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Just How ‘Super’ Are Superfoods?

If you’re not consuming superfoods, you’re doing it wrong

Tracy Block Staff Reporter
Published:
Updated:
6 min read
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Once you start looking, you’ll see that superfoods are everywhere, and can be incorporated into almost any meal
- Heather Pratt, master nutrition therapist and nutrition writer
and recipe developer for Natural Grocers


If you grew up in a meat-and-potatoes household, it’s entirely possible veggies fell short from your plate – or conveniently right into the mouth of your dog. Oops! In fact, a study conducted by HealthyPeople.gov reveals that American adults age 51 and older consume almost twice as many vegetables daily compared to children. However, thanks to the rising popularity of superfoods in recent years, members of health-conscious households are sneaking – and enjoying – all types of nutrient-dense foods into each meal in an effort to reap the healthful benefits. And, while meat and potatoes are quite delicious, adding some vibrant foods to your dinner plate could be your saving grace. Consider the 2020 statistics reported by PolicyAdvice.net as seen below:

• Annually, 678,000 US deaths are attributed to diseases that stem from a lack of proper nutrition.

• Nutrition-related diseases cost Americans an estimated $800 billion each year.

• Approximately 117 million adults in the US suffer from one or more chronic diseases due, in part, to improper nutrition.

Superfoods & Immune Health

Superfoods are defined as nutrient-rich foods that are labeled as especially beneficial to both our health and overall wellbeing. And, while superfoods have always existed, they are receiving amplified recognition thanks to food and nutrition experts, as well as proactive dieters around the globe. Currently, superfoods are making headlines due to the pandemic. “In quarantine, it’s important to nourish ourselves as we always do, and stay active,” shares Monica Auslander Moreno, licensed and registered dietitian and nutritionist and founder of Miami, Florida-based Essence Nutrition.

In fact, immune health improvement continues to rise as a preventive care response to combat COVID-19. One issue that may be overlooked right now is hydration, which Auslander Moreno believes is a struggle for those missing their daily work/lunch water cues. “Staying hydrated is a key support to our immune systems,” she says. Furthermore, we may be able to help keep our systems in place with proper hydration, as well as superfoods like elderberry, ginger, oregano, broth, manuka honey, fruits and vegetables, garlic, and onion, according to Auslander Moreno.

Pro Tip: For easier consumption, RSP Nutrition, for which Auslander Moreno consults, offers an Immunity & Hydration Shot to get you rebalanced.

Top Superfoods to Consider

When it comes to the daily diet, superfoods have an overwhelming amount of nutritional benefits. However, Auslander Moreno says that superfoods should not necessarily be prioritized over other food groups. “All foods can fit into a healthy eating pattern – some more often than others,” she explains. “Foods can support our health and our lives, but they will not singularly cure disease. We should all aim to eat from every single food group every single day, and choose mostly (90%) nutrient-dense options therein.”

So, what are some of the best superfoods to consume right now? Auslander Moreno shares her top picks:

• Fermented foods: These contain live microorganisms (probiotics) that can populate our microbiomes within us, and potentially contribute to enhanced immunity, digestion, mood, balanced hormone levels, weight, and many more concepts we don't fully understand. Fermented foods include miso, tempeh, kraut, kefir, yogurt, and pickled vegetables.

• Matcha: This is the concentrated form of green tea, which hosts a flurry of antioxidants, like EGCG, which can fight inflammation. Matcha also contains caffeine and can boost your energy, but without the jolt of coffee, because matcha contains l-theanine, which binds to caffeine receptors in the brain.

• Pineapples: As summer temperatures set in, pineapple offers a refreshing dose of fiber, Vitamin C, and an enzyme called bromelain, which may assist in wound healing.

• Bananas: This beloved fruit contains prebiotic fibers, which can nourish the probiotics previously mentioned. They're also rich in potassium, which is needed for electrolyte balance. Additionally, bananas can replace eggs in recipes and provide sweetness to baking, without added sugar.

• Sardines: These are gaining popularity again during the pandemic since the fishy superfoods are canned. Sardines are huge sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D, and are an affordable and easy protein. Consider lopping them onto toast with some lemon for an easy lunch.

• Ground flaxseeds: These are great sources of plant-based omega-3s, but also work some great motility-instigating factors in helping with constipation. Just a couple tablespoons per day sprinkled into oatmeal or kefir can do wonders.

Cooking With Superfoods

Equally passionate about the integration of superfoods is a master nutrition therapist and nutrition writer and recipe developer for Natural Grocers, Heather Pratt, of Denver, Colorado. “Over the years I’ve been into so many superfoods, that it’s a bit like picking a favorite child!” Pratt exclaims. “I’ve been in love with turmeric for many years now; it just never seems to fade. I’m also slightly obsessed with mushrooms for their ability to support optimal immune function. I’ve also been on a broccoli sprouts kick lately.”

To illustrate, Pratt, who is board-certified in Holistic Nutrition, says it’s important to remember that superfoods don’t have to be exotic or hard to find. “Superfoods are any foods that give you a lot of nutritional bang for the caloric buck,” she says. “Look to the foods you are already cooking – and are eating regularly – and build on those.”

Pratt offers these suggestions:

• Scrambled eggs: Add your favorite herbs and some sautéed greens.

• Burgers and sandwiches: Include a scoop of kimchi and a handful of sprouts.

• Chili: Shake in a bit of turmeric, which can go undetected among strong flavors.

• Ground beef: Consider including a bit of ground liver, which is loaded with nutrients.

• Smoothies: Add fresh greens, or consider green, beet, spirulina, mushroom, and maca powders.

• Oatmeal: Complement the warm bowl with fresh berries.

• Chocolate: Make the switch to dark, with at least 70% cacao.

• Trail mix: Choose a healthier, low-sugar variety with goji berries, mulberries, cacao nibs, and raw or dry-roasted nuts.

• Soda: Add tart cherry or elderberry juice to sparkling water for a healthier alternative.

“Little additions add up to a big impact over time,” Pratt shares. “And, once you start looking, you’ll see that superfoods are everywhere, and can be incorporated into almost any meal.” Although you may not be fond of cooking, Pratt says this makes food easier to digest (compared to raw) and often, tastier, “which improves the odds a person will actually enjoy the food.” She adds, “Certainly, there are some benefits to raw foods, too, like enzymes and higher Vitamin C levels. What is most important is that people are actually getting these superfoods in them, so I suggest eating them however they taste best to you.”

As for the ever-evolving category of trendy superfoods, Pratt believes that traditional superfoods are here to stay. “While not new, I think we’re going to continue to see an interest in old superfoods, like organ meat, gelatin, bone broth, and fermented foods,” she offers. “They aren’t as glamorous as maqui berry or matcha green tea, but they fill a niche that is missing in most American diets, and I think people are starting to really value those traditional superfoods again.”


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Just How ‘Super’ Are Superfoods?

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