Superfoods: Everything You Need To Know
What Are Superfoods?
The term “superfood” first appeared in a Canadian newspaper in the year 1949. Given the way the word is used today, you might assume that it was used to describe a vegetable or some new brand of health drink, but in reality, it was actually used to reference the nutritional properties of a muffin! From the late 20th century onwards, the term “superfood” became a common marketing tool in the food and drink industry and was used to sell everything from baked goods to fad diets. Today, there is still no set definition for the word, but rather than promoting muffins and fad diets, it is now almost exclusively used to describe foods with extraordinary nutritional value.
So Are Superfoods A Hoax?
Learning that the word superfood is little more than a marketing term can be disappointing, but the words origin and historical misuse shouldn’t be used to dampen the fact that many numbers of real superfoods do exist. Rather than disregarding superfoods altogether, we need to be smarter when faced with superfood marketing and wiser with our own food choices.
The truth is, the word superfood is an instant opportunity to add value to a product. By calling a product or food a ‘superfood,’ brands can charge more for them. For this reason, it is essential to look beneath food and drink marketing statements to assess how super the superfoods we eat really are. To make matters worse, influencers and social media platforms can drastically affect certain foods’ popularity, elevating them to a superfood status simply because they are photogenic. We’ve seen this firsthand with foods like avocado, which once were seen as high-fat and unhealthy and now are sold on toast for premium prices in health-food cafes across the world.
How To Be Superfood Smart
To avoid being sucked into a false superfood hype, it is critical to separate what we know for a fact from what we are told in superfood marketing. At the end of the day, a food’s nutritional makeup is what matters most when determining if it deserves to be labeled as a superfood, not how photogenic it is or whether it is perceived as exotic. When choosing which superfoods to buy, do your research first and don’t take the marketing, you see at face value.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Eating Superfoods?
Whether you see the word ‘superfood’ to mean healthy or a hoax, it is impossible to deny that some foods can provide more health benefits than others. Dozens of the world’s most nutritious foods are labeled as superfoods - mostly fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes with the occasional animal product like salmon and greek yogurt. There are no set nutritional entry criteria for food to enter the superfood world. Therefore, the health benefit you can expect to see can vary depending on which kinds of superfoods you eat. Here’s an example of some of the health benefits you could experience if you were to eat a wide variety of superfoods on a regular basis.
Superfoods like leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and legumes all contain a healthy dietary fiber dose, which helps keep your digestive system moving. Without sufficient fiber in your diet, you risk starving your good gut bacteria and depleting your gut microbiome, which can cause digestive issues, constipation, bloating, and even certain types of cancer.
Better Heart Health
Ischemic Heart Disease (IHD), also known as Coronary heart disease, remains the leading cause of death worldwide, killing almost nine million people each year. IHD is caused by a buildup of fat and cholesterol in the coronary arteries, ultimately leading to a heart attack. The good news is, eating more superfoods like nuts and seeds can help reduce your risk of IHD by lowering harmful LDL cholesterol levels in the blood and clearing fatty deposits in the arteries. All in all, this makes it easier for the heart to pump blood around the body and reduces a person’s risk of a heart attack.
A More Efficient Immune System
Another fantastic health benefit of eating superfoods is a more efficient immune system. Superfoods, in general, all contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin B6, which all improve immune function.
A Happier Mood
The food we eat affects not only our bodies but also our mind. Healthy superfoods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes can all help balance pesky hormones and can even help the brain to recover from injury. There’s also increasing evidence that eating a balanced diet filled with whole foods can help to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
Finally, alongside all of the other health benefits listed above, eating an abundance of superfoods is also linked to greater energy levels. This is because superfoods are often helpful in maintaining steady blood sugar levels, preventing the dreaded post-lunch slump.
What Are The Best Superfoods To Eat?
Truth be told, the best superfoods to eat are those you like and those you can afford - it’s as simple as that! There are dozens of superfoods out there, with new ones added to the list all the time. Often those with the highest profiles are foods like sea vegetables, blue-green algae, chlorella, and acai berries because they have catchy names and look fancy on superfood lists, but in all honesty, the best superfoods to eat are those you already have in your home. Here are some everyday superfoods that you may already have in your fridge or pantry.
Virtually everyone has oats stashed away somewhere in their cupboard. Affordable, accessible, and versatile, they’re a tremendous introductory superfood that everyone can start adding to their diet. They’re high in soluble fiber, which can lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels, and are also a great plant-based protein source. Try adding them to your smoothies, making good old fashioned oatmeal for breakfast, or using oat flour for healthier baking,
All berries are superfoods, but blueberries are one of the best! Their vivid purple skin is packed with more antioxidants than acai berries, goji berries, or raspberries, and you’re far more likely to find them in your local grocery store. Eat them raw as a snack, use them frozen in your smoothies, or try them dried as a replacement for candy.
Broccoli never gets the love it deserves despite being one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables in the world! That’s right - broccoli is actually better for you than kale and is probably one of the healthiest things you can eat. Try it steamed with a sprinkle of slivered almonds for some delicious crunch.
Another everyday cooking ingredient that rarely gets the appreciation it deserves is olive oil. People tend to focus on other more trendy oils like avocado or hemp oil when one of the healthiest oils has often been sitting in the cupboard all along. Packed with the antioxidant vitamin E and containing less polyunsaturated fat than avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil makes a delicious salad dressing mixed with lemon and some wholegrain mustard.
Here at Ayoub’s, we’re nuts about all nuts, but almonds are one of our favorites. A rich source of heart-healthy fats, protein, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals, you really can’t go wrong with a handful of almonds as a snack. For something a little more exciting, why not try lime and saffron almonds or spicy almonds with a kick of chili heat.
There are so many super-seeds out there, but one of the cheapest and most easily accessible varieties are pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are like little nutrient bombs; each is packed with vitamins and minerals as well as healthy fat and tons of dietary fiber. If you’re eating a pumpkin or squash, then scoop out the seeds and roast them yourself, or alternatively, buy the seeds ready roasted.
Let’s Take A Moment To Appreciate Nuts And Seeds
If you haven’t guessed it already, we think nuts and seeds are great and really are one of the few real superfoods. They may not be brightly colored or incredibly photogenic, but nuts and seeds are some of the most nutritious foods around and have been eaten for their health-giving properties for centuries. Still not convinced? Here are just five reasons why you need to give nuts and seeds some more credit.
They’re A Great Source Of Plant-Based Protein
It’s undeniable that animal agriculture is a significant contributor to global climate change. Although we’re not saying that everyone should go vegan, we do think that it’s important to know a few great plant-based protein sources, and nuts and seeds are two of them. A 28g serving of almonds contains a massive 6g of protein, while the same serving of pumpkin seeds contains 5.8g, and if you have access to chia seeds, then they’re also excellent, with two tablespoons containing 4.69g of protein.
They’re Packed With Antioxidants
It’s not just berries that contain antioxidants; nuts and seeds are great at fighting free radicals too. Walnuts have particularly high levels of antioxidants, ranking second out of 1113 foods for their antioxidant content!
Your Gut Will Thank You
Eating processed foods can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Swapping out chips and candy for a healthy serving of nuts and seeds will do wonders for your gut and help restore your microbiome. The reason why nuts and seeds are so good for your gut is that they contain a high amount of fiber, which feeds your good gut bacteria.
They’re Easy To Come By
Unlike some more exotic superfoods, nuts and seeds are generally very easy to come by and are also quite affordable. Because they pack so much punch into their tiny stature, you only need to eat a small amount of them to feel their benefit, which means they’ll last you longer too.
They’re Full Of Healthy Fats
Last but not least, nuts and seeds are some of the best sources of monounsaturated fat. This good kind of fat can actually help to reverse the effect of eating too much bad fat by lowering your cholesterol levels and cleaning out your arteries.
As you can see, nuts and seeds have a lot going for them and deserve to be recognized for the nutritious, delicious, and healthy snacks they are.
The Low-Down On Superfood Powders And Supplements
Increasingly, more and more superfoods are being turned into powders and supplement tablets. Although we have nothing against the sale of superfood powders and supplements, we do think it’s important to be aware of their pros and cons.
The Pros Of Superfood Powders
Superfood powders and supplement tablets have three main selling points - they’re convenient, don’t go off, and you don’t need to taste them.
We live in a world where convenience is very important and time is valuable. For people who don’t have the time to chop and wash kale, grate ginger or crush garlic, consuming these superfoods in powder or tablet form is much easier.
One big complaint with fresh fruit and vegetables is that they tend to go off very quickly. Unless you’re shopping frequently and eating whole fresh foods every day, this means that you could end up with a lot of food waste. Superfood powders and supplements don’t have the same kind of shelf life and can last out of the refrigerator for weeks or even months.
Let’s face it, not everyone likes the taste of kale or broccoli, and so the idea of being able to consume their nutrients in powder or pill form is very appealing. Green powders can be blended into chocolate flavored smoothies, and tablets can be swallowed with no taste at all, making them an easy way for fussier eaters to consumer superfood nutrients.
The Cons of Superfood Powders
Although superfood powders and supplements can definitely benefit some people, they’re not always better than merely consuming whole foods. First and foremost, superfood powder products are often expensive, not to mention their nutritional content can be altered through processing and making them too easy to eat can lead to an overconsumption of specific vitamins.
By taking whole foods like kale and turning them into a powder, brands can stick a costly superfood label on their product. This superfood tax, coupled with the cost of production, often makes products like powders and supplements very expensive for what they are.
They May Not Be As Nutritious
Another important thing to understand is that drying out and powdering a whole food can change its nutritional composition. Depending on the way that certain powders have been produced, they could be less nutritious than they claim to be, and it’s also much easier to missell a powder than to sell a fake bunch of kale.
It’s Easy To Overdose On Certain Vitamins
Finally, adding a scoop of green powder here and another one there may seem harmless, but if you add too much of any superfood into your diet, then you risk over-consuming certain nutrients. To avoid overdosing on vitamin powders, always stick to the recommended serving size.
So Which Is Better?
Ultimately, we believe that eating whole foods is always going to be better for you than eating processed powders or supplements. However, if eating whole foods isn’t possible, then superfood powders or pills are a good alternative when used correctly.
Four Easy Ways To Encourage Yourself To Eat More Superfoods
So you’ve decided to give superfoods a try - good on you! Now you just need to start eating them. Bringing new foods into your diet, especially healthy ones, can be a bit challenging, especially if the foods you are replacing are loaded with addictive sugar or fat. Here are some simple ways to incorporate more superfoods into your diet.
- Start By Upgrading One Meal
Rather than overhauling your whole diet, it’s easier to start with just one meal. Why not try swapping sugary breakfast cereal or toast for oatmeal topped with berries or a superfood smoothie? Swap sandwiches at lunch for a superfood salad, or bring in a couple of new superfood vegetables to your evening meal.
- Sprinkle Super Powers On Your Food
Nuts and seeds like chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds make generous superfood sprinkles, as do dried blueberries and goji berries! Sprinkle them on your oatmeal, on yogurt, on cereal, on ice cream, or even on top of salads for an effortless nutritional boost. Make things easy for yourself by setting up a sprinkle station and placing your superfood sprinkles in plain sight, so you remember to add them to your dishes.
- Keep Snacks Super Simple
Don’t go crazy on superfood snacks - keep them nice and simple. By far, the easiest and one of the healthiest super snacks to make is a simple fruit and nut mix packed with delicious dried fruit and nutritious nuts and seeds. Easy to eat, convenient, and filled with the nutrients you need to feel full for longer, fruit and nut mix ticks all the snack boxes without taking up too much of your time.
- Drink Your Superfoods
Another easy way to consume more superfoods is to drink them. Ditch coffee for green tea, a turmeric latte, or some matcha, which are all packed with antioxidants. For a convenient breakfast or lunch on the go, get out your blender and make a super smoothie crammed with superfoods like kale, spinach, peanut butter, banana, and chia seeds.
How To Make Superfoods More Affordable
Another widespread reason why people feel they can’t eat more superfoods is that they perceive them as being too expensive. The truth is, some superfoods are overpriced, but others are much more budget-friendly. Here are our top tips to help you eat more superfoods without breaking your budget.
Choose Whole Foods Over Powders
As we’ve mentioned previously, superfood powders can be helpful for some people, but they aren’t the cheapest way to consume superfoods. If you’re on a budget, then it’s always best to stick to real whole foods and to use them as the basis of your meal, rather than needing to do a full grocery shop and then paying for the price of superfood powders on the top.
Choose Common Superfoods
You don’t need to be eating exotic superfoods to feel their benefit. Some of the best superfoods are the most common ones like bell peppers, broccoli, nuts, and berries. Stick to superfoods that are available in your grocery store, and don’t feel as though you need to buy superfoods just because they’re hot on social media.
Buy Your Fruit And Vegetables Frozen
Buying your fruit and vegetables frozen is a great way to keep your food costs down. Frozen produce is often much cheaper than fresh because it can be harvested when the produce is in season. Buying frozen is also an easy way to reduce your preparation time as most frozen fruits and vegetables are already chopped, peeled, and prepared, ready to defrost and eat.
Buy Ingredients In Bulk
Bulk buying is another simple way to make your money go further. Pantry superfoods like nuts, seeds, and beans can all be kept for weeks, months, or even years when stored correctly, so if you have space, why not buy a big bag and save yourself some money.
Buy When Things Are In Season
Last but not least, certain superfoods come down in price dramatically when they are in season. Fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries tend to be much cheaper when they can be grown locally, so stock up when they are in season and then switch to local winter fruits for the winter season. Buying your produce when it is in season is also better for the environment and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Where To Buy Superfoods You Can Trust
Because superfoods are largely unregulated, it’s unsurprising that the superfood industry has seen its fair share of scams. Online scammers have sold fake superfood products, websites have overhyped the health claims of their products, and as a result, it is unsurprising that people are wary of buying superfoods as a result.
Seeing Through Superfood Marketing Statements
One of the biggest problems with the word ‘superfood’ is that it is still used primarily as a marketing statement. Foods that bear the superfood label are often priced higher with little or no nutritional difference, and this has led to mistrust in the term. To avoid paying more for something just because it has been called a superfood, it is critical to look through creative marketing and to focus on the product that lies beneath.
On top of superfood inflation, customers also need to contend with false advertising in which companies may use inflated statistics gathered from experiments that are not credible. If a statistic looks too good to be true, then it could be. Where possible, look for the source of the statistic and take a look at what trial or experiment was conducted to reach the result.
So Where Can You Buy Superfoods You Trust?
In our opinion, there are three key ways to ensure that you are buying superfoods you can trust, and they are:
Stick To Buying Whole Foods Where Possible
It’s much harder to sell fake kale than it is to sell phony kale powder. Where possible, try to stick to whole food superfoods as it is clear what you are buying and what you are being sold.
Check Customer Reviews
Customer reviews can be beneficial because they tell you if other people have had any problems with the product or brand. If a retailer has no reviews on their site, then they could be new to the market, and it is difficult to know if you can trust them to deliver what they promise.
Check For A Satisfaction Guarantee
Finally, the mark of a company that genuinely cares about the quality of the products they sell is an explicit satisfaction guarantee. Here at Ayoub’s, that means that anything you buy from us can be returned to us for a full refund if you are not satisfied with the product or do not believe it is up to our standards. If the company has a satisfaction guarantee, you can confidently buy from them, knowing that should the product not meet your expectations, you won’t end up out of pocket.
So there you have it - hopefully, these three tips will help you buy superfoods with more confidence.
Using Superfoods At Home - Recipe Section
To end this guide, we wanted to leave you with some of our favorite ways to eat superfoods, including three super smoothie recipes and a recipe for a delicious warm salmon salad.
Peanut Butter And Banana Superfood Smoothie
Peanut butter and banana are two foods that go perfectly together. There’s a massive 34g of protein in this recipe, and you’ll only need five ingredients to make it! Simply add them all to your blender and whizz away.
- 1 cup of milk (or plant milk)
- ½ a cup of greek yogurt
- 1 large banana
- 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (or another nut butter)
- 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
The thickness of your smoothie may vary depending on whether you’re using fresh or frozen banana and the thickness of your yogurt. If your smoothie is too thick, then add in more milk. If it’s too thin, then add in a tablespoon of oats at a time. Oats are a great way to thicken your smoothies, and they add even more protein too!
Green Superfood Smoothie
Green smoothies are super nutritious and are the perfect way to hide leafy greens that you may not usually eat. In this recipe, we’re using spinach, but you could substitute this for kale if you’d rather. Although greens may not immediately scream protein, there’s a whole 33g in this smoothie thanks to the greek yogurt and chia seeds. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1/2 a cucumber
- 2 large handfuls of spinach
- 1 cup of frozen pineapple chunks
- 1 banana
- 2 cups of milk (or plant milk)
- ½ a cup of low-fat Greek yogurt
- ½ an avocado
- A tablespoon of chia seeds
Frozen fruit is often more affordable than fresh fruit, especially if the fruit is out of season. Remember, frozen fruit will make your smoothie thicker, and you may need to adjust your liquid content.
Super Berry Smoothie
The final smoothie recipe we wanted to share is this bright purple berry smoothie, which provides 30g of protein. Crammed with antioxidants, your body is going to love this nutritious drink! We’ve used blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries, but you could use a bag of mixed frozen berries or substitute in whatever berries you like. You will need:
- 1 cup of frozen pineapple
- ½ a cup of frozen blueberries
- ½ a cup of frozen strawberries
- ½ a cup of frozen blackberries
- 2 cups of milk or plant milk
- 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- ½ a cup of low-fat Greek yogurt
Sometimes berry smoothies can be a bit sour. Pineapple is a great way to sweeten a sour smoothie, or you could add in a banana. This recipe uses frozen fruit for a thick frappe like texture, but you could also use fresh fruit if you have it available.
How To Make A Warm Superfood Salmon Salad
This salmon salad recipe is extremely healthy because it is packed with nutritious superfood ingredients, including salmon, wild rice, sweet potato, almonds, kale, red onions, and pumpkin seeds. This is also the perfect salad recipe for people who don’t like salads because there’s not a lettuce lead in sight!
Introducing The Superfood Ingredients You Will Need
- Salmon (For protein, omega-3’s and vitamin D)
- Wild Rice (Another source of protein as well as manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc)
- Sweet Potato (A great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B6)
- Chopped almonds (For heart-healthy fats, protein, and fiber)
- Kale (Packed with vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, and antioxidants)
- Red Onion (A great source of cancer-fighting flavanols)
- Pumpkin Seeds (Nutrient powerhouses providing protein, fiber vitamins, and minerals)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Fantastic source of antioxidants and healthy fats that reduce cholesterol)
- Apple Cider Vinegar (Antimicrobial and helps blood sugar regulation)
- Lemon Juice (A boost of vitamin C and other vital phytochemicals)
- Wholegrain Mustard (Rich in copper and iron and beneficial for cardiac health)
- Honey (Beneficial for the immune system and boost energy levels)
- Garlic (Excellent source of vitamin B6 as well as manganese, selenium, and vitamin C)
- Black Pepper (Improves digestion and boosts the metabolism)
How To Make This Delicious Salmon Salad Recipe
One of the reasons why we wanted to share this salmon salad recipe is because it is so versatile! If you’re missing some of the ingredients, then no problem! If you don’t have kale, then you can use spinach or even steamed broccoli. If you’re missing the sliced almonds, then try pistachios or peanuts. You can even change the lemon vinaigrette for a salad dressing of your choice or the salmon for an alternative protein. We’re not here to make the rules - you do you - just keep superfoods in the forefront of your mind.
Preparing Your Salmon Salad
- In this recipe, the wild rice takes the longest to cook and so you’ll want to start cooking it right away. The best way to cook wild rice is to follow the instructions on the back of the pack, which usually involves simmering the wild rice on the stove for between 30-40 minutes. (If you’re in a hurry or don’t want to wait that long, then keep an eye out for microwave wild rice, which cooks in 60 seconds.)
- In the time it takes for your rice to cook, you should be able to prepare and cook all of the other salad components. Start by slicing your red onion into thin slices and placing them in a small bowl with ½ a cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 cup of water, 1 tablespoon of honey, and ½ a teaspoon of sea salt. Give everything a gentle stir and set aside for the red onion slices to quickly pickle.
- For a simple lemon vinaigrette, combine a clove of minced garlic, a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard, the juice of one lemon, two tablespoons of honey, ½ a cup of olive oil, and ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar together with two tablespoons of water and season with salt and pepper. Adjust your dressing to your tastes, adding more lemon juice for acidity or honey for sweetness.
- So your kale is ready to go, give it a good wash and chop it into bite-size pieces removing any large, tough stems. If using baby kale, then your leaves should already be nice and tender; if they’re older, then you may want to give them a gentle massage first to soften them. If you’re using broccoli then, it will need to be steamed first.
- Moving onto your sweet potato. Chop your sweet potato with the skin still on into small cubes (approximately ¼ inch square). Season with a little salt and pepper and then spread out on a baking tray. Roast at 200 celsius or 400 Fahrenheit for approximately 20 minutes or until soft.
- Once your sweet potato is in the oven, it’s time to focus on your salmon. Rub your salmon fillet with a tablespoon of olive oil and heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add your salmon fillet with the skin side facing down and cook for 4 minutes until the skin is nice and crispy.
- After four minutes, skin side down, gently turn your salmon fillet, and cook for a further 3 minutes until cooked through. If you’re using a very thick salmon fillet, then this time may need to be increased.
- If you’ve got your timings right, then your salmon, sweet potato, and wild rice should all be ready at roughly the same time, which means we’re ready to assemble the salad.
Drain your pickled red onion slices and toss them in a big bowl with your kale leaves, warm sweet potato chunks, freshly cooked wild rice, and a generous drizzle of your lemon vinaigrette. Mix everything until combined, and then add to your plate. Top your salad mix with a handful of chopped almonds and a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds for some delicious crunch and texture before topping the whole dish off with your crispy salmon fillet.
So there you have it - we hope you’ve enjoyed this quick guide to superfoods and now feel a bit more confident adding them to your diet.
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