Superfood, the buzzword in the last year that’s got people rushing to buy certain food items. Food items that they have never heard of or eaten much of before. The popularity of the term world over and its resulting media coverage. It’s even led to the increase in sales of certain healthy food items. But how many of us know what are superfoods, and why they’re classified in this way? Most importantly, why we should be eating them to ensure healthy ageing.
The Lexico dictionary defines a superfood as “A nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being”. Essentially, they’re plant-based foods containing high amounts of antioxidants. Often the antioxidant concentration is higher than what is found in other foods. And antioxidants are said to do a number of things for our bodies, from protecting healthy cells, and strengthening our immune system. There’s wide belief that antioxidants reduce inflammation and support detoxification of the liver. With many people turning away from processed, convenience foods, it’s not surprising that many latched onto the idea of eating foods that contain a higher density of nutrients over others.
Bearing this in mind, what foods are then classified as ‘super’? Harvard Medical School has identified ten top superfoods to include in a healthy diet, and they include the following:
Despite being nutrient-rich, experts warn us from the media’s portrayal of them as extra healthy. Superfoods are only a handful amongst an almost infinite number of plant foods we need to consume to ensure a balanced diet. And experts have found that while superfoods are very healthy, they alone cannot rid us of ailments, cure us from diseases or convert us into healthy individuals. In her book, “Unsavoury Truth”, Nutrition expert Dr. Marion Nestle writes that plant-based foods in general are recommended for a healthy diet, but that no single food or superfood alone can do this for you.
Nestle reminds us that the simple and basic principles of eating remain the same over the years to ensure a healthy diet. They remind us to eat a wide variety of foods. To stick to foods that are unprocessed or minimally processed too. So while superfoods shouldn’t be the only healthy foods you eat, they are beneficial as part of your everyday diet. As a retiree, all are beneficial to your health, but considering the needs of those aged 50 and older, which should you include amongst the other healthy foods in your diet?
Blueberries are an obvious choice. Containing the antioxidants known as flavonoids and proanthocyanidins, blueberries have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, which have been suggested to contribute towards reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Particularly salmon, fish is an extremely healthy food to add to your diet. A great source of omega-3 fats and protein, fish helps to reduce inflammation and maintain muscle mass. As we age we tend to lose muscle mass, and inevitably lose our strength. This protein rich food ensures we retain our strength and reduce the risk of falls.
While a great source of calcium — needed to stave off the symptoms of osteoporosis — yoghurt is also a great source of probiotics. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that helps to promote a healthy gut, and in turn a strong immune system. The most beneficial yoghurts are often plain in flavour, and are not sweetened.
Both of these food types are extremely beneficial for their fibre content, which plays an important role in keeping your digestive system healthy and regular. As we age, our system tends to slow down, and irregularity can become a problem. Include wholewheat breads, oats, chia seeds, chickpeas, lentils and beans in your diet for example, to keep your digestive system functioning as it should be.
So while superfoods may be a bit of a hype, and they can’t offer a superior power as they are sometimes portrayed to be able to do, they certainly are worth including in a healthy, balanced diet. And while they cannot offer a wonder cure for certain diseases or physical ailments, they can help us live a healthy lifestyle from the inside out.
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