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What Is a Superfood?

By Maria Z. Price

"Superfood" is a popular term in the health food industry. It refers to foods that are low in calories and high in nutrients. Since the magic health pill has yet to be invented, superfoods are the body’s best bet. These antioxidant-rich foods reduce the risk for fatal diseases like cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, while allowing us to meet our daily nutritional requirements.


Superfoods include most fruits and vegetables as well as other foods like yogurt, salmon, and barley. Broccoli is one of the top vegetables because it contains calcium, folate, fiber, and vitamins A, C, K, E and the B vitamins, according to the "World’s Healthiest Foods." Berries are considered one of the best types of fruit because they’re high in disease-fighting antioxidants. Since different fruits and vegetables contain different vitamins and minerals, it’s best to consume a variety.


Superfoods require healthy preparation. Be sure to purchase fresh rather than canned fruit, and don’t add sugar. Try to consume vegetables raw whenever possible, and avoid unhealthy dips and dressings like ranch or blue cheese. For a healthy alternative, mix mustard with a bit of honey. When cooking superfoods like salmon and barley, use olive oil--another superfood--instead of butter. Finally, certain types of yogurt are loaded with preservatives and sugar. Look for a non-fat plain yogurt and add honey for a touch of natural sweetness.


Superfoods provide a variety of health benefits. Since they’re low in calories, superfoods are a great way to lose or control weight. Many superfoods are also high in fiber, which promotes digestive health; calcium, which promotes bone health; or omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health.


Many people adopt an all or nothing philosophy to nutrition, but this shouldn’t be the case. It’s nearly impossible to give up all unhealthy foods and consume only superfoods. The key is to eat as many superfoods as possible and practice portion control with everything else. As a general rule, try to consume three to five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, two servings of fish per week, and one serving of yogurt per day.


As the popularity of superfoods increases, manufacturers are introducing a wide variety of supplements to mimic the effects of these foods. Since supplements are not regulated by the FDA, they may pose unknown health risks. Always check with a health care provider before taking anything new. Whenever possible opt for superfoods instead of super supplements.

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