You are what you eat, right? We’ve all heard the saying, and there’s some convincing evidence to support it. Poor diets can lead to heart disease, diabetes and other nasty chronic conditions. In war against the baddies that you pick up through the drive-thru, nutritionist and health experts have labelled some choices as superfoods. Their aim is to point out those foods that give you the most bang for their buck (or nutrients for their calories in this case).
But are superfoods just marketing hype or are these foods really out there to save the world? Let’s take a look at a few.
Almonds have long been labelled as a superfood, but let’s break it down. Almonds are packed full of vitamin E (helps build healthy cells), calcium (helps build healthy bones), magnesium and potassium (essential for keeping the body running) and are a significant source of protein and fiber. What does all that mean? Almonds pack a punch in a small package. Think about healthy foods like chicken or bananas - both are healthy in their own right, but contain pretty much just one healthy nutrient, protein and potassium respectively. With an almond, you get a whole lot more and in a smaller, very portable package.
The fiber and protein work to keep you full and the vitamins and minerals help keep your body running. Superfood, indeed. Just be careful about how you consume almonds. One serving of almonds is only 23 nuts. And often, almonds are packaged as roasted or coated in sugar. Look for natural, raw almonds which will give you the best benefit without any unwanted tag-alongs.
Kale is a type of cabbage hat recently has gotten a lot of hype among nutritionists. Heard of kale chips, anyone? Nutritionists and chefs alike have recently been developing new ways of consuming this leafy green. Why? Just one cup of kale contains over 100% of your daily recommended values for vitamin A, K and C. It also contains good sources of calcium and potassium. The best part? One cup only has 33 calories, less than one bite of a Big Mac. Looking for the best way to spend your calories? Kale has to make the list.
But kale?? Kale has a bitter and almost pepper-like taste that can be a bit off-putting. For tips on how to cook with this superfood, check out this article.
This is the superfood we’re all rooting for—a bona fide reason to eat chocolate everyday. So how does it break down? Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids. What are flavonoids? Flavonoids are chemicals found in plants that have been known to have antioxidant health benefits. What are antioxidants? These are substances that can prevent or delay some types of cell damage. So, the nutrients found in cacao can help slow the hands of father time. Interesting!
But there are a few catches. The chocolate has to be at least 70 percent cacao to gain enough of the flavonoids to be beneficial. The more cacao, the more bitter. The traditional Hershey bars (mostly milk, butter and sugar) aren’t going to do it for your health. More is definitely not better when it comes to dark chocolate. Pure cacao is very bitter. The chocolate you know and love has A LOT, and a I mean A LOT of sugar and butter to balance the bitterness. Meaning that even at 70 percent cacao, it’s going to have a lot of calories. Just one ounce should be all you need each day of this superfood - yep, that’s about the size of those mini-halloween versions.
Superfood is definitely a marketing term used to sell more products, but there is some truth behind the hype. These foods are nutrient-dense, helping your body age with grace. But they’re not without their drawbacks. As with any food, do your research, read packages, discover what nutrients help your body in what ways. What you put on your plate may just be the thing you need to age with grace.