By Jennifer Iserloh, Skinny Chef
First off, what exactly are superfoods?
Superfoods are incredibly nutritious, whole foods that offer a wide arrange of essential nutrients in high quantities, like vitamins and minerals that we need for our bodies to run smoothly and stay disease-free.
Along with essential nutrients, superfoods can heal because they contain very potent and unique compounds beyond vitamins and minerals that protect our immune system, stop renegade cells from reproducing and even kill harmful bacteria in our guts.
These note-worthy compounds like antioxidants, sulforaphanes, and healthy anti-inflammatory fats are just another reason why these foods are so super.
Most superfoods also happen to be low in calories, very easy to integrate into many diets (from low-carb, dairy free, to paleo) and are gluten free!
And, unlike supplements that aren't always digestible or have the same consistent potency, superfoods happen to have the perfect delivery mechanism for getting these great healing compounds into our bodies. They really do have the whole package. They are real unprocessed foods that our bodies break down and extract nutrients with precision, while filling us up with less calories, sugar and fats compared to the packaged stuff.
Why Do You Need Superfoods?
Most people in America are overfed and undernourished because they eat large portions of all the wrong things.
A regular diet doused in sugar, low-grade saturated fats, white processed carbs, and artificial preservatives and colorings fosters not only weight gain and depression, but even more dangerously, a steady level of inflammation throughout the body.
According to medical experts like Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Barry Sears, and Dr. Mark Hyman, chronic disease can be triggered from persistent low level inflammation (and would thus be considered one of the root causes of every modern disease).
So why should you care about inflammation? Inflammation is the auto-immune reaction to push blood and antibodies to a wounded site. Normally, it's a good thing, but when it happens in a steady low-level state, it can attack tissues and cause havoc with organs and blood vessels, and impede brain function.
Respected medical expert Dr. Sears even goes as far to measure future health based on clinical markers for inflammation.
Inflammation isn't just caused by stress or eating junk food -- it can also be caused by regular undiagnosed food allergies to foods that are normally classified as healthy (like wheat, nuts, dairy, fish, and soy). If you suspect you have a food allergy, try an easy elimination diet to get answers. No matter the cause of regular low-level inflammation, the side effects can range from heart issues, stomach troubles, or even bouts of depression and tender joints.
Superfoods Quench Inflammation
Superfoods have the natural ability to neutralize inflammation and in some cases, reverse existing cell damage.
You'll find superfoods in many healing ways of eating like the anti-inflammatory food pyramid from Dr. Weil. A diet high in superfoods not only arms your body with high doses of vitamins and minerals, but they also introduce a world of immune protection with antioxidant power.
Two Rules for Cooking Superfoods
Eating and cooking more with superfoods is one of the best decisions you can make. But as a professional chef and health coach, there's a few rules to abide by:
Rule 1: Never overcook superfoods. High heat can damage delicate water-soluble vitamins (like C) and destroy antioxidants that reside in the pigments of plant based foods. Lightly sautee vegetables over medium heat in good quality fats like olive oil, grapefruit seed oil (and even pasture-raised butter if you don't have heart issues).
Rule 2: To get the most nutrients from your superfoods, synergize by food combining. Most superfoods contain compounds that are better absorbed when eaten with fats, warmed or consumed with other foods that work like a key to unlock their full power and even aid in absorption.
Eat leafy green superfoods, like kale, Swiss card, and bok choy with a healthy fat source. Enjoy iron-rich super foods like lentils and quinoa with food that are high in vitamin C (like citrus, kiwi, and broccoli). Eat super spices like turmeric and cinnamon with a fat source in a warm dish, like warm milk or a warm rice casserole with nuts.
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