But what exactly are superfoods? This is the question everyone is asking, as we have heard about these champions of nutrition in recent years.
Let’s lift the veil and look together:
- What superfoods are;
- Their characteristics;
- Which superfoods to prioritize;
- If they are really as miraculous as we sometimes hear.
What is a superfood?
Is there a definition for a superfood? Yes! A superfood is an unprocessed food that provides significant health benefits. It is often described as rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. In brief, it is part of a healthy diet, with that little something extra.
It is proven that white blood cells cannot stand up to viruses and bacteria that enter the body without the help of nutrients in the right foods. Thus, bad eating habits lead to nutritional deficiencies, which weaken the immune system and leave the field open to different diseases. By contrast, a healthy diet helps strengthen the immune system.
Ideally, it would therefore be necessary:
- To reduce frozen-pizza consumption on your sofa on Friday night, watching your favourite TV show, and swap it for a plate of raw veggies and homemade dip;
- To resist the temptation of the chicken pie that catches your eye in the grocery store when you’re really hungry;
- To always have fresh fruit on hand.
These are the basic rules of healthy nutrition, which don’t simply fill us up with empty, unhealthy foods in the medium and long term.
However, in addition to following nutritionists’ broad guidelines, namely, “to eat as little processed food as possible, to listen to bodily signals of hunger or fullness, to make a place for the pleasure of eating, and to bet on variety,” certain immunostimulants should be prioritized to better control diabetes, for example, to improve heart health or to gain more energy. In short, for healthy aging!
According to nutritionists, protein, calcium and vitamin D, as well as antioxidants, are the key nutrients which should figure at the top of your list of priorities.
Which are the superfoods to include in your diet as a priority?
It is important to have an adequate daily intake of protein, but especially to distribute it throughout the day.
In Quebec, the cultural tradition dictates that we mainly eat protein at supper. In order to help find a balance between the different meals, and to vary the protein sources, which is an important factor beneficial to health, we can turn to sources of protein other than meat, which has in any case been dethroned in the new Health Canada Food Guide in favour of vegetable proteins.
Superfoods rich in protein to prioritize:
- Chia seeds
- Nuts and grains
- Wakame (seaweed)
Calcium & vitamin D
As we age, calcium and vitamin D are essential for maintaining good bone health.
We know the virtues of dairy products for their high calcium content, but plant “milks” are excellent substitutes as long as they are fortified with calcium.
Superfoods to prioritize:
- Fortified vegetarian milks
- Sesame seeds
- Greek yogurt
- Sardines (vitamin D)
- Tuna (vitamin D)
Antioxidants are vitamins, trace elements and micronutrients that are naturally found in our food. Their particularity is that they fight against the excessive manufacture of free radicals caused by pollution, UV rays or tobacco. Free radicals are the cause of premature aging of cells and the development of several diseases.
Although this is a very large family, antioxidants are found primarily in dark-coloured fruits and vegetables.
According to the main principles of healthy eating seen above, it is important to vary foods by choosing different colours, for example.
And according to Canada’s new food guide, we’re no longer talking about daily servings, but rather proportions on the plate. So, ideally, half the plate should consist of fruits and vegetables for every meal. Hang in there: public markets will soon be reopening their doors and you can stock up on healthy local foods.
Superfoods to prioritize:
- Açai berries
- Goji berries
Are superfoods miraculous?
In recent years, we’ve been hearing about superfoods as dietary superstars. Certainly, these healthy, nutritious and unprocessed foods are a priority in your daily regime, but unfortunately, as confirmed by nutritionist Bernard Lavallée in an excellent article in Le Devoir last September, “There are no healthy foods, superfoods or any other names you’d like to give to foods to give them extraordinary virtues. It’s a whole, a life balance, which allows us to remain healthy.”
The nutritionist also specifies that it is dangerous to think that a single category of food can cure a disease: “There is no problem in eating blueberries or any other fruit. It’s even really good to eat fruit,” says the nutritionist. “The real danger is when a person believes that a food is so powerful that it can, for example, replace medical treatments.” At Sélection Retraite, we have come up with the Healthy ID program specifically to help you stay in top shape.
In sum, food is always about prevention. Healthy aging is about taking care of your overall health, being physically active and eating healthfully. Superfoods are not miraculous, but they can support a natural, varied and balanced diet.
Let’s not hesitate to eat them and perhaps discover new flavours and new taste pleasures!