Superfoods to Add to Your Diet
The term superfood is commonly used but rarely understood. It’s such a vague term and often leads to confusion. Statements such as ‘red wine and dark chocolate are full of antioxidants’ give the excuse brigade unnecessary reasons to whip up wine and chocolate smoothies with reckless abandon.
For the purpose of this article, ‘superfoods’ are foods that are – if used in suitable portion sizes – good for health, fat loss and overall performance. Everyone is different and as such particular groups of people work better with certain macronutrients. Individuals who are naturally more athletic or slighter in stature tend to deal with carbs better, whereas stockier, well-built people work better with fats. (As a general rule anyway – exceptions always exist.)
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past few years, chances are you’ve heard about some of the health benefits of coconut oil.
You can cook with it, put it in your hair, on your skin, in your coffee or on the cat’s feet (trust me on this one.) It can even take gloss paint off your skin (again, trust me!) So why is everyone suddenly kicking up such a fuss about it?
Basically, people are starting to realise that fat isn’t always bad. There are such things as ‘good’ fats, and coconut oil is exactly that. You could even say it’s a great fat!
Coconut oil is made of MCT’s – Medium Chain Triglycerides – which are quickly converted by the body into energy. As opposed to the run-of-the-mill long chain variety, these are ideal for keeping you energised.
So save the olive oil for salad dressings and use coconut oil to cook with. It has a higher smoke point, which means you can use it at greater temperatures (e.g. frying) before the oil itself degrades and begins to lose its nutritional benefits.
Red meat has had a bit of a bad rap over the last twenty years. Thankfully, people are beginning to see through a number of dubious studies.
First up, red meat is jam packed full of protein, good fats, vitamins and minerals. Talk about nutrient dense! There’s B12, Zinc, Vitamin D, Omega 3 (if grass fed) and a whole heap of other good stuff in there, all topped off with some high quality protein.
Saturated fats regulate hormone production – essential for both men and women – plus it assists the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K.
Naturally, all of the above can be obtained from non-meat sources. But for the carnivores out there, keeping red meat in your diet will yield many benefits. Modern diets are high in processed carbohydrates and often deficient in good fats and protein, so it really will help with this.
Another of nature’s super fats, avocados are packed full of potassium to support healthy blood pressure. They’re also rich in oleic acid, which helps fight inflammation in the body.
What’s more, they also pack in antioxidants that assist in absorbing nutrients from other foods, plus they’re high in fibre. They can reportedly ease the symptoms of arthritis, lower cholesterol and aid with eye health.
Finally, they taste great with bacon. What’s not to love?
A fantastic source of low GL (Glycemic Load) carbohydrates.
The GL of a given food will affect how much and how quickly it will affect blood sugar – the higher the spike, the more drastic the drop. As a rule, people should try to keep their blood sugar stable throughout the day to keep cravings at bay and energy levels constant.
Sweet potatoes are also packed with vitamin C (great for cellular recovery) and vitamin A (linked to anti-aging and cancer prevention). They’re extremely versatile and can be used in all sorts of recipes, from straight up mash to delicious brownies.
The health benefits of some fruits can sometimes be outweighed by the amount of simple sugars you ingest with them. Step forward berries!
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries and raspberries are all fantastic sources of those all-important health inducing antioxidants. And they pack a great lump of fibre to boot.
Berries are also rich in phytochemicals, which research suggests are fantastic for fighting off illnesses, including heart disease and certain forms of cancer.
SO THERE WE HAVE IT
The brief list of superfoods above offers a healthy balance of fats, protein and carbohydrates. The overarching theme across them all is – quite simply – they are unprocessed. In other words, they’re grown or farmed and can be found in nature.
People are sometimes quick to point out the negatives of farming and growing crops, but when compared to the processed cereals and pre-packaged ready meals many people consume, organic whole foods are far superior options.
Always buy the highest quality you can wherever possible. For example, go for organic, grass-fed and pesticide free if you can. Removing processed food from your diet is a fantastic baseline point to start from, simply remember JERF – Just Eat Real Food.