Recent years have seen the rise of the ‘superfood’, a term which smacks so much of ‘health fad’ that I’d normally be tempted to ignore it all together.
One minute grocery stores are being over run by folks stocking up on goji berries, the next thing you know some pricy food item with dubious health benefits, such as coconut oil or maca root, is being foisted on us as a new dietary staple.
However, many genuine ‘superfoods’ are not that exotic at all, indeed many are foods that you probably consume week in week out. In many cases you may even have thought of them as unhealthy, until now that is.
Here are some of the more surprising ‘superfoods’ :
Peanut butter is something many of us love to snack on, often thinking of it as a guilty pleasure. It is true that peanut butter is one of the most calorific foods you’ll find in the average kitchen, however peanut butter also has a number of health benefits.
For one thing peanuts contain resveratrol, the same substance that is believed to make red wine beneficial to the heart. In addition, though peanut butter contains a high percentage of fats, the majority are monosaturated fats, which help lower cholesterol.
Peanut butter is also very high in protein. This makes it a useful weight control tool, as snacking on it will make you feel fuller for longer, meaning you’re less likely to over indulge.
One of the most beneficial substances found in peanut butter is vitamin B3, also known as niacin. This has been shown to help cells recover from DNA damage, as occurs with cancer, and, according to various studies, niacin also appears to offer considerable protection against Alzheimer’s disease.
Peanut butter also contains more anti oxidants per weight than foods more often incorporated into a health conscious diet, such as apples and carrots.
To access these benefits it’s better to use natural peanut butter, as some manufacturers may mar the health benefits with preservatives and harmful trans fats.
Now, there is a very good reason that pop corn is not usually thought of as a healthy snack, chiefly that it is normally served in movie theaters covered in excessive amounts of sugar, salt or butter.
However, underneath those unnecessary adornments is a wonderfully healthy snack waiting to be discovered. In terms of antioxidants popcorn rivals many highly regarded fruits and vegetables.
These anti oxidants include a large number of polyphenols which protect the heart against disease and help prevent cell damage. They also help combat free radicals, molecules with an odd number of electrons that can cause cell killing chain reactions in the body.
On top of this, pop corn is whole grain and eating just half a small box is equivalent to a daily portion of brown rice. As unadulterated pop corn is high in fiber (pound for pound popcorn has three times more fibre than sunflower seeds) it can keep you feeling fuller for longer, helping you to refrain from snacking. This can be a perfect weight control tactic as popcorn, without any extras, is very low in calories.
So long as you don’t go over board on the salt or sugar and stay away from adding butter or margarine with trans fats, pop corn can be very healthy. Look out for lower fat flavoring powders or try salt-less spices for a different take on this classic snack.
The dangers of alcohol are so well documented that they don’t bear repeating here, however, drinking in moderation can be beneficial to health, especially if you favour a glass of red wine.
Red wine has often been thought to be responsible for what scientists and health experts have labeled ‘The French Paradox’, a term referring to the fact that, despite eating a diet with a higher level of fat then most nutritionists would recommend, there is a comparatively low level of coronary disease amongst French people.
Indeed, some studies suggest that drinking one or two glasses of red wine a day halves the risk of heart disease. Why should this be? Many attribute it to resveratrol, a substance present in the skin of red grapes. This substance is an antioxidant and has also been shown to tackle enzymes that cause tumour growth, causing some scientists to believe it may help prevent cancer. Resveratrol has also been linked to a low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.
On top of this, red wine contains flavonols, which some research suggests play a role in stopping the platelets in the blood from clumping together to from clots. It also believed this substance helps prevent fat and cholesterol being deposited on the walls or arteries, where they can harden, reduce blood flow and cause strokes.
Do note that drinking more than one or two glasses a day will dramatically increase all kinds of risks to your health.