There has been quite a bit of talk about so called “superfoods” of late, but how many of us truly know what this means exactly? Everyone knows the advantages of healthy eating. Fresh fruits and vegetables are considered healthy. Lowering our intake of sugars, carbohydrates, and processed foods can’t hurt, either. But what are these superfoods?
Superfoods, as they have come to be known, are those which provide megadoses of nutrients. While there is no set criteria for such a label, the term has come to mean any food item packed full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals which will help us look great, and, more importantly, feel great. They are foods that go above and beyond the benefits provided by a normal diet of healthy fruits, vegetable, and the like. When many of us hear the term superfood, we envision some exotic fruit or vegetable. But we would be surprised to find that many of these foods are right on our grocer’s shelf along with more conventional items.
Some of the more exotic superfoods may require a trip to a specialized health food store, but are well worth the trip. Goji berries have long been a staple in Chinese medicine, and they provide twelve times the antioxidants found in blueberries. Goji berries can often be found in dried or powder form, easily sprinkled over a salad to give it that power boost. Acai berries also contain antioxidants in abundance with the added benefits of healthy fats, B vitamins, manganese, potassium, and phosphorus. These berries can usually be found in powdered form, and are easily added to a smoothie. Flaxseeds are simply loaded with heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve brain function, reduce inflammation, and even help prevent cancer and heart disease.
Many superfoods are available at your regular market. Don’t assume that just because they are so readily available, they aren’t super. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, vitamins C and K, and various minerals. Cinnamon adds a bit of spice to your yogurt or oatmeal. Take a tour of the produce aisle where you can find an abundance of these superfoods, such as sweet potatoes, broccoli rabe, avocados, coconuts, and kale. All of these are rich enough in the vitamins and nutrients your body craves that they can be easily classified as superfoods.
You may have to go a bit further afield to find wheat-grass, which is the newly sprouted leaves of the common wheat plant. It is available in powdered form or tablet, ready to be added to a salad or some such, or simply swallowed, You can also try simply grazing on it in its natural state if you are adventurous. Spirulina, widely considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet, is available online and in health food stores. It’s usually found in a convenient, easy to use powder form.
But there is one superfood out there of which you may not be aware. In fact, when its name is mentioned, many of us think just the opposite. That can’t possibly be healthy, can it? Loaded with all that cholesterol! Won’t it clog my arteries? Yes, the lowly egg has gotten an undeservedly bad rap for many years, but it is finally coming into its own in the world of superfoods.
Yep, that’s right. Eggs can be considered a superfood. For many years we have been told to avoid them due to their high cholesterol content. And it cannot be argued that they do not contain a high amount of cholesterol ( about 200 mg per egg). But studies have shown that dietary intake of cholesterol has no effect on our blood levels of this substance. If anything, studies have shown that eggs may actually increase the level of HDL (the good kind!) of cholesterol, and modify the LDL (bad!!!) from the most dangerous small fragments to the more benign larger fragments. What’s more, virtually all of the nutrients to be found in an egg are found in the yolk, along with this cholesterol. So, all those people who have been chowing down on egg white omelets for years have been, to put it colloquially, throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
But what about those statements, so commonly found online, that eating an egg was the equivalent of smoking five cigarettes a day. Not true! This comparison was based on the fact that eggs contain harmful dioxins, which the World Health Organization (WHO) have identified as a known carcinogen. While eggs do, indeed, contain dioxins they are mitigated by the presence of vitamin A, which is known to down-regulate their toxicity. In fact, dioxins are found in virtually all animals, and even plant, products. In fact, many vegetables contain about six times the amount of dioxins as found in eggs. But Mother Nature has diminished, or even eliminated, their deleterious effects by insuring that vitamin A is also present. So, while smoking, obviously, is never good for you, eggs certainly are.
Of course eggs contain an overabundance of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. This is because nature has designed them to support the growth of an entire baby chicken! They are rich in antioxidants, which protect our cells from the damaging effects of aging. Eggs are particularly rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are especially important to the health of the eye, preventing macular degeneration and cataracts. But, it is important to note the absence of certain things, too. For example, eggs contain virtually no carbs, so they will not adversely affect glucose levels.
Eggs are certainly a major source of vitamin A, which contributes to our hormonal health. This vitamin allows your cells to use the thyroid hormone, which can affect your mood, weight, energy levels, and digestive health. They are also full of biotin and choline, which are beneficial to women’s health as they promote fertility and aid pregnancy.
Eggs can easily be judged a superfood by the sheer amount of nutritional elements they provide. Each egg contains six grams of protein, vitamins A, B12, B2, B5, and others. They contain all nine essential amino acids, and minerals such as iron, selenium, and phosphorus. As mentioned before, they also contain a significant amount of choline, a nutrient important to the health of the brain. One study has estimated that about ninety percent of the American population has a choline deficiency. And they provide all this with only seventy-seven calories, all while providing you with a feeling of satiation. If you feel full, you eat less. Enough said!
But to reap all the benefits of this commonly underestimated superfood, you must take care to choose your eggs with care. Eggs produced by factory raised chickens are less nutritious than those of free-range, pasture raised chickens. This is primarily due to the limited diet of a factory chicken You could also look for omega-3 enriched eggs. So, enjoy a healthy breakfast, or lunch, or even dinner, of that remarkable little egg, containing so many good things it’s hard to see how nature fit it all in such a small shell.