What's So Super About Superfoods: Is It Just a Trendy Term?

Salmon

Ursula Ridens, a Sharp HealthCare registered dietitian, reveals healthy facts about superfoods.

While "superfoods" is an unscientific term, often used for marketing purposes, it does imply foods that are rich in nutrients that may provide health benefits. Many nutrients and "superfoods" have been well studied, so let's take a look at a few of them.

Salmon has several qualities that make it a superfood. If you don't like salmon, that's okay. Try including other types of fish into your diet. Aim to eat fish at least two times per week!

Nutrient

Benefit
High in lean protein
  • Building block for muscles
  • Helps build and repair tissue

Low in saturated fat and high in omega-3 fats (docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, DHA and EPA respectively)

  • Boosts heart health
  • Lowers triglycerides
  • Raises HDL "good" cholesterol
  • Decreases inflammation

Good source of iron

  • Carries oxygen to body cells
  • Supports brain and muscle health

Quinoa is a whole grain that's easy to cook and can be used in place of rice or pasta and mixed with veggies. In terms of health, quinoa is more favorable than many other grains because of its high protein content (about eight grams in one cup!), which helps to keep us more satiated. But that's not it — quinoa also has zinc, vitamin E and selenium, which play an important role in lowering heart disease and diabetes risk.

Beans are loaded with benefits! A few of the perks include insoluble fiber to lower cholesterol, soluble fiber to increase your satiety and keep your digestive tract healthy, as well as magnesium and potassium to boost your bone and heart health. Use beans, instead of chicken or beef, as a low-fat protein food (contains zero saturated fat!) for some of your meals.

Nuts are so versatile and healthy too. Don't let their high fat content scare you away. Nuts are a key component to the Mediterranean diet. A February 2013 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine revealed that those who included either mixed nuts (1 ounce per day) or extra-virgin olive oil (4 tablespoons per day) in their diet had a 30 percent reduction in relative risk of a heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease. So punch up your meals and snacks with a small handful of nuts!

Rich in . . .

 Potential Benefits

Almonds

Vitamin E

  • Fights oxidation (damage) to cells
  • Anti-inflammatory

Walnuts

Omega-3 fat (alpha linolenic acid — ALA)

  • Improves heart health — lowers LDL "bad" cholesterol

Hazelnuts

Folate

  • Lowers homocysteine (an amino acid that promotes atherosclerosis)
  • Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease
Brazil nuts Selenium
  • Fights cancer and arthritis

For More Information
The Sharp Outpatient Nutrition Counseling Program provides one-on-one nutrition counseling with registered dietitians at four convenient locations throughout the county. To get your questions answered and learn more about our offerings in heart health, weight management, kidney disease, eating disorders, digestive health and more, please contact us at 619-740-4632, or visit Sharp's Nutrition Education and Counseling Program.