The term “superfood” doesn’t have a formal definition, but it’s generally used to describe a food with nutrients or natural compounds that go to work in your body to optimize health or prevent disease. The superfoods list is very large. The truth is nearly every plant-based food can be categorized as “super,” from fruits and vegetables to whole grains, beans, nuts, herbs and spices. And with each new study we learn more about exactly how natural foods serve as preventative medicine. Here are three currently at the top of my must-eat list, and the science behind how they work.
Seaweed. Protects your heart and waistline
Seaweed is number one in the superfoods list. A report in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry reviewed almost 100 previous studies and concluded that some seaweed proteins are as effective as blood-pressure medications. And in animal research, a component in brown seaweed has been shown to help rats burn fat. Seaweed is rich source of iodine - one of the few sources of this mineral. That’s the key because too little iodine can trigger thyroid disease and weight gain, and seaweed’s natural magnesium can improve sleep, which is also tied to weight control.
Quick Tip: Make a side of seaweed salad a staple in every sushi order; start your day with a seaweed omelet, or for a portable option look for dried seaweed snacks.
Cupuaçu. Fights aging and boosts energy
This is a second item on the superfoods list. Tagged as the next antioxidant powerhouse, this distinctly flavored fruit related to cacao grows in the Amazon, where locals use it to strengthen immunity and relieve pain. Its juice tastes like pear and banana with a hint of chocolate, and like its cocoa cousin it contains natural stimulants to boost energy and mental alertness.
Quick Tip: Whip the freeze-dried powder or juice into a smoothie, or make cupuaçu pops by freezing the juice in molds with chunky bits of fresh tropical fruit.
Miso. Protects the prostate, breasts and lungs
Last, but not the least on the superfoods list. This soy paste originated in Japan, where men have a much lower incidence of prostate cancer. Among Japanese women one study found that those who consumed three or more bowls of miso soup daily had a 40% lower risk of breast cancer compared to those who consumed just one.
Quick Tip: Smear organic miso paste on tuna steak; or to make a quick soup, dissolve two teaspoons into boiling water and add sliced veggies and greens.