Which Superfoods Are Missing From Most People’s Diet?

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Purple Superfoods and You

For many of us, the science of nutrition can be a scary beast.  There‘s a great deal of information out there, and with so many sources of information, some of it is outright confusing or contradictory.  Trying to digest this information and come to an informed opinion can then be tricky, as even simple questions have multiple answers. In this respect, most of us know the basics: fruit and vegetables are healthy. But beyond that things are less clear as to what is the very best of these foods available.  Here’s a handy introduction to the ‘purple superfoods’, one of nature’s very best foods for your body.

What are purple foods and why should I care?

It is no coincidence that the healthiest fruits and vegetables tend to be of a darker hue. The dark coloring and unusual shape of a beetroot or aubergines (eggplant) may deter some people, but this distinctive appearance is nonetheless synonymous with a plant rich in nutrients. Many berries also fit in the purple superfood category, like blueberries and acai berry. Purple superfoods come in a variety of shapes, sizes and forms, from large picked veggies, to powders, specifically designed to be consumed as a supplement.

There are reliable guides as to what constitutes a purple (and other colored) superfood. Portions of such foods should be included in the diets of absolutely everyone, whether you’re a fitness freak or not. Most of these foods are familiar and are easily picked up in markets for use in standard recipes – red onions and blueberries, for instance. Others, like aubergines and beetroot, may require a little more culinary imagination.

The question must therefore be asked: what makes purple foods so great? To answer this is hardly a secret, they are rich in antioxidants, a substance which carries many health benefits. Thanks to the presence of these, purple superfoods help prevent cellular damage, and have been proven to be highly effective at combating ‘free radicals’, unstable molecules known to cause so-called ‘oxidative stress’.  This stress can cause, or exacerbate, a variety of conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.  It therefore pays to understand (and eat!) purple foods.

Less is sometimes more.

If you cannot stand fruit and vegetables in large doses, just a small quantity of the stuff can still improve your health. For example, a cup of blueberries a week can enhance grey brain matter, thereby improving memory retention and general cognitive functions. Meanwhile, a diet rich in purple superfoods can mitigate the effects of aging, especially the appearance of wrinkles as those malicious elements that degrade your skin over time won’t find it so easy with such a strong defense in place. Just ensure that any purple foods you do buy to add to your diet appear on your plate – around 45% of all fruit and vegetables purchased end up in the trash.  As our food options increase so does the likelihood that some of that food ends up as waste. Being smart about food means not just knowing the health benefits but also understanding food economy and how your wallet can benefit as well as your health.

However, purple superfoods are unlikely to end up as waste if you are smart about what role they serve in your diet.  For instance, they are a useful source of vital nutrients for those with allergies or particular dietary requirements.  Vegetarians can eat beetroot if they want a viable alternative source of protein. Acai berry is most often found as a supplement and can easily be taken in capsule form without worrying about how to prepare it. We like Perfect Acai best because it is organically grown, sustainably harvested and fairly-traded.

The golden (or purple) rule.

As with most things in life, moderation is key. Purple foods will improve your health as part of a balanced lifestyle, but they are not miraculous – if your diet or lifestyle is poor then the effect of these foods will be negligible.  But if wisely incorporated, either as a side dish or within recipes, they boast some impressive health benefits, especially as part of a weight loss program.  Furthermore, because they are less popular than their more famous fellow fruits and veggies, they tend to be inexpensive and easy to find. The issue for many consumers is that they seem to occupy a tricky niche as regards recipes- many of us wouldn’t be too sure what goes best with beetroot or red cabbage.  Fortunately, however, there are a whole host of recipes for purple foods just waiting to be discovered by an intrepid chef.

If you are looking to make a healthy addition to your meals or are simply looking to diversify your diet, purple superfoods are an excellent option – endlessly flexible and enormously beneficial. What’s not to like?

A Superfood for Every Health Issue

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By Ali Wetherbee

All of these foods are packed with nutrition and beneficial for overall health, but each one offers some specific health advantages as well. Here are our top ten superfoods to keep you healthier this Spring:

1. Best for inflammation: Blueberries

Chronic inflammation is linked to many serious diseases, including heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and arthritis. Blueberries’ anti-inflammatory properties reduce the risk of these diseases. Blueberries have a high antioxidant content. They are also full of flavonoids and rich in potassium and vitamin C. They reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and neutralize free radicals, further enhancing their disease-fighting effects.

How to eat more: Add fresh or frozen blueberries to cereals, yogurt, smoothies, or muffins.

2. Best for brain health: Wild caught salmon

Salmon is rich in omega-3s, which are essential fatty acids crucial for brain function. Omega-3s aid in brain cell production, replacing lost brain cells and improving neural communication. A study in the Archives of Neurology showed that cognitive decline was 10% slower in those who ate fish once a week. One of the omega-3s, DHA, has been proven to improve cognitive development and sharpen memory. Low DHA levels are linked to depression, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, autism, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders, as well as generally bad mood, memory loss, and poor concentration. Salmon has the highest DHA levels of any fish.

How to eat more: Enjoy your salmon grilled or baked and served over veggies, or try smoked salmon in your salad. If you aren’t crazy about salmon, you can get similar benefits by taking Green Pasture’s Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil capsules daily.

3. Best for stress: Cordyceps

Cordyceps, which are a type of mushroom, are adaptogens. Adaptogens help the body to better cope with stress, anxiety, fatigue, and trauma. They can improve mood, normalize sleep, and balance hormones. Cordyceps increase the availability of nutrient and oxygen during periods of extreme stress by increasing blood flow. They can combat fatigue and support the adrenals. A study in Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin found cordyceps reduced fatigue, improved immune function, and lowered stress levels.

How to eat more: Cordyceps are most easily ingested in pill form. Perfect Cordyceps is 100% organic and contains no fillers.

4. Best for eye health: Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are high in beta carotene (provitamin A) which is converted to retinol (vitamin A) by the body. Vitamin A protects the cornea. It can slow the loss of peripheral vision associated with retinitis pigmentosa and decrease the risk of macular degeneration. A lack of vitamin A can lead to night blindness, vision loss, dry eyes, cloudy vision, and corneal ulcers.

How to eat more: Sweet potatoes are great on their own either baked, mashed, or steamed. Add some to soups, enchiladas, burritos, or frittatas. Sliced into sticks and roasted, they are a satisfying alternative to french fries.

5. Best for preventing aging: Acai

Acai made Dr. Oz’s Anti-Aging Checklist of foods to prevent the damage caused by oxidative stress and free radical damage, including wrinkles, sun spots, and sagging skin, as well as chronic degenerative diseases. This berry is packed with antioxidants, amino acids, and essential fatty acids to help combat aging. The Brazilians call the Amazon palm tree bearing acai berries the “tree of life” because of its anti-aging benefits.

How to eat more: Try fairly traded, certified organic Perfect Acai Berry Powder in your water, juice, or smoothie. Perfect Acai is also available in capsules.

6. Best for weight loss: Kale

Kale packs a lot of nutrition in for very few calories, making it an ideal food for those trying to lose weight. A lack of nutrients can send your body into starvation mode, which slows your metabolism and causes you to hold on to extra fat for survival. Additionally, the fiber in kale keeps you full longer, and the glucosinolates help detox every cell in your body. It can also help you shed water weight by decreasing bloating and water retention.

How to eat more: Kale in its raw form contains antinutrients (find out more here) so it’s best to minimize your consumption of raw kale. Enjoy it cooked or fermented – or try our Perfect Fermented Kale powder.

7. Best for Cancer Prevention: Turmeric

There have been many studies on turmeric and cancer recently. These studies have found that curcumin, the active component in turmeric, can decrease the size or number of tumors in people with cancer and reduce the risk of developing cancers too. It can kill cancer cells in the laboratory and in animals, and is now beginning to be better studied in humans. Curcumin is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, preventing and repairing cell damage, reducing pain, and protecting against numerous diseases.

How to eat more: It’s hard to get enough turmeric in a typical Western diet. You can add the spice to soups, sauces, and curries, but because it tends to stay in the intestines rather than pass into the blood, large amounts of turmeric are needed to get even small amounts circulating in the bloodstream. To make sure you are getting enough to reap the benefits, take one Mercola Curcumin Advanced capsule daily.

8. Best for Athletes: Spirulina

Spirulina is an algae that contains all eight essential amino acids. It is 65% concentrated protein, contains as much iron as red meat, and is rich in chlorophyll, salts, phytonutrients, enzymes, calcium, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, K, and E. It can improve strength and endurance and aid in workout recovery. A study inMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise discovered that men who took spirulina could exercise longer and burned nearly 11% more fat than those taking the placebo.

How to eat more: Perfect Spirulina is available in both capsule and powdered forms, and is 100% organic and Fair Trade Certified.

9. Best for heart health: Dark chocolate

Researchers found that dark chocolate and cocoa powder contain even higher flavonol and polyphenol levels than berries. These antioxidants are thought to reverse the damage of oxidative stress on cells and protect the heart. Chocolate improves blood flow, lowers blood pressure, and improves cholesterol levels. It is also high in magnesium, which helps your body handle stress and is important in the prevention and treatment of heart disease. One study found that eating chocolate five or more times a week reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 57%!

How to eat more: Most of us won’t need help with this one! Just make sure to focus on dark chocolate and non-alkalized cocoa, since milk chocolate and alkalized cocoa contain few or no antioxidants.

10. Best for regulating blood sugar: Almonds

Nuts are high in protein and help regulate blood sugar in people with diabetes, prediabetes, or hypoglycemia. Almonds in particular have a low glycemic index (GI) and can even reduce the GI load of your whole meal.

How to eat more: Carry a container of almonds to snack on throughout the day. Use almond meal or almond flour in breads, pancakes, muffins, and other baked goods. Add chopped or slivered almonds to your yogurt, ice cream, or stir-fry.