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.
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!
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.
Knowing the common nutritional terms listed here will make it easier to understand the benefits of super foods.
• Chemicals that block the activity of free radicals.
• Protect cells from damage.
• Fruits, vegetables, and grains are the richest sources.
• A group of phytochemicals that includes carotene, beta-carotene, and lycopene.
• Powerful antioxidants.
• Carotenoids give carrots, squash, and other fruits and vegetables their orange color.
• Linked to longevity and reduced risk of heart disease. Powerful antioxidants.
• A large group of phytochemicals.
• Found in berries, tree fruits, nuts, beans, and vegetables, among others.
• A type of vitamin B, also known as folic acid.
• Vital for growth.
• Particularly high levels in dark green leafy vegetables.
• Can lead to age-related conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
• Formed naturally in the body, also in the environment: for example cigarette smoke and pollution.
• Reactive chemicals that have the potential to damage cells.
• Thought to inhibit the development of some cancers.
• Sulfur-containing chemicals.
• Found in cruciferous vegetables like arugula, bok choy, cabbage, kale, and watercress.
• Powerful antioxidants.
• A group of phytochemicals.
• Found in fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes and pink grapefruit.
• May protect against cancer; also linked to lower blood pressure, improved vision, and lower cholesterol.
• Certain types referred to as antioxidants, flavonoids, carotenoids, and polyphenols.
• Nonessential plant-based nutrients with disease protective and preventative properties.
• May protect against cancer; also works as an anti-inflammatory.
• A broad group of nutrients that includes retinoids (from animals) and carotenoids (from plants).
• One of the best-known antioxidants.
• Well known for its role in helping blood to clot; also promotes bone strengthening.
• A generic term for a family of nutrients with powerful antioxidant benefits.
Reprinted from Super Foods Every Day, by Sue Quinn, copyright 2015 by Hachette Livre (Marabout), published in the U.S. by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs Victoria Wall Harris.