We are living longer than ever. Life is now an ultra-marathon with the ceiling for human existence constantly increasing. Genetics is thought to account for 25% of ageing but the rest is related to nutrition, lifestyle, environment and socio-economics. The 20th century has witnessed a boom in longevity with the average lifespan increasing from fifty to eighty years in industrialised countries. But when it comes to our actual health are we the victims of our own success? No one wants to live to 100 but spend their last 20 years crippled with pain or staggering around a nursing home with dementia so entrenched that they no longer know who they are.
The good news is that there are ways to make sure that our additional years come with clarity of mind, vitality and quality of life. Eating well, moving more, staying connected, reducing stress and getting good quality sleep have all been proven to support health and wellness in later years. Food in particular can help quell the fire of inflammation, prevent disease and reset our biological clocks. Everyone can benefit from the improved cellular health and energy that comes with good food choices. Eating more whole foods and more plant based foods rather than processed foods can have a huge benefit in the long term. We know now that when you regularly consume a western diet (high in processed foods, chemicals, hidden sugar, salt and damaged fats) it is impossible for it not to gradually destroy your health.
Superfoods are foods that have the special ability to nourish, fortify and drive us towards greater human health. They are highly nutritious, low GI and contain an abundance of different micronutrients that help support everything from detoxification to cellular renewal and repair. Aim for at least 10 different superfoods per day – they provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fibre, lignans, polyphenols, catechins and much much more.
Greens like kale, broccoli and spinach are the healthiest foods on the planet and top the list of superfoods. Every single day you should aim to eat a number of different leafy greens or have a large green salad. Greens contain calcium, folate, iron, fibre and thousands of different phytonutrients and antioxidants which flood your cells with protective antioxidants that reverse and neutralise oxidative stress. Every single day we need to consume abundant antioxidants because oxidative stress is how all tissues are damaged and how the body ages.
Avocados are highly nutritious fruits that are rich in healthy fats, fibre and contain over 20 different vitamins and minerals. Avocado contains more potassium than bananas and is loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids such as oleic acid, which reduces inflammation in the body. These are the same fats that are found in olive oil. Oleic acid is clinically evidenced to reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and certain types of cancer. Several human studies have shown that avocados can help reduce total cholesterol, reduce blood triglycerides, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol.
Mushrooms are another fantastic superfood, especially great for vegans and vegetarians as they are abundant in the B vitamins and zinc which are of great nutritional value. Mushrooms are considered a functional food which means that they play a role in human health beyond just nutrition hence the term ‘medicinal mushrooms’. The shiitake mushroom has been singled out as being the most beneficial mushroom to human health and is thought to play a role in protecting against more than 200 conditions. The anti-cancer benefits of shiitake mushrooms are thought to come from alpha and beta-glucans. Eat plentiful mushrooms!
Garlic use has been well documented by most major civilisations including the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Garlic is considered a superfood and features top of the list of anti-cancer foods listed in 2009 Food Chemistry journal. Use it instead of salt to add flavour and taste to foods.
Nuts literally are nutritional powerhouses. Of all nuts, walnuts seem to have the best health profile and cancer-preventing benefits. They contain good fats, protein and plenty of super nutrients. Have them as snacks, sprinkle them on salads or make homemade nut dressings to have with your greens.
Chia seeds are among the healthiest foods on the planet. ‘Chia’ is derived from the ancient Mayan word for ‘strength’. Like flaxseeds, they are a superb source of vegetarian omega 3 and are loaded with nutrients, calorie for calorie. They are rich in fibre, magnesium, manganese, zinc, phosphorous and calcium. They contain abundant antioxidants and have a good balance of amino acids (the building blocks of tissue).
Grapes contain anthocyanins which are known to reduce inflammation and they also contain the much sought after antioxidant resveratrol. Choose organic red grapes over white ones as their resveratrol content is much higher. No need to drink red wine to get the benefits!
Berries deserve special mention because they are one of the most powerful superfood groups out there. Eat them fresh when in season or straight from the freezer when out of season to benefit from their life extending nutrients. Berries do not lose their nutritional value when frozen so you can and indeed should eat them all year around.
In particular blueberries are powerful anti-ageing and anti-cancer allies. Try and eat one serving (a half cup) every day because they are rich in antioxidants, polyphenols and anthocyanins (these give blueberries their beautiful blue colour). The key health promoters in blueberries are phytochemicals, phenolic, anthocyanins, myricetins, quercetins and delphinidins.
If you are struggling to meet your 10-a-day superfoods, then add a scoop of ZENii Vitality Superfoods Organic Blend to your green smoothie. Packed with a blend of 35 organic sustainable superfoods, the supplement gives a much needed nutritional boost and is ideal for those of us with a busy schedule who cannot cook fresh every day.
ZENii Vitality Superfoods Organic Blend available from ZENii – 20 servings £50.00