The buzzword “superfood” often pops up in diet language to denote a food that is purported to have an amazing effect on human health. Though the term is largely used as a marketing tool, it’s hard to ignore the great health benefits of certain foods, especially plant-based vegan foods.
Those who have eaten meat all their lives may find it strange to consider the idea of protein-rich plant foods, but there are many to be found. One of the most amazing plant protein sources is quinoa. This little grain dates back to Incan times and is a “complete protein”, meaning it contains all seven essential amino acids that the human body is unable to produce on its own. Due to the harmful health effects of protein overdose, any high-protein food should be consumed in moderation.
Compared to other nuts, almonds are the most nutrient-dense. They contain many essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E and calcium, as well as iron, zinc, and potassium. Almonds are also a source of certain phytochemicals thought to aid in lowering cholesterol. Like other nuts, almonds are high in calories, but only a small serving is needed to benefit from their nutrients.
Fish is often touted as a source of omega 3 fatty acids, but for vegans flax is king. In addition, flax seed is high in dietary fiber, which aids digestion and can help lower cholesterol. Adding such a high-fiber food to the diet should be done slowly, as a fiber overload can cause digestive problems rather than being of help.
Though they are packed with vitamins and minerals, avocados have gotten a bad rap for being fattening. However, the fats present in avocados differ from the fats in animal-based foods in that they are largely unsaturated. Unsaturated fats do not contribute to heart disease the way saturated fats do, and help keep essential parts of the body, such as the skin, looking and feeling healthy. As with all high-fat foods, though, avocado intake should be limited to reasonable amounts.
Like avocados, olive oil is high in monounsaturated, or “good”, fats. A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is now being recognized as one of the healthiest choices for cooking. Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed type and contains a high concentration of antioxidants, which are thought to aid in the prevention of cancer. However, olive oil is calorie-dense and should be used moderately.Incorporating these superfoods into the diet is an easy, delicious way to eat healthier and begin to combat the common health problems that people face today.