Guide to Super Foods for Health

Many people go to great lengths to be healthy and to look good. They join gyms. They take myriad nutritional supplements. They go to doctors and sometimes even try surgery.

Amy McGorry is here to tell you that your most powerful ally and weapon is no farther than your own kitchen. It’s your diet that can change the way that you look and feel: just by changing what you eat, you can change your life!

What is a superfood?

What McGorry is talking about is something that’s known as superfoods. What is a superfood? In general, superfoods are plant-based (there are some fish and dairy exceptions, but none in the red meat or poultry categories) that are more dense than other foods, nutritionally speaking, and therefore are great boosts for your immune system and your overall health. A few well-known examples of superfoods include kale, acai, and blueberries.

Note that “superfoods” isn’t a category that’s recognized by the FDA. According to the American Heart Association, there are no universlly accepted criteria for determining which foods are to be considered superfoods.

What’s in a superfood?

So what is so magical about these superfoods, anyway?

First of all, they are rich in antioxidants (which are helpful in supportingthe immune system and even keeping people from developing cancer), healthy fats (healthy fats are the same thing as monounsaturated fats, which raise HDL—good cholesterol—and lower LDL, which is bad cholesterol), fiber (which helps your digestive process and may help prevent diabetes), and phytochemicals (these are what give plants their color, taste, and smell, and they may alleviate or even prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure).

Some special superfoods: bananas

McGorry is happy to introduce a few of the most popular superfoods, and she starts off with bananas. A lot of people like eating a banana right after going to the gym—or even before the workout: they provide great fuel. What’s in them? The fiber that we mentioned before is plentiful in bananas, and they also are an important source of potassium. Why is potassium a big deal? Well, it keeps you alert, it is really helpful for controlling high blood pressure, and (here’s the workout piece) it helps with muscle fatigue. Finally, bananas provide vitamin B6, which protects nerve cells and helps with the release of seratonin, so it helps you feel good.

Some special superfoods: oatmeal

Bananas aren’t the only amazing superfood: a lot of people eat oatmeal for breakfast, but did you know that having a snack before bed could help you sleep? Amazingly enough, oatmeal would be a better choice than that glass of wine or peanut butter: a snack of a carb-based food shortly before bedtime (an hour is about right) will help you go to sleep and stay asleep! Why? Because carbs can raise your tryptophan levels. Tryptophan (like potassium) will trigger a process: it enables seratonin and the seratonin enables melatonin. And melatonin regulates sleep! So you’re starting out a natural process instead of taking sleeping pills!

Some special superfoods: olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil doesn’t just taste better, it’s good for you as well. Why? Because it helps with mental acuity and memory, that’s why! If you consistently use olive oil in cooking, you’re going to be 40% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s! The oil protects your brain’s cells from the free radicals that lessen your brain’s sharpness and memory.