The rarest and most exotic foods are now readily available for purchase in local supermarkets, even if the food needs to be grown in another country and shipped round the world. This gives anyone in a modern country the ability to pick and choose what they eat, instead of having to eat what is only available locally. Whilst we do take it for granted, it is probably the biggest breakthrough in nutrition in the last 100 years.
But what are the best foods that you can pick up from the supermarket that will keep you fit and healthy? This section is dedicated to the everyday superfoods that you can find in your local shops. Their high concentration of vitamins and minerals means that, if you start including them in your diet they will most likely make up 80% of the vitamins and minerals your body receives.
Blueberries Protects the Heart
These little berries are believed to contain the highest amount of antioxidants out of all commonly consumed fruits and vegetables (12, 13, 14). The main antioxidant compounds found in blueberries are polyphenols called flavonoids, which have been proven to help neutralize free radicals in the body.
In a 2013 study of 93,600 participants, eating foods high in anthocyanins (another antioxidant that is found in blueberries) lead to a 32% lower risk of heart attacks (15). Another large study of 16,010 elderly participants found that blueberries and strawberries were linked to delays in cognitive aging, keeping the brain healthy for longer (16).
Turmeric Makes You Smarter
Curcumin is the main ingredient in turmeric which gives it its powerful anti-inflammatory effects, but the percentage of curcumin content is not that high at around 3%. Therefore in order to get the most out of your turmeric, you need to cook it in a meal which also contains black pepper. This is because it contains pepperine, which reacts positively with the curcumin to make it more absorbable by the human body by 2000% (17).
Curcumin is also fat soluble, so adding it to a meal which contains a healthy fat such as coconut oil can help you digest it. The benefits of this super spice range from delaying or even reversing many brain diseases and age related decreases in brain function (18), but it also helps improve your memory and make you smarter (19).
Bananas Help with Digestion
Native to Southeast Asia, the banana is now the most popular fruit across the world. Made from almost entirely water and carbs, it surprisingly contains 33% of your recommended Vitamin B6 and is packed full of potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and copper. Bananas have also been linked to improving digestion, as they contain two heavily studied dietary fibers.
The first is called pectin and the second is called resistant starch. Pectin is found in ripe bananas and can help protect against colon cancer (20, 21); resistant starch is found in unripe (green) bananas and helps feed beneficial gut bacteria which is found in our large intestine (22, 23, 24). You should limit yourself to one unripe banana per week as too much resistant starch, just like any other food, can upset your digestion.
You Are 60% Water
Whilst we can survive almost three weeks without food, we can only last three days without water. This is because our bodies are made up of 60-70% water and without a consistent supply, our bodies cannot function. Experts believe that we need about two litres of water a day, which is the equivalent to eight 8-ounce glasses or half a gallon.
If your body looses just 2% of its usual reserves, research has shown that you can experience reduced motivation and increase fatigue, both mentally and physically (26). Optimal hydration however has been shown to not only keep your energy levels high, but actually reduce the oxidative stress that occurs during exercise (27).
Chia Seeds for Protein and Fiber
The ancient Mayan word for strength is ‘Chia'; this ancient population prized them for their ability to provide energy and build a healthy body. Despite their history, only recently did Chia Seeds become known as a superfood and become readily available in most supermarkets and health food shops. Chia Seeds are 40% fiber, making them one of the best sources of fiber in the world. Once digested, this fiber has been shown to feed the friendly bacteria in the intestine, which is crucial for your stomach health (25). They are also a good source of quality protein, containing a good balance of the essential amino acids we need in our diet.
Sweet Potatoes for Energy
These orange root vegetables are extremely high in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is the same antioxidant found prominently in carrots. They are mainly composed of carbs and fibre, making them a great source of energy too. When you look at regular potatoes vs sweet potatoes, it seems that the sweet potato is the healthier of the two, due to a lower glycemic index and a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals.
It’s all ready a no-brainer to make the switch and start buying sweet potatoes instead, but there is more research to come. In a variety of studies, sweet potatoes have been linked to neutralizing free radical in the body, which assists in reducing the risk of cancer throughout the body (28, 29, 30).
Kale for Vitamins and Minerals
Out of all the super greens, kale is the king. Not only is it widely available in most supermarkets, but it is also one of the most healthy and nutritious foods in existence. A single cup of kale contains 200% of your recommended Vitamin A, 684% of your Vitamin K, 134% of your Vitamin C, 9% of your calcium and 9% of your Vitamin B6. This makes kale is a fantastic food to dramatically increase the nutrients in your diet.
Two of its most potent antioxidants are quercetin and kaempferol, which have been studied for their powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-depressant and anti-cancer effects (31, 32, 33). It is also high in lutein and zeaxanthin; these antioxidants have been proven to lower the risk of eye disorders such as macular degeneration and cataracts (34, 35).
Spinach for Your Muscle Tissue
This leafy green is an excellent source of iron, which helps create haemoglobin that transports oxygen to the body’s tissues. It’s also high in folic acid, aka Vitamin B9, which is essential for normal cellular function and tissue growth. Because of this, and the fact it’s high in calcium, spinach has become a huge hit with body builders. Spinach is also high in the same antioxidants as kale, therefore various studies have been done on including spinach in your diet. In fact, it has been show to fight oxidative stress, reduce the risk of cancer and slow the effects of aging (36, 37).
Sensitive Stomachs Loves White Rice
Lots of us have sensitive digestive systems. Thankfully when you need to reduce irritation on the stomach, there is no better food than white rice. This is because white rice has been milled, to remove its husk, bran and germ; this leaves nothing but the inner hypoallergenic seed, which can provide any diet with an allergen-free source of energy.
The only different between brown and white rice, is that brown rice contains the outer shell and white rice has had the shell removed. All rice consists of almost entirely carbs, with small amounts of protein and no fat. Brown rice does contain more antioxidants that white rice, as the main nutrients are found in the shell. However the shell does make brown rice harder to digest, which makes many opt for the more digestible white variety.