Superfoods are said to boost your mood and keep you looking young, well nourished and healthy. Mostly found in fruit and vegetables, they are full to the brim with health-giving nutrients Ė vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which fight disease. They are usually low in calories and can be included in your diet on a daily basis to give you energy and keep you fit. Here is a list of them:
Like all berries, blueberries are rich in antioxidants such as Vitamin C, thus making them good for fighting cancer and other serious disease, keeping skin healthy and boosting the immune system. The flavonoids in blueberries strengthen blood capillaries and improve circulation.
Only recently did people recognise that one of the most commonly eaten vegetables was so good for you. It is particularly high in beta-carotene which fights toxins in the body and can promote healthy eyes and heart. Itís a great source of Vitamin C which boosts immunity and keeps skin healthy, and is complemented by Vitamin A which is helpful for skin problems. It is also a great source of fibre and is high in calcium so for vegans itís an excellent substitute for dairy to keep bones healthy and prevent osteoporosis.
In the last few years cranberry juice has become a socially acceptable drink that you can buy at any bar. It is also well known for easing cystitis and other bladder infections because cranberries contain PACs (proanthocyanidins) that attach themselves to bacteria like E-coli and prevent it from attaching to the lining of the bladder. Cranberry juice and supplements are also helpful for easing digestive problems too.
Garlic is one of the ultimate superfoods as it has antibiotic, antiseptic and antiviral properties. It boosts the immune system, fights viruses and infection, lowers cholesterol, improves kidney function, helps fight colds, flu and respiratory infection Ė and is even more powerful raw, but not so sociable! The key ingredient in garlic is allicin, a sulphur compound, which is released when you crush garlic cloves. It is responsible for lowering bad cholesterol levels, detoxifying the body and is a natural anti-inflammatory. It is also high in sulphur which keeps skin, hair and nails looking great.
Ginger is a must-have in any kitchen because its active ingredient Ė gingerol - can help to ease a cold, relieve aches and pains and reduce nausea and even morning sickness. It is high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties which makes it good for arthritis and improving the circulation. It can also aid the absorption of nutrients, lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar.
Recently championed in the media as the latest superfood, kale is a member of the cabbage family. It contains more calcium for healthy bones and iron for building red blood cells than most other vegetables. Kale is also high in the antioxidant bioflavonoids that fight disease by neutralising free radicals.
One of the best foods you can eat, onions contain quercetin which is both anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic. Eating onions can help to lower cholesterol and relieve colds and stomach problems. They contain B vitamins which are vital to health, immune-boosting selenium that cleanses the liver, potassium that is required for building muscle and healthy growth, and silicon and sulphur that ensure healthy looking skin, hair and nails.
Recently pomegranates became the flavour of the month because they are packed with polyphenols, an antioxidant known for fighting cancer Ė particularly of the prostate -Vitamin C which fights infection and keeps skin healthy, and potassium which is instrumental in the healthy function of the nervous system and muscles.
Known as an excellent source of iron which prevents anaemia by manufacturing red blood cells and generates energy, spinach is also full of other nourishing vitamins and minerals. Folic acid also manufactures red blood cells and is essential for developing a healthy nervous system and is therefore given to pregnant women for their growing unborn babies. Spinach is also high in potassium which helps to build healthy bones and muscles.
Like all berries strawberries are abundant in Vitamin C which is great for fighting infection, preventing free radical damage to skin by the sun, and helps to keep skin elastic. They also contain ellagic acid, which is a phytochemical said to fight cancer, Vitamin B6 that helps to ease PMT and folic acid which is essential for the nervous system, especially in the unborn child.
An excellent source of fibre sweet potatoes were unheard of in the UK 30 years ago, but are now a popular root vegetable. They are high in beta-carotene which gives them their yellow/pink colour and is good for the eyes, lungs and immune system. They are also abundant in antioxidants for fighting disease.
The versatile tomato is very high in antioxidants with Vitamin C which fights infection and makes skin healthy, Vitamin E for healthy skin and Vitamin B3 (niacin) that breaks down food to release energy, creates hormones, enhances brain function and keeps the skin and digestive tract healthy. Tomatoes hit the headlines a few years ago when it was discovered that the carotenoid ingredient lycopene was anti-carcinogenic and neutralises free radicals that cause cancer. It was claimed that cooked tomatoes could help to protect men against prostate cancer.
Overlooked for many years in favour of mustard and cress, watercress is now known to contain a range of nourishing minerals and be an excellent health tonic. It contains iron for building red blood cells and preventing anaemia, calcium for healthy bones, iodine to prevent thyroid problems, and magnesium for providing energy and healthy muscles as well as many other functions.