Unknown to many, the term ‘superfood’ (used to describe certain foods that are low in calories and high in specific vitamins, minerals or nutrients) was created and used as a marketing tool, and doesn’t have official scientific backing. Nevertheless, foods classed as ‘superfoods’ are still undeniably beneficial to our bodies. But with the constant stream of superfood trends and the huge variety of celebrity endorsements leading to inflated prices on many products, which superfoods are realistically affordable on a regular basis?
Leafy greens have always been known to be good for you, but the spotlight has recently been shining on kale, helped by celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow calling it “Hollywood’s New It Vegetable”. Packed full of vitamins and nutrients, kale can be used in many different ways. Try it stir-fried, steamed, boiled, or baked as kale chips. If you have a farmer’s market near you, buy your kale from there, as it will be much cheaper and of a much higher quality than the packaged kale you find in supermarkets.
Related to kale is spinach and swiss chard, both of which improve cardiovascular health as well as brain function and can protect against diabetes. Again, have a look for chard at farmers markets, as the different colours, sizes and varieties are a feast for the eyes. Other vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, cabbage and cauliflower are also great for your health, but can sometimes seem slightly boring. Take the time to discover new ways of cooking these and rediscover the amazing flavours and textures they can add to different dishes.
Almonds, something that supermodel Heidi Klum regularly snacks on, are another common superfood, but can sometimes be pricey in the supermarkets. However, peanuts contain the same healthy oil that almonds do, meaning that a diet that includes peanuts and peanut products, including peanut butter, helps to reduce your risk of heart disease. Don’t forget that peanuts are good for more than snacking – try adding nuts when cooking a stir fry for a delicious added crunch. When buying peanuts, make sure to choose the dry roasted and unsalted type, and limit your daily portion.
When it comes to fruit, goji berries, acai berries and blueberries are promoted as being some of the fruits with the highest levels of antioxidants. But berries in general are bursting with health benefits, from strawberries to dried cranberries. Frozen berries are just as good as fresh ones and can often be cheaper, but, when buying fresh berries or any other fruit, remember that the more colour they have, the more antioxidants they contain!
Due to the amount of omega-3s it contains, salmon is also considered a superfood. A versatile fish when it comes to cooking, salmon has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. As with the berries, fresh doesn’t always mean better – canned salmon contains the same nutritional benefits as fresh, and usually at a fraction of the cost. In addition to salmon, tuna, mackeral and sardines are also full of omega-3s. If you’re a big meat eater, try eating a fatty fish a couple of times a week instead for a good boost to your body.
Eggs are another animal-derived food that are beneficial to eat on a regular basis, and can be included in so many different dishes. Eggs are packed with protein and essential vitamins, and have been known to promote brain development. Be sure to include both the egg yolk as well as the white, as the yolks contain all the vitamins that are important for healthy eyesight.
Sweet potatoes, full of fibre, protein and vitamins, is another food that often gets overlooked, as many don’t realise the health benefits they contain. Baked as chips or cooked into a soup, sweet potatoes are delicious no matter how they are cooked, and are affordable enough to eat on a regular basis. Not only do they protect your vision, but they also keep your bones strong and help to fight against cancer. Other root vegetables, such as parsnips, also contain lots of vitamins and folate. Beetroot in particular is one that boosts blood flow to your brain, and, when in season, can be found at a great price in many supermarkets. Try it boiled, roasted or pickled, for a delicious addition to your diet. If you’re able to buy beetroot with the greens still attached, make sure not to discard those nutritious leaves as they are full of fibre and can be easily tossed into a stir-fry.
Lemongrass, a member of the grass family, has a tasty citrus flavour, and can be added chopped or minced to soups, curries and stir fries, or boiled into a relaxing tea. It has antiseptic properties and can help to reduce cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels. Although you don’t get much for your money when buying lemongrass at the supermarket, look for it at a nearby Asian supermarket, as it will most likely be cheaper and fresher.
Coconuts, although hugely beneficial to your health, are not usually available in supermarkets in whole form, but are sold in much more convenient ways, from coconut oil, butter and milk to coconut chips and fresh coconut pieces. Superstar Madonna is such a firm believer in this superfood that she invested a large sum of money in Vita Coco Coconut Water. Why all the fuss? Well, coconuts contain all of the macronutrients and are a rich source of minerals, so are definitely one of the superfoods that can easily be incorporated into your diet. Many models are known to add coconut to their diets as it helps to metabolise fat, meaning that it allows your body to burn calories quicker.
Ginger, detoxifying and anti-inflammatory, and garlic, which fights against cancer and kills certain bacteria, go hand in hand when it comes to many Asian and Oriental dishes. They add a great flavour and aroma, and a little goes a long way when cooking with them.
Although superfoods provide plenty of vitamins and nutrients that are great for your body, they all need to be eaten in moderation, and it is important not to forget the importance of a balanced diet.