AN image of Popeye gulping down an entire can of spinach comes to mind when “super food” is mentioned.
Yes, there is such a thing as super food but no, it can’t quite give you that instant boost of energy or bestow you with super powers.
So, what exactly is a super food?
It is a natural food that contains compounds which provide natural health benefits or contribute to general well-being.
However, it’s not some wonder drug or supplement.
These are naturally available food that can lower cholesterol and keep diseases like cancer and diabetes at bay.
Young coconuts are known as the best source of electrolytes in nature. Electrolytes, which are ionized salts in our cells, help in transporting energy throughout the body. Young coconut water, containing similar compounds to blood plasma, enables you to feel instantly revitalised after a drink.
Since they function just the same, many say that it is better to drink coconut water in place of energy boosting drinks which are loaded in sugar.
Young coconut water is best taken as it is or if you like added taste, with a little bit of sugar and a squeeze of lime.
Fish or more specifically, the polyunsaturated fat in them - omega-3 fatty acids have a host of benefits. As far as the heart is concerned, omega-3 fatty acids prevent heart attacks by doing a number of things like inhibiting blood clots, lowering blood triglyceride levels, lowering LDL cholesterol levels and even lowering blood pressure albeit temporarily.
Studies have even shown that people with inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis may possibly benefit from a diet rich in omega-3s.
Fish high in omega-3s (more than 0.9g per 100g serving) include anchovies, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna. Mackerel, sardines and tuna are readily available as sandwich spreads that require no hassle.
Simply spread it over a slice of bread before you rush out the door and there you have it, your dose of omega-3.
NUTTY: Pine nuts are high in saturated fats.
Unsaturated fats found in unhydrogenated vegetable oils such as olive oil are known to lower LDL cholesterol levels. Both monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil and canola oil) as well as polyunsaturated fats (found in corn and sunflower oil) are known for this. Monounsaturated fats, however, are less likely than polyunsaturated fats to form free radicals, unstable oxygen molecules that can potentially increase the risk of cancer.
In fact, studies in several countries have provided a link between the consumption of olive oil and other monounsaturates with a decreased risk of breast cancer. Canola oil is an alternative to olive oil that contains the plant version of the omega-3 fats found in fish oil.
Although health experts would recommend the usage of olive oil in place of cooking oil, most may not be able to afford it. What you can do, however, is to purchase a small bottle of olive oil and use it as salad dressing in place of other unhealthy options.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts include tree nuts (almonds), seeds (sunflower, pumpkin) and also legumes (including peanuts). For years, nuts have a bad reputation with fat and calorie counts that seemed to far outweigh their nutritional benefits.
New research, however, suggests that nuts may actually lower the risk of heart attack and cancer. Despite the fact that some nuts are high in saturated fats (Brazil nuts, macadamias and pine nuts), most other nuts contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that actually improve heart health by reducing LDL cholesterol levels.
As a matter of fact, resveratrol, an antioxidant compound that protects against heart disease can be found in peanuts. A study shows that women who substituted animal protein with nuts more than twice a week had a lower risk of heart problems than those who did not.
Research also shows that almonds, walnuts and flaxseeds are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. You can simply add nuts and seeds, raw or roasted to breads, muffins, cakes, salads, stir-frys, and even yogurt or ice cream.
Garlic, or what it does to your breath afterwards, is a reason why many people stay away from it. However, scientists now believe that regular consumption can benefit you greatly by cutting the risk of several health threats.
For starters, garlic can kill microorganisms that cause diseases including those that antibiotics are unable to destroy. Compounds in garlic may also help protect against several types of cancer.
Its cancer-fighting properties include increasing the production of the glutathione peroxidise enzyme which helps to detoxify carcinogens and providing selenium, a cancer fighting mineral.
Garlic also lowers triglycerides and reduces blood clots, keeping heart problems at bay. Most experts agree that garlic is best eaten raw. Chop up some garlic and eat it with rice as is the Chinese custom. If you are not used to this, after a while, you will find that it does not taste all that bad.
Tea leaves, green or black are said to have great health benefits. Evidence says that tea might help prevent stroke, heart attack or even cancer. Green tea, produced by steaming and then drying tea leaves is the more popular of the two and for valid reasons too.
Antioxidant compounds called polyphenols can be found in abundance in green tea but much less in black tea because fermentation destroys them. Tea contains a polyphenol called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), known as one of the most potent antioxidants to be discovered.
It protects DNA from cancer-causing damage and blocks the enzyme necessary for the growth of tumors. Drinking green tea has also been linked with lower rates of intestinal and esophageal cancer.
PERFECT SNACK: Bananas are good energy boosters.
Green tea is also said to benefit the heart by inhibiting blood clots and protecting LDL cholesterol from free radicals, a potentially harmful combination. Studies show that drinking several cups of green tea daily cuts the risk of stroke and heart attack in half.
Fibre is always recommended to keep your bowel movements regular but what is being constantly overlooked is the fact that fibre plays a bigger role in preventing chronic disease.
There are two types of fibre; soluble and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre can be found in beans, pears, apples, oats and barley and they help lower blood cholesterol as well as stabilise blood sugar. Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, can be found in grains, cereals, seeds and vegetables and it improves bowel health. Both soluble and insoluble fibre play a part in preventing diseases such as colon cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Fibre takes longer to digest. It keeps you feeling full for longer periods, and aids in weight management. Start your day with a bowl of cereal. Add some apples and pears into your salads along with beans and you've got yourselves a whole load of fibre to snack on in between meals.
Yogurt is the byproduct of the combination of fresh milk and "good" bacteria. Yogurt is easily digested, rich in calcium and a good source of a whole lot of minerals. Evidence suggests that yogurt containing live cultures can prevent intestinal ills and potentially colon cancer.
What's better is that yogurt is one dairy product that people with lactose intolerance can actually consume since the bacteria has reduced the lactose in milk by two-thirds.
The L.acidophilus culture added to some yogurt is said to survive digestion and may help prevent colon cancer. Studies have shown that eating yogurt daily boosts immunity. Plain yogurt can be eaten with rice by simply adding some chopped onions, chillies and a pinch of salt. In fact, yogurt goes well with fish curry and even dhal.
If you have watched Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves, you are sure to be aware of the super powers bananas possess. In the movie, Mitch passes out due to potassium deficiency and Adam, after remembering that bananas have potassium, saves Mitch by getting Jenny to feed him some.
Aside from being jam-packed with potassium that helps lower blood pressure, bananas are also rich in vitamin B6 which promote healthy skin and hair. They also contain antioxidants, protecting cells in the body against damage caused by free radicals.
Bananas are also good energy boosters, perfect for snacking on before, during or after exercise. The best part about bananas is that they are easily consumed, no hefty preparation is involved. However, if you are not a fan of bananas, you can try adding a few slices into your bowl of cereal, oats or even ice-cream.
Dubbed as the miracle food, the soybean is an inexpensive and nutrient-filled source of protein. Being a staple in the typical Asian diet, scientists have pinpointed this food as the reason why people in this region often significantly enjoy a lower rate of major diseases.
Studies have concluded that adding soy to the diet lowers harmful LDL cholesterol levels while not affecting beneficial HDL cholesterol levels. Soy also contains plant estrogens that hinder bone loss and therefore prevent osteoporosis.
Soybeans, soy milk, sprouts, tofu, miso, and soy protein powder are readily available at hypermarkets. Have soy milk with cereal, add sprouts into prawn fritters or tofu into cutlets; your children will not be able to tell.
Now that you are armed with a world of information on super food, go out there and stock your pantries and refrigerators with some of these must-haves. Make that long overdue change to your diet. Add in some simple tweaks here and there to incorporate these simple, yet powerful foods into your meals.