Superfoods have gained an unexpected super power – the ability to shift shapes from one form to another. With the focus on healthy eating expanding the superfood family, consumers are increasingly unsure, or misled, about what qualifies. We explore what makes a food super.
Wish as we might, we couldn’t simply slip a cape onto a Twinkie and claim that it is super.
This may be how some of us feel, however, when seeing foods on the grocery shelf that have gained super status. Sure, we’re all familiar with the preternatural benefits of salmon, blueberries, quinoa and kale, but do coconut oil, agave syrup and almond milk deserve the same “superfood” label?
The use of the term superfood has become so pervasive it has taken on an unexpected power – the ability to shift shapes from one form to another. As a result consumers are increasingly unsure, or misled, about what qualifies.
Exactly what makes a food super, and just how important is it to feed them to our families?
Superman Flies, Superfood Nourishes
Anyone who has a kid with superhero worship should understand what makes superfoods stand apart: They possess special properties that enable them go above and beyond the average.
Superfoods “offer tremendous dietary and healing potential,” according to NaturaNews.com. “They are powerful sources of clean protein, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, good fats, essential fatty and amino acids, and other nutrients that offer deep levels of nutrition.”
In a nutshell, a superfood’s nutritional makeup is markedly greater than what our bodies need to survive – it packs more nutrients per bite than other foods.
By this definition, many natural foods qualify, including a broad spectrum of veggies. More on that soon.
First, let’s underscore why it’s so important for kiddos to eat superfoods. If kids love superheroes, and we are what we eat, then the explanation is pretty clear.
Superfoods, because of their nutritional density, can help reduce inflammation and fight off a range of chronic illnesses, from the common cold to cancer. Their oxygenating and metabolism-boosting properties give us more energy, so we feel more alert and focused, which is crucial in the classroom. And the antioxidants they contain help improve our skin (less puffiness and redness) while keeping us trim.
Further, and perhaps the best benefit of superfood, is a little goes a long way, so even small appetites can gain a lot from just a little.
But crucial to any healthy diet – super or otherwise – is balance, and that can take heroic efforts.
A lone superfood is a marvelous morsel, but like superheroes, they are best when they work together. This means that super veggies should be a part of a regular diet.
But which ones? This list breaks down some of the best super veggies.
Cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli: All of these veggies have been shown to wield cancer-fighting abilities, in part by suppressing tumor growth. They are chockablock with vitamin C and folic acid, which helps the body make healthy new cells.
Sweet potatoes: Not to be confused with yams, this tremendous tuber is among the best sources of vitamin A and also is rich in vitamin C, calcium and potassium.
Dark, leafy greens: Kale, spinach and Swiss chard carry more than their weight in fiber, folic acid, vitamins and minerals. Spinach in particular is high in iron, while kale holds a phytonutrient that appears to reduce the occurrence of cancer. Swiss chard’s 13 antioxidants include kampferol, which protects the heart, and syringic acid, which can help control blood sugar levels.
Tomatoes: Whether a fruit or veggie, these red refreshers are rich in lycopene, a rare antioxidant that could protect against UV rays and lower cholesterol.
Lastly, while some foods are grabbing headlines for being super, that does not diminish the benefits of less-super foods, such as celery, carrots and onions. Consider them the Lois Lanes to the veggie world’s superfood. Paired with all-natural dips that contain healthy fats such as olive oil, they can also be delicious.
So take that, Twinkie.