What Are Superfoods and Why Do You Need Them?
by Ashley Bierman on Sep 29, 2021
You've probably heard the term "superfood" but what exactly does that mean?
Superfoods are considered superfoods because they are rich in compounds such as fiber, antioxidants, or fatty acids. They are also exceptionally nutrient dense compared to other foods.
People should know that superfoods tend to be simple. By that I mean that some of the most common foods, or those that we might already be including in our diet, are superfoods.
What Are Examples of Superfoods?
Perhaps one of the greatest superfoods known to mankind is the beet. Beets, which are plants whose deep purple root can be used as food and medicine, have been used for centuries around the world for their medicinal properties that promote healing and wellbeing in various ways.
Another amazing superfood is Shilajit. This superfood is less known, but the dark brown-black herb is made from years of decomposed plant material. It’s usually found high in the mountains of places like the Himalayas, Nepal, Russia, Iran, and even Peru. Consuming Shilajit aids in raising testosterone levels, increasing energy, heart health, fatigue, altitude sickness, Alzheimer’s, anemia, and infertility.
Are Superfoods "Good For You"?
I look at the term “good for you” when it comes to food in a few different ways.
The first is “good for you” when it comes to overall lifestyle and your specific health goals and/or needs.
It is always best to evaluate food based on how it makes you feel and on whether it helps you achieve your goals.
Another way, perhaps more objective, is whether a specific food has specific health benefits. Examples would be that Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant or the anti-inflammatory effects of Turmeric.
Yet another way is establishing that certain foods are “good for you because they are not bad for you”.
For example, if a person’s diet contains processed carbohydrates, high-sugar foods, and general “junk” food then after time they may start to become insulin resistant.
This can lead to excess stress on the body, trouble losing weight, fatigue, and increased risk for disease. In this situation, “good for you” might be following some type of “keto” or “fasting” diet that emphasizes foods like vegetables and good high-fat items.
Unfortunately the food industry has us seriously lulled when it comes to understanding foods that could be harmful.
Another example can be applied to someone who experiences increased bloating, constipation, weight gain, or acne when eating dairy. In this case, “good for you” would look like vegan or dairy-free options which are good for “you the individual” even though the same may not apply to the general population.
The other way that I look at “good for you” when it comes to food is by labeling foods as “good for you” if they were cultivated in an organically mindful way.
Overtime, the agriculture industry has become more focused on mass-production methods at the expense of the nutrients that benefit our bodies.
With this in mind, selecting organic or locally-sourced foods would be “good for you” or rather better for you as compared to the identical non-organically grown version. That’s because most foods available on modern supermarket shelves are nutrient deficient.
For example, it's believed an orange 50 years ago had 200-250 mg of Vitamin C because cultivation methods did not heavily use pesticides or herbicides.
In today’s world, an organically grown orange can reach 150 mg of Vitamin C while conventional oranges that you would typically choose only contain 50-60mg.
On the flip side let's look at the “it's not bad for you therefore it must be good for you” conception.
This is highly subjective as it is based entirely on the individual's knowledge of food. This country is full of people that believe potato chips aren't bad for you because they are made from potatoes which are grown on farms or that white bread is not bad for you if it has the words ``fortified” on the package.
How Do I Know Which Foods Are "Healthy" For Me?
Here I go back to evaluating foods based on how you feel.
One way to know if a “healthy” food or superfood is actually beneficial to you is through an elimination diet. Your body will tell you if a particular food group is bothering you.
With the elimination diet, you start off by eating raw fruits and vegetables for the first week and the only beverage that you consume is water.
After this, you start adding specific foods and/or food groups back into your diet one at a time. So for the first week you might add back dairy and the next week you might add back grains.
During this diet ask yourself, how do I feel? Am I less bloated than usual? Are my bowel movements more frequent? Do I have more energy during the day? How does my skin look? Am I able to focus better?
The answer to these questions, and others, will help you determine how that specific food and/or food group benefits you as an individual. From that point on you will know that perhaps certain superfoods like eggs or greek yogurt do not benefit you.
What Is Wrong With The Food Industry?
As discussed earlier, one thing that bothers me about our food culture today is the industry and production methods themselves. Many conventional foods are nutrient-deficient and fruits and vegetables are often bypassed for easy access to packaged goods that are usually full of hidden sugars, bad fats, and preservatives.
Another thing is the way that we view food in America.
In many cultures, food is considered to be a medicine. It is believed that if you eat well, choose the right foods at the right times of day, that you will be able to not only maintain a healthier body but also a better attitude and spirit all around.
The ancient healing art of Ayurveda has been around for centuries and is still in use today because so many of the foods that are used as medicine have genuine anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help prevent illness.
There is a lot of science to back that. Eating nutrient dense superfoods like those found in vegetables and fruits provides your immune system with the resources it needs to stave off infection and disease. Give your body the resources it needs to do what it does best. It’s like putting the right gasoline into your car. If you do not have the right fuel, you will not function at your best. Would you fly on the airline that was known to use bad fuel? Why would you treat your body any differently?
Unfortunately, the standard American diet too often lacks fresh fruits and vegetables, even though it is common knowledge that they are packed with the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to thrive. Without the proper types of food in our diets, it can be difficult to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle.
The final thing that bothers me about the “healthy” food culture is the emphasis on the “magic pill”. It’s important for people to understand that there is no quick fix, especially when it comes to diet.
Fad diets or those that preach “follow this regimen for 2 weeks and lose 20 pounds” are not only inaccurate, but they are unsustainable and focus on educating people properly when it comes to how to eat and how to live a well-rounded lifestyle.
What Should I Be Shopping For?
Many of the superfoods that we know like kale, spinach, oranges, tofu, berries, etc. are really as good as they seem compared to other food options that are available.
Again, I go back to fruits, vegetables, and shopping organically.
The body runs on fuels, and that’s simply the way it is. What we feed ourselves equates to the quality of the gasoline that we put in our cars. If we are eating natural fruits, vegetables, and meats regularly, that’s a pretty standard type of gasoline.
But if we are filling up on junk food and preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and pre-packaged processed foods and fast food, we might as well be putting diesel in an engine that is supposed to run on unleaded. We need to try harder to treat our bodies better before they break down.
And again, it always goes back to you as an individual and evaluating how specific foods and/or food groups help you achieve your health and wellness goals. Be careful who you listen to...
References & Disclaimers
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author