Food & Nutrition

Top Superfoods to Add to Your Diet

Looking to increase the quality of your diet? Superfoods are a great place to start. Remember: Dietary changes should not be about calorie restriction or deprivation, but rather the addition of nutrient-dense energy sources—particularly ones that are easily digested. The three top superfoods outlined below are foods with a very high benefit-to-cost ratio in terms of the nutrition they provide.

Top superfoods not only supply the energy needed to fuel the body, but also the vitamins and minerals needed to support optimal metabolism of these foods.

1. Ripe Tropical Fruits

The primary source of fuel for your cells is glucose, which composes the sugar in your blood. Thus, it is important that your diet contain readily-available, easily-digestible, and abundant sources of high-quality carbohydrates—such as fruit and root vegetables. The flesh of ripe fruit is easily digestible, so the nutrition is rapidly available and often contains very little matter which cannot be broken down before reaching the lower intestine. (This is important because it means that most fruits do not contribute to the growth of intestinal bacteria.) Tropical fruits in particular provide the highest levels of nutrients and energy with the least amount of detriment. The sugars contained in tropical fruits (e.g., dates and guavas) are excellent for efficiently fueling your body and maintaining an even supply of energy to your cells. Plus, the minerals contained in these fruits enhance the efficiency of the delivery and use of the energy, giving you even more metabolic bang for your buck.

Note: Fruits like apples, pears, summer squashes, and bell peppers are best cooked in order to increase the digestible nature of the material.

2. Well-Cooked Young Roots

Root vegetables (e.g., sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets) are another superfood with very beneficial nutrients and high energy content. For many tens of thousands of years, cultures have coveted roots that can be boiled and consumed for their energy and mineral content. Some roots, such as potatoes, also provide protein. Young, well-cooked root vegetables will give you the most bang for your buck. The younger roots, which have less starch, are more easily digested. Cooking converts the starches in root vegetables to a more easily digestible form. This enhances your ability to obtain nutrients from the vegetables and decreases the likelihood that large volumes of undigested material will remain in your lower digestive tract (a process that can lead to overgrowth of “bad” bacteria). Roots also aid in maintaining an appropriate balance of microorganisms in the gut because they contain natural chemicals that defend against yeast and bacteria found in the soil. For more info, read my previous posts: The Power of Root Vegetables and 5 Dietary Tips to Improve Gut Bacteria.

3. Milk from Well-Fed Animals

Milk is an excellent example of a superfood with a high benefit-to-cost ratio.1,2 Milk is an energy-dense, sustaining food that contains a broad spectrum of nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.3 It is also digested and absorbed in a way that is well balanced for the human, and even has protective actions on the intestine.4 Check out my previous post for a Guide to Choosing Healthy Milk Products.

Milk really does do the body good! It is a high-quality protein and the richest source of easily-digested calcium in the human diet.

Are There Other Top Superfoods Worth Exploring?

Yes! I encourage my clients to explore an array of nutrient-dense, energy-packed foods to ensure that their diets are varied, nutritious, and enjoyable. Other top superfoods include eggs, cheese, shellfish and mollusks, and the organs of healthy animals (e.g., liver).

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References

  1. Elwood PC, Pickering JE, Givens DI, Gallacher JE. The consumption of milk and dairy foods and the incidence of vascular disease and diabetes: an overview of the evidence. Lipids 45, No. 10 (Oct 2010): 925-939. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2950929/#!po=64.5833
  2. Barr SI, McCarron DA, Heaney RP, et al. Effects of increased consumption of fluid milk on energy and nutrient intake, body weight, and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy older adults. J Am Diet Assoc 100, No. 7 (Jul 2000): 810-817. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10916520
  3. Haug A, Høstmark AT, Harstad OM. Bovine milk in human nutrition – a review. Lipids Health Dis 6 (2007): 25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2039733
  4. Ushida Y, Shimokawa Y, Toida T, et al. Bovine alpha-lactalbumin stimulates mucus metabolism in gastric mucosa. J Dairy Sci 90, No. 2 (Feb 2007): 541-546. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17235130

One Comment

  1. Is Kale a Superfood? - Liam Springer

    […] Kale has been a trendy health food for some time. It is often lauded as being a “powerhouse” of nutrients packed with loads of vitamin A, vitamin K, iron, and calcium. But is kale a superfood? Just because a food is dense in nutrients, does that automatically mean that it is the best and healthiest choice for human consumption? Are there other factors to consider? Keep reading to learn a better definition for the term “superfood” and find out why kale is not included on my list of top superfoods. […]

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