Superfoods and their Health Benefits

Superfoods are natural foods that are rich in nutrients. These foods include berries, seeds, grains, algae, vegetables and fruits which can all have a positive effect on the body. Superfoods have a high quantity of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids and antioxidants. Whereas most healthy foods have two to three nutritional properties, superfoods tend to have 12 or more.

There are four main groupings of superfoods. They are as follows:

1. Herbal superfoods – healthy herbs are packed with vitamins and antioxidants. They also have lots of medicinal properties. Examples include nettle, aloe vera, echinacea, ginseng, devil’s claw, ginger, ginkgo biloba, marigold, turmeric, anise and basil.

2. Fruits and nuts superfoods – lots of fruits and nuts have antibacterial properties. Examples include acai berries, blueberries, cranberries, goji berries, mulberries, pomegranate, maqui berry, maca, almonds, walnuts, raw cacao and coconut.

3. Green superfoods – this grouping contains green vegetables which have high quantities of vitamins, proteins, minerals and fiber that promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Examples of green superfoods include wheatgrass, barley grass, spirulina, chlorella, and green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, kale, leeks, broccoli.

4. Other superfoods – examples include bee pollen, honey, royal jelly and a wide range of seaweeds.

The Benefits of Superfoods

Each superfood has its own unique characteristics and health benefits. Nonetheless, some of the more basic benefits that superfoods can provide include improving physical and mental health, strengthening the immune system, increasing resistance to disease, rejuvenating the skin, reducing the risk of cancer, protecting your heart and improving the metabolism.

How to Eat Superfoods

Superfoods are best consumed in their raw and original state. This is because many of the nutrients in the superfoods can be lost through modern processing. This can also limit or lose the many nutritional and healing qualities of the superfoods. If cooking is necessary, overcooking should be avoided. Heat tends to damage water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and destroy antioxidants that are found in the pigments of plant-based foods.

Herbal Superfoods

Herbs offer a wide range of nutrients to the body that it may not have otherwise received due to poor diet practices and environmental deficiencies in the soil or air. Medicinally, herbs work with the body to help heal and regulate it. It is best to use herbs in their whole form as opposed to isolating effective plant constituent’s so-called ‘active ingredients’. It is best to use herbs that can affect each part of a medical problem since most illnesses and all body parts are interrelated.

Herb superfoods include the following:

Nettle – nettle plants are known to have a sting but when dried and eaten, saliva neutralizes the sting. Nettle helps with removing excess weight. Consuming a cup (89 g) of nettle tea on a morning will help to improve a person’s bowel movements. Nettle leaves also help to increase metabolism, release mucus in the colon allowing for the flushing of excess wastes, treat anemia (due to its high iron content), decrease the chances of skin problems and increase the thyroid function.

Aloe vera – is a persistent succulent that grows in the wild. The aloe vera plant seems to thrive in tropical and sub-tropical areas. Research has shown that aloe vera has about 75 healing compounds. Some of these compounds are natural steroids, antibiotic agents, amino acids, minerals and enzymes. Due to its high quantities of natural sulphur, the Egyptians have used aloe vera as a skin moisturizer and treatment for burns, cuts, bruises, acne and eczema. Aloe vera juices tend to alkalize the digestive tract which helps to prevent over-acidity (a leading cause of indigestion, acid reflux, heartburn and ulcers). Aloe vera can also reduce cholesterol and blood pressure levels; prevent kidney stones; stop colon cancer; enhance oxygen levels in the blood; heal infections, cuts and burns; and protect the body from stress.

Echinacea – this plant is useful forwarding off the cold and flu, stimulating the immune system by building white blood cells and building up resistance. It also works as a natural antibiotic. Echinacea is also effective in stimulating the lymph flow in the body. The lymph runs parallel to the bloodstream and helps to rid the body of toxins. Echinacea can be taken in either liquid or capsule form for about two to three weeks during flu season.

Ginseng – Asians have been known to use ginseng as an energy source as it helps to rejuvenate the body from stress, anxiety and tiredness. It also helps people to recover from illness or surgery as it has restorative and anti-infection properties. Ginseng can also help with treating diabetes, preventing the growth of cancer cells, improving digestion, lowering the cholesterol levels and increasing the body’s immune system.

Astragalus – this herb can help to stimulate the immune system, boost the metabolism, help with minor digestion issues, reduce stomach acidity, increase the body’s metabolic rate, promote the elimination of waste material and help digestion.

Schizandra berry – this plan is often used in Chinese medicine as a liver cleanser and antiviral herb.

Turmeric – turmeric has very strong anti-inflammatory properties and is also packed with antioxidants.

Liquorice root – thanks to a substance called glycyrrhizin, liquorice root has great immune-boosting properties. Glycyrrhizin also helps to fight various flu viruses.

Rosemary and garlic – these herbs help to prevent cancer when consumed with cooked meat. It helps to reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines compounds. Garlic can also treat colds and flues, lower cholesterol levels, strengthen the immune system and prevent pancreatic, liver or colorectal cancer.

Ginger – ginger helps to reduce muscle soreness, especially after heavy exercise. It also helps to calm the stomach.

Mushrooms – the polysaccharides and other beneficial compounds in medicinal mushrooms help to increase the body’s immune system to prevent diseases and illnesses. Examples of these medicinal mushrooms include Agaricus blazei Murrill, lions mane, shiitake, reishi, maitake and cordyceps. These mushrooms contain antioxidants and help to boost the immune system and energy levels and prevent problems in skin or liver.

Fruits and Nuts Superfoods

Fruits and nuts provide the body with lots of antioxidants. They also help the body to get rid of foreign invaders. Depending on a person’s diet and lifestyle, free radicals and foreign invaders can strengthen in the body and weaken the immune system. The antioxidants in fruits and nuts strengthen the immune system and work against free radicals in the body.

The live enzymes in fruits also help to prevent heart attacks colon cancer, inflammatory problems and allergies. The proteins and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids in nuts help to reduce cholesterol levels.

We will now look at some superfood fruits and nuts.

Fruit Superfoods

Pineapples – pineapples are filled with fiber, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C and E, protein, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, calcium, sulphur, potassium, iron, and digestive enzymes. Pineapples are useful for the following:

  • Reducing swelling associated with allergies, arthritis, sore throat and sinus
  • Reducing the recovery time from surgeries and injuries
  • Treating arteriosclerosis and anemia
  • Reducing the chances of blood clotting
  • Building up healthy bones and immune system
  • Reducing colds and periodontal diseases
  • Digesting food (it contains a proteolytic enzyme called bromelain)

Mangoes – mangoes are filled with fiber, vitamins A, B6, C and E, zinc, manganese, potassium, polyphenols, live enzymes, carotenoids, pectin and copper. Mangoes are useful for the following:

  • Improving healthy skin, mucous membrane, eyesight, dryness of the eyes, itching or burning eyes
  • Boosting the body’s immune system against foreign invaders
  • Protecting the red blood cells
  • Controlling the heart rate
  • Help with iron absorption
  • Treating cancers such as breast, colon, prostate and leukemia
  • Help with high blood pressure
  • Preventing constipation, stomach inflammation, morning sickness and chronic dyspepsia
  • Normalizing the levels of insulin, blood sugar
  • Preventing heart strokes and heat exhaustion in summer
  • Helping with anemia, menopause and pregnant women

Berries – cranberries, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, salmon berries, blackberries, acai berries and goji berries all have many health benefits. Berries are rich in vitamins C, E and K, B vitamins, amino acids, manganese, selenium, iron, zinc and dietary fiber. They are great sources of antioxidants and help with the following among other benefits:

  • Treating infections and other diseases such as strokes and cancer
  • Lowering the cholesterol level
  • Reducing the chances of stomach cancer
  • Improving the memory loss against ageing process such as Alzheimer’s disease
  • Improving mental health as well as physical health.
  • Lowering the blood pressure
  • Fighting against free radicals in the body
  • improving the bone structure
  • Raising the concentration of oxygen and hemoglobin in the blood
  • Reducing the chances of heart disease

Papaya – papayas are filled with folic acid, fiber, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, fiber and vitamins A, B and C. Papayas are useful for the following:

  • Improving the body’s immune system
  • Protecting the body from colds, ear infections and flu
  • Protecting the body against colon cancer
  • Treating sports injuries, allergies and other causes of trauma
  • Preventing constipation
  • Treating upset stomach, nausea, and motion/morning sickness
  • Reducing the level of cholesterol
  • Treating rashes, stings, burns or cuts

Nuts Superfoods

Walnuts – Walnuts are filled with anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts are useful for the following:

  • Protecting you against heart problems
  • Fighting against cancer
  • Lowering the level of LDL cholesterol          and the risk of heart disease

Almonds – almonds are filled with fiber, calcium, selenium, copper, potassium and vitamin E. Almonds are useful for the following:

  • Cleansing the colon and prevent colon cancer
  • Lowering the level of LDL cholesterol and the risk of heart disease

Cashew nuts – cashew nuts are filled with vitamins B6 and K, iron, biotin, copper, monounsaturated fatty acids and magnesium. Cashew nuts are useful for the following:

  • Helping with calcium absorption
  • Improving healthy bones
  • Lowering the risk of heart disease
  • Energizing the body
  • Fighting with free radicals

Pecans – pecans are filled with vitamins A and E, copper, magnesium, potassium, zinc and manganese. Pecans are useful for the following:

  • Lowering the level of cholesterol
  • Preventing the blockage of arteries

Brazilian Nuts – Brazilian nuts are filled with protein, copper, magnesium, selenium, fiber, vitamin E and niacin. Brazilian nuts are useful for the following:

  • Fighting with free radicals
  • Preventing the risk of breast cancer

Pistachios – Pistachios are filled with oleic acid, vitamin E, protein, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc and copper. Pistachios are useful for the following:

  • Preventing the body against diseases, cancers and infections
  • Helping with skin health

Green Superfoods

The phytochemicals and antioxidants in vegetables can increase the body’s immune system against diseases such as cancer or heart problems. Vegetables also contain many vitamins and minerals. We will now look at some vegetable superfoods.

Kale – kale is filled with fiber, magnesium, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, sulphur, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, carotenoids and flavonoids.

Broccoli – broccoli is filled with vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron and fiber. It also has anti-cancerous properties. Broccoli is useful for the following:

  • Preventing stomach disorders
  • Curing stomach infections

Wheatgrass – Wheatgrass is useful for the following:

  • Regulating metabolism
  • Helping with food digestion and weight loss
  • Cleansing the body

Barley Grass – barley grass is filled with bioflavonoids, vitamin C, iron and calcium. Barley grass is useful for cleaning the body from heavy metals.

Chlorella – is a single-celled, green freshwater algae that helps the body to detox by binding to heavy metals and other toxins. Chlorella is filled with vitamins such as B, C and E and fiber. Chlorella is useful for the following:

  • Cleansing and detoxifying the body
  • Reducing cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Preventing blockage of the arteries
  • Preventing heart problems, cancer and strokes
  • Supports liver health

Spirulina – it is a type of cyanobacteria, which is a family of single-celled microbes that are often referred to as blue-green algae. It is one of the most nutritious foods, loaded with essential amino acids, various nutrients and antioxidants that may benefit your body and brain. Spirulina is useful for the following:

  • Protecting against oxidative damage caused by stress, aging or bad eating habits (super-antioxidant)
  • Providing anti-inflammatory effects
  • Lowering LDL and triglyceride levels
  • Reducing cancer occurrence and tumor size
  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Improving symptoms of allergic rhinitis
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Preventing anemia and fatigue
  • Lowers blood sugar level and acts against insulin resistance

Additional Superfoods

Bee Superfood

Royal Jelly – Royal jelly is where the queen bee resides. It is filled with vitamins B5, A, C, D, E and K, minerals and 18 amino acids. It also provides nutrients to the healthy skin and hair and can be used to treat stress, fatigue and insomnia.

Bee pollen – Bee pollen has about 7 times more protein than meat and is considered to be a complete superfood. It is also an anti-allergic. Bee pollen is useful for the following:

  • Helping with weight loss
  • Regulating metabolism
  • Enhancing the body’s immune system
  • Helping persons recover from illnesses
  • Providing energy and nutrition to athletes
  • Preventing heart problems, cancer and strokes
  • Fighting against sinusitis and hay fever
  • Slowing down the ageing process
  • Improving both mental and physical wellbeing

Honey – Honey has antioxidant and anti-cancerous properties. It is also an antibacterial and energizer. Honey is useful for the following:

  • Cleansing the body
  • Healing diseases such as sore throats, colds and flues, insomnia, allergies
  • Improving cuts and burns
  • Boosting the body’s immune system

Seaweed Superfoods

Seaweed is rich in many vitamins and minerals. It can be used fresh or dried. Seaweed’s chemical composition is similar to blood plasma. Seaweed can help to:

  • Alkalinize the blood
  • Protect the body against toxins,        mercury, harmful salts, other pollutions      and radiation
  • Neutralize the acidy in the body
  • Help with weight loss

Kelp – Kelp is filled with magnesium, magnesium, iron, calcium, iodine and protein. It can be consumed in both powder and capsule form. It is recommended for anyone who is mineral deficient.

Nori – Nori is filled with Vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B12 and B5, amino acids and omega 3 fatty acids. It is generally used to wrap sushi rolls.

Wakame – Wakame is filled with vitamins A, C, E and K. It can help to prevent breast cancer.

Irish moss – Irish moss is filled with vitamins B and C, protein, zinc, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and iodine. It can help to prevent breast cancer. It also has antibacterial properties. Irish moss can be used to:

  • Treat nausea, food indigestion, constipation, heartburn and ulcers
  • Protect the body from bacteria and soften the skin

Kambu – Kambu is filled with protein, magnesium, calcium and iodine. It can help to reduce the chances of getting some cancers, improve digestion and reduce gas.

Arame – Arame is filled with iron, zinc, manganese, vitamins A and K, folate and iodine. It can help to improve hair, skin or nails, boost the body’s immune system against bacteria and diseases like cancer.

Dulse – Dulse is filled with protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, E, B6 and B12 and minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, iodine and potassium.

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