“Superfoods,” “top 10 healthiest foods”—do these two titles catch your attention? Many of us are seeking weight loss or to improve our health, and the notion of a superfood can be appealing. We often imagine a powerful food with special abilities like instant weight loss or healing disease. And why these so-called “superfoods” DO contain numerous health benefits, they shouldn’t be categorized as the above all, be all food. There are no scientifically based or regulated criteria for superfoods according to the American Heart Association. Generally, a food is promoted to superfood status when it offers high levels of desirable nutrients, is linked to the prevention of a disease, or is believed to offer several simultaneous health benefits beyond its nutritional value.
For example, let’s take a look at an avocado. It’s great source of heart-healthy (monounsaturated & polyunsaturated) fats, full of vitamin E, vitamin K, Vitamin C, fiber, folate, vitamin B, iron, potassium, niacin, thiamin, magnesium, manganese and more!
Avocados are also an antioxidant that fights against free radicals in the body. Free radicals can damage cells and may play a role in heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.
As you just read above, avocados are extremely healthy and provide a variety of health benefits to your body! But the reason the word “superfood” can be misleading is studies show that people tend to only buy and eat the labeled “superfoods” to be healthy, whereas they are missing out on a variety of nutrients in other healthy foods!
Peaches aren’t labeled as a superfood but they provide 6% of your daily vitamin A needs and 15% of daily vitamin C needs. One medium peach also contains 2% or more daily value of vitamins E and K, niacin, folate, iron, choline, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc and copper. If you ate only avocados, your body wouldn’t be obtaining all of the other health benefits in peaches!
So what I am saying is that it is important to eat a variety of different foods that contain different nutrients so your body can function at its best!
A simple phrase to keep in mind is “Eat the Rainbow.”
Here is what I mean: different types of fruits and vegetables provide different phytonutrients nutrients, for example:
Foods that are red help reduce cancer risk, boost your immune system, and enhance brain and heart health. This is because they contain compounds like anthocyanidins and lycopene.
Try incorporating foods like apples, beets, red bell peppers, cranberries, cherries, grapes, plums, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, and tomatoes. I highly recommend spicing up your next pasta dish with a bunch of chopped veggies and a tomato-packed marinara sauce.
Foods that are orange help boost your immune system and optimize eye and skin health. This is because they contain compounds like beta-carotene and curcuminoids.
Try incorporating foods like apricots, orange bell peppers, carrots, mangos, oranges, pumpkin, sweet potato, and turmeric.
Foods that are yellow are anti-inflammatory and promote eye, skin, brain and heart health. This is because they contain compounds like lutein and zeaxanthin.
Try incorporating foods like golden apples, pears, bananas, yellow bell peppers, lemons, pineapple, and summer squash.
Green foods are anti-inflammatory, support your liver, and are vital for brain and heart health. This is because they contain compounds like chlorophyll and isoflavones.
Try incorporating foods like asparagus, avocados, green bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, edamame, leafy greens, limes, and zucchini.
BLUE & PURPLE
Foods that are blue and purple are anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and are good for the brain! This is because they contain compounds like anthocyanidins and resveratrol.
Try incorporating foods like blueberries, blackberries, cabbage, purple cauliflower, eggplant, grapes, plums, and prunes.
WHITE & TAN
When it comes to phytonutrients, the rule of thumb is the darker the plant food = the more nutrient dense. But white and tan plant foods are the exception! These plants are pretty amazing as anti-inflammatories, plus they support a healthy liver, and optimize hormone health. This is because they contain compounds like allicin and tannins.
Try incorporating foods like apples, cauliflower, coconut, dates, garlic, ginger, chickpeas, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, tahini, and whole grains.
So why did superfoods become “a thing?”
Before hearing that kale or avocados were a superfood, did you buy them? It is likely that you didn’t. Superfoods often translate into super sales that have created a billion-dollar industry. You may have heard the phrase “let thy food be thy medicine” which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is a sales gimmick.
The Bottom Line: Focus on a variety of foods, not just superfoods!
“Eat the Rainbow” with these Tips & Tricks
When you’re writing your grocery list, try adding 1-2 new plant foods each week.
Keep a variety of colorful produce (berries, leafy greens, etc.) in your freezer for easy smoothie making.
Take the time to chop some veggies in the beginning of the week or have a few bags of frozen veg on hand. This makes it easy to grab a handful of chopped veggies for a quick stir fry when you’re in a pinch.
Keep fruit on the counter in your kitchen or on your desk at work for easy access.
So yes, explore individual foods and learn how to select, prepare, and enjoy them—but don’t be distracted by the latest overhyped food or fad. Instead, focus on creating a “super plate” full of different healthy and flavorful foods.