There is so much talk around superfoods lately and the health benefits of including them in your diet. As a doctor who specializes in anti-aging strategies, I can truly say that the addition of superfoods to your daily food intake optimizes health and lowers the risk of disease. When I recommend to my patients that they should add more greens and whole foods to their diet they inevitably want to know more about what, why, and how.
Superfoods – What are they?
Superfoods are whole foods that have been identified by leading nutritionists, and dieticians as being high in a variety of essential vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – the substances in all plants that give them color, flavor and disease resistance. Superfoods contain more disease fighting compounds than other foods with similar amounts of protein or fat.
Although all fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and nutrients, some contain far higher amounts of these nutritional properties. These foods have become known as superfoods and the description is obvious when you learn more about their healthy powers. It’s as though nature loaded all the nutritional necessities into a wonderful array of foods for all to enjoy.
However, even though green foods are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, most people don’t eat enough servings to reap their benefits. Greens infuse your body with easily absorbed vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fiber, chlorophyll, enzymes, and alkaline minerals that help to neutralize acids in the blood and tissues.
Superfoods – Why are they important?
Without getting too technical let’s take a look at the three major benefits jammed packed in all superfoods and why they are so important: antioxidants, nutrients, and fiber.
Antioxidants strengthen the immune system, muscles, bones and skin by protecting the body from wear and tear. As we age, cell-damaging “free radicals” begin to form due to stress, excessive exercise, extended sun exposure, and unhealthy processed and sugary foods. Antioxidants stabilize cell-damage and minimize the damage caused by free radicals.
ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. This acronym is one of the critical anti- aging functions of superfoods. Experts recommend 3000-5000 points daily intake to slow down the aging process.
To give you a better idea of ORAC values see the table of Superfoods listed from USDA Agricultural Research Service, February 1999.
SAMPLE SUPERFOODS ORAC VALUES (PER 31/2-OZ SERVING)
Blueberries – 2400
Most of these foods contain important vitamins and minerals needed in your diets but are usually lacking. They include Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and B vitamin folate, magnesium and potassium. Certain pnes also contain good carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats.
The recommended amount of fiber needed in a healthy diet is 25-30g/daily. The typical American usually takes in half that amount which is why I encourage eating more whole foods. They aid in digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Fiber increases insulin effectiveness and gives you a feeling of fullness while lowering your risk of disease.
Superfoods – How can I get enough?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is at least two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables every day (America Journal of Preventive Medicine, April 2007). Unfortunately, only 11% of adults in the United States meet that guideline.
If you are a veggie lover but don’t know which foods are best for you, try adding a few of these Superfoods to your diet:
Beans and legumes
Blueberries and Bilberries
Sweet Potato (orange)
Tea – green or black
On the other hand if you don’t like the taste of vegetables but still want the superfood health advantages here is good news! There are powders and supplement formulas with high concentrations of superfoods that will help provide you with the anti aging benefits.
There’s no excuse for not getting all the healthy nutrient-rich greens and whole foods one way or another. The most important thing is to find a way to consume the recommended daily amount of superfoods in a way that works best for you.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Institute For Healthy Aging