The Rise of Superfoods (and Superfood Supplements)
There are two reasons why superfoods haven’t used up their 15 minutes of fame like many other health fads. First, there’s the sheer demand for these nutrient-dense foods and supplements. There was a 202% global increase in the number of superfood, “supergrain” and “superfruit” product launches between 2011 and 2015 alone. And then there’s the science. Unlike many other health fads out there, superfoods largely have been shown to contain a host of vital nutrients. (Pumpkin seeds, for example, have all nine essential amino acids in their correct proportion.)
By giving you a healthy dose of a wide range of nutrients, superfoods and their supplement forms can help your body function at its best. Here are a few of the superfoods that are fueling the rise in this key health and wellness niche, and some tips on selecting the best superfood supplements.
Superfoods and beauty benefits
Fresh purslane is said to be an anti-wrinkle agent. Detoxifying milk thistle and spirulina are popular supplements with the beauty-conscious. These are just two examples of new products that combine the power of superfoods with other compounds to fight everyday beauty hurdles. But a note of caution: don’t let the flashy marketing campaigns carry you away. Many of the beauty supplements hitting the market don’t use superfoods, but instead pack in a lot of unproven ingredients
Although not as sexy as beauty supplements, this fatty fish has long been a popular superfood. And it’s the best source around for omega-3 fatty acids. This nutrient helps keep blood pressure from rising and improves arterial function, thus lowering the risk of cardiovascular complications. Salmon’s pink flesh is attributed to the presence of the antioxidant astaxanthin, which has been known to reduce bad cholesterol and work with fatty acids to protect the nervous system. A 100 grams serving of salmon contains a whole range of B vitamins, which help the body repair DNA, create energy and reduce inflammation.
Besides being an antioxidant, the high fiber content of chia seeds helps improve gut health. Since these superseeds expand in your stomach, they can help keep cravings at bay and prevent your calorie count from tipping the scale.
If bone health is an issue for you, chia seeds are high in calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. One study found that consuming chia seeds reduced blood pressure among diabetics and decreased other risk factors, as well. For athletes and fitness enthusiasts, chia seeds provide the carbs needed for endurance. Don’t like chia? Flaxseed is another superfood that offers similar nutrients.
There are quite a few berries touted for their nutrients, and acai pretty much tops that list. This Brazilian superfruit is loaded with antioxidants, and has proven to be effective against cancerous cells in an in-vitro study. Another study found that it had positive effects on cholesterol for overweight adults.
Blueberries are low on calories but high in vitamins C and K. Oxidative cell damage is a key driver of premature aging, and also leads to the progress of diseases such as cancer (which are often caused by the deterioration of your cells). One study gave participants a blueberry and apple juice mixture over four weeks and found it reduced DNA oxidative damage by 20%.
The tiny, tart cranberry has more antioxidants than spinach, strawberries and broccoli. Cranberries can help keep UTIs at bay and also act as a major anti-inflammatory agent. Some studies have found this superfood provides an immune system boost, as well.
The issue with a lot of plant foods is their lack of nine essential amino acids, but quinoa stands apart as a complete protein. The mighty quinoa seed is gluten-free, and one cup contains a host of vitamins, minerals and protein. It also helps keep blood sugar under control. This is the superfood vegans have been waiting for.
What can be said about turmeric that hasn’t already been boasted about in research studies and medical schools? It’s one of the fastest selling superfood supplements in the U.S., mainly because of its curcumin extract. This compound is naturally anti-inflammatory, and even boosts our body’s ability to fight off free radicals.
Choosing a superfood supplement
Between 2014-15, consumables containing chia seeds rose by 70% and quinoa-based products by 27%. The desire for natural-based remedies is growing steadily. But when it comes to superfood supplements, make sure you pick up a product that doesn’t contain too many fillers. That way you’ll get the most out of the superfood.
Although we left the “green” superfoods like kale and broccoli off this list—there’s just not enough space to include every single superfood!—you’ve likely seen green powders on the market that promise to deliver these foods’ nutritional benefits. We’d recommend trying these top-rated green drink powders to boost your phytonutrient levels and experience some other pretty amazing body benefits.