Nourish, heal your body with superfoods
The term ‘superfood’ is a fairly new term referring to foods that offer maximum nutritional benefits for minimal amounts of calories. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. No standard criteria or legal definitions classify any food as a superfood at this time; however, most superfoods are plant-based.
Antioxidants are natural molecules that occur in certain foods. They help neutralise free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are natural by-products of energy production that can wreak havoc on the body.
Antioxidant molecules decrease or reverse the effects of free radicals that have close links with a number of health problems, including heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke, respiratory diseases, immune deficiency, emphysema and Parkinson’s disease.
Dr Orlando Thomas, medical doctor and functional medicine practitioner at Thomas Medical Centre, said including superfoods as part of daily nutritional intake is great, but only when consuming a healthy, balanced diet overall.
“Studies have demonstrated that superfoods high in antioxidants and flavonoids help prevent coronary heart disease and cancer, as well as improving immunity and decreasing inflammation. Regularly eating fruits and vegetables also has strong associations with a lower risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions and overall mortality,” Dr Thomas said.
“The nutrients they contain help promote a healthy complexion, nails and hair, and increase energy levels.They can also help maintain a healthy weight,” he added.
Popular superfoods include moringa, coconut water, spirulina, bee pollen, eggs, dark chocolate, noni and aloe vera.
Moringa is traditionally used as a remedy for such conditions as diabetes, long-lasting inflammation, bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, joint pain, heart health and cancer.
“Moringa has many important vitamins and minerals. The leaves have seven times more vitamin C than oranges and 15 times more potassium than bananas. It also has calcium, protein, iron, and amino acids, which help your body heal and build muscle,” Dr Thomas said.
“It is also packed with antioxidants, substances that can protect cells from damage and may boost your immune system. There is some evidence that some of these antioxidants can also lower blood pressure and reduce fat in the blood and body,” he added.
Coconut water is now being touted as the latest Caribbean superfood. Drinking coconut water helps with athletic performance, weight loss, rehydration and electrolyte replacement.
“Coconut water offers more than a cool way to quench your thirst after a session at the gym. It is full of vitamins and minerals that give your body a real boost. Coconut water is commonly known for its high electrolyte content, containing minerals such as potassium, magnesium and sodium. Electrolytes like these are key for well-being and play a major role in rehydration and helping your heart rhythm and muscle performance,” Dr Thomas said.
Spirulina is often called a superfood because of its high nutritional value, which has significant impact on the health of the human body. Some of the many nutrients within it are highly digestible proteins, all the essential amino acids, and large amounts of beta-carotene.
It is also a source of gama-Linolenic acid and is rich in B-complex vitamins, contains minerals, trace elements, chlorophyll, enzymes and other nutrient groups like carotenoids, glycolipids and phycocyanin. Other than the basic nutrients, it also has many phytonutrients which are rarely included in a modern human’s diet.
“Spirulina has a wide array of uses in everyday life. It is especially found in major use in medicine; for example, the protection of the liver and kidneys, improvement of blood health and anaemia prevention, aiding in removal of heavy metals from the body, control of allergic rhinitis, and many others,” Dr Thomas said.
Bee pollen is a ball of pollen made by young bees when they land on a flower. It is a mixture of pollen, saliva, and nectar or honey. Bees carry these balls back to the hive in sacs on their legs and store them in the hive’s honeycomb.
Bee pollen in its natural form comes as small, crunchy pellets. You can add it to foods like yoghurt, oatmeal, or smoothies. It can be ground down as a supplement powder or into a capsule.
“The bee pollen has come to be renamed as the perfectly complete food for its composition. It contains 19 out of nature’s 21 essential amino acids, that is why it has been associated with unique properties as a nutrient. It is made of simple sugars, proteins, minerals and vitamins, fat acids and a small percentage of other components. Some of the minerals we can find in pollen are potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphor, iron and zinc,” Dr Thomas said.
Eggs, a favourite breakfast item, is a powerhouse of essential nutrients and vitamins that your body needs. “If any food item deserves the superfood tag, it is eggs. This ingredient is a staple in a variety of dishes and has an excellent nutritional profile. Eggs can be consumed at any time of the day and provide protein, 13 essential vitamins and minerals, as well as omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants,” Dr Thomas said.
The superfood of all superfoods, cacao, the dried seeds at the root of chocolate, is also one of the highest sources of magnesium in nature, full of antioxidants, calcium, zinc, copper, and selenium.
“Cacao contains more antioxidants per gram than blueberries, goji berries, red wine, raisins, prunes, and even pomegranates. It triggers three neurotransmitters that are associated with elevating mood and mental well-being: serotonin, dopamine, and phenylethylamine,” Dr Thomas said.
According to Dr Thomas, when you start nourishing your body with these foods, you start healing yourself of ailments that are on you for many years. “Many of these things that we have deficiencies for, we do not have tests for them, and the symptoms overlap. We have to do trial and error to figure out what persons are deficient in,” he said.