Superfoods (functional foods)
Superfoods are a special category of foods found in nature. By common definition they are calorie sparse and nutrient dense. They are usually superior sources or unusually high content of anti-oxidants, vitamins and essential nutrients - nutrients we need but cannot make ourselves. Superfood is a non-medical term used to refer to foods that can have health-promoting properties. Often it has been linked with people who have healthy lives or have relative low levels of health problems(e.g. Hunza race)
The term functional food, rather than superfood, is used to describe a food that is beneficially relevant to either an improved state of health and well-being. Within this category it is recognised that prebiotics, probiotics, sterols and essential fatty acids (e.g. omega 3 oils) qualify as functional foods.
Many recent superfood lists contain common food choices whose nutritional value has long been recognized but whose health benefit has not necessarily been proven. It remains a contentious terminology.
A case could be made for several groups of ‘superfoods’, for instance :-greens, seaweeds, seeds, bees, fruits/nuts, oils, fermented products. All of these can be eaten as food sources or part of a diet but they are unlikely to form a significant fraction of a diet. Most of these can be classified as raw foods-which is not the case for some commercial ‘over the counter’ functional foods. Some of these superfoods can be concentrated further to enhance their nutrient content. It is accepted that the combination of modern farming practices and the use of hybrid strains of plants have left many common foods with lower nutrient levels and the possibility of additives that challenge our health (e.g. pesticide residues). Additionally food preparation also depletes many vital nutrients. Whilst many authors describing ‘superfoods’ would include healthy and valuable foods, such as eggs and broccoli, these are more likely to form part of a staple diet. Meeting the ‘5 a day or 7 a day’ is a healthy basis, the use of superfoods is intended to achieve additional health benefits.
Suggestions in these groups of superfoods include:-
Green superfoods: ‘Field of greens’
Bees: Royal jelly or bee pollen
Seeds: Hemp; Chia
Fruit/nuts: Acai: Maca; Goji
Fermented foods; Kefir
Oils: Blended organic cold pressed oils from flax, hemp, sunflower; Coconut oil
Some of the above can only be obtained as a food, or juiced extracts but some as supplements.
The term ‘Green Superfood’ describes foods such as Spirulina, Chlorella, Barley Grass and Wheat Grass. Some of these are grain and some algae. In both cases they have to be specially cultivated and harvested correctly to obtain them in their nutrient dense form with high content of enzymes. These are some of nature’s most highly concentrated nutrient-rich whole foods. Vitamins and minerals never work as effectively on their own - a shortage of one nutrient can affect the function and utilisation of many others. Green Superfoods contain proteins, enzymes, fibre, antioxidants, chlorophyll, carotenoids and natural healthy plant pigments. They also boast high amounts of easily digestible nutrients, fat burning compounds, vitamins and minerals, proteins, protective photo-chemicals and encourage healthy bacteria helping you to build cleaner muscles and tissues and aid your digestive system.
These green foods are normally harvested in early growth and then freeze dried before grinding to a powder. The most nutritionally dense green foods are where an extracted juice is cold pressed prior to freeze drying.