I'm not sure if Oprah Winfrey started the 10 Super Foods craze, but she's definitely had shows about them. Her site features them in Dr. Perricone's Nutrition Section, and we feature them here.
We have found the list of Super foods to be slightly different from one nutritionist to the next. Therefore, we've included them all in the table below. (They're actually called Perfect Foods in some places.) However, since this page is called 10 Super Foods, we'll focus our energy on the top 10.
Here's our disclaimer on the list of 10 Super foods - eating a can of Popeye's spinach doesn't count. By the time you open that can, all the good stuff is gone. And don't think you're eating extra healthy because you had a "Healthy Choice" frozen entrée for lunch. By the time the food hits your plate, the nutrients have been zapped out of them. For that reason, we recommend an antioxidant nutritional supplement along with that new healthy Super Foods Diet you're beginning. :)
List Of 10 Super Foods
Super Foods, also known as anti aging foods, are foods high in antioxidants as well as high concentrations of crucial nutrients that have been proven to help prevent and in some cases, reverse the effects of aging.
The Super Foods are (there are more than 10 Super Foods listed here):
Açai is the product of an Amazon palm tree. While you may not have heard of it yet, you surely will. Acai is now marketed in juices, candy bars, cereals and lots of processed juices. (Oh yeah, it's pronounced Ah Sah Hee)
In it’s raw form, it is a berry that tastes like a blend of chocolate and berries. Like the red grape, açai is a dark reddish-purple color and is about the same size. You can find it just about anywhere in Brazil, and for parts of Brazil, the açai palm is a majority of their dietary intake. Otherwise to get it state side, you’ll likely need a specialty store.
Açai is on the list of 10 super foods because of its pulp. Ever hear the phrase “dynamite comes in small packages”? Well that describes the acai berry. The pulp contains a remarkable concentration of antioxidants – more so than even its counter part, the red grape. It’s also packed with healthy fats, fiber, plant sterols, minerals and amino acids. The fatty acid present is Oleic acid, known to work with Omega-3 to help nourish and regenerate cells.
Açai's health benefits are touted to be as an antibacterial, an anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, and and antimutagenic.
The bad part about açai is it deteriorates very quickly after being harvested. Outside Brazil, it’s really only available as a juice, fruit pulp or freeze dried. With such a quick deterioration process – not even the açai in nutritional supplements is as effective as when it was first picked.
Our recommendation: Take an annual vacation to Rio De Janeiro for some açai flavored ice cream.
Barley's claim to fame is, again, how nutrient dense it really is. Packed with fiber, selenium, tryptophan, copper, manganese, phosphorus - it's one of the top 10 super foods alright. Barley's also an intestinal powerhouse.
When barley is eaten and is broken down in the stomach, the insoluble fiber in barley is actually fermented in butyric acid. That doesn't mean much to me and you, but that's the energy source for the cells in the large intestine. Your body actually turns the undigestible part of barley into food that it can use.
Barley's fiber alone helps the colon, helps prevent colon cancer, helps to lower cholesterol and clean the liver. (Can you start to see how this list of 10 super foods was put together?) In addition to fiber, barley is a good source of Niacin (a B Vitamin) which helps to prevent free radical damage and lowers cholesterol.
Our recommendation: Find yourself a great barley soup recipe and eat it every time the school's close down due to snow.
At only 30 calories per cup, Broccoli is another powerhouse in a small package. Vitamins C, A, Beta Carotene and Fiber make Broccoli a staple in just about every diet on the planet. Whether it's Atkins, South Beach, Oprah's, or your gym's diet plan - broccoli will be on it from the first day.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable (as are cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, bok choy and others). Broccoli is one of the most nutrient-dense foods known having more polyphenols than any other food (other than beets and red onions). And as good as broccoli is, the key protective compound is at least 20 times more concentrated in broccoli sprouts!
Broccoli has been a proven cancer fighter, immune system booster, vegetarian protein source, bone-building calcium source, cataract preventer and superstar on the 10 super foods list. That almost sounds too good to be true.
Our recommendation: Don't let your kids get up from the table without finishing their broccoli. With all that power wrapped in the tiny tree, can they really afford not to eat it? Maybe you should tell them it's on of the 10 super foods (or maybe not).
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (aka EVOO)
While the U.S. values the 10 super foods, the European Union went so far as to claim Extra Virgin Olive Oil as the Official Oil of Choice. That's saying something! And the FDA allows foods containing olive oil to carry labels that say "may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease".
Wikipedia states" Olive oil contains a group of related natural products with potent antioxidant properties which give extra-virgin unprocessed olive oil its bitter and pungent taste and which are esters of tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol, including oleocanthal and oleuropein." That's a bit too scientific for me.
So the low-down is EVOO is a quality unsaturated fat with some antioxidant properties. Because it comes from a plant it has plant phenols, which act like antioxidants and fight free radicals.
Along with the plant phenols, (see what are polyphenols for more information) EVOO is a good source of Vitamin E. Studies show that EVOO could reduce your risk for breast and colon cancer, lower your blood pressure and improve your cardiovascular health.
The reason it's called extra virgin is because it's the oil that's made when the grapes are first pressed - and then it's not further refined (that's the extra part).
If you can find "cold pressed" extra virgin olive oil, that's even better. Heating oil can damage the fats, can oxidize the fats and can be the source of free radicals that you're trying to avoid. So, stir-fry on low heat or use EVOO as a salad dressing to get the most out of it.
Our recommendation: Mix some Italian seasonings with olive oil and dip some homemade bread into it as an appetizer. Maybe you could call it the 10 Super Foods Evoo-tizer.
The saddest thing about garlic is that there are tons of people allergic to it. Mentioned in the Bible itself, garlic has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries treating arthritis, cataracts, weakened immune systems, cancer, stroke, migraines, viruses and aging.
Nearly every diet on the planet uses garlic. Similiar to fermented foods, garlic aids digestion and thus improves your body's ability to get the nutrients it needs from food.
Garlic does magic as well. It's most powerful nutrient, Allicin an amino acid, is not in fresh garlic. But topping any David Copperfield trick, Allicin is instantly present when garlic is cut, pressed or chewed. Allicin is responsible for garlic's odor, its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well.
In addition to Allicin, garlic's healthy compounds include phosphorus, potassium, zinc, selenium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, aginine, flavonoids and polyphenols. That's 10 powerful agents in one of the 10 Super Foods.
Our recommendation: Take your "better half" out for Italian cuisine tonite.
Red Wine recently made the list of Super Foods when it was discovered that resveratrol increased the life span of mice. (We know it's a drink, but it is considered one of the 10 super foods!) Even before that, red wine has been heralded as the key to unlocking the "French Paradox".
The "French Paradox", first coined in 1991, is the mystery revolving around France's low incidence of heart disease despite their high fat and cholesterol diet. It wasn't until 2002 that researchers found resveratrol in red wine.
Fortunately for red wine, resveratrol is not the only reason it is on the list. Every culture in the world has a fermented food in its diet. Whether that food be sauerkraut, pickled lemons or red wine - people have gravitated towards foods that aid digestion and digestive health.
Red Wine is full of other nutrients too and some reserachers would have you believe it is the other nutrients that are the reason for the "French Paradox". Roger Corder of the William Harvey Research Institute in London believes Oligomeric Proanthcyanidins (otherwise known as OPC's) offer the greatest health benefit. After testing over 150 wines, they proved that OPC's were in much higher concentration than resveratrol.
OPC's are and are often found up to one gram per litre of wine. Studies show that these OPC's protect the walls of vessels and capillaries in the body.
Whether it's OPC's or Resveratrol - Red Wine has made it to the top 10 super foods.
Our Recommendation: 2 4-ounce glasses per day, of course.
What can't you do with Soy? It comes in so many forms, too. You've got soybeans, liquid aminos, miso and tofu just to name a few. Before we get to the good stuff, we should mention that soy is chock full of vitamins, minerals, plant proteins, soluble fiber and Omega-3's. And that's the un-important stuff.
Soy is the richest known dietary source of phyoestrogens and diesase-fighting phytonutrients. Soy's phytonutrients play a significant role preventing cardiovascular diseases, cancer and osteoporosis.
Fermented soy, known as miso, is even more powerful than soy itself. Miso, like yogurt and other fermented foods, is a great source of good bacterium for the digestive system. Fermented soy acts as an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory and antiviral food.
Not a lot to say about one of the 10 Super Foods - but it makes a statement.
Our Recommendation: Get the miso soup when you eat sushi, but avoid the soy sauce. That's a puddle of salt in a bottle.
Hmm. . . How did a high fat food like nuts make it on the Super Foods list? Well, not only did Walnuts make the list, but people like Oprah's Dr. Perricone include all seed and nuts. (But seriously, how can you highlight all seeds and nuts on one page?)
Let's start with the shock and awe: Eating a handful of walnuts everyday (at least five times a day), WILL reduce your chance of getting a heart attack by 15% and as much as 51%. They also reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer and other chronic ailments.
Omega-3's (the plant derived kind), Magnesium, Vitamin E, copper, fiber, Vitamin A, biotin, folate, potassium. . . all in that little shell. They're also one of the best sources of plant protein (remember that, vegetarians). They're so good that in March of 2004 - the FDA approved labeling walnut products as being heart healthy.
Our recommendation: Lobby your local Planning Commission to make the beautiful Walnut tree the "city tree" and then get free walnuts when they fall every December.
Wild Caught Salmon
In his book "The Wrinkle Cure" back in 2000, Dr. Nicholas Perricone introduced salmon as a superb source of anti inflammatory, anti aging nutrients.
Salmon is the perfect meat. It's full of essential fats, calcium, magnesium, B-vitamins, long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids and the carotenoid astaxanthin. Some people avoid salmon because of its fat content, but your body needs fat to live. And salmon has the good stuff.
Now avoid the bad fats (saturated and trans), but make sure you get plenty of the good - the polyunstaruated fats. Omega-6 and Omega-3 are polyunsaturated fats, but we actually get plenty of Omega-6 in our diet. It's the Omega-3's we are lacking.
Salmon is the richest source of these marine-derived Omega-3's. Omega-3's, reduce the risk of blood clots, improve cholesterol and help prevent heart attacks. They help the brain develop properly - especially during breast feeding.
Our recommendation: Listen to Madonna. In February 2009, she announced to the world that she was going on a 'salmon retox' program to "knock 12 years off her appearance". One of top 10 Super Stars promoting one of the top 10 Super Foods.
Our final food of the 10 Super Foods (and it's not last because it's the least effective. It just starts with a Y.)
Yogurt is your friend. More calcium than milk, more probiotics than Korean Kimchi - yogurt helps women prevent osteoporosis, boost immunity and lower the risk of digestive cancers. While an excellent source of calcium, the real reason yogurt in on the list of 10 super foods is the probiotics.
Probiotics are good bacteria. You've probably noticed the terms "active cultures" and/or "lactobacillus/acidophilus" on the packages of yogurt. These are good things that really aid your digestive system. Did you know there are more bacteria cells in your gut than there are cells in your entire body?
If these good bacteria aren't present in great numbers, your body is more susceptible to disease and sickness. Scientists have also found probiotics to improve nutrient absorption, decrease the chances of diarrhea and constipation. And acidophilus helps reduce the number of carcinogens in the colon.
Here's the bad part about yogurt. If you want to get the good stuff - you have to follow some rules. First rule is buy plain, nonfat yogurt. If you have to sweeten it up, use fresh jam, fruit and some granola. But don't buy the sweetened stuff - that won't help.
The second rule is make sure you get the kind fortified with Vitamin D (or eat it while sitting in the sun), and make sure it has either lactobacillus or bifidobacterium or acidophilus. These are not hard rules to follow - but you do need to follow them.
Our recommendation: Buy the not so good plain, nonfat yogurt and use it to make a daily morning smoothie.