Benefits of Superfoods
Superfoods are not edibles which make you bullet-proof or able to leap tall buildings at a single bound but they can keep you healthy for a long long time.
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|A Discussion of Superfoods and Their Benefits
We hear the term "superfoods" sometimes. I even saw the term recently on a magazine cover as I waited in a supermarket checkout line. These terms tend to get thrown around, but often people only have a vague idea of what they really mean. Superfoods are not edibles which make you bullet-proof or able to leap tall buildings at a single bound. They are simply a group of foods which are what is referred to as being nutritionally dense, discussed later, and which offer added benefits to our health which come from the "antioxidants" and "phytochemicals" which most of them contain.
Now, I've thrown a lot of words and phrases around in an attempt to define superfoods, but, in order to get to that, let's look at some of those statements and words in a bit more detail.
A food is considered to be nutritionally dense when the food has very high levels of essential vitamins and dietary minerals that are required by us humans for good health and long life. Among these are the vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K and and some others, and dietary minerals such as Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc and players to be named later.
But, you say, these things are found in many different foods! Almost all foods contain at least some of these vitamins and minerals in varying quantities. If that is so, what's so special, or "super", about superfoods?
Probably the biggest difference is simply that so-called superfoods have an unusually high level of nutrients per serving compared to other un-super foods. Taking the humble cucumber as an example, we see that it is mostly water, approximately 90%. This means that to get any significant levels of just about any nutrient from a cucumber you'd have to eat rather a lot of the stuff.
Superfoods are so packed with nutrients (Remember "nutritionally dense"...huh?) that even as small an amount as a single mouthful in many instances can give you a decent sized portion of nutrients. In fact, when it comes to superfoods, they can sometimes provide an entire recommended daily allowance (or more) for individual vitamins or minerals in just one serving.
Now that's what I call super!
You have to remember that only a very few foods show such high levels of nutrients in such small amounts of the food itself. That's why superfoods are so healthy. They can easily provide nutritional doses like you've never seen before.
So, how about those other strange words, "antioxidants" and "phytochemicals". What the heck are they you may ask.
Well let's serve up a couple of explanations!
In the human body, oxygen reacts with cells in a process called oxidation. This is the same process as in a campfire or rust...just at a different speed. Just like rust and fire, this process can be, and usually is, damaging to the cells.
Antioxidants are compounds found in various foods, and in certain vitamins and minerals, which prevent or stop this oxidation, thus preventing the damage it would cause to the cells of the body if not stopped. Damage from oxidation is believed to be the cause of many unhealthy conditions, such as heart disease, cancers, premature aging, just to name a few. By stopping oxidation, in the form of substances know as "free radicals", from damaging cells you can, in effect, reduce the risk of illness and slow aging.
One common antioxidant you are probably aware of is vitamin C (otherwise known as ascorbic acid).
Still with me? Well, having gotten that out of way, let's talk about phytochemicals.
These are naturally occurring compounds found in plants and animals, but which, while important for good health, are not essential for human survival. We humans need certain vitamins and dietary minerals for the various chemical reactions and activities inside our bodies to work properly. The ones that are essential, are called...wait for it... "essential nutrition". We have known this for some time, but it is only within the last few decades that we are beginning to really see the real potential health benefits of these sometimes poorly understood ingredients.
Many of the almost amazing anti-cancer and anti-heart disease properties of superfoods are reported to come from various phytochemicals. We are still learning, but study after study shows the health benefits of phytonutrients.
Superfoods contain much more than just strong concentrations of those essential nutrients we need, they also contain high amounts of phytochemicals and antioxidants making them even more incredible!
Okay, here's where we're at: We are human beings, and, as such, we require various essential vitamins and minerals to survive...and many to survive well. Without these essential nutrients, our bodies stop working efficiently and we become ill. Recent research and recent scientific discoveries have shown that there may be new and more powerful nutrients that can deliver anti-aging, anti-cancer and anti-heart disease benefits.
Simply put, superfoods are foods which contain and combine large amounts of both essential and non-essential nutrients and, here's the good part, taste good too...even more reason to eat superfoods as part of a healthy diet.
I've saved the best for last. Not only do most superfoods taste good, we're NOT talking tofu here, but they are readily available from the produce section of your local supermarket.
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