You may have heard the term ‘superfoods’ used quite often over the past few years, but what are they, what do they do, and how can you add them to your diet?
What are superfoods?
Do they wear capes? Can they fly or read people’s minds? Of course not (but wouldn’t that be great?). There isn’t a specific definition or way of testing what makes a food ‘super’, but it's simply a modern label attached to foods that are nutrient rich and good for your health.
We’re talking daily diet picks that are mainly plant based, such as spinach, blueberries, nuts, seeds, legumes, avocados and sweet potatoes to name a few. This can also include fish, such as salmon, eggs and also some dairy products like kefir – a fermented drink made using cow or goat’s milk.
It can be all too easy to grab a quick sandwich, reach for the chocolate at 3pm or pick-up a fast food bite, but adding superfoods to your diet is one of the easiest ways to up your five-a-day and provide your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to function and feel great.
Aren’t superfoods just a fad?
Not at all, but the term ‘superfoods’ is widely used in marketing and media to describe the nutritious and healthy food that is jam packed with key vitamins and nutrients. How many times have you scrolled through social media and stumbled across vibrant smoothies full of superfood ingredients that sound like a foreign language? While such powders as spirulina and maca are a great way of adding a nutritious boost to your meals, they’re not the main ways to get your superfood fix.
It’s important to remember that you needn’t rely on one or two quick-fix diets to be healthy and feel your best, as it’s all about adding nutrient rich food to your routine on a daily basis.
What are the different types of superfoods?
From fruit to veg - superfoods come in all shapes, sizes and styles. Here’s the low-down on a few superfood faves:
Dark leafy greens
Think kale, spinach and even broccoli, as they are packed with vitamins A, C and K.
We’re talking strawberries, blueberries and cranberries, which contain vitamin C, fibre and vitamin K.
Serve up a cracking breakfast, lunch or dinner, as eggs contain iron, amino acids and vitamins A and B.
These little wonders are a great source of fibre and also contain B vitamins. Try adding chickpeas, lentils, beans, peas and even peanuts to your diet and reap the benefits.
Nuts and seeds
The list is endless, but a handful of almonds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds can contain roughly 13g of protein, as well as helping to regulate your blood sugar too.
Ginger and turmeric
Being vibrant in colour and punchy in taste aren’t the only positive things about these spices, as ginger is a great source of potassium, and turmeric contains high levels of iron.
More popular now than ever before, and we can see why! Crack one open to unlock folic acid, omega 3, potassium, fibre, magnesium and vitamins A, C, D, E and K.
Packed with omega-3 this may help improve eye and brain health, and also contains B vitamins.
Whether you steam, bake or mash – sweet potatoes are a great way to add vitamin A to your diet.
Also known as nutritional powerhouses, as they contain fibre, omega-3 and B vitamins. Add a few spoonfuls a day to your porridge, smoothie or stew for an easy way to add vitamins and minerals to your meals.
Why do I need superfoods?
Eating a less than healthy diet containing processed foods, sugars and saturated fats can make us feel less than tip-top, and can leave us feeling sluggish, tired and unmotivated. Therefore having a balanced diet and adding more nutritional and healthy foods to it, is one of the best ways to give yourself an energy boost and feel good. You wouldn’t put petrol in a diesel car and expect it to run, so we can’t expect to feel our best while loading up on junk food.
It all comes down to balance though, as adding every superfood to your diet in one day, or even one week, may mean you fall at the first hurdle. Start with one change, such as adding blueberries to your porridge, and work your way up from there.
How can I easily add them to my diet?
If you struggle to add plant-based foods to your diet then try making smart substitutions and ease yourself in. Why not try blending a frozen banana with a few squares of dark chocolate for a tasty alternative to ice cream?
Here are a few other ways to add nutritious picks to your diet:
- Add berries, nuts or seeds to your smoothies
- Pad stews and soups out with lentils, chickpeas or beans
- Give Meat Free Monday a go by having a mushroom burger
- Sprinkle crushed walnuts and almonds on top of your porridge
- Add maca powder to your homemade baking for a subtle sweet touch
- Replace chocolate and crisp snacks with raw veg sticks and avocado dip
- Replace egg-whites with avocado or banana in chocolate mousse
- Swap a bar of milk chocolate for a couple of squares of dark – it will satisfy your craving, and raw cocoa contains iron, zinc and magnesium
When combined with regular exercise and a balanced diet, adding a few of these top superfoods into your day can benefit many different aspects of your health.
How can I have a balanced diet every day?
Boots nutritionist Vicky Pennington says, "Eating well is about eating positively and recognising the beneficial effects that certain everyday foods can have on our health. We know that eating more vegetables and fruit is the second most effective way to reduce the risk of cancer, after not smoking that is. Researchers are learning more about the ‘phytonutrients’ that are naturally present in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and herbs. These powerful plant nutrients are increasingly being positively linked with our health and wellbeing."
All nutritious food is super, so start adding some to your diet and get ready to reap the benefits!