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Super Food Specifics

By Kelli Shidler, M.D.

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Super foods are foods that have a high nutrient, vitamin and mineral content. Often these vitamins and minerals are used to build supplements. However, many experts believe that the best approach to nourishing your body is to consume the actual food in which the nutrient is found, not by taking a pill. Super foods in and of themselves do not establish a well-balanced diet. They do, however, provide a variety of health benefits.

Below is a list of super foods that have been mentioned by several sources:

Blueberries: Blueberries are full of antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C and may reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.

Fish: Fish, particularly cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to lower the risk of heart disease and may help protect against memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

Soy: A diet of soy fiber (from tofu, soymilk or edamame – not soy sauce), protein from oats, barley, almonds, and margarine from plant sterols, has been shown to lower cholesterol as much as statins, the most widely prescribed cholesterol medicine (The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003).

Fiber: Diets high in fiber help maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Tea: Both green and black teas have antioxidants which are known to reduce heart disease and cancer risks. Green tea contains the very powerful antioxidant called EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate).

Calcium: You know that calcium builds strong bones in children and can be found in dairy products, but did you know that diets with adequate calcium intake may help with weight loss? With today’s childhood obesity epidemic, that’s a great advantage.

Dark Chocolate: Finally, a treat approved by your pediatrician! One ounce of dark chocolate (60 percent or higher cocoa content) daily can lower blood pressure and reduce risk of heart disease.

Did you notice that all of the above foods are real or “unprocessed?” That’s right! You can’t find a super food in a bag of fortified “Doritos!” But remember, super foods are not a recipe for a complete diet for your children. Rather, they should be incorporated into a “super diet” including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy and protein-rich sources such as lean meats, eggs, beans and nuts.