Super Foods 101

Not all foods advertised as “super” actually are. But by learning the basics about what makes certain ingredients healthy, you can judge for yourself which popularly lauded foods really will do good for your body.

| September 2016

  • Foods like berries, oranges, sunflower seeds, and more promote good health and help protect against disease.
    Photo by Fotolia/marilyn barbone
  • “Super Foods Every Day: 65 Recipes for Optimal Health” by Sue Quinn.
    Photo courtesy of Ten Speed Press

From greens and fruits to nuts, herbs, and seeds, Super Foods Every Day (Ten Speed Press, 2015) by Sue Quinn is your guide to healthy living. It’s easy to fill your diet with nutrient-dense foods, and these foods can in turn protect against cancer, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and make it easier to live a healthy life. Learn the health-boosting benefits of kale, cauliflower, blueberries, and dark chocolate, and try the tasty recipes that are sure to bring your energy to your day!

What is a Super Food?

Super food is a term often exploited by food manufacturers to make products seem more nutritious than they actually are. Sometimes these products lack the scientific evidence to support their alleged health benefits and are no more than fads. This is a shame. Marketing hype aside, there is hard scientific research to show that some foods contain exceptional levels of nutrients that promote good health and protect the human body against disease. These are the super foods I have focused on in this book.

Finding a standard measure of what constitutes a super food is, however, complicated. A number of rating systems have been developed around the world that rank foods according to their nutrient density — the measure of nutrients per calorie. The problem is that these systems are not consistent. For example, some use different sets of essential nutrients as the basis for the rating. What’s more, nutrient density is not the only important factor. For example, there are thousands of phytochemicals that appear to have the potential to protect against a range of diseases, but these are not included in nutrient density measures because they have not been established as essential for bodily function.

After researching various rating systems, I have devised my own list of powerhouse foods that contain exceptionally high levels of vitamins, phytochemicals, and other nutrients that are strongly associated with good health and reduced risk of chronic disease. The super foods that appear on this list are set in boldface in each recipe’s ingredients list so that they can be identified easily. Some ingredients found in the recipes — such as nut milks, wakame, tahini, and miso — are also set in boldface because they are forms of super foods.

The list is by no means exhaustive, but provides a cross-section of super foods in different food groups to help you load your diet with as much goodness as possible.

Super Foods 101

Knowing the common nutritional terms listed here will make it easier to understand the benefits of super foods.

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