Posted in Blog, Medical Mondays, Medicine

What Are Superfoods?

Let’s talk superfoods! Superfoods have emerged as a very trendy topic in the past few years as more evidence surfaces supporting their health benefits. The amount of food designated ‘superfood’ status recently has made me skeptical, wondering if the term was merely a marketing tactic (which I’m sure it is, to some extent). As more health foods enter the market, it requires us to be diligent consumers and do our research, begging the question “What exactly is a superfood?”

Superfoods are high in micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, amino acids, and antioxidants, and have been linked to prevent certain chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. I am most interested in superfoods’ antioxidant capabilities and I will tell you why.

Our body is constantly undergoing cellular reactions, such as respiration to give one example, that create molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are unstable, highly reactive molecules that can cause damage to our cells. Antioxidants have been shown to offset the harmful effects of free radicals. When free radicals outweigh the amount of antioxidants in our bodies, it leads to oxidative stress, making it important for our bodies to maintain a healthy balance of antioxidants to free radicals to combat disease.

Oxidative stress is thought to play a role in many chronic health conditions such as inflammatory diseases, ischemic diseases, certain cancers, and the process of aging. To put it simply, more antioxidants in our diet equals less oxidative stress and therefore a decreased risk for many chronic diseases.

It should be noted that some synthetic sources of antioxidants have been shown to have adverse effects on the human body, thereby making it important to incorporate antioxidants into our diet through food. Although it might seem like incorporating superfoods into your diet would be costly (and yes, it can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be), many fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants. I am personally an advocate of trying to eat mostly plant-based foods because I find them to be less processed, making me feel better physically and mentally, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, anything with no added sugar, etc. I typically will buy whatever fruit and veggies are on sale in a given week to keep my grocery bill reasonable.

Below you can find the sources I used to create this article and do your own research! I would recommend doing your own research and/or consulting a nutritionist or physician before making any major changes to your diet.

  1. Proestos, Charalampos. “Superfoods: Recent Data on their Role in the Prevention of Diseases.” Current Research in Nutrition and Food Science. Vol 6 (3) 2018, pages 576-593.
  2. Park, Jin Hwa; Lee, Yun Lin; Kim, Yeon Ho; Yoon, Ki Sun. “Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activities of Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) Seeds Cultivated in Korea.” Preventative Nutrition and Food Science. Vol 22 (3) 2017, pages 195-202.
  3. Lobo, V., Patil, A., Phatak, A., Chandra, N. “Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health.” Pharmacognosy Review. Vol 4(8) 2010, pages 118-126.
  4. “Superfoods 101: What Are Superfoods?” Your Super. https://yoursuper.com/pages/what-are-superfoods Accessed 24 May 2020.

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Incoming MS1

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