What are 'Superfoods' and Why Should They be Part of Your Diet?

Popular food blogs and health websites have recently been buzzing with news of “superfoods” and how great they are for your health. While the term may sound like something otherworldly, superfoods are little more than everyday foods you might already incorporate into your daily diet. However, their commonality should not detract from their immense nutritional value.

Superfoods are essentially natural foods that are jam-packed with nutrients—namely vitamins, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. These nutrient-dense foods are largely plant-based, but some fall into other categories like grains and dairy.

“Superfood” is not a scientific term, nor do superfoods fall into their own food group. Instead, superfood is merely an informal way to describe many foods in a variety of food categories that are nutrient-rich and beneficial for human health.

The following are some popular superfoods. You may be eating some of these things regularly already, but if you aren’t, consider adding them to your next grocery list.

  • Blueberries
  • Whole grains
  • Salmon
  • Kale
  • Kiwi
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans
  • Swiss chard
  • Avocado
  • Acai
  • Yogurt

Many superfood berries contain plenty of antioxidants and vitamins, while proteins like salmon and nuts contain omega-3 fatty acids which are helpful in preventing heart disease. Fiber, calcium and vitamin K are other valuable nutrients packed into these natural foods.

Adding superfoods to your daily diet can improve your health in a variety of ways.

  • Improve immunity: The vitamins and minerals available in superfoods will help bolster your immune system, better defending you against illnesses. Many of these foods also contain ingredients that your gut bacteria love, like probiotics, which can lead to a healthier gut microbiome and a healthier immune system.
  • Provide more energy: If you eat a lot of processed food or junk food, you’re probably used to feeling sluggish and tired during the day. Fueling your body with the right combination of nutrients will keep you stay more active and alert.
  • Help you sleep: Some superfoods, like kiwi, contain serotonin, the chemical your body produces to trigger your circadian rhythm and get you ready to sleep. Additional serotonin can help you get a better night’s rest and combat insomnia.
  • Alleviate symptoms of chronic pain: Many superfoods contain anti-inflammatory ingredients, which can be helpful in alleviating pain caused by a chronic illness. Additionally, all the vitamins and nutrients in these foods can help reduce depression and stress—two mental afflictions that are closely tied with pain levels.

Ensure you’re eating balanced meals

Superfoods may be great for your health, but they aren’t the only foods that contain nutrients, nor do they contain all the nutrients you need—so don’t toss out your groceries and fill your fridge up with kale quite yet. Additionally, superfoods still contain calories and you can have too much of them, potentially resulting in weight gain.

It’s quite easy to blend a few superfoods into smoothies or add leafy greens to some of your favorite dishes or salads. However, the trick to eating superfoods is to have a variety of food types, too. Otherwise, you won’t be getting the full spectrum of your necessary vitamins and minerals. Remember, your plate should be half fruits and veggies, around a quarter protein, around a quarter grains and some fat-free or low-fat dairy.

Also, be careful about buying superfoods that are processed or sprayed with pesticides, since not all superfoods are grown the same way. Shopping for organic superfoods is the best way to get healthy foods that will give you as many nutrients as possible.

Other ways to make your health “super”

Eating superfoods—and a balanced diet in general—won’t mean much if you aren’t taking care of the other aspects of your health. If you eat well but don’t drink enough water or live a sedentary lifestyle, you won’t experience as many benefits of the foods as you could. Here are some ways to bolster your health in addition to a superfood-fueled diet.

  • Drink water: Staying hydrated is critical for your health. Without water, your brain and body won’t be able to perform basic functions, leaving you feeling sluggish and unable to concentrate each day.
  • Sleep well: Sleep is how your body recharges. Everyone will need a different amount of sleep per night, but you should aim to get around seven or eight hours and stick to a regular sleep schedule. By establishing a routine, you’ll get a solid night’s rest and wake up feeling ready to tackle each day.
  • Manage stress: Stress and cortisol, the hormone the brain creates to respond to it, can wreak havoc on your body. Stress will disrupt your sleep schedule, cause your immune system to falter and much more. Finding productive ways to manage stress will positively affect your health.
  • Exercise: Exercise will put all those superfood-nutrients to work, helping you burn fat, build muscle and strengthen your body. Without exercise, you won’t be able to realize all the benefits superfoods can provide to your health.

Next time you visit the grocery store, try adding some superfoods to your cart—but don’t forget to add the essentials, too. Taking steps to add more vitamins and minerals into your diet while doing other health-related things can transform the way you feel every day.

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