells in breast, renal, and bladder cancers.
If that weren’t enough, these mushrooms are also high in alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, which is what many anti-diabetic drugs are made of. This helps your body break down starch and, in mushroom form, the only side-effect you have to worry about is sharing your dinner with family members.
ORAC Score: 669
This is a miracle food for any of my vegan friends, especially those who happen to be cheese lovers.
The amount of protein and fiber in a 100 gram serving is 50 grams and 25 grams, respectively. That protein, I might add, is a complete protein that contains all nine essential amino acids, which is extremely rare among non-animal based foods.
This is as much as many of us will ever need in a day. The extra protein and fiber will keep you feeling full longer and help you lose weight.
Best of all, it’s plenty versatile enough that you don’t have to choke it down to eat it. The cheese-like quality lends itself to eggs, popcorn, vegetables, salad, mashed potatoes, and just about anything your imagination can feast upon.
ORAC: This value hasn’t been listed, but since this superfood proves its weight in gold in other ways the antioxidant score matters less in this case.
The Over-hyped Superfoods That You Shouldn’t Waste Your Money On
I don’t HATE acai berries. But they are wildly overpriced, compared to other berries (like blueberries) that are also high in antioxidants.
Not to mention that the health claims about anti-aging and drastic weight loss have little to no research to back them up.
This stuff is marketed as one of the best sweeteners for diabetics because it has a low glycemic index and it’s “natural”. (Arsenic is also natural!)
However, most of its calories are pure sugar and there is nothing in the research that suggests that agave nectar is any better than table sugar, or even *gasp* high fructose corn syrup.
Cold Pressed Fruit Juices
While cold pressed juice is definitely more nutritious than it’s less expensive counterparts, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. First of all, juice begins to lose its nutrients within 20 minutes after it’s made. So all the juice in the cooler at the store has lost most of its nutrition by the time you drink it.
Secondly, you are getting all the flavor and sugars from the fruits, but none of the fiber. While it’s a natural sugar and not an added sugar, it can still make an emotional eater (or anyone) crave sugar more often.
While there is still no magic pill you can take to cover weight loss, longevity, energy, and optimum nutrition in one helpful little package, superfoods might be the next best thing.
Hopefully the benefits of these superfoods has inspired you to try some new recipes in your kitchen and dust off some old standbys you may have forgotten about. Enjoy!