Eat This: Superfoods

Do you think that there is one food that does it all? You know, all the things that us nutritionists talk about… gives energy, vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, phytonutrients, polyphenols, fats, prebiotics, probiotics, it will prevent disease, pain, and make you impervious to viruses? Or is the claim of SUPERFOOD all marketing hype to get you to part with your hard earned dollars and buy the most expensive berries, or latest product that gives it all? 

Superfood is a term that, according to Harvard.edu may have come from The United Fruit Company for their advertising campaign in the early 20th century somewhere around WW1, to promote it’s major import of bananas. It was a practical campaign touting the benefits of bananas being cheap, nutritious, easily digested, available everywhere, good when cooked and not cooked, and sealed by nature in a germ-proof package. Sounds true enough. 

Nowadays the use of marketing behind superfoods can be like dangling the organic, biodynamic, picked under the full moon and at the peak of freshness option to those who are health conscious and want the holy elixir of health. But what on earth is a superfood? Is there some sort of category, a checklist that has all the boxes ticked that gets a food superfood status? According to the dictionary a superfood is:

 “A food (such as salmon, broccoli, or blueberries) that is rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fiber, or fatty acids) considered beneficial to a person’s health.” 

Well in my world, that could speak to just about anything that isn’t processed or doesn’t come in a package. Maybe that’s it. All fresh produce should be called a superfood, no matter what it has to offer. Or is there more to a superfood? Does it actually offer more nutritional value than another and is that what needs to be loaded up on your plate to live a long and healthy, disease free life? That’s what we all want isn’t it? 

Today on EAT THIS with Lianne – superfoods. Are they all marketing hype or is there some truth to what these super-duper-foods have to offer? And because I couldn’t resist, I’ll share three categories and one specific food that I’d put in my shopping basket that you need to too.

Before we jump into superfoods, I want to introduce my super-producer Chris Kant. If this is your first foray into podcast listening or even to EAT THIS with Lianne, you may hear a laugh every now and then, that’s a tad deeper than mine. Or even a heckle or two, and that’s Chris. We once sat in a studio on the NewsTalk10 floor of the CTV building in downtown Toronto, and now I’m in my clothes closet of my condo, that a friend told me is now called a Cl-office. And Chris is in his bathroom studio about an hour away and pipes up when I say something that he doesn’t quite get which is helpful for both you and I because I think that he asks the questions that you likely would, if you could talk back and ask for yourself. 

Alright back to it… 

Superfoods to me, are those that have more impactful nutritional value than others…  more nutrients yes, but also a wider profile of nutrients than other foods, so maybe more nutrients per mouthful could be a way to qualify superfoods. Superfoods are typically more colourful, like a sweet potato versus a white potato, and the difference there has a lot to do with antioxidants that are potent plant chemicals that prevent or delay cell damage by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons. They rob other cells of electrons, causing damage and contributing to disease.

Superfoods would offer more of what we need, as well as the plant versions the actual antioxidant nutrients of A, C, E, zinc and selenium, and phyto or plant nutrients like the carotenoids that are found in yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables –  I mentioned these in episode 40 when I talked about eye health and night blindness. And how about Lycopene that gives red or pink color to tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit and are best known for prostate health. And a popular one called resveratrol that’s found in grapes, purple grape juice and red wine and acts as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. What do you think? Do those sound like these foods are going over and above to provide nutrient value. Well, I could have made this episode all about antioxidants because there are so many. But what I want to get to here is to call out the pull the wool over your eyes aspect of superfoods as well as call attention to those foods that offer the most value and impact to you and your family. 

Superfood sceptics are out there almost as much as superfood followers, according to the comments that I got back from a post on social media asking what people thought of when they hear the term superfood. For instance, this post.

It would seem that in my community – which is NOT all health nuts. When I ask questions like this, I ask in my personal community because my ‘friends’ in quotes–aren’t all following me for nutrition information, they are people that I know so give less biased comments. 

So yes, I would agree with the sceptics because studies prove that labeling a product ‘natural’ or a superfood does drive sales. And that is what food companies are looking for. It’s business. But the business of being healthy comes down to our choices, so let’s talk about what I would term a superfood and those foods that I focus on maxing out on. To simplify, I’m lumping a few into colour categories. 

First up – greens. 

Now don’t turn your nose up hearing that the nutritionist is going to tell you to eat your greens. They contain calcium, folate, magnesium, but in a more absorbable form than dairy, according to some experts. 

The list of greens is broad – yes there’s broccoli, spinach, arugula, watercress (also known as the superfood of all the greens), arugula, chard, collard and of course kale. Then there’s seaweed, sprouted greens from the seeds of sunflowers, broccoli, radish and even corn, although that’s yellow. 

I find the best way to eat the leafy greens is wilted. That means put a tablespoon or two in a frying pan and load up with leaves – spinach, kale, chard, and toss them quickly until they are wilted. Throw on some soy sauce and sesame or sunflower seeds, and top with an egg. 

Kale chips keep getting cooked in my home as my youngest is avoiding eating potato chips, but still wants something crunchy, so kale chips are her go-to right now. Think how proud I felt when she asked me to buy more kale! 

Some that you likely wouldn’t stir fry with include spirulina, chlorella, alfalfa, grasses like barley grass, dandelion, nettles. Those are often found in supplement form and are also in my superfood powder, KID Boost and SKIN Boost supplement. 

My other favourite way to eat greens is to make pesto with them. 

Up next are berries.

No surprise here, right? Blueberry, strawberry, blackberry, raspberries, cranberries and I’d lump in cherries here too if I think of what I put in my smoothie. Added to these more common ones, there’s mulberry – found fresh or dried, goldenberry which is also called ground cherries and can be found dried like raisins and when they’re coated in dark chocolate… yum, yum, yum. Acai berries, and goji berries pack a flavanoid punch, one of the categories of plant antioxidants. Talk about nutrients per mouthful, berries are best known to help heart health, lower blood pressure, and studies even show a slowing of cognitive decline with those who eat berries multiple times a week. And you’ve heard of cranberries for urinary tract infections right? Well you have to have the sour or pucker-up cranberry juice, not the sugary version for this benefit. The compounds in cranberry juice – a more concentrated version of the actual berries, knock off the bacteria and fungus from the urinary tract! I’d call that a superpower. They’ve also been linked to prevention of skin, breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers.

Typically berries aren’t difficult to get into your diet if you’re a smoothie lover, or if you’ve got into making smoothie bowls. I like to top my salad with strawberries if I’ve made a dressing with balsamic vinegar, because they go so well together. Even a blueberry pie could be upleveled to be called a superfood pie, if it wasn’t for all the sugar that was added. Sugar doesn’t fall into any superfood category sadly. I snack on dried mulberries and golden berries in my trail mix with almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. In season berries are best, but frozen is a close second. 

Beets – these are in a class of their own.

Yes there are red beets, golden beets, and candy cane beets and let’s not forget the beet tops. Actually I left those out of the greens section so let’s have them as a late entry to that category. The beauty about beets lies in the nitrates that make nitric oxide in the body. By the way, carrots have them too, just not as much. And no I’m not talking about nitrITES that you’ve heard in hot dog and sliced meat. Those are spelled with an I not an A if you’re reading about them. Nitric oxide helps to relax and dilate blood vessels,  and that improves circulation. Circulation to your heart, brain, every part of your body. Improved circulation is needed not only for lower blood pressure, but to allow your blood to flow faster to your muscles so they get more oxygen when, say you’re working out. And that gives you a leg-up with better endurance. Now, I could also say improved leg over, as in dudes, your sexual performance, stamina, blood flow and erection. Yes, I’ve caught the attention of many men with this tid-bit of information. I spoke about this on radio once, and the text board in replies flooded in with excitement about beets being on the fork of every male listening. 

Added to this excitement, you know that sore shoulder, knee or hip that can affect performance – on the field or bedroom? Beets can help reduce the intensity of chronic inflammation with the amino acid betaine. Check off another box. Then there’s the more vain aspect of great looking skin – betalins, the antioxidant helps your liver to detox chemicals and toxins, which leads to more glowing skin. And yes, there is beet juice powder in my SKIN BOOST supplement in case you don’t think you can stomach beets. Lastly, beets help to thin the bile secreted by the liver, allowing it to flow more freely into the small intestine and that helps your bloated, gassy and full belly after you eat a meal. Now don’t beets sound like a workhorse for your bod? Yea, superfood status in my mind. 

Don’t think you can eat them because they taste like dirt? Try grating raw beets on your salad, or make my Beet and Carrot Slaw with Ginger Sesame dressing from my book, Sprout Right Family Food. Cut them up into sticks, and add to a veggie platter, and I mean raw again here. Or steam them. Roast them in foil with olive oil and garlic, or in with other veggies like carrots and sweet potato. You can buy them already cooked, but not pickled if that’s not to your taste, or yes, buy em pickled like grandma used to feed you. Actually it was my aunt who always served them. And while yes, you get a full hit of beet flavour, juice em. That’s where the research glows for athletes, is beet juice. If your athletics are focused the bedroom, then why don’t you say, hey honey – I’m got something to spice up our foreplay… BEET JUICE! You can thank me later 😉 

Worth a mention – that pink pee that can happen for some. In a nutshell, you don’t have enough HCL or hydrocholoric acid, but for more head back to episode 38 when I talked about deficiencies and gut issues. 

Ok are you still with me? I realize that I said three categories of foods off the top and I’ve just talked about a million in each, right. So should we end here? Nah, let’s do one more. I realize as I prep for these episodes, it’s like I’m almost writing chapters of a new book and likely losing you at points. My attention span is less than it once was, so please know that I do my best to keep this short but there is so much to share! 

Ok last one – ready…? Seeds.

Yes, the small but mighty sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, hemp, chia, flax, grape seeds, and yes Pomegranate. They can be called a seed so I’m putting them here. Talk about powerhouses of nutrients, fats and fibre. All seeds are high in fibre, good fats, and fibe. One worth focusing on, because I could do a whole episode on seeds are chia seeds. Yes, teh same ones that make those furry chia pets or chia sprouts which right there would be a double superfood, right? 

A list that you need to hear is that chia has: 

  • 2.5 times more protein than beans
  • 3 times stronger antioxidant than blueberries
  • 3 times more iron than spinach
  • 6 times more calcium than milk
  • 7 times more vitamin C than oranges
  • 8 times more omega-3 than salmon
  • 10 times more dietary fibre than rice
  • 15 times more magnesium than broccoli

Pomegranate seeds, where do I start? These little babies prevent clogging of the vessels with excess fat and cholesterol, and their particular antioxidants rank right up there in the realm of cancer and heart disease prevention. Pomegranate juice, yes without the fibre, contains beneficial tannins – anthocyanin and elage acid, which have even more antioxidants than green tea or red wine.

Top line about a few others, hemp seeds do not contain THC but a whole lot of protein. Flax is known to keep you fuller for WAY longer, help reduce your cholesterol and can be used as an egg replacement and sesame seeds have more calcium than milk. 

Seeds can go on top of anything, make the chia pudding recipe in my book, add tahini which is sesame seed paste to your dressing, throw them all in your smoothie and those hemp seeds work on top of anything. Pumpkin seed butter, if you haven’t tried it is a rockstar just with an apple, banana or right off the spoon with a piece of chocolate chaser. Take that peanut butter! 

There you have it. When you google superfoods, there are lists of 53 of them and to me that’s more than a shopping list. I just scrolled on by. But, the superfoods that I talked about here are more than a carrot in a cape, they are foods that everyone can include in their diet. And foods that are affordable and can really be eaten every day. That’s where health comes from. What we choose to eat every day. What is foundational and rather than the cookies or boxed mac and cheese always being on the shopping list, the greens, the berries, the beets and seeds need to be there too. And consumed. I hope this pushes you to find some new normals. Some new ways to include these super-hero foods that pack that extra nutrient punch, are super fibre rich and low in calories so you can really eat as much as you like. 

Worth a mention is that when I was putting together my TAKE THIS supplement line, I thought about a protein powder, but went down the superfood powder route. Even me, who does eat well, I can’t get it all in some days, and I don’t want to have a gap. I want to keep my body fueled with the best that I can deliver and that’s how I came to Kid and Skin Boost. I truly take it every day, without fail. Is it right for you? Well, let’s see. Over on SproutRight.com where you’ll find my line of supplements, I heard from a few people that they didn’t know where to start. So to solve that, I have added a quick form, fill it out in about 3 minutes and then choose a time that suits you. Not all supplements are made the same and if you’re not picking it off the shelf, confusion can take over. 

There you have it. Superfoods. Did you learn a thing or two, know someone who could benefit? Pass this on. One of my very lovely clients, Valerie shares my episodes with all her friends because she knows that there could be something that I say that could change their life, as she has experienced in working with me, and she wants the same for her friends. 

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