Monday, March 19, 2012

Superfood Sunday: The 10 Best Common Superfoods

Over the last couple of months, I've talked a lot about superfoods that are not as easy to find in a market or grocery store.  However, there are some common foods that we all eat that have superfood qualities.  Remember, superfoods are any type of food that contains either an abundance of macro- and micro-nutrients or has some sort of powerful healing or therapeutic properties.  So, what (in my opinion) are the ten most powerful superfoods that everyone is likely familiar with?  Here they are:

1.  Avocados.  For most people, avocados bring up thoughts like "fattening" or "high in calories."  But, don't dismay.  Ounce per ounce, avocados have far less fat and calories than nuts or animal products.  The fat in avocados is mostly monounsaturated, which is great for the heart.  They are low in saturated fat and are easily digested.  In fact, the fat is easily used by the body, making them a great metabolism booster.  They are also rich in fiber, one of the best sources of potassium and have B and C vitamins.  Additionally, one avocado gives you more than half of your daily dose of vitamin K.  So, don't be afraid of this rich, tasty fruit.

2.  Blueberries.  You've probably seen this fruit on just about every superfood list out there, and there's a good reason for it.  Blueberries are low in calories, high in fiber and contain an impressive list of minerals and vitamins.  It makes this list though because of the deep purple pigment that gives it its color.  The pigment is actually an antioxidant that helps build the immune system, protect the eyes and fight free radicals.  They also contain other antioxidants like beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. Sure carrots might be good for eyesight, but blueberries are far better.

3.  Cabbage.  The first on this list of two from the Brassica family, cabbage packs a lot of nutrition into its thin leaves.  There are many varieties of cabbage, all of which are highly nutritious.  One of the most studied aspects of cabbage is its ability to fight cancer and heart disease.  There are also compounds that protect the blood sugar levels in the body.  Rich in vitamin C, cabbage helps fight inflammation caused by free radical damage.  If that weren't enough, cabbage is rich in minerals like potassium, magnesium and iron.  Be sure to buy organic, as the nutrition is compromised by poor soil and chemical treatment.

4.  Cacao/Chocolate.  If eaten in the right form, cacao (or cocoa) is one of the densest superfoods on the planet.  Rich in flavonoids that protect the immune system and the eyes, cacao one of the most antioxidant-rich foods you can eat.  It's also one of the best sources of magnesium, which is why many regular consumers report better bone density.  Pure cacao also has healthy fats, iron and many other phytonutrients that are just being explored.  If you have to have a chocolate bar, make sure it's organically grown and is high in cacao (70% or more).  Better yet, buy the raw cacao powder and learn to make your own healthy cacao treats.

5.  Figs.  Some fruits are high in sugar and calories and can cause overeaters to gain weight. Figs contain only about 75 calories per 100 grams and are low on the glycemic index. They are rich in fiber, minerals, several vitamins and contain antioxidants.  Like cabbage, they also help to fight diabetes by regulating the blood sugar.  Figs have a short growing season, so when the fresh ones are gone, try dried, organic figs for a wonderful treat.

6.  Garlic.  What superfood list could be complete without this amazing bulb?  While some of the claims about garlic range from modest to outrageous, even modern science is starting to accept many of the health claims made about garlic.  It's widely accepted that garlic can help lower blood pressure and stabilize cholesterol levels.  It acts as a powerful, natural antibiotic, without the terrible side effects of the drugs.  In case of a cold or flu, garlic can be a wonderful line of defense.  There are also antioxidants to keep the immune system strong.  If the order bothers you or a loved one, try aged garlic, which has all the benefits without the odor.

7.  Kale.  The second food from the Brassica family, this green leafy vegetable contains more nutrition than anything your mother tried to force you to eat off your plate.  Being low in calories and high in minerals, fiber and vitamins, this plant is another welcome addition to any healthy diet.  The protein in kale is easy to digest and higher than most vegetables.  Its antioxidants are great for the eyes, as well as the immune system.  It's also one of the best sources of vitamin K, which promotes healthy blood and bones.  If you're not a fan of the taste, blend it in green smoothie with other greens and fruit.

8.  Lemons.  One of the citrus foods just had to be on this list, and lemons are a great choice.  I don't have to tell you that lemons have a large amount of vitamin C, because it's well known.  What may not be as well known is that lemons actually help to alkalize the blood.  Even though they have a lot of citric acid, they become alkaline during digestion and help immensely with digestion.  Lemons are rich in other antioxidants that protect the skin from free radical damage and may help with severe skin challenges.

9.  Mushrooms.  This is the only superfood on this list that is not from the Plant Kingdom.  Mushrooms are a type of fungus that have just recently been studied extensively for their health benefits.  However, the benefits of these tasty additions to your diet have been known by cultures around the world for hundreds, maybe thousands of years.  The secret to the mushroom is in the carbohydrates.  Beta-glutens and polysaccharides are the long-chained sugars that science is just now discovering the potential of.  It's believed that these components have numerous benefits, including heart benefits, lowering of cholesterol, digestive health, cancer-fighting properties, and much more.  Unlike plants though, fungi have a cellular wall that is very difficult for the human digestive tract to penetrate.  It's best to steam or lightly saute mushrooms to break their cell wall.  Otherwise, they will just pass through the gut without any benefit.

10.  Walnuts.  Deciding which of the nuts to put on this list was not too difficult.  While all nuts have great benefits, walnuts are truly at the top.  The fat in walnuts is rich in monounsaturated fat and essential fatty acids like omega-3.  These oils have been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and other coronary issues.  Beyond the great fats, walnuts have an impressive list of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.  They are also used in alternative therapies to kill bacteria and fungus, due to its astringent properties. If you're looking to have better skin, walnuts are a great addition to your diet.

Stay tuned next week for another list of superfoods.  Stay healthy!

Mystic Merman

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