Superfoods are all the rage these days. What are they? Why are they better than other foods and what makes them super? Some experts will tell you they’re just a marketing ploy and that a grain from halfway across the world isn’t some kind of elixir that will keep you young, healthy, and at the peak of your fitness game for the rest of your life. Certainly there’s truth to this critique. No single food can save your life. But further research shows that while the moniker may be presumptuous, there is indeed something magical about superfoods. That’s the thing about the laws of nature—sometimes they seem like magic, even though they’re just natural.
According to webmd.com, superfoods are the “Michael Jordans of the food world” because they’re packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants—molecules that fight oxidation, a chemical reaction that generates free radicals. Free radicals are atoms that occur naturally; they’re involved when the liver does the work of detoxification, for example, or when white blood cells prepare to destroy invaders. The problem is that these days we’re producing more free radicals than ever before. Today our bodies are oxidizing too often—whenever we’re exposed to pollution, cleaning products and herbicides, cigarette smoke, or any other industrial chemical agent. We’ve got too many free radicals floating around, and they’re damaging our cells, robbing them of electrons through the process of oxidation.
When the level of free radicals exceeds the level of antioxidants in the system, there is an imbalance. The result is usually accelerated aging, a compromised immune system, and damage that leads to disease or cognitive problems.
Antioxidants, common in plant foods, help to restore the balance. A diet rich in foods that contain antioxidants can protect your cells from free radical damage and heal damaged cells. By adding antioxidants to your meals, you can actually slow down the aging process and reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases or cognitive problems.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, beans (red, kidney, black, and pinto) are high in antioxidants, as are berries (blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, goji and acai berries), fruits (prunes, apples, cherries, plums, tomatoes, pomegranates, grapes), and certain vegetables (cooked artichokes, dark leafy greens, broccoli rabe, sweet potatoes, squash). Dark chocolate, pecans, wild-caught salmon, and coconut are also rich in antioxidants, as are some herbs (clove, cinnamon, oregano, and turmeric, to name a few). While there’s no recommended daily allowance of antioxidants, the more you eat the better your chances of looking good and feeling healthy. Just make sure the superfoods you consume aren’t heavily processed and don’t contain added sugars.
Healthy eating isn’t about consuming a lot of one food; your body needs a variety of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains in order to function optimally. Still, it’s a good idea to make superfoods an integral part of your beauty and skin-care routine because they’re packed with good things that will make you look and feel good, too.