Dr. Gray's Straight Talk

Honest and blunt healthcare discussion and advice.

What the Heck are “Superfoods?”… and Who Cares?

Posted by Dr. Gray on Tuesday, June 23, 2009

“Superfoods”… Great. Another buzzword and miracle supplement to think about. Just what you need, right? Well, let’s try to shed a little light on the subject and figure out if you should care or not.

First, let’s define what “superfoods” are not. They are not the latest, greatest multi-level product to annoy your friends and family with. They are not miracle pills that are overpriced and underwhelming. They are not wonder powders that will cure everything from Alzheimer’s to yeast infections. They are not the diet of Batman, Spiderman, Superman, or any other superhero.

Simply put, superfoods are just regular foods that happen to be extremely high in beneficial vitamins & minerals and other health promoting nutrients. Including some of these foods in your regular diet will go a long way towards improving your overall health and general well-being. Eating these foods maximizes your return for the amount you take in. A ton of research has been done, and continues today, proving the health benefits of these foods, such as: improved immune system, detoxification of blood and soft tissues, supreme antioxidants, improved mentality, decreased risk of cancer, decreased risk of degenerative diseases, etc. No… these superfoods aren’t a miraculous cure-all. However, for thousands of years, the health benefits of these foods have been known and used medicinally in different cultures around the world.

  1. Sprouts (broccoli, brussels, alfalfa, etc.) – Although the mature plants are very high in nutritional value, the younger sprouts contain a higher concentration of phytochemicals and compounds.
  2. Pomegranate – The history of this ancient fruit may be evident in The Bible and Greek mythology, but it is modern science that is extolling the its virtues. It’s been shown to fight hardening of the arteries, diabetes, heart disease, and a particularly good fighter of prostate cancer.
  3. Barley – This cereal grain, similar to wheat, contains all eight essential amino acids and can aid regulation of blood sugar for up to 10 hours. (sorry guys… this does not include beer and whisky!)
  4. Green Foods – These can be things like wheatgrass and the like… basically bright green plants.
  5. Buckwheat – Buckwheat contains rutin, a medicinal chemical that strengthens capillary walls, reducing hemorrhaging in people with high blood pressure and increasing microcirculation in people with chronic venous insufficiency. Buckwheat contains D-chiro-inositol, a component of the secondary messenger pathway for insulin signal transduction found to be deficient in Type II diabetes and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). It is being studied for use in treating Type II diabetes.
  6. Legumes (alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, lentils, lupins, mesquite, carob, peanuts, etc.) – Although the many different types of beans, lentils, peas, etc. have individual variances and health benefits, most are also great sources of protein and fiber.
  7. Hot Peppers – Chilis contain high amounts of vitamin C and carotene (“provitamin A”). In addition, peppers are a good source of most B vitamins, and vitamin B6 in particular. They are very high in potassium and high in magnesium and iron. Capsaicin is a safe and effective analgesic agent in the management of arthritis pain, herpes zoster-related pain, diabetic neuropathy, postmastectomy pain, and headaches.
  8. Nuts & Seeds – Nuts like walnuts and almonds are a great source for healthy fats and protein. Due to the high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, research has suggested these help in the prevention of heart disease, anti-inflammation, and others.
  9. Turmeric – This is an incredibly powerful spice that is most commonly associated with Indian cuisine. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. The health benefits of turmeric are widespread and ancient. Recent research is focusing on beneficial aspects with regards to Alzheimer’s, cancer, and liver disease. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, relieves the pain of irritable bowel syndrome, supports nerve growth, and is a natural selective monoamine oxidase inhibitor. Taking or eating turmeric with black pepper increases absorption by up to 2000% without any adverse affects.
  10. Allium Family (garlic, onions, chives, shallots, etc.) – Perhaps the most powerful medicinal plant and herb family known to man. Garlic is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antihelminic (worms), and its anticancerous properties are being researched.

So… superfoods… should you care? Absolutely. Make these foods a part of your regular diet and you will reap the benefits of their potent nutritional value. However, don’t fall for the hype coming from some product salespeople. If you’re asked to spend an asinine amount for a bottle of wonder juice that’ll cure anything you can throw at it… run the other way. You can likely find a near identical product at your local health food store at a more reasonable cost.


One Response to “What the Heck are “Superfoods?”… and Who Cares?”

  1. Excellent information! Enjoying these superfoods as part of a vegan diet will further increase their benefit. I’ve been vegan for about ten years and use the items you mentioned above regularly, with the exception of pomegranate. And yes, it IS a shame that the barley in beer and single malts is not considered beneficial, though I might argue that point.

    More great detailed info related to dietary choice and health impact can be found at Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine http://www.pcrm.org. I have used their research as sources for my own writing and presentations (credited) over the years.

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