Going Nuts for Superfoods
The term “superfood” originated with The United Food Company in the early part of the 20th century. The word was invented by their advertising department as a part of a strategy to market bananas as a daily source of nutrition.
Bananas, as it happens, are packed with vitamin C and vitamin B6. These vitamins are crucial to immune health and metabolism. Further, bananas are a good source of manganese, which is an essential mineral that helps in the formation of bones and connective tissue. Manganese also is involved in blood sugar regulation, calcium absorption, and the metabolism of fat and carbohydrates.
So, in truth, bananas really do meet the definition of “superfood.”
Since its invention by The United Food Company, the term superfood has grown and evolved to refer to a family of foods that have an extremely high nutritional density. This means that they provide maximum nutritional value with a minimum of calories. Typically, these foods are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
You’ve probably heard the term antioxidant before, but what does it mean? Antioxidants are molecules that help neutralize free radicals in the body.
Free radicals are byproducts of the process the body goes through to produce energy. They are linked to such health conditions as heart disease, stroke, cancer, respiratory diseases, Parkinson’s disease, immune deficiency, emphysema, and arthritis. However, antioxidants can decrease and sometimes even reverse the effects of these free radicals.
Antioxidants occur naturally in certain foods. Examples of foods that are high in antioxidants include: dark chocolate, strawberries, blueberries, kale, beets, and spinach.
When it comes to superfoods that you may want to add to your regular diet, certain nuts lead the way
FIT FOR A KING
Almonds are often referred to as “The King of Superfoods.” Described as a particularly nutritionally dense food, almonds are packed full of magnesium, iron, vitamin E, and healthy fiber. In fact, a single serving of almonds contains 37% of the daily recommended dosage of vitamin E. Vitamin E can contribute to lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s.
In addition, when it comes to all nuts, almonds are the ones richest in calcium. One serving of almonds contains a whopping 23 mg. of calcium. They are also brimming with protein – making them an appealing option for anyone who doesn’t eat meat.
Walnuts are another healthy superfood. In particular, walnuts are recognized for their high content of omega-3 fatty acids. This includes the essential fatty acid linolenic acid, which the human body cannot produce itself and therefore must be acquired through a healthy diet.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
Walnuts also are high in lecithin. This nutrient is converted into the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is linked to increasing brain performance and concentration. Important micronutrients including iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium are also in abundance.
Cashews have one of the lowest fat contents of any nut. This translates into them being lower in calories than other nuts. While being low in unhealthy fat, cashews are also high in healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats which are important for lowering cholesterol and overall heart health.
In addition, cashews are rich in iron, phosphorus, and magnesium. These minerals aid in maintaining muscles, nerves, bones, and teeth. These tasty nuts are also plentiful in vitamin B, vitamin E, and vitamin K. Combined, these vitamins play a part in strong bones and healthy nervous and immune systems.
One more fun fact about cashews is that they can cheer you up. Cashews contain the amino acid L-tryptophan which is converted into serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is nicknamed “the happiness hormone.”
LET’S GET CRACKING
Pistachios are a relatively recent addition to the generally accepted list of superfoods. According to a study by Loma Linda University, a diet that includes pistachios on a regular basis can enhance brainwave frequencies associated with learning, memory, recall, and other key brain functions.
Pistachios are naturally cholesterol-free, and high in both fiber and protein. Pistachios can significantly reduce levels of LDL cholesterol and thus lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Also good to know is that a one-ounce serving of pistachios has as much potassium as a banana.
Peanuts are one of the most popular nuts. Peanuts and peanut butter account for 67% of all nuts that are consumed in the U.S.
According to the Peanut Institute, peanuts have joined the ranks of superfoods because they play a part in preventing disease and improving life expectancy – packing a significant punch from only a small serving. For example, one serving of 35 peanuts has six times as much protein and eight times as much niacin as one serving of raw kale.
In total peanuts are filled with 19 important vitamins and minerals including vitamin E, vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, niacin, copper, and biotin. Studies have found that peanuts are linked to reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. The health benefits of peanuts can also be achieved by ingesting peanut butter or peanut flour.
Superfood may have started off as a made-up word to sell bananas, but it has come to have significant meaning referring to foods with great health benefits at a low-calorie load. Leading the way of the way as some of the most impactful superfoods are nuts.
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