Superfoods are “natural nutritionally dense” foods, which also have extra synergistic health benefits which come from the “antioxidants” and “phytochemicals”. Let’s look at both of those statements in a bit more depth.
When a food is “nutritionally dense”, it means that the food has high levels of essential vitamins and dietary minerals that we know are required by human beings. That includes vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K and so on, and dietary minerals such as Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc and so on. But of course many foods contain these things. In fact, all foods we eat every day (even junk food!) contains at least some vitamins and minerals, so what’s this all about?
They key difference is that superfoods have an unusually high concentration of nutrients for their size, when compared to other normal foods. For example, the humble cucumber is mostly – 90% or thereabouts – water, so to get any decent levels of nutrients from a cucumber you’d have to eat an awful lot of them!
Superfoods are so potent that even as much as a handful can give you a decent sized portion of nutrients, sometimes providing your entire recommended daily allowance (or more) for individual vitamins or minerals all in one go. Now that’s truly super! Few foods show such high levels of nutrients in such small quantities, and that’s why superfoods are so beneficial. They can provide nutrition like you’ve never felt before.
OK next up, antioxidants and phytochemicals. These may be new to you, so I want to explain them a bit more before we get any further.
Let’s start with antioxidants. These are natural chemicals which prevent creation of free radicals inside the body. Free radicals cause oxidation, a process which damages cells when they react with oxygen. This damage is linked to many unpleasant conditions including premature ageing, degenerative diseases and some cancers. Antioxidants are like soldiers which stop the oxygen from damaging cells and in theory reduce the risk of illness. Probably the most widely known, Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an antioxidant which we require for various internal processes.
Secondly, phytochemicals. These are natural chemical compounds found in plants and animals, but which are not required for human survival. As humans we need some vitamins and dietary minerals for the various chemical reactions inside our bodies to work properly – that’s why they’re called “essential” , but we’re only just starting to really see the real potential health benefits of these new ingredients. Lots of the astonishing anti-cancer and anti-heart disease properties of superfoods are reported to come from various phytochemicals. Only a few year ago nobody talked about phytochemicals at all, now they’re commonplace.
Superfoods contain lots more than just strong concentrations of all the essential nutrients we need, they also contain large levels of phytochemicals and antioxidants making them even more powerful!
Here’s the big summary: Since we are human , and so we require different essential vitamins and minerals to live. If we don’t get enough of these elements, our bodies stop working so well. Modern research and new scientific discoveries have suggested that there may be new and more powerful nutrients that can provide anti-ageing, anti-cancer and anti-heart disease benefits. Superfoods are foods which mix of all this goodness together, and they taste great too – so there’s no reason not to start eating superfoods as part of a healthy eating diet.