They are rich in nutrients and can provide important health benefits: these are the superfoods. Foods considered to be so functional that they can maintain or improve the state of health and defeat diseases. The interest of the food industry, of marketing and of those who pay attention to their health is concentrated on these plant-based foods, naturally rich in nutrients.
The advantages seem to be many, primarily they are natural products and, secondly, most of them have beneficial properties for the human body. In fact, most of all have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that are very useful for fighting free radicals. Furthermore, they have energizing effects, nutrients for the skin and body and benefits for muscles and organs.
Superfoods contain a variety of nutrients, such as healthy fats, thought to prevent heart disease, antioxidants, which are thought to ward off cancer, fiber, to prevent diabetes and digestive problems and phytochemicals that can have numerous health benefits.
The criticisms are mostly due to the concept of superfood. To suggest that these products are absolutely the best, given their intrinsic abilities, or even miraculous properties for someone, is a real exaggeration.
According to Kathy McManus of the Harvard Medical School in Boston, research has shown that healthy dietary patterns can reduce risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers: “The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet, which are mostly plant-based, have demonstrated significant health benefits and reduction of chronic disease”.
To compile a list of superfoods is not easy, since others are being continually added as they show particular properties. Let's try to list a small sample of those that are confirmed not only for trend, but also for their supposed effects on the human body. To which may be added common foods such as tomatoes, peppers, olive oil, chickpeas and lentils, garlic and onion, or more exotic products such as hemp seeds, reishi and shiitake mushrooms, edamame and tofu, moringa, maqui and even melon seeds.
It is possible that foods of animal origin can be included in the category, especially in function of the high protein intake and the significant presence of omega-3: we can thus find included in some lists also salmon, anchovies and sardines, or derivatives of milk like kefir or yogurt.
Acai berries: they are seeds that come from South America and contain a low percentage of sugar but a high value of antioxidants.
Avocado: the benefits of the fruits of Persea americana, which has a high caloric potential, are all in the monounsaturated fatty acids that protect the cardiovascular system, which we can also find in foods typical of our table such as olive oil.
Beetroot: they can be eaten as vegetables or drunk as juice. They contain high amounts of iron, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, but also vitamins of B and C groups. Moreover, thanks to their 90% water percentage, they also have a moisturizing effect.
Black cabbage: It is well stocked with vitamins and antioxidants and it is considered the king of superfoods. The kale belonging to the same family as the black cabbage and broccoli, not only has high glucose contents, but also seems to produce enzymes with anticarcinogenic effects.
Blueberries: they began their career as a superfood star in 1991, when the National Institute on Aging and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed an evaluation tool called ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), for measure the antioxidant power of foods. Blueberries were at the top of the list and it was calculated that their production in the United States doubled from 1998 to 2006 and continued to increase every year until 2016, despite the database being closed five years earlier by the USDA. They are rich in antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, compounds that have shown very interesting properties in vitro and in animal studies.
Broccoli and cauliflower: they are not exotic but rich in substances, isothiocyanates, which have shown appreciable antitumor activity in several studies.
Chia seeds: they are derived from Salvia Hispanica, a plant from South America, and contain high percentages of omega-3 and antioxidants.
Cocoa: it is a very powerful antioxidant thanks to a high concentration of flavonoids.
Coconut water: the beverage is made from still green nuts and is considered a more natural alternative to energizing drinks. It has high potassium content and moisturizing effects.
Edible algae: algae that are defined as edible, such as spirulina, are substances that have a high content of mineral salts but also vitamins such as B12 which is absent in other vegetables, calcium and iron. Algae are also an important source of iodine (and selenium important for absorbing iodine) and can be considered as a source of this mineral instead of iodized salt.
Ginger: it is an ingredient widely used in the preparation of herbal teas and desserts and can be ingested even in small pieces. It is a powerful antioxidant, as well as having anti-inflammatory and painkiller effects.
Green tea: it helps improve circulation by eliminating excess fluids. Moreover, it also intervenes in the reduction of body weight thanks to the presence of a high percentage of polyphenols.
Goji berries: there are two species, and their scientific name is Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinense. They belong to the Chinese tradition and have a high content of vitamin C and zeaxanthin (7.38 mg per 100 grams of product), a carotenoid that has proven positive effects on degeneration of age-related eye tissue. Furthermore, they contain high percentages of omega-3 and 6, useful for fighting cholesterol and keeping blood pressure low.
Honey and royal jelly: the properties of these substances have been known since ancient times as nutritious products and also for their energizing effect. Furthermore, they have an anti-inflammatory and healing effect.
Maca Roots: originating in the Andes, they are often used to cure the loss of desire. Moreover, it intervenes on the muscles by removing the sense of fatigue with a toning effect.
Pomegranate: it has beneficial properties due to its content of phenolic substances that can fight prostate cancer. Its grains are rich in mineral salts, act as a drainage for the body and have a high content of vitamin C very suitable for cellular skin regeneration. Its juice also performs an antibacterial action against Escherichia coli, Salmonella tiphy and Pseudomonas ferruginosa. The fruit, which takes on a natural antibiotic function, contains tannins that can inhibit the spread of the genital herpes virus.
Quinoa: it is one of the few vegetal elements that has a high content of essential amino acids, proteins, vitamins and mineral salts. It intervenes in improving the metabolism, as well as having high percentages of antioxidants and calcium. It is often used in diets due to its satiating effect.
Turmeric: it is widely used for its antioxidant capacity, but also for the properties that accelerate skin healing. Furthermore, it helps to stimulate the immune system as well as having analgesic characteristics by acting on joint pains.