Last updated on September 28th, 2023.
If you’ve been looking to live a healthier lifestyle, you may have considered eating more superfoods. Superfoods have been gaining in popularity over the past few years, and you may find yourself asking what exactly is a superfood, and do they really work? Are they really as good as everyone says or just the product of marketing hype?
The truth is that there really are a notable amount of benefits to superfoods, and we’re here to help you sift the fact from fiction and help you determine what superfoods can do for you.
The Top 10 Benefits of Superfoods are:
- High Antioxidant Levels in Superfoods Have A Multitude of Health Benefits
- Certain Superfoods Have Been Shown to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk Factors
- Superfoods Can Help Reduce the Risk of Cancer
- Some Superfoods Can Help Improve Memory
- Superfoods Have Beneficial Anti-Inflammatory Characteristics
- Some Superfoods Have Been Linked to Lower Mortality Rates
- Carotenoid-containing Superfoods May Reduce Breast and Lung Cancer Risk
- Superfoods Can Help Reduce the Signs of Aging Skin
- High Levels of Vitamin K Protect Against Osteoporosis
- Superfoods Can Help Naturally Control Blood Sugar Levels
It’s hard to ignore the health benefits associated with superfoods. If you want to improve your diet and live a healthier lifestyle, superfoods can really help you achieve your goals. To learn more about these amazing edibles and find out what exactly makes them so great, read on below.
Do Superfoods Really Work?
While there is no set definition of what makes a “superfood,” it is generally considered to be any food that has exceptionally high nutrient levels, health benefits in addition to its nutrition content, or has been linked to disease prevention.
Superfoods generally provide a significant amount of nutrients in contrast to their low-calorie content. They contain minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, which have been shown to have beneficial effects on the body.
So, do superfoods really exist, and are their benefits real? In many cases, yes. Take kale, for example, which has been growing in popularity over the past few years. Not only do they of course come in their raw form but you can also buy them as superfood powders.
A 100g uncooked portion of kale contains substantial amounts of vitamins A and K, as well as 17 times the vitamin C contained in carrots. At the same time, this amount of kale only contains 33 calories. It is so dense with nutrients that “it’s almost like a medication,” according to Jennifer Sygo, author of Unmasking Superfoods: The Truth and Hype About Acai, Quinoa, Chia, Blueberries, and More. If you have a hard time taking Kale in its raw form, we suggest a superfood smoothie. It’s almost not noticeable.
Studies such as this one have demonstrated that the antioxidants in certain superfoods help prevent coronary heart disease and cancer, decrease inflammation, and improve overall immunity. Another study by Chung, Lee, and Sung in 2002 confirmed some superfoods help prevent certain types of cancer, while another study in 2008 showed superfoods reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.
The Top Ten Benefits of Superfoods
1. High Antioxidants Levels in Superfoods Have a Multitude of Health Benefits
Many superfoods are valued due to the fact they are chock-full of antioxidants. Antioxidants are naturally occurring compounds that can be found within foods in varying concentrations. Some superfoods have an abundance of antioxidants, which can be incredibly advantageous to us.
Why do we care about antioxidants so much? Antioxidants are responsible for helping mitigate the effects of free radicals in our body. Free radicals cause oxidative stress to our cells, which can lead to inflammation and are thought to potentially play a role in diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Antioxidants therefore, can help protect our bodies from these harmful free radicals and potentially help prevent certain forms of disease. Eating foods that are naturally high in antioxidants is a great way to boost antioxidant levels inside us and protect our cells.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the more common naturally occurring antioxidants are vitamins C and E, carotenoids, flavonoids, tannins, phenols, and lignans. These antioxidants are found in high levels in superfoods like blueberries, red grapes, nuts, and dark leafy greens like spinach and kale.
In addition, sweet potatoes and acorn squash have also been shown to have high levels of vitamin C. Beans, in addition to a number of other beneficial nutrients, also boast high antioxidant levels. Tea, especially green tea, is also high in antioxidant compounds and can make an easy addition to nearly any diet.
2. Certain Superfoods Have Been Shown to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk Factors
In one three-month study in 2008, thirty-two men with high cholesterol were put on a regiment of drinking 150 mL of kale juice every day for twelve weeks. The study found that ingesting the kale juice had a positive influence on the men’s serum lipid profiles and reduced the risk of coronary artery disease.
Another study in 2015 confirmed that in patients who had borderline hypertension (a systolic blood pressure over 130 mmHg or a diastolic blood pressure over 85mm Hg), consuming 300 mL of kale juice a day for six weeks had a favorable effect on blood pressure and improved their cholesterol profile.
Almonds have also been shown in a 2015 study to improve lipid metabolism and increase good cholesterol components without affecting the weight or dietary patterns of the test subjects.
3. Superfoods Can Help Reduce the Risk of Breast and Lung Cancer
Some superfoods have the unique advantage of reducing risk factors for cancer. In a study published in 2002, strawberries, garlic, and kale were shown to decrease levels of fraction G1 inhibited N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a carcinogen that can build up in humans and increase the risk of cancer.
Another study demonstrated a similar effect from drinking green tea, another superfood. Green tea was also shown in other research to inhibit cell growth in cancerous tumors and increase the destruction of harmful tumor cells. Some animal studies effectively demonstrated that cancers of the skin, lung, mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines, bladder, liver, pancreas, prostate, and mammary glands were all inhibited by green tea extracts.
4. Some Superfoods Can Help Improve Memory
Unfortunately, diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s are increasing in incidence among the older adult population. As such, a fair amount of recent research has concentrated on finding ways to improve memory and reduce the risk of dementia. Superfoods have often come up in these studies with promising results.
In one study, participants who consumed wild blueberry juice every day for twelve weeks demonstrated improved memory function. The participants in this study were already showing some evidence of early memory dysfunction, and so the fact that the blueberry supplement was able to improve neuro-cognitive function offers a promising suggestion that consuming blueberries may help decrease the risk of dementia progression.
Another study, involving participants consuming the equivalent of a cup of blueberries a day, showed that adults who had mild cognitive impairment showed improved memory and increased brain activity. A second study confirmed the increased neuronal response and neuro-cognitive benefits of blueberry supplementation.
5. Superfoods Have Beneficial Anti-Inflammatory Characteristics
The high concentration of nutrients and antioxidants in superfoods lend them to be naturally anti-inflammatory. In one 2004 study, royal jelly was shown to inhibit the production of cytokines, which lead to inflammation through naturally occurring factors within the royal jelly.
Other studies have shown that increasing the consumption of superfoods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols can help activate anti-inflammatory properties in the body and may help reduce inflammation in obese populations.
Turmeric, in another study, was shown to modulate the body’s inflammatory reaction and has been considered as a potential therapeutic treatment for inflammatory diseases.
6. Some Superfoods Have Been Linked to Lower Mortality Rates
Amazingly enough, some superfoods may actually help you live longer. According to one 2013 study, consuming more nuts regularly in a diet resulted in lower rates of death from coronary heart disease and cancer, as well as a decrease in overall all-cause mortality. Within this study, participants generally followed a Mediterranean diet and consumed three servings or more of nuts a week.
A comprehensive review of available studies performed in 2019 confirmed the overall protective effects of nut consumption in regards to various incidences of mortality. Compared to those on control diets, people who consumed nuts had a significantly decreased rate of death from cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke, while their body weight and blood pressure remained relatively unaffected.
7. Carotenoid-containing Superfoods May Reduce Breast and Lung Cancer Risk
There have been numerous studies over the years linking the benefits of naturally occurring dietary carotenoids and the reduced risk of breast cancer, as well as some other types of cancer. Cancer risks have been shown to be inversely correlated with blood retinol and dietary beta-carotene.
Diets rich in retinol, also known as vitamin A, and beta-carotene have been demonstrated in epidemiologic studies to decrease cancer risks. In one study, diets that were low in vitamin A showed significantly greater risks of developing lung cancer in women.
Superfoods that have high levels of vitamin A include sweet potatoes, squash, kale, carrots, salmon, and tuna.
8. Superfoods Can Help Reduce the Signs of Aging Skin
It has been said that you are what you eat, and according to some studies, this may be certainly true in regard to your skin. Scientists have shown that the nutrients found in many superfoods, such as vitamins A, C, D, and E as well as antioxidants, can promote beneficial anti-aging effects and healthy skin.
Another study effectively demonstrated that the nutrients in superfoods could help protect skin from the damaging ultraviolet radiation present in sunlight. These nutrients can help the skin remain healthier and less prone to disorders such as sunburn and nonmelanoma skin cancer.
There have been a multitude of studies linking nutrition to youthful, healthy skin. Regular consumption of superfoods can thus help your skin stay healthier over time and show fewer signs of aging.
9. High Levels of Vitamin K Protect Against Osteoporosis
According to some studies, vitamin K plays a critical role in bone production and mineralization. Consuming superfoods high in vitamin K can help prevent osteoporosis and improve the success rate of bone graft surgeries.
Another study demonstrated that those who had vitamin K supplementation showed a lower risk of bone fracture.
Vitamin K is found in nutrient-dense quantities in superfoods such as kale, spinach, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
10. Superfoods Can Help Naturally Control Blood Sugar Levels
There have been several studies on patients with type-2 diabetes in order to determine whether dietary changes can positively influence blood sugar. One study demonstrated that glucose tolerance levels could be improved significantly through dietary changes focused on incorporating fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts into the diet.
In another study, higher HbA1C levels in type-2 diabetics were associated with more common diabetic complications. Dietary changes incorporating the consumption of nutrient-dense foods were able to lower HbA1C levels and decrease the risk of adverse health events.
While superfoods alone may not be enough to treat blood sugar related diseases, they offer a promising supplement to anyone trying to improve their health and lower the risk of diabetic complications.
Are There Any Disadvantages of Superfoods?
One general disadvantage to superfoods is that there are no strict requirements for what can be called a superfood. Because of this, some marketing campaigns take advantage of the positive connotations of superfoods and use it to market less than ideal products. Be sure to still read product labels and nutrition facts to confirm whether the superfood claim is valid.
In addition, superfoods on their own cannot make up an entire diet. Superfoods are best approached as a supplementation that should be incorporated into a balanced, healthy diet. A balanced diet needs to contain adequate amounts of protein, fats, sugars, and carbohydrates in order to fuel the body to function.
In conclusion, superfoods have a number of evidence-supported health benefits that make a strong case for incorporating them into your diet. While you should be cautious not to rely too heavily on their effects, true superfoods undoubtedly can have an overall positive influence on your health and help you to live a longer, healthier life when consumed as part of a balanced, nutritious diet.