4 Superfoods You Need To Be Eating
Many of us know the basics of nutrition as it relates to strength training and general body composition. We know that protein is important for muscle growth and recovery, fats are crucial for hormone control and basic human function and carbohydrates are the lifeblood of energy, recovery and strength - yet to what extent do foods that are labelled “superfoods” help improve your health.
Are superfoods some sort of fitness fad, or do some of them have a true place in your nutrition program?
Without addressing specific foods that can have positive impacts on your health it's important to remember that food is, in many cases, medicine.
There is nothing that can make a larger impact on your life and health than the food you put in your body. If you're a strength athlete who has a poor diet - you simply will not be able to recover and rebuild effectively.
Diet and nutrition are crucially important to your overall success in the gym, but also for your health. Decades of research has provided health professionals with the means to recommend specific foods that can have positive impacts on your life. For instance, we now know that an excess of red meat production can be taxing on your heart - and that fish and/or soy can be healthier alternative protein sources.
The list goes on which leaves the interpretation of what foods are actually healthy for the human body. As a general rule of thumb, a balance of all food groups will always provide you with the healthiest and most effective source of strength.
Those looking for an extra edge on the competition, or those looking for the best foods they can eat to improve their health and lower risks for chronic disease can turn to superfoods.
What Is A Superfood?
A superfood is a very general term for any food that has extreme health benefits. For example, oatmeal could be considered as one of the most commonly eaten superfoods because of its high nutrient density.
Oats not only contain a high serving of protein and carbohydrates for strength, but it also contains essential micronutrients (vitamins/minerals) along with a healthy serving of soluble and insoluble fibre to help lower cholesterol and keep you regular.
The question is - with such a vague definition of a superfood, how can we be sure that the food you are eating is, in fact, beneficial for your health?
Here are three things you can look for to ensure your food carries immense health benefits:
High in Fiber
Hands down the most overlooked component of the North American diet. Fibre is an important indigestible carbohydrate that works much like a sponge - cleaning out toxins and cholesterol from the body. Fibre has also been shown to lower inflammation and can be an effective tool for injury rehab.
High In Amino Acids
Protein is important to your daily life - yet all protein is eventually broken down into amino acids. These amino acids go to work in specific areas of the body to either balance or promote cell growth. Specific foods like beans and nuts, while they have a healthy serving of protein will not contain the high doses of amino acids like L-Leucine for muscle growth as some other grains and grasses.
Wide Variety of Vitamins and Minerals
Today's modern diet has been stripped food of its nutrients. Modern farming grows for the masses, but in this way some nutrients are being taken from the food. For example, foods like Tomatoes contain far less iron than they did a couple decades ago.
Many superfoods that can be beneficial to your diet will contain a copious amount of vitamins and minerals to help balance your body and promote healthy growth and energy levels.
The question remains - is the hype on superfoods justified?
Well, yes. Superfoods in general are just foods that contain a high serving of nutrients per gram compared to other more common foods. Let’s take a more detailed looks at the top 5 superfoods for your health and lifestyle.
Top 4 Best Superfoods
1 | Spirulina
This amazing plant has been on the radar for some years now. Spirulina is actually a natural algae that is found in most bodies of water. When grown properly and in clean bodies of water, spirulina can be considered one of the most nutrient-dense foods sources in the world.
Spirulina has risen to popularity because it contains a very high serving of protein per gram. At about 65% protein, spirulina will provide just as much protein as many types of meat such as eggs and beef.
Spirulina also contains high amounts of vitamins and minerals such as iron, b-vitamins and much more. Above the vitamins and minerals, spirulina is also potent in Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) & Omega-3 - which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
This plant is best used as an addition to your smoothie. Spirulina packs a potent nutrient punch but also has a strong taste. Pair with a banana and berries for a protein-rich drink to keep you fueled and energized.
2 | Wheatgrass
Eating grass might not be your thing, but wheatgrass could just be one of the best foods you can eat to improve your health.
Wheatgrass is essentially the baby grass of the wheat plant that is made into fine powder for consumption. This is similar to eating baby spinach or other baby greens.
Wheatgrass’ main claim to fame is its high potency of chlorophyll. This specific nutrient is very important for cleaning the liver and lowering free radicals from doing damage on your body.
In addition to a high chlorophyll content, wheatgrass also contains a high dosage of amino acids and essential vitamins and minerals.
Wheatgrass is best consumed in a form that is as close to its natural state as possible. This means consuming it in a shake or shot. You can use wheatgrass as an alternative to hemp powder or other protein-rich plant sources for your morning shakes.
3 | Kamut
Perhaps one of the oldest and least known foods on our list. Kamut is a grain or cereal which originated from northeast Iran. Kamut can be cooked similar to rice or oats but packs a much more nutritious punch.
Most wheat or grain products are great sources of carbohydrates but lack protein content. Kamut, on the other hand, contains nearly 40% more protein per gram than other cereals. This makes it one of the most protein-rich cereals on the planet.
Kamut is also unique because it provides a very good source of zinc, magnesium and selenium - which is rare in many other grains. In addition, this grain also contains a moderate percentage of lipids (fats) per serving which makes it a much more nutrient dense choice than rice or pasta.
Kamut can be used similarly to any other grain. You can boil it to make alongside your favourite veggies, add it to a stir-fry or even add it to a chilli. Kamut is very versatile, has a distinct flavour, texture and can be a healthy addition to your nutrition each day.
4 | Mung Beans
There are few foods that have had ancient traditions like mung beans. Although these are relatively new to the United States, mung beans have been a cherished food by the eastern world, predominantly India for generations.
Mung beans have some of the highest nutrient yields among other beans on the planet. These beans pack a nutrient dense protein punch and include various vitamins and minerals to go with it. The likes of folate, magnesium, calcium and even b-complex vitamins come in plentiful amounts in this bean.
Mung beans have the science to back them up as well. Research shows that mung beans can lower the risk for chronic disease due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Mung beans are best consumed in a similar way to other beans - boiled and served with a nice tomato-based sauce.
Use mung beans as a healthy alternative to high saturated fat meats and add to your meals for a high protein and high vitamins and minerals.
Superfoods Are Super
Walking up and down the shopping aisle at a local grocery store it can be difficult to sort out which foods are best for your goals and your lifestyle.
One thing you will notice about the superfood above is that none of them are pre-packaged or processed/refined. Superfoods do carry a unique benefit of being highly nutrient dense - but most foods that are in their original form are.
Simply eating a balanced diet that contains only foods sourced from natural sources - from the field to plate will ensure you are getting as many nutrients per serving as possible.
Eat clean, eat fresh and stay strong!