Have you heard the term super food lately? It's becoming a huge buzzword among health care practitioners, and is appearing on product packaging from supplements to protein powders. But what exactly is a super food, and which ones should you be eating for a healthy diet?
The term "super food" is not regulated like the term "organic," but it's generally used to define foods where nutrient density is far greater than the caloric intake of the item. It almost always refers to a food in its pure state like a fruit, nut, seed or vegetable, but can also refer to a minimally processed product like cocoa powder (a super food!). Read on for our five favorite super foods, and why you should include them in your diet:
Kale: The King of the leafy green kingdom, kale is a highly nutritious food loaded with vitamins and minerals including A, C, and E, calcium, iron and phosphorous, important amino acids, a healthy dose of daily fiber, and a bounty of free-radical fighting antioxidants. Eating any type of leafy green daily - -particularly kale - - can also provide you with chlorophyll, which helps purify the blood and eliminate toxins.
Berries: Wherever you live, chances are you have access to some kind of seasonal berries. All berries contain antioxidants, which have been shown to fight the signs of aging, boost immune function, and may prevent certain types of illness including heart disease and cancer. They taste great fresh, frozen, preserved or dried, and have limitless culinary applications from the sweet to the savory.
Olive Oil: Myth: eating fat makes you fat. Simply not true! In fact, eating healthy poly and monounsaturated fats such as olive oil on a daily basis can actually help you lose belly fat. And we know that too much belly fat can put you at risk for serious illnesses including type 2 diabetes. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants and vitamins that may reduce your risk of heart disease and high cholesterol. It can also improve the texture and health of skin and connective tissue.
Seeds: From the teeny tiny chia seed to the monstrous coconut (biologically a seed!) and everything in between, seeds offer exceptional benefits to our health. Flax, hemp and chia seeds for example, are loaded with healthy omega fatty acids; quinoa, which cooks up like a grain, is incredibly protein-rich; pumpkin seeds can balance hormones; and coconuts provide hydrating liquids and beneficial fats. And that's just some of the most potent seeds - - there are many more that are both delicious and nutritious!
Chocolate: For real! Chocolate, which comes from the seed of the cacao fruit, is one of nature's most incredible super foods. It's incredibly complex, containing more than 1,200 compounds including powerful antioxidants, large amounts of the important mineral, magnesium, and unique chemicals phenethylamine and theobromine that trigger your brain to feel the same as when you're in love! No wonder we crave chocolate so much! So indulge a little, but make sure you get a pure, dark chocolate that has a minimum of 70% cacao. The milked-down, high-fructose corn syrup Hershey's bar is not going to give you the same health benefits as dark chocolate. And when using chocolate in recipes, you may want to try the raw bean (sometimes called nib) instead.
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