In an article in Giddy, Dr. Connor explains that although its primary function is reproductive system development and maintenance, estrogen also plays a key role in bone, breast and brain health, Connor said. Estrogen bolsters bone strength, and the lack of it can contribute to weak, brittle bones and osteoporosis. Read the entire article in Giddy. If you are concerned with bone strength and want to discuss it further, make an appointment with Dr. Connor.
The foods you feed your body play a big role in how well your body works and how healthy and well you feel. Some foods offer very little nutritional value, as you might have heard of “empty calories” while others contain high levels of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that boost health and help you tremendously . Eating these superfoods can play an important role in keeping your gut functioning at its best.
Your Digestive System
Your digestive system, also called your gastrointestinal system, or your gut, is important for turning food into fuel and helps keep you healthy. When you eat, food travels from your mouth, through your esophagus, to your stomach. From the stomach, food passes through your small intestine, large intestine or colon, and rectum, and passes out of your body through the anus when you go to the bathroom. Together, these organs form a tube stretching through your body that is about 30 feet long! Other organs, such as the gallbladder, liver, and pancreas also help with digestion by producing enzymes that break down food.
The primary role of the digestive system is breaking down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats into smaller pieces that the body’s cells can more easily absorb. However, the gut also performs several other jobs as well:
- Absorbing vitamins and minerals
- Soaking up water
- Eliminating waste
- Helping the immune system get rid of harmful germs
- Communicating with the brain to control digestion, appetite, and emotions
Another very important part of the digestive system is bacteria. Some bacteria, such as E. coli or Salmonella, can make you sick if you eat foods that are contaminated with them. However, other “good bacteria” live in our intestines and are very important for keeping us healthy. Their roles include:
- Helping the body digest food
- Crowding out more harmful bacteria
- Keeping harmful substances from getting into the bloodstream
- Helping form a barrier on the cells of the intestine
- Boosting the immune system
- Creating new vitamins that our bodies can use
- Helping control appetite and how our body uses fat
- Communicating with the brain in order to control moods and emotions
- Helping the body fix damaged cells
The gut bacteria may also play a role in all sorts of different diseases, including cancer and asthma. Adopting habits that help gut bacteria thrive can help our bodies work properly and make us feel healthy.
Keeping Your Gut Healthy
- Exercising: Getting a lot of physical activity helps the muscles in the digestive system move properly, encourages the growth of more healthy bacteria, and causes lower levels of inflammation in the gut.
- Sleep: When you get regular sleep on a consistent schedule, your gut gets time to rest and reset. Lack of sleep can cause digestive system inflammation. People who don’t get good quality sleep are also more likely to have gastrointestinal diseases.
- Lowering stress: High stress levels can make the cells in the intestines more “leaky,” leading more harmful substances to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Some people may often get constipation, diarrhea, or other symptoms of gut diseases during times of stress, because the digestive system isn’t working at its best. See my article, “How Stress Affects the Gut and What You Can Do About It” for more.
One of the biggest factors in how your digestive system and your gut bacteria function is the foods that you eat. Proper nutrition keeps you at your healthiest. This is where superfoods come in. Eating foods that are easily broken down by your gut, that keep the cells of your digestive system working properly, and that keep your gut bacteria healthy can help you get the most nutrition out of your food and prevent disease.
When the organs of the digestive system stop working properly, several different diseases and conditions can occur. A couple of the most common are:
- GERD or Acid Reflux: Sometimes, food from the stomach can start coming back up into the esophagus. This often leads to the feeling of heartburn.
- Peptic Ulcers: Sores that develop in the stomach or intestines are called peptic or stomach ulcers. They typically lead to stomach pain.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): People with IBS have frequent digestive symptoms, including diarrhea or constipation.
- Celiac Disease: When people with this condition eat gluten, found in wheat, barley, and rye, their digestive system becomes damaged. This causes many digestive symptoms when people eat foods containing gluten. Other people don’t have the gene mutations that cause celiac disease, but still feel sick when eating gluten. This condition is referred to as gluten intolerance.
All of these conditions may have more specific treatments that help with specific symptoms. However, the food you eat also plays a big role in when and how often these symptoms come up. Eating some hard-to-digest or less nutritious foods can lead to frequent digestive issues. On the other hand, regularly eating nutrient-packed superfoods helps your gut work the way it’s supposed to.
What Foods Have Probiotics?
You can buy probiotics in supplement form, or you can get them from fermented superfoods. These include:
- Cultured dairy products such as yogurt and kefir
- Sourdough bread
- Fermented cabbage like kimchi and sauerkraut (choose unpasteurized products in order to get probiotics)
- Fermented soybean products like tempeh, miso, and natto
- Kombucha (fermented tea)
Yogurt is one of the most widely available fermented superfoods. It is jam-packed with healthy bacteria. Choose yogurt brands that are labeled as having “live active cultures”. These cultures may include Lactobacillus, L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, or S. thermophilus. Yogurt makes for a great breakfast or afternoon snack. It can also be used in a sauce or a dip as a substitute for mayonnaise or sour cream. In addition to eating probiotic foods, you can also eat prebiotic foods to support gut health. While probiotics contain actual live bacteria, prebiotic foods help feed those bacteria. They can also help the body absorb nutrients such as calcium, decrease the risk of allergies, and improve the immune system. Some items that help good bacteria grow are oats, barley, cereals, dairy products, asparagus, artichokes, onions, garlic, bananas, beans, and honey.
Whole grains have large quantities of both soluble and insoluble fiber, in addition to B vitamins, phytonutrients, and iron. Whole grains use the entire kernel of the grain. Refined grains are more processed, which removes a lot of the fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. To get more whole grains into your diet, substitute them for refined grains – for example, use brown rice instead of white rice, or wheat bread or pasta instead of the regular variety. Or try reaching for oatmeal for breakfast, or popcorn for a snack. You can also try cooking up some new grains as a side dish, such as quinoa, bulgur, or wheat berries. Nuts, seeds, and legumes also have high levels of fiber. Legumes include foods like beans, lentils, peas, peanuts, and soybeans, and are often thought of as superfoods because of all the health benefits they provide. Many legumes can be easily incorporated into side dishes. Nuts and seeds also make for great salad toppers, or a filling snack in between meals. Fresh produce also contains a lot of fiber. Some high-fiber fruit and vegetable superfoods include:
- Berries: In addition to fiber, berries often have other health-boosting nutrients like vitamin C and antioxidants. They can be easily added to any meal. Try topping yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal with blueberries or strawberries. Or blend frozen berries with other superfoods like yogurt, almond milk, or coconut water to make an extra nutritious smoothie. Add them to other meals by throwing them on top of salads or into desserts.
- Leafy greens: Superfoods like spinach, kale, and collard greens have a lot of vitamins A, C, E, and K, B vitamins, calcium, iron, and magnesium. Make up a salad with some greens, sauté them in olive oil, or toss some in a soup for an easy superfood boost.
- Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and bok choy are a part of the cruciferous vegetable family. Some leafy greens like kale also fall into this category. Cruciferous vegetables contain immune-boosting phytochemicals as well as vitamins like folate and vitamin K. Try steaming, roasting, or stir-frying cruciferous vegetables as a side dish.
Many plant-based superfoods contain polyphenols, antioxidants that repair damage and heal cells. When we eat these molecules, the cells of our intestines can’t absorb them very well, so they start piling up in the large intestine, where our gut bacteria use them as food and break them down so that our bodies can benefit from them. Polyphenols can help the digestive system in several ways. They can:
- Help keep bad bacteria from growing
- Encourage good bacteria to grow
- Help bacteria form a stronger barrier in order to protect the intestines from damage
- Boost metabolism and help fight diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve the immune system
- Protect against colon cancer
Coffee and tea both contain different types of polyphenols. Many fruits also contain these molecules, especially blueberries, kiwis, apples, and reddish-colored fruits like strawberries, raspberries, cherries, and blackberries. Other foods with polyphenols are onions, soy, red wine, and dark chocolate.
If you would like to discuss any digestive issues you may be experiencing with Dr. Connor, please make an appointment.
This is the fifth article in my series on superfoods, with this one focussing on superfoods for healthy skin. I encourage you to visit the “Nutrition” section of Ask the Doctor for my other articles on superfoods.
You are what you eat. The foods that make up your diet can either supply your body with nutrients that help it work its best, or cause problems like damage and inflammation. You can help your skin become healthy, hydrated, and glowing by eating a lot of vitamin and antioxidant-packed superfoods.
Giving Your Skin Proper Building Blocks for Health
Why are certain foods better for your skin than others? While we may think of our skin as a single layer, it actually has seven layers and many different parts. In addition the skin is the largest organ in the body and is part of the integumentary system that also includes hair and nails.
Skin cells make up the outermost skin layer, called the epidermis. This layer protects the body, but is also most likely to be damaged by things like UV light from the sun.
Below the epidermis lies the dermis. This layer contains several things important for skin health, such as:
- Sweat pores, which get rid of waste
- Collagen and other proteins that give the skin structure and keep it firm but elastic
- Immune cells, which fight off germs
- Blood vessels that deliver nutrients and oxygen to the rest of the skin
Eating a balanced diet can help keep each of these components working properly.
1. Flax Seeds
Flax seeds are small brown or yellow seeds that are packed with nutrients. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have many health benefits throughout the body. Research has found that omega-3 molecules can help the skin by:
- Maintaining the skin’s protective barrier
- Protecting against UV damage
- Helping skin cells grow and develop
- Preventing and treating skin inflammation linked to diseases like acne and psoriasis
- Possibly helping prevent non-melanoma skin cancer (although this has not been well-studied in clinical trials)
In one study, people who ate more omega-3’s tended to have less skin aging associated with light damage. Other experiments have also found that omega-3’s can decrease skin irritation and redness and improve skin hydration and smoothness. Omega-3’s have other health benefits as well, such as boosted heart, brain, and eye health.
If you want to add flax seeds to your diet, try adding them to your breakfast by spooning a tablespoon on top of oatmeal or cereal. You can also add this superfood to yogurt or a smoothie, or bake them into breads, muffins, or even cookies! I often tell my patients to try them on salads as a crunchy topping as well. It is better to eat ground rather than whole flaxseeds, because your body can more easily digest and absorb nutrients from the ground form. Buy them pre-ground, or chop up whole seeds in a coffee grinder. You can also find omega-3s in seafood, plant oils such as canola oil, and in other nuts and seeds.
Salmon contains a lot of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). This molecule is a damage-fighting antioxidant. The human body can produce its own CoQ10, but levels tend to decrease with age, stress, and certain diseases. Therefore, eating food-based sources of CoQ10 may help keep us healthy as we get older. This enzyme can lead to healthier skin by protecting against damage and helping skin cells make more energy. In one study, people who took a CoQ10 supplement for 12 weeks had more elastic, smooth skin and fewer wrinkles.
Salmon is also full of selenium, a mineral that neutralizes damage-causing free radicals. It can help skin cells heal DNA damage and leads to less damage following exposure to UV light. The combination of CoQ10 with selenium may protect against many signs of aging, leading to more vitality and health, a better quality of life, and improved physical activity.
As if all of this weren’t enough, salmon has still more skin-boosting compounds. This superfood has a lot of vitamin D, which may help protect against some skin diseases. It’s a , which promote skin health and wound healing. Another antioxidant, astaxanthin, can increase the amount of collagen in the skin, leading to fewer wrinkles and rough spots and better elasticity.
As we’ve discussed before, yogurt is a great source of probiotics, or the “good” bacteria that inhabit the gut and help your body work better. When it comes to your skin, eating these healthy microbes can balance your skin’s pH and improve its ability to act as a protective barrier. By calming inflammation and reducing stress, probiotics can also help fight acne. It may also help with skin conditions such as rosacea and dermatitis.
Yogurt also contains other nutrients that support skin health, like vitamin A, vitamin D, and B vitamins. For better results, avoid flavored yogurts, which tend to contain high levels of inflammation-promoting sugar. On the other hand, if you’re not a yogurt fan or have dietary restrictions to eating yogurt but still want a probiotic boost, look to other cultured or fermented foods such as miso, komboucha, sauerkraut, or kimchi. You can also consider probiotic supplements.
Vitamin C is found at high levels in oranges and orange juice. Be careful when going the juice route, however – many fruit juices contain high levels of sugar, which isn’t good for the skin. Other citrus fruits like grapefruits also have a lot of vitamin C, as do kiwis, bell peppers, strawberries, and broccoli.
Did you know that a food’s color can sometimes tell you what nutrients it contains? Many red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables get their color from carotenoids. These molecules are very important for heart and eye health, and also help the skin.
Tomatoes contain high levels of one important carotenoid called lycopene. Scientists have found that when people eat more lycopene, their skin is smoother and appears more youthful. Eating lycopene or tomato-based products can even help people get less sunburned. It’s also possible that lycopene may also help prevent skin cancer.
The body can more easily absorb lycopene when tomatoes are cooked, especially when they’re cooked in olive oil. Try eating roasted tomatoes as a side, or make a sauce to serve over whole-wheat pasta. Tomatoes can also give you a good helping of vitamins A and C.
6. Sweet Potatoes
Getting high doses of beta-carotene may actually lead to increased damage, so it may be better to get this nutrient from foods rather than from supplements. In addition to sweet potatoes, you can get beta-carotene from superfoods like carrots, squash, and leafy greens like kale.
Some fats are healthier than others. Avocadoes contain a lot of monounsaturated fats, which are the building blocks of many different types of cells, including your skin cells. These monounsaturated fats improve the elastic quality of skin and can lead to fewer wrinkles when eaten more frequently.
The carotenoid zeaxanthin can also be found in avocadoes. It protects the skin from damage-causing light. Clinical trials have also shown that eating zeaxanthin as a supplement can lead to fewer facial lines and wrinkles.
Avocadoes are also high in lutein, yet another type of carotenoid. Lutein can help prevent eye disease and improve memory and thinking ability. It can filter out damage-causing ultraviolet light, protecting the skin. When carotenoids are eaten at the same meal as healthy fats, they work even better because the body can absorb them more easily. Avocadoes provide the perfect combination of these fats and carotenoids.
Broccoli is loaded with nutrients. Eating this superfood will provide your skin with vitamins A and C, as well as multiple carotenoids like lutein and beta-carotene.
Eating your broccoli is also a good way to get vitamin K. This nutrient plays a big role in blood clotting, and can help the skin repair wounds and bruises.
Broccoli contains the mineral zinc. Because the body can’t store zinc, we need to make sure we’re getting it regularly through our diets. Zinc helps the skin by:
- Allowing skin cells to divide to produce new cells
- Strengthening the immune system
- Healing cells from damage
- Smoothing the skin
- Helping heal wounds
Finally, broccoli has sulforaphane, a molecule also found in other cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and bok choy. Research into sulforaphane is in the early stages, but some experts believe that it can protect the skin from sun damage and keep the skin looking more youthful. Some studies also show that sulforaphane can help protect against several different kinds of cancer, including skin cancer.
9. Green Tea
In one study of 60 women, those who drank green tea had less redness after being exposed to UV light. These women also had better blood flow in the skin, meaning that their skin cells could get more oxygen, and had smoother, better hydrated skin. In mouse studies, green tea polyphenols can also help prevent skin cancer, although this effect hasn’t yet been well studied in humans.
You can also find some of these polyphenols in dark chocolate and red wine. However, eating too much sugar or drinking too much alcohol can also have negative effects on the skin, so these may not be the best sources for getting skin-boosting polyphenols on a regular basis. Replacing a cup of coffee or bottle of soda with green tea can help give your skin a healthy boost.
Turmeric is a spice that is a part of the ginger family. It is traditionally used in Indian, Southeast Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisines in curries and rice dishes. Turmeric contains the molecule curcumin, which has been studied in recent years for a large variety of health benefits.
Curcumin can turn on antioxidants within skin cells, helping them better respond to stress and damage. This helps cells resist stress and stay healthy. This molecule also helps cells build up new collagen, which is important for both wound healing and for keeping the skin firm and wrinkle-free. Finally, early research has found that curcumin can help reduce the symptoms of certain skin disorders, such as psoriasis and dermatitis.
Turmeric also contains another useful compound called silymarin. The milk thistle plant is the primary source of silymarin, but the molecule is also found in some other vegetables and spices. Silymarin plays a protective role in the skin and also helps prevent collagen from breaking down. The combination of silymarin and curcumin also helped block cancerous cells in laboratory experiments, but this has not yet been tested in humans.
Try adding turmeric to rice, quinoa, soups, stews, or curries. You can also blend turmeric into a smoothie or whisk into eggs for a superfoods breakfast.
Start early! If you’re younger, eating a healthy diet can help your skin continue to look radiant and healthy for the long term. If some signs of aging have already begun to appear on your face, there are still things you can do to slow or even reverse damage. Eating a variety of nutrient-packed superfoods on a regular basis can help build up the health of skin cells and the underlying dermal layer, and keep your skin looking and functioning at its best.
If you would like to discuss your skin, or treatments that we offer, such as microneedling with Skin Pen, please contact our office to make an appointment.
In recent years, many people have become excited about superfoods that bring good health and help fight disease. Foods like blueberries, kale, and salmon have earned a reputation for being some of the healthiest foods out there. Here, I will explain why certain foods have earned the “superfoods” label.
What Is a Superfood?
Generally speaking, superfoods are foods that offer a lot of vitamins and minerals and provide positive health benefits. While all foods contain nutrients, some foods are much more packed with health-promoting nutrients than others.
There isn’t one standard scientific or nutritional definition that says which foods can be called superfoods. There isn’t a legal definition either, which means that companies can call any food they want a “superfood”. Many foods are labeled as “superfoods” simply for marketing purposes, and when companies say that a certain food or drink product is a miracle food, the actual science often doesn’t live up to the hype.
However, some foods certainly contain more health benefits than others. Learning more about how our bodies use the food we eat can help us make sure we’re meeting our nutritional needs. Labeling certain items as “superfoods” may help us better understand which foods can provide us with higher levels of health-promoting molecules.
Nutrients are molecules that the body needs in order to work properly. There are two types: macronutrients and micronutrients. Cells get energy from macronutrients and use these as building blocks in order to function and grow. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are all macronutrients. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals.
There are some nutrients that your body can make for itself. Others need to be obtained from the things we eat and drink, and these are called “essential nutrients.” It’s important to get enough of these essential nutrients to keep yourself healthy. Eating superfoods can help you get high levels of many different types of nutrients.
Although many popular diets such as paleo and keto involve low-carb eating plans, some carbohydrates are necessary in order for your body to function properly. Your cells primarily get their energy from carbohydrates, making them an important source of fuel for your body.
There are three primary types of carbohydrates:
- Sugars are the basic building blocks of other types of carbohydrates. They are found in sweet foods like desserts, soda pop, and candy. Sugars are also found at high levels in processed foods and fast food. When people eat a lot of sugar, some is used for energy, and the extra is stored as fat within the body. Most superfoods have lower levels of sugar. Some superfoods, such as fruits and vegetables, have some naturally occurring sugars.
- Starches are made up of many different sugar molecules connected together. These molecules need to be broken down before the body uses them, so the body digests them more slowly. This leads to longer-lasting energy for the body and more feelings of fullness. Starches are found in products made from grains, such as bread and pasta. Some vegetables, like potatoes and corn, also have a lot of starch.
- Fiber can’t be completely broken down by the body. It leads to even stronger feelings of fullness. Fiber can support a healthy digestive system and reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Many superfoods such as vegetables, fruit, beans, and whole grains contain high levels of fiber.
One way to get the carbohydrates you need using superfoods is by eating a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits. Additionally, some people consider whole grains to be superfoods. Whole grains are less processed, so they have more health benefits such as extra vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, and quinoa are all types of whole grains.
- Helping your body stockpile and use certain vitamins and minerals
- Supporting skin and hair health
- Developing a healthy brain
- Supporting healthy inflammation levels
- Controlling proper blood clotting
Certain types of fats are less healthy than others. Saturated fats are unhealthy fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter and lard. Trans fats are also unhealthy. They are often added to foods as a preservative. Both saturated fats and trans fats can increase your levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and raise your risk of heart disease and stroke. Animal products like milk, cheese, and fatty meats have high levels of saturated fat. Oils that have a lot of saturated or trans fats include coconut oil, palm oil, and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Experts say that fewer than 10% of your calories should come from saturated fat.
Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, have the opposite effects, leading to higher levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and lowering your chance of developing heart disease. Some foods are thought to be superfoods because they contain high levels of these types of fats.
One type of healthy unsaturated fat is monounsaturated fat. This form of fat can be found in foods like nuts and avocado, which are often thought of as superfoods. Additionally, cooking with oils that contain monounsaturated fat can be a healthier option than cooking with butter. Oils with monounsaturated fats include:
- Olive oil (is by far the best type of oil to use in my opinion)
- Canola oil
- Sunflower oil
- Sesame oil
- Safflower oil
- Polyunsaturated fats are another healthy fat type. Omega-3 and omega-6 are polyunsaturated fats that are found in high levels in many superfoods. These fats lead to better heart health and reduce your chance of developing diabetes. Foods high in omega-3 and omega-6 include fatty fish like salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, cod and light tuna.
Walnuts, flax seeds, and soybean, corn, and safflower oils also contain polyunsaturated fats.
Every cell in the body contains proteins. Proteins are made up of smaller molecules called amino acids. When we eat proteins from animal or plant sources, the body breaks them down and uses the amino acids to build new proteins to be used throughout the body. It’s important to eat proteins from multiple different sources to make sure that you’re getting all of the different amino acids you need.
The body uses amino acids to build healthy muscles, bones, skin, cartilage and blood. Amino acids are also used to make enzymes, antibodies, and hormones.
Animal sources of protein include meat, chicken, fish, and eggs. These foods can be healthy in moderation, as they provide several kinds of vitamins and minerals. However, they also typically contain a lot of saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels. Sticking to superfood sources of protein, such as salmon, walnuts, and beans, can give you an extra nutritional punch. Additionally, green tea contains several beneficial amino acids that may boost brain health, improve mood, and help reduce stress.
Vitamins are molecules that play many different roles within different cells and organs. If you don’t eat enough of a particular vitamin, you might develop a disease or poor health.
There are 13 vitamins that are necessary in order for cells to function. Some examples of include:
- Vitamin C: An antioxidant that protects cells from damage, supports healthy gums and teeth, and helps heal wounds
- Vitamin K: A vitamin that helps build bone strength, allows for proper blood clotting, and fights inflammation
- Folate: A type of B vitamin that supports a healthy heart, builds red blood cells, and helps protect against cancer
Eating a diet full of many different types of foods can help you make sure you’re getting all of the vitamins you need. Additionally, many superfoods contain high levels of several different vitamins. For example:
- Berries contain high levels of vitamin C and vitamin K, as well as vitamin B6 and vitamin E.
- Goji berries have large quantities of vitamins A, C, E, and K.
- Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are also good sources of vitamins A, C, E, and K. Some other green vegetables, including broccoli and mustard greens, also contain several B vitamins.
Minerals are necessary for everything from building strong bones and keeping your heart beating to controlling your metabolism and helping you stay hydrated. There are two main types of minerals. Trace minerals such as iron, copper, and zinc are only needed in small quantities. On the other hand, your body needs higher amounts of macrominerals like calcium, sodium, and potassium.
Superfoods tend to have high levels of the minerals we need. Leafy greens have a lot of iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Soybeans and tofu contain high levels of calcium. Whole grains can give you a high dose of magnesium.
Other Helpful Substances in Superfoods
Superfoods are also a great source of other substances that can promote good health:
- Catechins are a type of antioxidant that can fight arthritis, inflammation, and cancer, and lead to better heart health. Green tea contains a lot of catechins.
- Carotenoids are found in leafy green vegetables as well as brightly colored produce like tomatoes, pumpkins, carrots, and beets. They can lower a person’s chance of developing certain cancers and eye disease.
- Flavonoids protect the body from damage and boost heart and brain health. Tea, dark chocolate, fruits, and vegetables are some of the superfoods that contain flavonoids.
- Probiotics are “good” bacteria that help you digest food and fight off disease. Many people consider yogurt and fermented foods like kimchi and komboucha to be superfoods because they contain probiotics.
- Polyphenols are micronutrients that help your body control blood sugar and lower your risk of diabetes. They also help your body digest food, promote healthy brain function, and lower your risk of heart disease. If you want to incorporate more polyphenols in your diet, look to superfoods like berries, soybeans, and whole grains. Resveratrol, found in red grapes and blueberries, is a well-known polyphenol that promotes healthy aging and protects against disease.
Putting It All Together
Superfoods Don’t Need to Break the Bank
Some of the more popular superfoods can be expensive. However, you don’t have to go to specialty grocery stores or spend lots of money getting highly-advertised superfoods. Chances are, the vitamins and minerals found in one superfood can be easily found in other foods too. For example, kale gets a lot of attention as a superfood, but many other leafy greens offer the same pack of nutrients. Swiss chard, collard greens, and spinach can be eaten as superfoods too!
In fact, nearly all fruits and vegetables can be considered superfoods because of their high nutritional value. Eating more fresh produce can help you have better health and protect you from many different types of disease! Aim to have fruits or vegetables with every meal. Try adding fruits to your breakfast, and adding extra veggies to dinnertime meals like pasta and soup.
How Many Superfoods Do You Need to Eat to Be Healthy?
If superfoods are so good for you, does that mean you should try to only eat foods in this category? Not quite. A healthy diet consists of eating many different types of food. The more variety you have in your meals, the more different types of nutrients you will be getting. It’s healthier to concentrate on overall balance and variety in your diet rather than fixating on just a couple of individual nutritious foods.
But occasionally eating superfoods won’t magically erase the impact of the rest of your diet. If you tend to eat a diet high in sugar, saturated fat, or processed foods, you are putting yourself at risk of health problems, regardless of whether you sometimes add a superfood to your meal. Focus on improving overall healthy eating habits instead of simply adding a few superfoods to your usual routine. The best way to work towards good health is to eat a variety of nutritious foods with each meal.
When counseling my own patients about taking the right supplements to boost your immune system, which has become an even more important topic since the rise of Covid-19, these are what I tell them are my own “go to” supplements.
Vitamin C: I recommend 1-2 grams per day for most of my patients in my practice as this vitamin helps to repair tissue, heal skin, boost immunity and maintain normal cell function.
Vitamin D: It is often forgotten that vitamin D is actually a hormone and not really a vitamin at all. Vitamin D, as with all hormones, is helpful for many functions and works as a signaling molecule to cells. Vitamin D assists with respiratory health and immunity.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra): While further research on elderberry is ongoing, it has been shown to be helpful to boost the immune system and appears to allow the body to recover faster, if and when, people are sick.
N-Acetylcysteine (NAC): The supplement form of the amino acid, cysteine, known as NAC, helps clear mucous. It is such a gem that the World Health Organization has actually deemed it an “essential medicine“.
B Vitamins: All B vitamins assist in stress response, especially B6 and B12, and this includes the immune response but many patients are deficient in various B vitamins. For example, vegetarians in my practice are often found to be low in vitamin B12 which can easily be added into their diet with great effects and improvement to their energy levels as well.
Echinacea: Part of the daisy family, this plant may help the immune response with viruses, including the many rhinoviruses that can cause the common cold. The research shows mixed results but it definitely warrants further study and many of my patients swear by it.
Astragalus: This is an herb used in Chinese Medicine that never seems to get the attention I believe it is due. Nonetheless, the herb’s extract can help with the body’s immune-related response.
Speak with your physician about other ways and other supplements to boost your immune system. Please discuss all supplements or integrative wellness regimens you are taking, or considering taking, so that interactions and side effects can be reviewed, and to ensure the coordinated, safe and top-notch medical care you deserve.
What is the right age for toddlers and vitamins?
I am often asked by my patients what their little ones should be taking—or if they should—with regard to supplements and vitamins, especially if mom and dad are concerned because they have a picky eater or their child is not gaining weight the way that mom and dad expect.
Read the article in vitaminsonly.com where I join other health and medical experts to discuss toddlers and vitamins.