Super Foods….what is it all about?
Yes, they are full of nutrients, and many say they are amazing and everyone should eat them. Even though many people are talking about Super Foods, there is no official medical meaning for the term “Super Foods”. The only result I can give you till this far is that many food experts and doctors do agree that some foods are more nutrient dense than others, they are very good for your health and you get some awesome benefits from them. Want to know more? Well keep reading…
Keep in mind that your focus should not be on eating super foods only. A diet filled with variety will be a diet filled with various nutrients. Which, in the end, is part of the ultimate goal to achieve balance in your diet, right?
So answer this: What is the healthiest part of an egg? Is it the egg yolk or the egg white? Well both are very important. Eggs are seen as a super food for its rich protein and nutritional profile. Yes the yolk does have cholesterol but it does not affect the blood cholesterol as bad at Trans fatty acids do. Eggs are another powerful tool in your hunger-fighting arsenal. One study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people ate eggs for breakfast (versus equal-calorie breakfasts of either cereal or croissants), they consumed up to 438 fewer calories over the entire day, because the egg kept them fuller for longer due to the high protein content. Other research indicates that an egg breakfast may help control hunger for a full 24 hours. Amazing! Other positive properties of yolks include the fact that they contain choline, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin D. Vitamin D helps with fat metabolism in the body and is needed for healthy bones. But very few foods contain vitamin D. Make sure to get some daily sun. Now don’t think of eggs as the heart disease causing food anymore. Remember moderation. Limit your intake of eggs to 1 yolk per day and use egg whites for the additional protein they provide. One of my favourite egg dishes is a breakfast veggie scramble that I make with 1 whole egg and 2 whites with leftover chopped veggies and served in a warm low-fat whole-wheat tortilla.
Almost all fish is good for you, but salmon out measures them all when it comes to healthy fish. Salmon is filled with really good fats like EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are very important in brain and heart health, but it is difficult for the body to make them, thus we need to include these fats in out diet. Salmon is also rich in protein and low in mercury. (Moms-to-be and young kids should avoid eating fish with high levels of mercury which include king mackerel, shark, tilefish and swordfish). Fish can be included in oven bakes, salads, soups, sandwiches and homemade fishcakes. Remember not to fry the fish, it is better to bake, steam, grill or braai the fish.
Nuts may be another surprise on this list, because are they not very high in fat? Studies show that contrary to popular myth, pistachios and other nuts may help squash hunger and control weight. Sounds good, doesn’t it? They all contain healthy fats, fibre and protein. So how will they make you lose weight? Nuts may help keep you fuller longer, and preliminary research suggests their calories aren’t fully absorbed by the body. But that does not mean you should over-do it. What’s more, in-shell pistachios provide a unique advantage for waistline-watchers. A preliminary study from Eastern Illinois University suggests that people who snacked on in-shell pistachios consumed 41% fewer calories than those who ate shelled pistachios. According to the authors, the empty shells might be a helpful visual cue about how much has been eaten, thereby potentially encouraging you to eat less. And it takes time to peal so you have a slower intake. Wall nuts get extra points because of their type of omega-3 fatty acids that can protect the heart. Almonds are a top source of vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that eliminated free radicals from the body. Peanuts are really legumes, like beans but they are high in folate and niacin. The fibres in nuts are high in calories so a little can go a long way. Nuts are a great addition to cereals, yogurt, and even your favourite dessert. There also perfect for a trail mix which can consist of pistachios, cranberries, and sunflower seeds. Yum!
Blueberries are a fibre rich super food and contain loads of antioxidants. Antioxidants help to protect your body from damage (free radicals) linked to such diseases like heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. All berries have antioxidants, fibre and vitamins. Strawberries have six times more vitamin C than blue berries. While many berries offer health benefits, raspberries are a hunger-stopping standout against the munchies. A one-cup serving of frozen red raspberries has only 80 calories and an incredible 9 grams of fibre. WOW! In fact, they’re one of the richest sources of fibre you can find. Because a high fibre diet makes people feel full sooner and for longer, it helps to reduce food cravings. Raspberries also provide a hearty dose of vitamin C, manganese, and potassium. Fresh berries are a delightful summer treat. But don’t limit the berry to the summer season only. You can buy frozen berries all year long. Thaw at room temperature for a few minutes and add them to cold cereals, yogurt, and over salads. An easy way to enjoy them is in a delicious breakfast smoothie. Blend 1 cup of both frozen red raspberries and low-fat milk with a medium banana for 60 seconds, and you’re ready to start your day.
Sweet potato is a low GI starch filled with vitamin A. It has almost four times the vitamin A you need per day. Vitamin A is our immune system booster, good for eye sight and brain development. Due to the fact that it is low GI it can assist with better glucose control in the body and keep your energy levels up for longer. White potatoes have no vitamin A, unfortunately and they can’t control the glucose levels like sweet potatoes, but they do have a bit more vitamin C and protein. Both are fat free but sweet potato is the better option to choose. The key is to skip the butter and the cream cheese on top of the potato. Sweet potato can be cooked just as is in the oven, boiled or wrapped in foil in a braai (Add cinnamon for taste instead of sugar), added to soups, mashed with other food and even grated raw and put into a salad.
Oatmeal is a whole grain with soluble fibre. This can help lower blood cholesterol and keep blood sugar levels stable because of the slow absorption. Oatmeal can also provide the feeling of fullness for longer. An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found fibre to be protective against weight gain. High-fibre foods take longer to digest, so you’ll feel full longer. Fibre keeps your bowels healthy and can help reduce cholesterol. Increase your fibre intake gradually, though, as a sudden increase can cause cramp and constipation. And make sure to drink plenty of water – aim for 1.2 litres a day – to avoid cramps and constipation.
Legumes are a three legged super hero to tame hunger because they’re packed with fibre, resistant starch and slow-to-digest protein. In fact, a study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, found that overweight people who ate a bean-rich diet lost nearly 4 kg in 16 weeks while also improving their blood cholesterol levels. Now that sound promising, doesn’t it? Legumes are classified as a vegetables and a protein so you killing two birds with one stone. Great! Other nutrient it contains is magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, folic acid and potassium. The smart choice would be to eat at least three cups of beans per week. Again due to high fibre content introduce the legumes slowly into the diet to avoid stomach cramps and remember the water consumption. Beans can be included in the diet in many ways like added to soups, and stew, what about your mince or even salads. Beans and legumes can also be mashed up for more calorie friendly dips like hummus.
Green tea is sometimes seen as a super food for it’s a top source of special compounds that seem to protect against cancer. Black tea also has these compounds but not as many numbers. Many studies have linked drinking both green and black tea to lower risk of cancer in some people. Lots of studies still need to be done on the mechanism of the above statement and in which people it works. But tea can be taken as a calorie free drink (if no sugar or milk is added) and help to control your appetite by filling you up. Make sure not to take tea when having an iron rich meal, the tannins in tea can affect the absorption of iron into the body.
Greek-style yoghurt is not something everyone likes due to the bitter taste but it is the better yoghurt to take due to its high protein content. Greek style yoghurt is made by straining the watery whey. This makes it a lot thicker than regular yoghurt. The yoghurt contains less sugar and fat than regular yoghurt, it is thicker in texture and may also make you feel fuller for longer. All yoghurt is a good source of calcium; some might have sources of vitamin D. Yoghurts with live cultures provide you with gut-friendly bacteria. Yippee! Just know that the fruit flavoured yoghurts, Greek or not, can add sugar and calories you might not want. Be sure to read the labels.
Dark green, orange and yellow vegetables tend to have fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are plant chemicals that may help prevent cancer. Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, turnips, greens and collard are rich in vitamin A and C. Plus, many vegetables, which are typically high in fibre, contain water. This provides calorie-free volume. Appetite control, here we come!
Take note that SUPER FOODS do not mean diet foods and that you can have as much as your heart desires. A healthy diet has balance, moderation and variety. The amount of calories in some of these super foods can add up quickly if you are not practicing mindful eating. Super foods are a great way to help you eat a nutrient dense diet. So be creative and make the most of it!
Tanya Alberts Dietician (April 2015)