If you are into cooking, are on social media or read a newspaper/magazine regularly then you have probably come across the term ‘superfood’. Headlines are constantly being flung in our direction urging us to include more ‘superfoods’ in our diets. The only problem is that half of us don’t even know what a superfood is. Sure, you probably get the gist of the term from its name but do you truly know what it means for something to be categorised as a superfood?
So, what exactly is a superfood?
You might be surprised to hear that there isn’t an official scientific definition for the word itself nor is there a list of characteristics that a food must have to be included in the category. A ‘superfood’ is understood in the health community as a substance that contains very high levels of beneficial vitamins and minerals. These foods will generally contain a high concentration of a nutrient in a small amount of food.
It is useful to include these foods in our diets to ensure that we are meeting the recommended daily amount of nutrients that our bodies need. Most people will be surprised to hear that a lot of the foods that they include in their weekly shopping list are considered to be a superfood. There are also a lot of superfoods that are difficult to source unless you live near a health store but for the purpose of this post, I’ll keep things simple. I like to buy groceries based on their benefits rather than their taste but I have yet to try a superfood that I don’t find delicious.
Here’s a list of a few of my favourite superfoods that can be found in your local supermarket and an explanation as to why they are so good for you
I have a handful of blueberries with my breakfast every single day. Not only do they taste delicious but they are also low in sugar and are very high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are essential to fight off free radicles which damage your cell walls. Blueberries are also packed with fibre and vitamin C and fight off cancer cells
2) Chia Seeds
These little seeds are full of goodness and so easy to incorporate into your diet. Chia seeds are loaded with essential fatty acids, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium and are high in fiber. Simply sprinkle them onto cereals, yogurts and soups or you can make a delicious chia seed pudding for breakfast or as a snack (there are plenty of recipes to be found on google).
3) Greek Yoghurt/ Coconut yoghurt
If you are partial to a bit of yoghurt then I would recommend swapping out your usual choice with a tub of the Greek stuff or coconut yoghurt. Not only is it high in protein but it is also packed with probiotics to help feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Greek yoghurt is also a great source of vitamin B12. You can even make a superfood-packed snack with greek yoghurt, chia seeds and blueberries for a nutritional punch.
We all know that it’s better for us to choose porridge over a big bowl of sugar-filled cereal but do you know why? Oats are packed full of fiber to keep you fuller for longer as well as aiding in digestion. They are also high in antioxidants, boost your metabolism and are great for your skin. On top of that, oats are known to lower cholesterol which is a problem that many people have.
Avocados have been available in our supermarkets for years but it is only recently that these fruits have become a hit. Avocados are packed full of nutritious benefits such as protein, fiber, vitamin b, potassium, healthy fats…. The list goes on and on. The great thing about avocados is that they are so versatile and can be mashed onto a slice of toast, blended into smoothies, turned into dips and can even be used in dessert recipes. Avocados are also great at keeping you full.
6) Sweet Potatoes
I would choose sweet potatoes over their white counterpart any day of the week. Not only are they far tastier than white potato, they are also higher in vitamins A and C and have a lower glycaemic index (meaning they won’t spike your blood sugar levels). They are also high in beta-carotene and antioxidants which have been shown to help fight cancer. There are multiple ways to eat them too! I love to make them, mash them, chip them and you can even cut them into long slices and pop them in the toaster a few times to make sweet potato toast.
Almonds are so easy to eat and contain a high dose of protein, zinc, iron, fiber, magnesium and fatty acids. They can be added to a wide variety of dishes or are great as a snack when paired with an apple. You can also buy or make almond butter to spread on toast, rice cakes or simply eat it by the spoonful (which I do far too often).
Salmon is a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Its fat content also aids in maintaining healthy skin and hair and maintaining insulin levels. I love eating baked salmon fillets with a side of vegetables and sweet potato or topping a slice of sourdough with smoked salmon and poached eggs.
Believe it or not, bananas have also been granted the superfood status by many health professionals (much to my joy! I’m obsessed with bananas). While bananas are quite high in fructose, when eaten in moderation they are very beneficial to ones health. Bananas are packed with potassium and tryptophan, an essential amino acid that boosts serotonin production which will put you in a better mood. Bananas are also a great snack to have before working out as they are light on the stomach, provide a quick energy boost and aid in muscle recovery.
This is probably one of my favourite superfoods due to its versatility. Courgettes are an excellent source of vitamins E, A and C, contains high levels of antioxidants and contain all of your essential amino acids. You can make a huge range of dishes with courgette as it has a neutral taste and sucks in any flavour you add to it due to its high water content. I love to add courgette to salads, smoothies, stir-fries, curries etc.. You can make noodles our of courgette by using a spiraliser and frying them for a few minutes on a low heat. Name a dish and I’ll find a way to add this veg. I have even grated it into my saucepan when making a batch porridge as it gives the dish a creamy texture and makes it more filling. I eat 1-2 courgettes on a daily basis and could probably eat more if I tried.
So there you have it! Ten superfoods that can easily be added to your shopping basket on a weekly basis and help to improve your overall health. Now that you have the basic information here’s some of my favorite recipes that can be made using the foods listed above
My favorite superfood combos
- Sweet potato toast topped with almond butter and banana
- Overnight oats: oats soaked in coconut yogurt overnight and topped with blueberries
- Chia pudding: chia seeds soaked in milk and topped with banana slices and sliced almonds
- Roasted sweet potato and courgette wedges
- Courgette porridge: oats cooked in a saucepan with grated courgette and topped with almond butter an sliced banana
- Avocado and salmon toast: a slice of sourdough bread toasted and topped with mashed avocado and smoked salmon
- Superfood supper: Baled fillet of salmon with roasted courgette and mashed sweet potato topped with avocado
- Stuffed banana: banana sliced in half and topped with almond butter and chia seeds
I hope that this post has been somewhat helpful to anybody looking to lead a healthier lifestyle. Stay tuned as I’ll be posting more health tips, recipes, etc. over the coming weeks.