Superfoods, or supergreens, are a powerhouse source of nutrients that is only recently coming to the forefront. Yes, we have been subconsciously manifesting their benefits across centuries, but it is only recently that we have realized that they can be classified into a group of their own and consciously integrated into our diets. In the world of fitness and wellness, today, superfoods are an indispensable asset to being our best selves.
What are Superfoods?
Essentially, superfoods are any nutrition-dense organic food. It is an umbrella term that includes a variety of nutrition-packed food items such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, mushrooms, algae, oils, herbs, etc. Since superfoods are plant-based to a great extent, they are often referred to as supergreens.
Interestingly, superfoods have actually been a part of our everyday diets for a while now, even if we were not consciously incorporating them. For centuries, these ingredients have been staples in native cuisines or indigenous medicine across cultures- having been passed down to us by our forefathers who recognized their bountiful benefits. Modern research, however, has brought into our notice a lot of these forgotten gems, as well as some undiscovered superfoods packed with nutrients we had been missing out on so far.
Why Are Superfoods Such a Big Deal?
While superfoods are not exactly ‘miraculous’ cures, they do have remarkable health benefits with consistent usage. Not only do they provide your body and mind with nourishment to help repair and maintain its optimum functioning, superfoods also ensure holistic cures or deterrents to a plethora of diseases and disorders that may plague either the body or mind.
Today, given our fast paced modern lifestyle, we have horrible work-life balance and are constantly on the move. Our work hours are irregular, as are our eating and sleep schedules. We are constantly exposing ourselves to an environment that is at its record toxicity. We are putting our body and mind through immense stress and grind, without giving it the rest and nutrition it sorely needs to replenish itself. As our mind and physique crumbles, we are put under added pressure to make up for our diminished productivity- and there lies the vicious cycle that we are succumbing to courtesy today’s hustle culture.
Here is where superfoods come in. Packed with nutrition, they hold the key to giving your body the hefty dose of nutrition it requires to keep it from crashing. They are further efficient for our on-the-go lifestyle as we can focus on a few key ingredients to deliver the nutrients we need. Since each superfood offers a broad-spectrum list of benefits, just a few of them are likely enough to cover most of our nutritional requirements along with any specific areas of concern.
Benefits of Superfoods
Superfoods are a powerhouse group of foods with a gigantic list of benefits, the most important of which are discussed below:
- Nutrition Density
Despite their modest calorific value, superfoods are stuffed to the brim with nutrition- thus qualifying them as ‘nutrition-dense’. Packed with nutrients ranging from vitamins, minerals, and fiber, to enzymes, phytonutrients, and amino acids, superfoods offer rich nutritional benefits.
- Antioxidant Nature and Boosts Immunity
Antioxidants are natural molecules that help negate the toxic effects of free-radical damage on our bodies. Superfoods are typically extremely rich in antioxidants due to the presence of flavonoids in them, thus helping repair, and to some extent reverse, free-radical damage. This antioxidant quality of superfoods makes it a great defense against immuno-degeneration, cancer, neural-disorders such as Parkinson’s Syndrome, arthritis, etc. Antioxidants are crucial for maintaining and boosting immunity- which consequently becomes a key benefit of superfoods.
- Controls Cholesterol and Improves Heart Health
Isoflavones, a phytochemical predominant in superfoods, are very effective in regulating LDR and cholesterol levels. Monosaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids, other common superfood nutrients helps increase ‘good cholesterol’ levels, and maintain heart health by reducing cholesterol buildup respectively.
- Manages High Blood pressure and Diabetes
The flavonoids present in superfoods, or ones that have high levels of vitamin C, are perfect for keeping diabetes and high BP in check. Resveratrol, a polyphenol, also helps control diabetes by keeping blood sugar levels under control.
- Improves Gut Health and Facilitates Bowel Function
One of the main benefits of superfoods is improving our gastrointestinal health and facilitating regular healthy bowel movements. Rich in probiotics and fiber, regular consumption of superfoods is wonderful for the gut, and prevents gastrointestinal infections, diarrhea, irregular bowel syndrome, etc.
- Helps with Stress and Anxiety
Our nutritional intake plays a huge factor in determining our emotional response, and bad nutrition has been associated with exacerbating depression, anxiety, stress, fatigue. Etc. Superfoods are perfect for combating this with its potent burst of nutrients and boosting testosterone. Folates, for instance, reduce depressive tendencies, probiotics help regulate our stress levels, and vitamin D boosts our happiness. Antioxidants and phytonutrients are also great for improving our body’s response to environmental stressors.
- Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Carcinogenic
Flavonoids such as quercetin and antioxidants like catechin present in superfoods have anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. These nutrients also help combat the adverse effects of chemotherapy on the body.
Some commonplace food ingredients that may be classified as superfoods include:
- Green Tea (contains caffeine, antioxidants, polyphenolic compounds like catechin, etc)
- Berries (rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibers)
- Spinach (contains folate, iron, calcium, zinc, Vitamin C, fiber, carotenoids, etc.)
- Kefir (calcium, vitamin B, potassium, protein, probiotics, etc.)
- Olive Oil (rich in monosaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin K, antioxidants, etc.)
What are Superfood Supplements?
A whole food superfood-rich diet is the best gift one could be giving their body. However, given our lifestyle, incorporating the amount of superfoods we actually require to reap its benefits is cumbersome. Despite the broad-spectrum benefits of most superfoods, one definitely needs to mix and match the ingredients for a balanced diet that maximizes on the benefits of each component. To cut down on time, energy, and money, superfood supplements pose a great alternative.
In just a single serving of a superfood supplement, also called ‘green powder’, one gets the benefits of numerous whole food ingredients. What’s more, it is super convenient as a meal replacement to-go: just blend it into a cup of water or smoothie, and voila!
Popular Superfood Supplements
Some of the most popular superfood supplements in the market include:
- AthleticGreens (all-in-one nutritional solution targeted at high performers and athletes)
- SuperGreen TONIK (meant to boost the optimum functioning of one’s body and mind)
- Detox Organics (all-rounding solution that promotes better health, weight loss and detox)
Side Effects to Keep in Mind
Despite being organic, and typically quite transparent in the ingredients list, superfood supplements may trigger allergic reactions within the body, or react with other medication. A bleak, yet plausible, possibility of causing vitamin or mineral toxicity stands with superfood supplements as with most other nutritional supplements. They could also hamper recovery from surgery. Stackability with other nutritional supplements is an important factor to keep in mind when picking a superfood supplement. It is recommended that one always consume supplements under consultation with a doctor to rule out possible reactions or interferences.
Superfoods and superfood supplements are a great addition to any fitness routine or diet. However, one should always do their research about the ingredients- and when it comes to supplements, sticking to FDA-certified brands would definitely prove beneficial.