We’ve all heard the term “superfood” floating around within health communities, but what does it actually mean? There’s no regulated definition; it can mean different things to different people.
The definition we’ve chosen to work with is “a food that offers high levels of desirable nutrients, is linked to the prevention of a disease or is believed to offer several simultaneous health benefits beyond its nutritional value” -TheNutritionSource, 20221
Here, we will discuss 5 foods we consider a “superfood” due to their numerous health benefits. We have chosen easily accessible foods that won’t break the bank and give tips on incorporating them into your diet.
Fennel is a plant that adds flavour to your food. One of its significant health benefits is that it has very high levels of fibre.2 Fibre is a non-digestible food that arrives at your good gut bacteria relatively intact, acting as an excellent food source.
When the good bacteria are fed with this nutritious fibre, it can help to prevent constipation and improve bowel contractions. Fennel can also be beneficial in relieving constipation as it contains an antispasmodic agent that can relax the gastrointestinal tract muscles.2
Fennel can have a slightly sweet taste - almost like liquorice. You can eat it raw, roasted or add it to salads, soups and pasta dishes. It is often used as a base for broths that chefs use to braise fish and meats, so if you’re a whizz in the kitchen, why not give that a go?3
Kefir is a probiotic food known as a fantastic tool for a healthy gut microbiome. Probiotics add new species of good bacteria to the gut, helping diversify the gut microbiome, which is key to good gut health.2
Due to its probiotic properties, kefir can help to prevent cramping, bloating and gas. It can also help to alleviate inflammation in the digestive tract, which lowers the risk of illnesses and reduces symptoms of conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s Disease.2
Kefir is a dairy product resulting from adding kefir grains to milk. You can drink it straight or use it just as you would any other milk. Poured over cereal, in a smoothie, in ice cream, in a salad dressing… you can even bake and cook with it!4
Apples have many great qualities; your parents weren’t wrong if they packed your lunchbox with one of these daily.
Apples contain a prebiotic fibre called pectin, which your body can’t digest.4 This allows the good bacteria to feast away and become stronger. When they are fed, they can multiply, leaving less room for the bad bacteria to multiply and wreak havoc on the body.
As well as being rich in fibre, apples contain antioxidants which are great for your health; they are linked to a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other chronic conditions.5
You can eat apples raw, stewed, cooked, baked…however, you like them best. Apple cider vinegar is an excellent apple-based product, as it is fermented, meaning it contains probiotics, just like kefir.
Oats are not only incredibly versatile and accessible but have fantastic health benefits, too. Oats are a source of beta-gluten, a form of prebiotic dietary fibre.6 This, like apples and fennel, makes them great for the good bacteria in the gut microbiome.
Beta-gluten has been shown to reduce cholesterol and promote the growth of good bacteria, qualifying it as a superfood.6
Oaty bread, breakfast oats, granola bars, oat pancakes, and oat cereals are nutritious and easy ways to include oats into your diet.7 Oats are easy to bake with, so you can make some healthy and delicious breakfast or dessert bakes to fill you with all the right stuff.
Plantains can easily be mistaken for bananas, but they taste pretty different. Plantains are not sweet like bananas and are usually cooked before they are eaten. Unripe bananas have some of the same benefits as plantains so if that’s more your thing, go right ahead.6
They are rich in prebiotic-resistant starch, which feeds a particular good bacteria in your gut, the butyrate-producing kind. Your body can’t break down this type of starch, so the butyrate-producing bacteria deal with it and turn it into short-chain fatty acids, essential for combatting inflammation.
Short-chain fatty acids also maintain your gut lining, which is essential to your overall health.6 If the gut lining is compromised, bad bacteria can leak into the bloodstream and cause you to become unwell. This is a relatively new concept called leaky gut.
Plantains can be eaten raw but are tastier when fried as they become caramelised and crispy, or they can be thinly sliced into crisps.8 They can also be baked, oven cooked, boiled or grilled.
The list of superfoods is pretty endless; here we’ve chosen 5 of our favourites for you to add to your life (or keep in your life if you’re ahead of the game!).
Each of these foods is incredibly versatile, easily accessible and can complement many other foods as part of a meal, snack or dessert.