Superfoods: Can These Foods Really Make You Live Longer?
7th February 2018
With a new year comes new resolutions, a lot of which tend to revolve around health and fitness.
Part of becoming healthier is eating a healthy diet, something that can include the consumption of "superfoods". While there is no official scientific definition of what makes a food super, the dictionary describes it as a 'nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being'.
Certain foods that are rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as foods that are thought to prevent or delay cell damage, have been dubbed as superfoods. Some people also believe that superfoods help them to live longer, as the nutrient and vitamin compounds within them have a range of positive effects on health.
A healthy diet with an assortment of superfoods could have a range of positive benefits, so take a look at some of the biggest contenders for superfood status below to learn more about them.
Do Superfoods Really Improve Your Health?
While it's yet to be proven that superfoods are miracle ingredients that prevent illness and prolong life, they do appear to have positive effects on your health. Some of the possible health benefits of superfoods are improved brain function, better heart health and anti-inflammatory properties.
They also tend to contain a lot of antioxidants. These components can be vitamins and minerals, for example, and help to protect our cells against damage from free radicals.
However, even though some antioxidants protect healthy cells, we still don't understand completely how they affect our health, so things such as supplements may be unnecessary.
This superfood may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it could have benefits to your health. According to a recent study, mixing broccoli with probiotics may help to prevent and treat colon cancer. Although not a definitive study, the results did find that this special combination led to the reduction of 75% of colorectal tumours in mice and destroyed 95% of colorectal cancer cells grown in the laboratory.
On its own, broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable rich in vitamin C and folate, as well as vitamins A, K, calcium, fibre and beta-carotene.
Recipe Idea: How about a garlic, chilli and broccoli stir-fry?
Moringa oleifera is a nutritional plant considered to have anti-ageing and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as essential amino acids, powerful antioxidants and a lot of iron, calcium and vitamin C. This plant grows in the sub-Himalayan areas of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Several parts of moringa can be used, such as the roots, leaves, seeds and sap. Moringa can be consumed in several different forms, such as powder and leaf.
For many, this plant can have positive effects on skin and hair, cardiovascular health, eye health, immunity and bone health, just to mention a few.
Recipe Idea: Try adding moringa powder to your smoothie.
Coconut oil has a high content of saturated fat at 86% (which is higher than butter at 51%), so people may believe it to be unhealthy. However, a recent trial performed with 94 volunteers aged 50-75, agreed to consume different types of fat daily for a month. They were split into three different groups, one consuming 50g of coconut oil, one consuming 50g of butter and the other one olive oil.
The group that ingested the coconut oil showed an increase of 15% of HDL - sometimes dubbed as your 'good cholesterol' - and no increase of LDL - sometimes referred to as 'bad cholesterol'.
This study may indicate that coconut oil could contribute to a reduced risk in heart disease and strokes, but due to the short timescale of the study and small sample size, the jury is still out on whether coconut oil can actually make you live longer.
Recipe Idea: There are many coconut oil recipes you can try, such as these vegan banana, blueberry and pecan pancakes.
Matcha possibly has a positive impact people's on health, and some nutritionists even claim that the antioxidants within have anti-cancer properties, although little research has been carried out to confirm this.
Matcha is a more concentrated version of green tea, as it's made from the entire leaf. This type of tea also contains a high number of catechins, a class of powerful antioxidants that can, allegedly, boost your health and eliminate toxins from your body.
Recipe Idea: You can drink a simple matcha tea or make an iced matcha latte, a chocolate chip matcha ice pop, and so much more.
A superfood staple, blueberries, are also a fantastic source of vitamin K and C, as well as fibre, manganese and other antioxidants, like anthocyanins.
A small 12-week study saw some evidence that blueberries could improve brain function in older people. Participants consumed 30ml of concentrated blueberry juice every day, which appeared to improve blood flow to the brain and some cognitive functions (such as memory).
Recipe Idea: Blueberry muffins could ease a sweet tooth, or why not add them to porridge or yoghurt to start your day?
Can Superfoods Allow You to Live Longer?
Living a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise and, of course, a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables could help you live a longer, healthier life.
However, the small number of studies about the effect of superfoods in isolation means that there's still a lot of research to be done on a number of these health foods before there can be a definitive verdict about whether they can help you live longer.
With that said, eating plenty of fruit and veg is good for you, so opting for a healthy diet can be the key to a long life.
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