Everybody loves a superhero and the fantasy of magic and miracles. In our modern, scientific world these things seem to exist almost exclusively in movies, comic books, and of course the new age world of health nuttiness. But as “educated” as we all are its amazing how we still have a tendency to run to extremes—doubt everything or believe anything. I know a Doctor who believes if you’re maintaining your weight, you’re getting sufficient nutrition and health fanatic who aspires to become a “lightarian”. In my view, wisdom is approaching the promise of something fantastic with skepticism as well as an open mind. J. Krishnamurti once said that doubt, although crucial, should be kept on a leash and occasionally allowed to run free. I’m a big fan of moderation and balance, probably because in my short life I’ve taken up residence temporarily at each of the fanatical poles. And in that vein I want to restate my basic belief that true health cannot be achieved by focusing obsessively on one aspect of life but rather by a holistic approach to all of life.
The above paragraph is really about managing expectations but what does that have to do with superfoods? And what are superfoods anyway? To define them, superfoods are basically a group of natural and easily available foods that have been identified as supremely nutritious and containing benefits essential for optimal health and disease prevention. They are powerful enough to ward off or impact heart disease, cancer, cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, and more. They will help alter your mood, maintain your weight and ultimately live longer. Some experts even claim that 50% to 70% of suffering could be eliminated by a superfood rich diet. And its statements like that that bring me back to the point about expectations. My personal belief, based on my own experiences and observations, is that there is no magic food that will cure all your problems, but that could be said about anything. Happiness comes when we decide to be happy, not when we find the “right” thing out there to make us so… Whew! I’m on a tangent. And because of limited space I’m going to make the transition into the real purpose of this article abrupt. Ladies and gentlemen… SUPERFOOD!
Ok, first here’s a list of the top superfoods: Beans, Blueberries, Broccoli, Oats, Oranges, Pumpkin, Salmon, Soy, Spinach, Tea (green or black), Tomatoes, Turkey, Walnuts, and of course Yogurt. Now lets breakdown a few key ones.
Blueberries: My favorite and the staple of my daily (and oft mentioned) Power Shake, these babies are packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids. They are high in potassium and vitamin C and not only can they lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, they are also an anti-inflammatory.
Omega 3s: Essential for the heart, joints, and memory there’s some evidence that shows it may also help reduce depression. Omega-3s are most prevalent in fatty, cold-water fish like wild salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel but you can also get them from fortified eggs, flax seed, walnuts and of course supplements.
Soy: This ones all about lowering cholesterol. It has been shown that a diet rich in soy fiber protein can lower cholesterol as much as statins, the most widely prescribed cholesterol medicine. It is cautioned however that if you have a family history of breast cancer it is not recommended that you eat extra soy.
Fiber: A high fiber diet will also help you maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels and because fiber helps you feel full longer, it’s a great tool in weight management. Whole grains, beans, fruit, and vegetables are all good sources.
Tea: Green or black tea are said to have the same overall antioxidant power. However, a recent study on green tea found that men who drank it regularly had lower cholesterol than those who didn’t. Green tea is high in the antioxidant ECGC which has also been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Calcium: Got Milk? (I can’t wait for the emails from my vegan friends… although they’ll go after me for the fish too I guess). The bottom line is that calcium does in fact help build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis and if you want it amply and easily, you’ll find it in dairy products. Some studies show that calcium also helps with weight loss and really… the cows don’t mind.
Dark Chocolate: I know I said blueberries are my favorite but if I were stranded on an island it would be a tough choice between them and dark chocolate. They’re both so good and they are also packed with antioxidants. Studies have also shown that dark chocolate can lower blood pressure. It is recommended that you look for chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content. In other words, the darker, the better.
So there you have it, the key to… I won’t say happiness… let’s just say an important part of healthiness.