Whether you’re looking to make some major changes to your diet, or you just want to amp up your health levels, there’s one category of foods that will help you supercharge your food intake (literally). Superfoods
What Makes a Superfood?
The superfood definition states that foods with “extra-large doses of vitamins and minerals that can help us ward off diseases and live a longer, healthier life." Although there are no set guidelines for what defines a “superfood,” there are a few common associations that tend to make superfoods the power-packed resources that they are.
Some of the most well-known superfoods, like berries and even pure dark chocolate, are packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants are important because they help defend your cells from damage from free radicals. Free radicals have gotten a lot of buzz in the consumer health world lately, and with good reason - they are derived from “normal essential metabolic processes in the human body or from external sources such as exposure to X-rays, ozone, cigarette smoking, air pollutants, and industrial chemicals.” (US National Library of Medicine.)
When free radicals accumulate, they may cause a state known as “oxidative stress,” which may damage your DNA and other cell structures. This in turn can increase your risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, and also increase symptoms of aging, such as dullness and wrinkles. Antioxidants are important because they can help “increase your blood antioxidant levels to fight oxidative stress and reduce the risk of these diseases.” (Healthline)
Another element commonly associate with the label of “superfood” is fiber. Fiber is well-known for being a great digestive aid - it helps keep your intestines, colon and digestive tract healthy. Fiber also slows the rate that sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, which keeps your glucose levels normal, and helps you feel fuller (which prevents overeating). For this reason too, a diet high in fiber can help prevent chronic diseases like diabetes.
Superfoods like chocho beans and whole grains are lauded for having high fiber levels to assist with these benefits. Chocho, also known as from Andean Lupin, is an Andean superfood that is low glycemic and high in fiber. In addition, Andean Lupin is particularly rich in lysine and arginine. Lysine, is an essential amino acid that is critical for collagen production and vital for healthy skin and bones. Arginine, may be partly responsible for health benefits attributed to lupins, including its potential ability to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and stabilize blood sugar.
Healthy fats are also recognized as a component of some superfoods. Healthy fats, like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, are important because they help keep your cells healthy. Healthy fats help your body absorb essential vitamins and minerals, and help to build your body’s cell membranes and well as nerve sheaths. (Harvard Medical School) Perhaps the most well-known healthy fat out there is “Omega-3 fatty acids,” which are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that may help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and has other significant heart health benefits. (EatRight.org) Some of the best examples of healthy-fat foods are walnuts, avocado and salmon.
Another ingredient that makes up many superfoods, particularly the leafy green ones are phytonutrients, or phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are compounds that are produced by plants, and they are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and even beans. Some phytochemicals are believed to protect cells from damage that could lead to cancer. (BreastCancer.org) Phytochemicals are believed to “help stop the formation of potential cancer-causing substances,” like carcinogens, which then prevents those carcinogens from attacking cells, and increasing chances of cancer development. Some of the most common phytochemicals from plants are beta carotene and other carotenoids (known from carrots), and isothiocyanates, which are found in leafy greens like broccoli and bok choy.
Not only do sperfoods give your diet a boost, they have many benefits. Superfoods are great additions to your diet, either as supplemental or standalone foods. There are many easy and tasty ways to eat more superfoods from working them into smoothies or as a side. Try some of our favorite recipes using Chocho like our delicious Chocho protein balls featured below.