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Give your body a boost with superfoods

Mississippi ranks near the top at growing one of the best superfoods.

Mississippi’s “blues,” or blueberries, which are grown near the Coast, are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, soluble fiber and phytochemicals (flavonoids).

Blueberries also top the list of superfoods, a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. Other berries, strawberries and cranberries, also are rich in nutrients.

“Inflammation is a key driver of all chronic diseases, so blueberries have a host of benefits,” says Dr. Ann Kulze of Georgia, author of “Dr. Ann’s 10-Step Diet: A Simple Plan for Permanent Weight Loss and Lifelong Vitality.” “When selecting berries, note that the darker they are, the more antioxidants they have.

“I tell everyone to have a serving (about 1/2 cup) every day,” Kulze says. “Frozen are just as good as fresh. Be sure to include lots of other fruits and vegetables as well. Remember, too, that in general, the more color they have, the more antioxidants.”

OK, so blueberries are good for you, but just what are superfoods? The term is bandied about, but let’s cut the hype.

Superfoods do not have their own food group, and the American Heart Association says there are no set criteria for determining what is and what is not a superfood. The Internet is full of stories about the top 10 or top 25 superfoods, ranging from blueberries to chia seeds to sweet potatoes to salmon to fruits and nuts.

One researcher considers broccoli sprouts and salmon two of the most perfect superfoods.

Head spinning yet? Let’s make this simple. Superfoods are mostly plant-based but can include some fish and dairy. Superfoods have extra large doses of vitamins and minerals that can help ward off diseases and lead to a longer, healthier life, according to Despina Hyde, nutritionist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center.

Nutrients in superfoods include antioxidants, thought to ward off cancer and prevent heart disease; fiber, thought to prevent diabetes and digestive problems; or phytochemicals, the plant chemicals responsible for deep colors and smells in fruits like blueberries, which have several health benefits.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR, AND BELIEVED TO BE SOME OF THE BEST, SUPERFOODS:

Kiwifruit, which provides similar benefits to berries, melons, citrus fruits, apples and pears — all high in vitamin C and antioxidants.

Beans and whole grains always make a superfoods list. Beans are low-fat protein and contain insoluble fiber, which lowers cholesterol; soluble fiber, which makes you full longer; vitamins and minerals, such as manganese. Whole grains still contain bran and germ that is not stripped in processing. Quinoa isn’t a grain but cooks up like one and has protein, vitamins, fiber, antioxidants and minerals.

Nuts and seeds have high levels of minerals and healthy fats but are high calorically. Watch your portions.

Kale still ranks high as a superfood, but so do Swiss chard, collard and mustard greens, spinach, cabbage and broccoli. All are high in vitamins A, C and K, as well as fiber, calcium and minerals.

Squash and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of fiber, vitamin A and much more. They are also naturally sweet and don’t require the butter, cream or salt typically added to potatoes.

Salmon, sardines, mackerel and certain other fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. The benefits of eating fish may far outweigh the risk of harming your health from the mercury these fish contain, according to Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Exotic fruits, such as acai berry, dragon fruit, pomegranate, noni fruit and rambutan, are “the fruits of the year.” Just because they are exotic does not mean they have higher anti-cancer properties than blueberries and raspberries. Like kale, attention focuses on these exotic, pricier fruits, making them the trendy fruits.

Green tea, dark chocolate (the darker the better, no less than 60 percent cocoa), yogurt and olives.

If these superfoods are eaten with little processing or little sugar, they rank as superfoods. Read labels on the amount of sugar in teas or super fruit juices.

Superfoods are healthy, but so are other fruits and vegetables. Most dietitians and nutritionists still suggest a well-rounded diet that includes more than just superfoods. Remember, the more color in veggies or fruits, the higher the antioxidants, and that is a good thing.


Andrea Yeager is a freelance writer who lives in Long Beach with her daughter, granddaughter and pets.

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