NUTRITION

Superfoods are most effective as part of a balanced diet

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 February, 2015, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 February, 2015, 1:59pm

So-called superfoods have been at the forefront of our attempts to get healthier. It's said they can ward off heart disease, cancer, hypertension, cholesterol and more. But are they really this miraculous?

There is no scientific, legal or medical definition of what a superfood is, but it generally refers to whole, unprocessed food that is naturally high in nutrients. A superfood contains high concentrations of a variety of micronutrients, such as minerals, vitamins, protein, antioxidants and good fats.

The nutrients in a superfood are more efficiently absorbed by the body compared to man-made mineral and vitamin supplements,

Although superfoods such as maca root, spirulina and acai berry have recently taken their place in the limelight, many have been consumed for thousands of years.

You'll be surprised at how many superfoods your kitchen already has: ginseng, garlic, beans, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes and walnuts are all superfoods. They dispel the myth that superfoods are expensive, and only found in high-end supermarkets.

Superfoods add a healthy boost because they are rich in vitamins, omega fatty acids, antioxidants and other minerals that are easily absorbed by the body. They have properties that work to keep your body healthy in the long run. For example:

  • Beets have a naturally occurring nitrate content that can help reduce blood pressure.
  • Blueberries have antioxidants and flavonoids that help preserve your brain's memory function.
  • Spinach has vitamin C and beta-carotene, which help cardiovascular and bone health.
  • Almonds and walnuts have healthy omega-3 fatty acids that moderate your blood cholesterol levels.
  • Tomatoes have lycopene, which reduces the risk of a heart attack.
  • Kale has a phytonutrient which strengthens the liver's ability to fight against cancer.

Superfoods aren't a cure-all for health. Natural superfoods may be able to supercharge your breakfast smoothie, but the benefits are few if you still snack on a bag of crisps.

The first step to a healthier lifestyle is eating smart, and that's about making good choices. The best diet incorporates different foods and different colours.

The best diet is packed with real, natural and unprocessed foods. Buy organic and sustainably grown foods to ensure your ingredients don't contain chemicals, and also to help the environment.

Be a careful consumer, as although something might look like a healthy snack, it may actually be processed. Does it contain preservatives, food colouring and loads of sugar? Choose real food first.

As a basic guideline, when filling up your shopping cart, always pick up a dark leafy green, a fresh herb, a legume, two vegetables of different colours, two fruits of different colours and a nut.

The writers are co-founders of Punch Detox, Asia's first cold-pressed juice cleanse company

 

 

RECIPE: ASIAN SUPERFOOD WRAP

It's commonly thought that superfoods are only used in Western diets. But Chinese diets also use superfoods such as Chinese cabbage and black mushrooms, which are rich in calcium and iron, and reduce the risk of heart disease. Garlic, often used in stir-fries, is known to help reduce cholesterol. Here is a favourite Asian recipe that uses a number of superfoods.

 

Ingredients

40 grams carrots, small diced

40 grams celery, small diced

40 grams beetroot, small diced

40 grams tomato, small diced

2 shitake mushrooms, soaked, stems removed, small diced

2 tablespoons cashew nuts, toasted in a pan

8 romaine lettuce leaves

 

For the thickening sauce

1 tablespoon water

Dash of sea salt

1/8 teaspoon coconut flower sugar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon arrowroot or corn starch

2 teaspoons coconut oil

Hoisin sauce (optional)

 

Method

Steam mushrooms for 10 minutes then set aside

Heat pan, add oil, carrot, beet and mushrooms, and stir well. Add celery and tomatoes and stir fry for about five minutes.

Add ingredients from thickening sauce and cook until sauce reduces.

Transfer to a plate, sprinkle with cashews. Wrap with lettuce leaves and hoisin sauce to taste.