Give Now  »

Indiana Public Media | WFIU - NPR | WTIU - PBS

5 Questions About Superfoods

olive oil, leafy greens, tomatoes, walnuts, berries

1. What do all superfoods have in common? What makes them so super?

Superfoods usually offer high levels of particular nutrients. While virtually all whole plant foods offer some health benefits, superfoods are particularly beneficial.

2. What are five superfoods we should try to eat regularly?

Berries such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are superstars. They contain anthocyanins, plant compounds which color fruit their deep blue-purple shades. Anthocyanins may protect the brain from decline according to some studies.

Walnuts are high in fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, according to a 2011 study, walnuts contain more healthful antioxidants than any other nuts. Only seven walnuts a day could reduce your risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

Olive oil should be your number one fat. While you shouldn't dump it on (since it's concentrated in calories), using a small amount can promote heart health by lowering bad cholesterol levels and reducing inflammation -- a possible root of chronic disease.

Leafy greens from kale to spinach are off-the-charts in nutritional value. Not only are they packed with vitamins, minerals and even protein, they contain powerful phytochemicals such as lutein that may protect against age-related eye disease.

Tomatoes are rich in vitamins, potassium, fiber and lycopene, an antioxidant linked with prostate cancer protection. Plus, they are so easy to fit into your diet!

3. Is there a certain way we should prepare superfoods (i.e. raw vs. cooked)?

Some foods contain higher levels of nutrients when they are fresh, while other foods' nutrients are more available to your body when they are cooked or combined with fat.

  • Walnuts, like most nuts, lose some of their nutrients when cooked or roasted. It's best to eat them raw.
  • Lycopene is what gives tomatoes their red color. The body is more easily able to process lycopene when the tomatoes are cooked.
  • Blueberries could go either way. Cooked blueberries contain more minerals (i.e. calcium, phosphorous and potassium) than raw ones, but raw blueberries contain far more polyphenols than their cooked counterparts.

4. Can you get the benefits of superfoods in daily vitamins or supplements?

No, a pill can never replace the whole food. Hundreds of compounds in whole foods, such as fiber, vitamins and minerals, seem to work in unison. Scientists have not even isolated all of the compounds found in plants.

5. What would you say to people who claim the superfoods craze is nothing but hype?

Well, it is true that you shouldn't only focus on superfoods, especially the exotic ones that have been the source of scams, such as açai. All plant foods are healthful, so include a colorful range of many fruits and vegetables every day -- fill your plate with them!

More: Read more about super foods and other dietary topics on Sharon Palmer's website.

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Earth Eats

Harvest Public Media