The 'superfood' label emerged a few years ago as an emphatic description of any food reputed to offer health benefits above and beyond the call of duty.
While the superfood classification has invited debate and even criticism, there's no denying that the foods most frequently given this label make a great addition to any balanced diet. What makes them super?
Rather than just tasting great, superfoods are typically those that contain unusually high amounts of vital vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, particularly fibre, healthy fats and antioxidants that fight disease and fortify the body.
There's no precise criteria to determine what qualifies as a superfood, since it's an unofficial term you won't find serious dieticians using. As with many things in life, you'll know it when you see it – or when you read a nutrition label and find yourself amazed by all the health benefits. What are the best superfoods?
There may never be a consensus on which foods are granted 'superfood' status and which are unfairly left out, but some of the most widely agreed upon are:
Man shall not live by superfoods alone
- Berries – Blueberries, strawberries and cranberries are rich in flavonoids, which reduce the risk of heart conditions among other benefits. Other popular berries include acai berries, reputed to help with weight loss and ageing, and goji berries which are high in vitamin C.
- Dark, leafy greens – Your parents told you to eat your greens, but did they specify which ones? Darker varieties such as kale, spinach, cabbage, mustards and broccoli are packed with vitamins (A, C and K), calcium and fibre, among other nutrients.
- Beans and grains – Beans and whole (unrefined) grains are great sources of low fat protein and fibre, which help to lower cholesterol and help you feel full for longer. Quinoa is the leading supergrain, as it's particularly rich in antioxidants, fibre and multiple vitamins and minerals.
- Nuts and seeds – Sometimes overlooked for their high calorie content, nuts and seeds can offer a potent heath boost when enjoyed in moderation.
- Oily fish – Long avoided for fears of mercury poisoning, the health benefits of eating oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines outweigh the exaggerated risk. These fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids that are great for your heart and even better for your brain.
Even the healthiest foods need to be enjoyed in moderation, and superfoods can ironically become a source of health problems if people buy into the hype and over-eat these foods at the expense of following a well-balanced diet.
If you're not sure how to best incorporate certain foods into your diet, you should speak to your doctor or a nutritionist for their expert advice. Find fresh Australian produce in Gungahlin
The Marketplace Gungahlin is your one-stop shop for healthy food shopping and dining in northern Canberra.
Find all your favourite Australian brands and fresh local produce every day at Woolworths supermarket
or seek out more exotic ingredients at Mani Asian Supermarket
and Monga Indian Grocery
to prepare your favourite dishes from the subcontinent, East Asia and Fiji.