Several foods have been touted as superfoods over the years, with claims of numerous health benefits. Whilst it’s true many of these foods offer important nutrients for good health, there are a few foods with a long history of therapeutic use and health promoting benefits, supported by science-backed research.
You’ve heard of an apple a day, but a clove of garlic a day can confer exceptional health benefits. Garlic contains many sulfur compounds including allicin and sulfur-containing amino acids cysteine, methionine and glutathione (a powerful antioxidant), which have potent biological effects. Sulfur containing amino acids play a critical role in cellular detoxification systems, healthy joints and connective tissue, and aerobic metabolism. Garlic is a good source of manganese, vitamin B6 and C, as well as several other vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals beneficial for health.
Garlic has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which support cardiovascular health. Regular consumption of garlic improves circulation, strengthens blood vessels and reduces the likelihood of blood vessel damage due to chronic inflammation. Studies have found garlic to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, reduce blood pressure and lower LDL cholesterol. This improvement in cardiovascular health may also help improve athletic performance.
Studies have found garlic can boost the immune system and reduce the severity and duration of colds by up to 70%. There is also evidence to suggest garlic can ward of upper respiratory infections. Several others studies have shown garlic’s antioxidant properties to reduce oxidative stress associated with ageing, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
2. Dark Berries
We know dark berries are good for us, but further studies have backed their health promoting benefits. Berries are rich sources of vitamins A, C and E and potent antioxidants such as anthocyanins, resveratrol and flavonoids.
These antioxidants protect against oxidative stress and ageing, fight inflammation, prevent arthrosclerosis and reduce cancer risk. Resveratrol in berries has been found to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and boost brain function, memory and learning. It does this by boosting neurogenesis, which is our brain making new neurons, and increasing a growth factor called BDNF. Flavonoids and supporting compounds from various fruits and vegetables have been found to lower cholesterol and protect against type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
3. Leafy Greens
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, rocket, bok choy, and swiss chard contain high levels of nitrates which improve blood flow by dilating blood vessels. This can enhance exercise performance by improving mitochondrial function (our cells powerhouses), reducing the amount of oxygen needed, and increasing the time it takes to reach exhaustion. Eating nitrate-rich vegetables daily can help lower blood pressure over time.
Leafy greens are a good source of magnesium, important for over 300 biological reactions in the body including blood glucose control. Studies have shown magnesium to be beneficial for type 2 diabetes. Magnesium is easily depleted during stress and intense exercise and therefore beneficial for trained athletes. Magnesium also helps to relax muscles and improve sleep.
Leafy greens are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin. Studies have shown these antioxidants protect the eyes against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, as well as protect against certain types of cancer such as breast and lungs. Quercetin is another antioxidant found in leafy greens which evidence shows has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
Leafy greens contain various other potent nutrients and provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals, so include a wide variety in your diet for positive health benefits.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae with a 55-70% protein content, often consumed as a supplement in powder form. It has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and is a rich source of vitamins B1, B2, B3, copper and iron. It is a great source of high quality protein with all essential amino acids, and provides small amounts of almost every nutrient needed. Gram for gram, spirulina is the most nutritious food on earth.
Spirulina has been found to be beneficial for improving muscle endurance and strength. Studies have found spirulina to improve lipid and glucose metabolism, protecting against type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Evidence shows spirulina also helps to reduce liver fat, lower blood triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, prevent LDL from becoming oxidized, and has anti-cancer compounds and can treat allergic rhinitis.