You may have come across the word ‘superfood’ on multiple platforms like social media, food blogs, health magazines, and product websites! Many people now view these ‘superfoods’ as miraculous foods, which provide all the necessary nutrients that a body requires. But the term ‘superfood’ was created for marketing purposes. Though consuming only ‘superfoods’ does not substitute for a balanced and healthy diet, there are multiple benefits to adding them to your meal. Superfoods are nutritional powerhouses that can help boost our health when consumed alongside a wholesome diet and physical exercise.
The term ‘superfood’ has also been used to describe an endless number of foods, leaving non-scientific folks confused about which foods to consume for better health. But research indicates that some foods are more worth the hype than others. These superfoods usually provide either high nutrient content, antioxidants, or decrease the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, among many other benefits.
Moringa is commonly known as the drumstick or drumstick tree in India and is often used in South Indian dishes. One interesting fact about Moringa that you probably did not know is that the leaves, fruit, and stem of the tree can all be consumed. The drumsticks are very nutritious and have high amounts of potassium, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin A, C, D, essential amino acids, fiber, antioxidants like beta-carotene and flavonoids, and anti-inflammatory properties. The leaves have high fiber, and research suggests that they help reduce blood sugar levels and blood cholesterol. Moringa has become quite popular in its natural and powder form now, and many people mix both forms into shakes, teas, and supplements. You can also consume parts of the Moringa raw, cooked, or as oil.
You should ideally choose raw unprocessed honey from local producers, over-processed honey found in packaged store products. Raw honey retains many of the nutrients that pasteurized honey loses in the process of pasteurization. The phytonutrients or plant compounds that safeguard plants, give raw honey antioxidant, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. Research suggests that honey kills bad bacteria and fungus in the body. A spoon or two of this honey can also ease a sore throat. One new type of honey is the Moringa honey, which has become quite popular.
Green Tea originated in China, though it is now commonly consumed worldwide. It is an excellent source of antioxidants and polyphenolic compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. The most important and available antioxidant in Green Tea is EGCG, which research suggests protects against chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. The presence of catechins and caffeine means that green tea might be a healthy weight loss tool, provided health professionals are consulted.
All millets are gluten-free, have a low glycemic index, and high protein and antioxidant levels, which all together help control or prevent diabetes. The finger millet or Ragi interestingly originated in West Africa, and not in India as is commonly believed, though millets are definitely a major staple food in India. Ragi is a whole grain and is packed with nutrients, including high levels of dietary fibers, calcium, potassium, and amino acids, along with some amount of antioxidants. It’s also gluten-free, which is a plus for you if you are allergic to gluten or do not prefer gluten products! Kodo millets, foxtail millets, and little millets are also great and healthy substitutes for other staple foods like rice and chapati.
Turmeric is a spice traditionally added to produce flavor in dal and curries, and has been a key ingredient in Indian cuisine for thousands of years. It is particularly known for its anti-inflammatory benefits, helps ease irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, eye and skin conditions, and potentially neurological disorders. It is also used as an antiseptic to treat wounds and as an anti-bacterial food to protect the immune system. Turmeric is traditionally taken with milk to fight sickness. Turmeric first emerged as an Ayurvedic medicine in Ancient India, which aimed to cure illnesses and diseases.
Nuts and Seeds:
Some research suggests that nuts and seeds can protect against heart disease because they have monosaturated fats. They are also a great source of plant protein and rich in fiber. Some tasty and healthy nuts you can eat are almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, and peanuts, and some equally nutritious seeds include sunflower seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, and flaxseeds. Many of these nuts and seeds are eaten with oats and other breakfast items. You might have noticed in particular that many Instagrammers and food bloggers use chia seeds in oatmeal.
The rich color of berries is not just visually appealing but also indicates that they are rich in antioxidants. High antioxidant levels mean that they can potentially reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other inflammatory diseases. Berries are also high in fiber and help fight digestive and immunity-related conditions. You can consume berries like raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and cranberries in breakfast dishes, or eat them raw.
Amla, or the Indian Gooseberry, has a bitter aftertaste that takes you by surprise at first. But once you get used to or even started enjoying the bitterness, there are lots of benefits attached to it. Amla has multiple vitamins, particularly Vitamin C, which makes it excellent for the hair and skin, and is rich in fiber. Eating Amla can potentially help improve eyesight, heart health, and lower blood sugar levels. You will feel rejuvenated whether you consume Amla raw, in a juice, or even a pickle!
Dark Leafy Greens:
Dark Leafy greens are a great source of nutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C, and fiber. They have high levels of plant-based iron in particular. Research suggests that consuming dark leafy greens may decrease the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart diseases and type 2 diabetes. The presence of dietary fiber can also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Some popular dark leafy greens you can eat raw, in salads, soups, and other dishes are spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, and Swiss chard.
Eggs have high cholesterol content but also high protein levels. When eaten in limited quantities, some research indicates that eggs do not increase the risk of heart disease or diabetes. Some people who eat eggs may find an increase in “good” HDL cholesterol, which is linked to a reduction in heart disease, though researchers are still confirming this finding. It is also high in vitamins A and B, choline, iron, phosphorus, and selenium. If you want to consume superfoods you can choose from a wide variety. Keep in mind the personal health requirements of you and your family, and consult a certified health professional as well. Also, ‘superfoods’ should be a part of a well-balanced diet rather than just a substitute for it!
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