There is a movement afoot. Eating well to look, feel and perform at your best is in. It is popular, it is on trend, it’s happening.
The times of ramming in food for convenience is no longer considered cool.
It is great to see the likes of Jamie Oliver tackling obesity in schools and helping educate people on how to look after themselves. It is a sad state of affairs that this kind of action needs to happen, but as interventions go it is way overdue.
Any foray into this hot potato is worth it in my opinion. This epidemic has to stop. Education is key, but with life in the fast lane will anybody listen?
Food is the building blocks of life. Everything we are is derived from what we ingest. It can improve our mood, focus, energy, skin, metabolism, not to mention give us the tools to perform better, to get leaner, faster and stronger.
There is a phrase that has become more and more prevalent in recent times…
So what are super foods anyway?
And why are they important?
Do they don capes?
Leap tall building with a single bound?
Not really, but they actually make you feel like you can… if you add them into a diet packed full of nutrients instead of sugar and trans fats, which seems to be the staple of many these days.
You see foods are labelled “super” because they are packed with the nutrients your body needs, not what your taste buds want. It is important to remember that the food we eat serves a purpose, taste is important, but you can eat amazingly tasty foods which are also healthy.
I don’t have to spell it out that we as a society are groaning under the weight of obesity (see what I did there J)
It is too easy to eat the wrong foods that make you sick, fat and tired.
Let’s face it, as I discussed last month, the western diet is geared up for people to be obese. It is also easy to blame everything and everyone as to why you shovel a mars bar into your mouth because you haven’t got time to eat.
All good eating requires is planning and preparation. So the time excuse does not wash with me at all. Everyone thinks they will starve if they miss a meal. More likely their hormones are all over the place from too much sugar and it is the craving for such foods and not hunger that drives people to the wrong choices.
So today I thought I would list 10 what I would categorise as superfoods. Nutrient dense foods your body will love along with amazing health benefits.
Let’s see how many you include in your diet….
Eggs are one of the biggest super foods to have. They are inexpensive and cover many of the nutrients people tend to be deficient in if they follow the typical western diet, which is full of sugar.
Eggs have long had a bad rap from the high cholesterol brigade however those claims are unfounded. Cholesterol is essential for your body, what you do not eat your body actually creates to make up the deficit. Don’t be fooled by that myth.
They are full of high quality protein, essential for building and maintenance of your body tissues such as your organs, skin and muscles.
They have essential vitamins and minerals including B12 and folic acid. In fact the only vitamin it does not have is vitamin C.
They also contribute to the creation of hormones and help your immune system. On top of all that they are versatile and easy to prepare as a meal. Make sure you eat the whole egg too!
There has been so much written about green vegetables it is hard to imagine anyone who thinks they are not good for them. That doesn’t mean that they consume them in any amount of course. There are many different forms of green coloured veg that I am going to give you my top 3:
The biggest thing about spinach is the amount of calcium it contains. Everyone believes that milk is the only thing in the world that contains calcium, which is nonsense. In fact I think that is the biggest marketing ploy milk producers have to sell it. These sources are much better as there are the right ratios of nutrients for higher absorption.
Spinach is high in iron. Our red blood cells require iron to fuel our muscles with oxygen for energy.
It is also full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and vitamins that promote vision and bone health are what make this a superfood. Just one cup of the stuff packs up to 12 percent of the recommended daily dose of calcium and enough vitamin K to help prevent bone loss
I cannot believe that anyone on this planet doesn’t know how good broccoli is for your health. The problem is though that many claim not to like it and in my experience it’s simply because they were force fed it as children when their main staple was sweets. Who is gonna want a “dinosaur tree” when you can have something super sweet like chocolate?
This lean, mean, green machine is packed with vitamins, minerals, disease-fighting compounds, and the fibre essential in any diet. Though all members of the cruciferous vegetable family are super healthy and broccoli stands out for its exceptionally high levels of vitamin C and folate (which can reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and stroke)
Bursting with fibre, kale is a dark green leafy vegetable and is full of essential vitamins and minerals. The vitamin A and C in kale is fantastic for your skin and can slow down premature ageing. It also contains lutein, a nutrient that is beneficial for your body and complexion, and also brightens the whites of the eyes.
It can help ease lung congestion and aids in digestive process, liver and immune system.
One serving of cooked kale provides more than half the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and also contains, vitamins A and B, Calcium Lutein, which helps improve vision, Iron, Chlorophyll and indole-3-carbinol, which helps eliminate excess oestrogen from the body.
Pronounced keen-wah, this is not strictly a grain but is derived from the seed of a plant related to spinach and contains a complete protein, meaning it has all the essential amino acids our body needs to build muscle and repair itself, making it perfect for vegetarians. As well as being high in protein, with few carbohydrates and a dose of healthy fats, quinoa contains an amino acid called lysine, as well B vitamins, copper, zinc, magnesium and folate.
It is perfect as a fast and filling nutritional breakfast — just add almond milk for an added boost of protein.
Nuts are bursting with nutrients and essential fats. They also contain fibre as well as vitamins, minerals, potent phytochemicals and the amino acid arginine. Eating a handful of nuts five times a week reduces your risk of coronary heart disease.
Almonds are the most nutrient dense nut, meaning they have the highest amounts of nutrients per calorie per ounce with a healthy dose of potassium, calcium, vitamin E, magnesium and iron. Almonds also come as a butter which is a great way to get your fats in.
Walnuts are one of the best plant sources of protein. Another important perk of eating a handful a day is lifting your mood. That’s because they are packed with tryptophan, an amino acid your body needs to create the feel-good chemical serotonin.
All berries are great sources of fibre, which is important for a healthy digestive system. They are also Jam packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These antioxidants protect your body from cell damage caused by poor diets and environmental pollutants.
Vitamin C is the superstar of this superfood. Just one cup of strawberries satisfies the minimum daily requirement for vitamin C). Studies suggest the antioxidant helps build and repair the body’s tissues, boosts immunity, and fights excess free radical damage and the vitamin C in strawberries could help promote healthy eye function.
Blueberries are nutrient super stars filled with fibre, vitamin C, anti oxidants and cancer-fighting compounds. And studies suggest blueberries may even improve memory function
Raspberries are among the highest fibre containing foods, with up to 20 percent fibre per total weight. They are also a great source of vitamin C, manganese, B vitamins, folic acid, magnesium, copper and iron and of course antioxidants.
6. Coconut Oil
I always sing the praises of coconut oil as coconut oil definitely falls into the category of a super food. Their health benefits are massive. The main thing to know is that coconuts contain lauric acid, which is converted by the body and has anti viral and anti bacterial properties.
The saturated fat contained in coconuts is unique in that it is in the form on medium chain triglycerides. Your body sends this to the liver, essentially giving the body instant energy to use, which can help eliminate carb cravings.
The oil also promotes heart health, supports the health of our immune system, promotes a healthy metabolism supports the proper function of out thyroid gland
It is also excellent to cook with and is the only oil stable at a high heat and resists heat damage.
7. Wild Alaskan Salmon
Oily fish are high in protein and high in omega 3 oils especially EPA and DHA, considered natures heart medicine.
Wild Alaskan Salmon is a great source of protein and high in omega 3 oil, they also contain iodine (essential for your thyroid), potassium and zinc. Omega 3 oils are anti inflammatory and anti ageing and are a major component of the brain and every cell structure in your body. Vitamin D gives healthy skin, nails, hair and bones.
Make sure the Salmon is wild and Alaskan if possible. Why Alaskan? Because it is the least contaminated. Many fish nowadays are contaminated with toxic pollutants such as mercury. Most mainstream shops sell farmed salmon is fed poorly and given pellet with colourings in to make the fish meat pink.
Make sure you get some in your diet weekly.
Asparagus is one of the best veggie sources of folate, a B vitamin that could help with low moods. Folate is important for the synthesis of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine and is considered a good mood food. They also give us vitamin K, which is key for building strong bones.
Asparagus also contains high levels of potassium, which may help control blood pressure, and is rich in iron which boost the body’s immune system.
A part from keeping blood sucking vampires away (or is that energy vampires I forget) Garlic is anti viral, anti bacterial and anti fungal. It boosts our immune systems by promoting the growth of white blood cells, our army of germ fighters. Fresh garlic really is a potent alternative to antibiotics.
One of the active compounds, Allicin, has also been shown to kill the super-bacteria MRSA, which is becoming an increasingly larger threat to the human race due to resistance to antibiotics.
How much should you have — 2 crushed cloves a day to keep viruses at bay
Avocados are an excellent source of healthful raw fat, which most people are seriously deficient in. They also provide close to 20 essential health-boosting nutrients, including:
Fibre, Potassium (more than twice the amount found in a banana), Vitamin E, B-vitamins and Folic acid
In addition, avocados enable your body to more efficiently absorb fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein, in other foods eaten in conjunction. Eating avocados are a great way to increase calories if you are trying to gain mas as part of a strength building program, whilst keeping carbs low.
So What Can We Take From this?
You may wonder what this has to do with nutrition.
You build everything on a foundation of health. Start with the basics and make sure you get all the micro and macro nutrients your body requires to function in a healthy state. Once your base is complete, then you add the bells and whistles, eg whatever you need to perform at your best, which in martial arts is boundless energy and recovery, strength and endurance. Get your foundation right and the rest with come in abundance!