Superfoods Part 5: Ten Essential Superfoods for Radiant Skin

Superfoods Part 5: Ten Essential Superfoods for Radiant Skin

Young woman holding apple

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

Bowl of flaxseeds

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:

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.

2. Salmon

Superfoods for Skin
Salmon is another excellent source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. It is also a good source of protein, as well as several other molecules that promote healthy skin.

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.

3. Yogurt

Bowl of Yogurt

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.

4. Oranges

Sliced orange
The skin normally contains a lot of vitamin C. This nutrient acts as an antioxidant and helps the skin build up more collagen. It may also play an important role in healing wounds once the skin is damaged. As a result, vitamin C is often added to skin products like creams and serums. However, some evidence also shows that eating foods with vitamin C can lead to skin health. For example, researchers in one study collected diet information from 4000 women. They found that women who ate more vitamin C-containing foods often had fewer wrinkles and less skin dryness.

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.

5. Tomatoes

Tomatoes

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

Sliced Sweet Potatoes
There are other carotenoids besides just lycopene. Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene, a carotenoid that the body transforms into vitamin A. Like lycopene, beta-carotene can also protect against sun damage and sunburn. It can also help the body make more collagen, leading to fewer wrinkles.

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.

7. Avocadoes

Avocado
Avocadoes are a superfood powerhouse full of nutrients that are good for the skin. They are sources of healthy fats, including omega-3’s and vitamins C and E.

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.

8. Broccoli

Broccoli

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

Cup of Green Tea
Green tea is a superfood with many health benefits. This brew contains a mixture of polyphenols, compounds that act as antioxidants to neutralize free radicals within cells. Like some of the other superfoods on this list, green tea uses these antioxidants to protect the skin from UV damage. Typically, when the skin is exposed to UV light from sources like direct sunlight or tanning beds, skin cells will turn on biological pathways that create inflammation and encourage the development of tumors. Polyphenols in green tea can help turn down these processes.

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.

10. Turmeric

Turmeric spilling out of bowl

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.

Conclusion

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.

Superfoods Part 4: Essential Superfoods for Diabetics and Pre-Diabetics

Superfoods Part 4: Essential Superfoods for Diabetics and Pre-Diabetics

Superfoods for prediabetes and diabetes
This article is part of my series on superfoods. Learn more about superfoods, superfoods for weight loss, and critical superfoods for a healthy heart. Stay tuned for more to come in this series.

Diabetes occurs when the body can’t process carbohydrates and sugars as well as it should. The foods that we eat can play a big role in preventing and managing this condition. Turning to superfoods is a great, nutritious way to get your metabolism working more efficiently.

Is Diabetes Something You Need to Be Concerned About?

The older you get, the higher your risk for developing chronic conditions such as diabetes, so it’s important to learn more about how to protect your health and wellness as you age.

There are a few different types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a condition that you are usually diagnosed with when you are younger, although this is changing as there are many adults who have a new diagnosis of this type of diabetes. People with this disease cannot make any insulin, a hormone that helps the body use sugar as fuel. People with type 2 diabetes may produce some insulin, but their body does not use the insulin hormone very well. Additionally, gestational diabetes is a third form of this disease that may be diagnosed when a person is pregnant. All of these forms of diabetes cause a person to have high levels of blood sugar, which can damage the body and lead to further health problems down the road.

It’s also important to be aware of a condition of elevated blood sugar that does not meet the criteria for a diagnosis of “diabetes.” This condition is sometimes called “prediabetes”. People with this condition have slightly elevated blood sugar levels, and have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or stroke. While one out of every three Americans has “prediabetes”, the vast majority of them don’t know it! For this reason and many other reasons, it is very important to get your blood sugar checked at regular physical exams so that you have a better idea of whether you may be at risk and to get the information you need to stay healthy.

Risk Factors for Diabetes

If you have any of the following factors, your risk of getting type 2 diabetes may be higher:

  • You have prediabetes
  • You are overweight or obese
  • You are at least 45 years old
  • You have a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
  • You don’t get very much exercise
  • You are Black, Hispanic or Latino, Native American, or Alaska Native

Controlling Your Diabetes Risk

If you want to reduce your chances of being diagnosed with diabetes, you can make some lifestyle changes. Getting more physical activity and losing extra weight is a great place to start. Additionally, if you eat a more nutritious diet, you can better control your blood sugar levels. This can help you prevent or manage diabetes.

Superfoods are a great way to eat better. There isn’t one official definition that says which foods count as “superfoods,” but in general this label is given to foods that are jam-packed with nutrients that your body needs in order to stay healthy. Many superfoods can help keep your body’s blood sugar levels in a more normal range.

Superfoods for Better Blood Sugar Levels

Superfoods for Diabetes
The foods you eat have a big effect on how stable your blood sugar levels are. Certain food choices are better than others when it comes to avoiding high blood sugar spikes or low blood sugar crashes.

Why Is Controlling Blood Sugar Levels Important?

When we eat food, the body breaks down carbohydrates into smaller sugar molecules, which enter the bloodstream. For most people, the pancreas makes insulin and sends it around the body. Insulin then helps the cells in different organs absorb sugar from the blood and convert it into energy. After a meal, blood sugar levels rise temporarily and then eventually go back to normal as sugar is removed from the blood.

In people with diabetes, who don’t make or cannot use insulin, cells can’t absorb sugar. These sugar molecules stay in the blood for longer periods of time, and often reach high levels. Additionally, diabetes makes a person more likely to have blood sugar levels that get too low if they miss a meal, take too much medication, or exercise a lot.

The Glycemic Index

Overall, the goal is to keep blood levels stable. You can do this by paying attention to the glycemic index of the carbohydrates that you eat.

Foods that contain carbohydrates include grains (bread, cereal, pasta, rice), fruits and fruit juices, starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, peas), dairy products, foods with fiber (beans and lentils), sugary desserts and snacks, and sugary drinks.

The glycemic index (GI) is a number that rates all carbs on a scale from 0 to 100. Low GI foods:

  • Take longer for the body to break down, and require your body to actually work harder to break down these types of foods
  • Cause your blood sugar to rise slowly and steadily
  • Give you longer-lasting energy
  • Make you feel full for a longer period of time

On the other hand, high GI foods:

  • Increase your blood sugar levels very quickly, and then rapidly drop those blood sugar levels back down to low levels
  • Make you crave more carbohydrate-rich foods once your blood sugar levels plunge
  • Make you more likely to overeat or to eat when you are not truly hungry

When people with diabetes eat mostly low GI foods, they have better control over their blood sugar levels. One of the reasons many superfoods are so good for you is because they have a low GI.

Whole Grains

Whole grains, as opposed to refined or processed grains, contain high levels of fiber. Fiber is a type of complex carbohydrate that has a low GI. Your body can’t completely break down fiber, so it doesn’t make your blood sugar levels increase as much. People who eat high levels of fiber have a lower chance of becoming diabetic. In particular, people who eat at least three servings of whole grains per day have a 20-30% lower chance of getting diabetes.

When people with diabetes eat low GI, whole grain foods on a regular basis, they also have lower levels of inflammation. This can help fight obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease, and help the body become more responsive to insulin.

Most whole-grain foods can be considered a superfood, not only because of their fiber content, but also because of their high levels of B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium, and antioxidants. Examples of whole grains are:

  • Whole-wheat pasta, or baked goods like bread or crackers made with whole-wheat flour
  • Brown rice
  • Grains often served for breakfast, such as steel-cut oats, stone-ground grits, or amaranth
  • Grains that are often prepared as sides, such as quinoa, barley, millet, or bulgur
  • Popcorn

Low GI Superfood Fruits

Some superfood fruits have a low GI, while other potentially less healthy fruits have a higher GI. A fruit’s GI is primarily based on how much fiber the fruit contains. Some fruits have more fiber, and therefore, a lower GI.

Eating low GI fruit helps people with diabetes lower their blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Examples of low GI fruits are:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, and other citrus fruits
  • Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and cranberries
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Nectarines

Berries may also provide diabetics with additional benefits. They contain antioxidants that have shown the ability to improve insulin and cholesterol levels, and are linked to a lower likelihood of developing diabetes.

To get the maximum amount of fiber from your fruits, try strategies like:

  • Eating whole fruits rather than drinking fruit juice. Juice has had most of the fiber removed, and often has added sugars, meaning that it has less nutrients and a higher GI.
  • Avoiding fruit products like canned fruits that contain added sugar.
  • Eating fruit with the skin on, if it’s edible.

The Power of Legumes

Legumes – beans, lentils, and peas – are superfoods that offer a ton of nutritional benefits. They also contain high levels of fiber, making them a good low GI food option. Other nutrients found in legumes include:

  • Protein
  • B vitamins
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Zinc
  • Phosphorus

In one study of over 100 people with diabetes, those who ate at least one cup of legumes per day had lower blood sugar levels and a reduced chance of developing heart disease.

However, despite these health benefits, on any given day only about 8% of Americans say they eat legumes. Get more of these superfoods by adding black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans, pinto beans, soybeans, and lentils to your meals.

Other Superfoods for Diabetics

Superfoods for Diabetes

In addition to eating more low GI foods, people with prediabetes or diabetes can make other dietary changes. There are many more nutritious superfoods that can be beneficial to people watching their blood sugar levels.

Fatty Fish

While many different types of seafood can be a part of a healthy diet, fish with a high fat content are typically the only ones to receive the “superfood” label. This is because these fish contain the highest levels of omega-3, a healthy form of fat.

Omega-3’s are great for the heart. This is especially good news for diabetics, who have a higher chance of heart disease and stroke. There is some evidence that omega-3’s may also help prevent other health conditions, including certain types of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, although research has found conflicting results.

When diabetics eat fatty fish on a regular basis, their bodies can better control blood sugar levels. However, this result is not seen when people with diabetes or elevated blood sugar levels eat large amounts of lean, non-fatty fish.

Fatty superfood fish include:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna
  • Herring
  • Sardines

Eggs

This superfood is a great way to start your day. Eggs may help with weight loss, which is important for preventing and managing diabetes. Scientific studies have found that eggs can:

Eggs can also specifically help with diabetes. When diabetic folks eat two eggs per day, they tend to have lower cholesterol, blood sugar, insulin, and blood pressure levels. Replacing a carb-heavy breakfast with eggs may be a good way to improve the way your body processes food.

Leafy Greens

While these veggies do contain a small amount of carbohydrates, they are considered a low GI food and won’t significantly change blood sugar levels. Additionally, leafy green vegetables provide a lot of vitamin C, which is particularly important for people with diabetes.

Spinach, kale, chard, and other leafy greens also contain antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, which can improve eye health. It’s important for people with diabetes to take care of their eyes, because they are more likely to have eye problems.

Yet another nutrient provided by leafy green superfoods is vitamin K. This key vitamin can help the body make better use of insulin, reduce inflammation, and decrease diabetes risk.

Tree Nuts

Tree nuts, including almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, hazelnuts, and pecans, have low levels of carbohydrates. They also contain some of the same nutrients as many of the other foods on this list, including protein, fiber, and omega-3’s.

Scientific research has found that tree nuts can help people with diabetes in several ways:

  • When nuts are eaten along with carbohydrates, the blood sugar doesn’t spike as much as when carbohydrates are eaten alone.
  • Some research has shown that nuts can decrease appetite and calm inflammation.
  • clinical trial found that eating a lot of almonds every day led to lower cholesterol, insulin, and blood sugar levels.
  • When people with diabetes ate walnut oil every day in one study, they had better blood sugar levels.
  • A study of over 16,000 diabetics found that people who ate more tree nuts were less likely to have heart disease.

Yogurt

Eating this superfood may be a good way to stave off diabetes. Research has found that people who eat 80-125 grams of yogurt per day are 14% less likely to develop this health condition. In particular, dairy products with high levels of protein may be extra effective at preventing diabetes. Eating Greek yogurt gives you more protein per serving, and often contains less sugar, too.

Other fermented superfoods, including kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi, may also help prevent diabetes. These foods supply the body with healthy bacteria that can help improve the body’s metabolism.

Conclusion

People with diabetes need to be especially careful to make sure that the foods they eat aren’t causing problems with blood sugar levels. Many superfoods can help by keeping these levels more stable and helping the body better respond to insulin. Whether you’re worried about developing diabetes in the future, or are trying to manage this condition right now, eating more superfoods every day can give you better health benefits.
Make an appointment with Dr. Connor to further discuss how superfoods can benefit your health.

Superfoods Part 3: Critical Superfoods for a Healthy Heart

Superfoods Part 3: Critical Superfoods for a Healthy Heart

Superfoods Part 3: Critical Superfoods for a Healthy Heart

Heart health becomes increasingly important as we get older. Our daily habits, including the foods we eat, can have a big effect on whether or not we develop heart disease, heart attacks, or strokes. If you often eat food that you know is less healthy, it’s not too late to make changes now that can have an impact on your health later. Adding more superfoods to your meals can help your heart and blood vessels function at their best.

Why Is Heart Health Important?

Heart disease can be very serious. It causes one out of every four deaths in the United States, making it the number one cause of death. Additionally, every 40 seconds an American has a heart attack. Keeping your heart healthy can help you avoid sickness, disability, or an early death.

Heart Disease

The term “heart disease” doesn’t just refer to one illness. Rather, it’s a general term for several related conditions:

  • Coronary heart disease, in which plaque builds up in the blood vessels, blocking blood flow to the heart
  • Heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction, happens when blood flow to the heart is blocked and the heart muscle dies or becomes damaged
  • Heart failure occurs when the heart becomes too weak to keep pumping blood
  • Other conditions can also lead to changes in the heart’s valves, muscle, or rhythm

Who Gets Heart Disease?

Heart disease affects men and women at equal rates, although women tend to get heart disease at a slightly older age than do men. Additionally, a person’s risk of heart disease changes based on their race and ethnicity. People who are Black tend to have a higher chance of developing heart disease, while people who are Hispanic, Asian, or Pacific Islander tend to be at lower risk.

A person’s genetics also play a role. Genes are passed down through families, so if you have a relative who was diagnosed with heart disease, your risk is higher.

Finally, the older you get, the more your risk increases. Men who are older than 45 and women who are older than 55 have a higher chance of developing heart disease.

Lifestyle Factors Related to Heart Disease

While a person cannot change certain things, such as his or her genetics or age, each of us can still do other things to boost our heart health. The three main risk factors for getting heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and smoking. Nearly half of Americans have at least one of these factors, but in most cases, they can all be prevented.

People with certain conditions or lifestyle factors are also more likely to develop heart disease:

Eating for Heart Health

To boost your heart health, start by focusing on the things that are within your control. Changing the things that you eat is a great place to start. Goals of a heart-healthy diet include:

  • Lowering your blood pressure
  • Reducing levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and increasing levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol)
  • Lowering your blood sugar levels

Many superfoods can help you reach these goals. Eating a variety of different nutritious foods on a regular basis can make a big difference in how well your heart functions.

Critical Superfoods for a Healthy Heart

Heart-Healthy Protein Options

Protein that comes from animals, including red or fatty meats, contains a lot of saturated fat. This type of fat leads to more cholesterol in your blood vessels, which in turn raises your risk of heart disease.

It’s okay to eat meat occasionally – it provides you with several different kinds of nutrients. Certain strategies can help you reduce the amount of saturated fat you are getting from meat:

  • Eat meat less often
  • Eat smaller portions of meat
  • Choose leaner cuts of meat
  • Take the skin off of foods like chicken

Ultimately, replacing meat with other protein-packed superfood options gives you the best shot at heart health.

Eat More Seafood

Replacing fattier meats with superfood protein sources is a great way to help your heart. Fatty fish is one such food that can boost your health. Research has shown that people who rarely eat fish are more likely to die from heart disease than those who eat fish once per week or more. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to be responsible for this effect – people who get more of this nutrient have lower levels of fat in their blood and have a reduced risk of heart attack and heart disease.

Superfood seafood sources of omega-3’s include:

  • Salmon (fresh, wild caught is best)
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Mackerel
  • Trout
  • Oysters
  • Sea bass

Omega-3’s are available in supplement form but it is always best to obtain them from food if you can because the studies to date seem to be inconclusive about the effectiveness of the supplement form.

Plant-Based Sources of Protein

You can also use plant protein in place of fatty meats. Soybeans, beans, and lentils can all be used as a main dish, and are all considered superfoods.

Like seafood, soybeans also contain a lot of omega-3’s. Try stir-frying or sautéing tofu in an omega-3-containing oil such as canola oil, topping with your favorite sauce, and serving over brown rice or a healthy pasta. Alternately, roast tofu in the oven along with some vegetables or mash up a block of tofu to make a scramble.

Eating beans, lentils, and other legumes has also been tied to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. These foods contain many of the same nutrients as meat, but lack saturated fats. Legumes are also packed with fiber, and people who eat the highest levels of fiber have a lower chance of developing heart disease. Ideas for adding beans and other legumes to your diet include:

  • Throwing them in soups, stews, and chilies
  • Topping salads with beans or chickpeas
  • Dipping veggies in hummus or a black bean dip
  • Preparing beans or lentils as a side
  • Wrapping them up in a burrito or taco
  • Mixing beans or lentils with vegetables, herbs, and cheese for a light salad

Superfood Vegetables for Heart Health

Green vegetables – think spinach, kale, chard, collard greens, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts – have a lot of healthy nutrients that can protect your heart. Some of these health-boosting compounds are:

These veggies make for great side dishes. Eat them raw, as a salad, or sauté in a healthy fat. Broccoli and Brussels sprouts taste great roasted with your favorite herbs and spices.

Whole Grains for Whole Health

Whole grains are less processed than their refined counterparts. Examples of whole grain foods include whole-wheat bread, brown rice, rolled oats, barley, grits, whole-wheat pasta, and even popcorn.

Whole grains are considered a superfood because of their many nutrients, including fiber, B vitamins, and iron. They also take longer to be broken down by the body, meaning that your blood sugar levels will stay more stable as you digest them.

Many clinical trials have found that eating whole grains is good for the heart. People who eat more of this superfood have a 25% reduced risk of stroke and 22% reduced risk of heart disease.

Prepare Meals With Superfood Fats

When you cook food, you generally use some type of fat, like butter or oil. Because butter is an animal-based product, it contains a lot of saturated fat, and it’s better to eat it in moderation. Additionally, coconut, palm, palm kernel, and hydrogenated oils contain saturated fat and shouldn’t be used often.

Olive oil, on the other hand, is considered by many to be a superfood. It contains a lot of healthy monounsaturated fats and damage-fighting antioxidants. Olive oil also has compounds called polyphenols that help prevent heart disease. Cooking with olive oil can help people reduce their blood pressurelower someone’s chances of heart disease or heart attack, and may even help people lose weight.

Flaxseed oil is another excellent superfood option. Flaxseeds have more omega-3 fatty acids than any other food! They also contain B vitamins, phosphorus, and magnesium. Flaxseeds can fight all the different types of heart disease, so cooking with flaxseed oil is a good move for heart health.

Other options for cooking oils that contain healthier fats include canola, safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, or peanut oils.

Superfoods for the heart

Heart-Boosting Spices

Many of us get too much salt in our diets, and can improve our heart health by cutting out some of the sodium. In particular, people with high blood pressure should try to follow a low-salt diet. Salt is a big source of flavor. You may not miss it as much if you switch to flavoring your foods with superfood spices:

  • Black pepper protects the heart from unhealthy fats.
  • Cinnamon can help reduce blood pressure levels and helps keep the blood from clotting.
  • Chili peppers contain a spicy molecule called capsaicin, which can soothe inflammation and protect the heart.
  • Garlic may improve cholesterol levels.
  • Ginger helps prevent fat and cholesterol from building up in the arteries.

Can You Eat Sugar on a Heart-Healthy Diet?

Not all sugary foods are created equal. Some foods contain natural sugars, while others have sugar added to them while being processed. For example, fruits naturally contain sugar, but extra sugar may be added to items like canned fruit or fruit juice. When you’re eating for heart health, it’s better to limit the amount of added sugars you eat. This means cutting out sweetened drinks like soda, alcohol, and energy drinks. It also means limiting the amount of desserts or sugary snacks you eat. If you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth, try looking to superfoods with higher levels of natural sugar to replace sweeter processed foods. Here are some heart-healthy options:

  • Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, and cranberries are loaded with nutrients, fiber, and polyphenols. People who eat them regularly have better fat and sugar metabolism, improved cholesterol levels, and boosted heart health.
  • Grapes: Red grapes contain a molecule called resveratrol, which protects against heart disease and aging.
  • Dark chocolate: Eating this superfood – in moderation, of course – may lower a person’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Healthy Heart Diets

Some people may find it hard to add individual superfoods to their daily meals, and prefer a more comprehensive eating plan that tells them what and when to eat. Doctors have developed a couple of different diets that boost heart health, and many of these emphasize eating more superfoods.

The DASH Diet

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, is an eating plan that helps people lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. As an example, someone who is following DASH and needs 2000 calories per day would eat:

  • 6-8 servings of grains per day, preferably whole grains
  • 4-5 servings of vegetables per day
  • 4-5 servings of fruits per day
  • 2-3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy products per day
  • Less than 6 ounces of lean meat per day
  • 4-5 servings of nuts or seeds per week
  • 2-3 servings of healthy oils per day

Clinical trials that have studied the DASH diet have also found that people who make the following changes are more likely to see a benefit:

  • Reduce sodium intake to 2,300 mg or less per day
  • Replace 10% of carbohydrates with either protein or unsaturated fat
  • Get more physical activity

The Mediterranean Diet

This eating plan is based on the ways that people in Italy, Spain, and other regions near the Mediterranean traditionally prepare and eat their food. Like the DASH diet, the Mediterranean diet advocates eating whole grains, fresh produce, and other high-fiber foods. The eating plan is centered primarily around plant-based foods – lean meat or chicken is more of an accent than the main focus of the meal. Scientific research has found that people who follow the Mediterranean diet have better blood sugar and cholesterol levels. They are less likely to have heart disease and other chronic health conditions.

Superfoods-for-heart

Other Strategies for Heart Health

Changing your diet is a great first step towards better heart health. Other lifestyle changes that your doctor may recommend include:

  • Losing extra weight
  • Reducing stress
  • Exercising and moving more throughout the day
  • Getting better sleep
  • Quitting smoking
  • Drinking alcohol less often

Your doctor can help you understand your risk of heart disease by measuring your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and assessing other risk factors. If you are concerned about your heart, get annual physical exams and ask your doctor for recommendations related to lifestyle changes you can make. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels, your doctor may also prescribe you medication in order to help manage these factors.

Putting It All Together

Changing up your diet is one of the best things you can do for your heart. Swap in superfoods for high-sugar, fatty, processed foods whenever possible. Eating a variety of different types of superfoods is a great way to start living a more heart-healthy lifestyle!

If you would like to learn more, schedule a consultation with Dr. Connor.

Superfoods Part 2: Supercharge Your Diet with Superfoods for Weight Loss

Superfoods Part 2: Supercharge Your Diet with Superfoods for Weight Loss

Superfoods Help With Weight Loss

For a refresher on what superfoods are, have a read of Part 1 of my series on superfoods.

Many different factors affect how much you weigh, but your diet is one of the most important when it comes to healthy weight loss strategies. Eating a balance of superfoods can not only help you get to a healthy weight and keep the extra pounds off, but also help your body ward off many chronic health conditions. Superfoods are full of fiber, proteins, healthy fats, and antioxidants that can keep you full, boost metabolism, and help your body function at its best. Superfoods for weight loss can be combined with other healthy weight loss strategies, like intermittent fasting, to supercharge your diet and help you lose weight.

Which Foods Are Good for Losing Weight?

When you’re trying to plan your diet around certain weight or health goals, it can be hard to know which foods are most helpful. It may be beneficial to better understand the building blocks that make up food.

 

Macronutrients

All food is made of nutrients. The three main macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. In recent years, high-protein, low-carb eating plans such as the Paleo and keto diets have become extremely popular, and it wasn’t that long ago that low-fat diets were all the rage. This may lead some people to think that all protein is good, and all carbs and fats are bad. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The truth is that your body needs all three of these macronutrients in the right balance. Getting too much or too little of any nutrient can lead to health problems and even weight gain.

That being said, not all proteins, carbohydrates, and fats are created equal. For example:

  • Proteins are made up of smaller compounds called amino acids. There are about 20 different kinds of amino acids that the body needs in order to function properly. If you get too much or too little of a certain amino acid, you may be left with an imbalance that affects your health.
  • Carbohydrates come in two basic varieties: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates consist of one or two sugar molecules, while complex carbs are long strings of sugars attached together. The body can use both of these for energy, but complex carbs take longer to break down. This means they won’t cause big spikes or drops in blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates also tend to contain more nutrients. Simple or refined carbs can easily lead to weight gain, while complex carbs can help support a healthy weight.
  • Fats also come in different forms. Unsaturated fats are found in plants and seafood and can be great for health. Saturated fats, which come from animal products, and trans fats, which are found in processed oils, can lead to health problems when they’re eaten in high amounts.

How Do Superfoods Play a Role?

While there isn’t an official or scientific definition of what can be classified as a “superfood,” in general these foods are items that contain a lot of beneficial nutrients. Some of these foods can help you reach a healthy weight, and stay there.

Superfoods tend to have higher levels of healthier carbohydrates and fats. They also usually contain a lot of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which protect cells from damage. Many of these compounds have been linked to having a healthy metabolism.

Superfoods for Weight Loss

If you’re trying to rev up your metabolism, shed fat, or stay full longer, superfoods can help. However, you can’t just eat one superfood occasionally, in between meals full of less healthy foods, and expect it to have a strong effect. Eating for weight loss means eating a balance of many different types of foods. If you can fit in a variety of different types of superfoods into your diet on a regular basis, you can help your body reach a healthy weight.

 

What might a superfood-filled day look like? There are many different options, but here I will show how to fit more superfoods into your diet, meal by meal.

Breakfast Superfoods: Get Your Metabolism Going

Should You Eat Breakfast Every Morning?

Many early studies found that people who ate breakfast every day tended to weigh less, while those who skipped this meal often had a higher BMI, higher cholesterol levels, and an increased risk of diabetes. However, more studies have shown conflicting results. For some people, skipping breakfast is the better weight loss strategy.

One possible reason for this is genetics. People with certain genes may respond better to skipping the first meal of the day, while people with a different genetic makeup may reach their goal weight after making breakfast a part of their normal routine.

Another reason why some studies have found different outcomes is that not all breakfasts are created equal. If you’re digging into sugary cereal or other forms of refined carbs every morning, you’re not adding much nutrition to your body. Switching these meals out for a superfood breakfast, on the other hand, will give you more health benefits. Plus, it may help you ward off hunger for longer.

A Superfood Breakfast

Some of the best superfood breakfast options include whole grains and fruit. Whole grains are more likely to make you feel full compared to refined grains. They also tend to have more fiber and nutrients, and can help increase the healthy bacteria in your gut.

A simple bowl of oatmeal counts as a whole grain. Oatmeal contains different types of fiber, such as beta-glucan, which makes you feel full and helps you manage your weight. Steel-cut or rolled oatmeal, as well as other whole-grain options such as buckwheat or quinoa, fills you up without making your blood sugar spike. Top oatmeal with nuts, nut butter, granola, or fruit. One good option is blueberries, which contain compounds called anthocyanins that reduce a person’s risk of heart disease and diabetes and help the body lose weight.

Eggs are another great superfood option. They are loaded with protein and provide a lot of healthy unsaturated fats. Eggs also contain a wide array of vitamins and minerals, and eating just two eggs provides you with 10-30% of your needed vitamins for the day. In one study where people tried to use a low-calorie diet to lose weight, those who had eggs for breakfast lost more weight than those who had a high-carb bagel breakfast.

While you’re at it, go ahead and pour yourself a cup of coffee for breakfast. Tea is well-known for its health benefits, but coffee is a superfood as well, leading to a lower risk of heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and several different types of cancers. Coffee may even help you live longer! It also makes people feel more full, so it may be a good way to keep away the hunger in the morning.

Superfoods for Lunch: Grab Something Filling

Your lunch should give you the energy and power you need to help you get through the rest of the day. Your best bet is to look for superfoods that pack a punch of fiber, fat, and protein.

High-Fiber Foods

Eating an extra 14 grams of fiber per day causes people to eat 10% fewer calories and lose weight. Try including some of the following high-fiber superfoods in your lunches:

  • Sandwich on whole-grain bread
  • Salad packed with fresh veggies, nuts, and seeds
  • Meat and veggies over brown rice, quinoa, or whole-wheat pasta
  • Lentil or bean salad full of spices and fresh vegetables
  • Wrap with beans and veggies
  • Nuts or a low-sugar trail mix
  • Nut butters served with fruits, vegetables, or whole-grain crackers
  • Hummus and veggies
  • Fresh or dried fruits, including the skin if it’s edible

Include the Right Fats

Eating a meal high in saturated fat can limit your attention span and impair your ability to focus. However, eating healthier fats may help combat the post-lunch slump that so many of us get.

For example, prepare your next lunch with an avocado, which is loaded with monounsaturated fats. In one study, overweight people who ate an avocado every day and cut calories lost weight and had fewer signs of inflammation. Another study found that people who ate half an avocado along with their lunch had a 40% decreased desire to eat for three hours after the meal.

Other superfood sources of unsaturated fats include seafood, nuts, seeds, olives and olive oil, and oil-based salad dressings.

Protein-Packed Lunches

Some scientific research has found that high-protein diets tend to make people feel more full and eat less later on. Getting more of your calories from protein, as opposed to carbohydrates or fats, also helps people lose more weight and keep it off.

Meat and poultry contains a lot of protein, but these foods generally don’t offer as much nutritional value as plant-based, protein-packed superfoods. Several different studies have found that eating beans, chickpeas, and lentils can make people feel a third more full.

Superfood Snacks for an Energy Boost

What should you reach for when you start to feel hungry in the afternoon? Fruits, vegetables, popcorn, nuts, and low-fat yogurt or cheese make great, nutritious options.

For a slightly different snack, try flaxseed. Eating fiber from flaxseeds led to lower levels of fat in the bloodstream and increased feelings of fullness in one study. These seeds are also full of omega-3s, a healthy type of fat. Omega-3 foods make people feel more full, helping them shed weight. They also lower your risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.

To use flaxseed, grind up a tablespoon or two and throw it on top of popcorn or mix into nut butter. You can also make your own healthy flax baked goods such as muffins or cookies by substituting flaxseed for other ingredients:

  • To use flax in place of oil, use in a 3:1 ratio (use three tablespoons ground flaxseed instead of one tablespoon oil).
  • To substitute flaxseed for eggs, mix a tablespoon of flax with three tablespoons of water and let stand for 15 minutes. Use the mixture in place of one egg.

Dinner Superfoods: Choose a Well-Rounded Meal

Main Courses

When cooking dinner, it may be helpful to get inspiration from the Mediterranean diet, which can help people lose weight in addition to reducing risk of heart disease and diabetes. The Mediterranean diet encourages people to eat many different superfoods, emphasizing whole grains, vegetables, fruits, seafood, high-fiber foods, and olive oil. People who follow the Mediterranean diet don’t eat much red meat, eggs, butter, or sugary foods.

To follow this diet, try to eat more seafood in place of beef and pork, and increase your intake of plant-based foods. Beans and lentils can provide a lot of protein and fiber when you’re eating less animal-based meats.

For extra flavor, cook with superfood spices that may also help you control your weight:

  • Spicy chili peppers contain a compound called capsaicin, and sweet peppers contain capsiate. Both of these molecules boost metabolism and increase the amount of fat that the body burns.
  • Ginger can help people lose pounds and improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
  • Turmeric intake helps people lose weight and improve symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

Superfood Sides

Most superfoods are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. All of these can be easily turned into side dishes! Making more nutritious, seasonal sides for your meals is a great way to get more superfoods. For a better shot at weight loss, try changing your approach to dinnertime – downsize your portion of meat, and make large, flavorful superfood side dishes the main focus of the meal.

Some of the most nutrient-dense foods that offer the best protection against chronic diseases are easily used as side dishes. These include leafy green vegetables like spinach and chard, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. These superfood veggies may also help with your weight goals. For example, spinach can help control genes involved in metabolism and signal the body to release hormones that make you feel more full, thus encouraging you to eat less.

Can You Have Superfoods for Dessert?

It’s perfectly okay to enjoy some of your favorite heavier, higher-fat, sugar-laden foods, as long as you balance them with other foods that provide more nutrients. If you want to indulge, try eating these foods in smaller amounts, less often. When people occasionally treat themselves to a less-healthy food item that they love, they can actually lose more weight than people who always feel guilty when they indulge.

If you are going to have a dessert, try eating something containing whole berries or other fruit that can give you fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Dark chocolate is also considered a superfood – it has many antioxidants and other helpful nutrients. Eating dark chocolate can help decrease appetite and, in one study, men who ate dark chocolate ate 17% less during their next meal.

Conclusions

A wide variety of superfoods can be added to every meal of your day. The more different kinds of superfoods you can fit in your diet, the more nutrients you will take in, leading to better health and a lower risk of disease. Most superfoods have been linked to helping people reach and stay at a healthy weight. If you can figure out how to add extra superfoods into some of your favorite recipes in place of foods that are higher in sugar and saturated fat, you can help your metabolism function at its best.

Superfoods Part 1: What Is a Superfood and What Is So Super About Them?

Superfoods Part 1: What Is a Superfood and What Is So Super About Them?

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

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.

Carbohydrates

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.

Fats

Like carbohydrates, fats supply your cells with energy. They also have several other roles within your body:

  • 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.

Protein

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

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

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

Eating a diet filled with superfoods can promote health and reduce your risk of disease. Although the definition of “superfood” isn’t all that clear, prioritizing foods that are packed with healthy nutrients can help you maximize health benefits. This article is the first instalment of a series I will be publishing here on NorthWestPharmacy.com’s “Ask the Doctor”. Keep an eye out for future installments which will focus on different key nutrients in different superfoods and their health benefits.

 

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.

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