A superhero in disguise
There is no denying the fact that each one of us has dreamed of superhuman strength and agility, much like our favorite superheroes in the silver screen or comic books.
The ability to vanquish all evil is something we all (not so secretly) crave. The main agenda of superheroes is to save humanity from its own falling.
While in the fictional world, these dangers come in the form of outer-world spaceships and rogue alien criminals, in real life however, what is wiping off humanity at an alarming scale are lifestyle diseases and widespread infections.
Unhealthy addictions, be it to drugs or sugar, largely sedentary lifestyles, and poor diet are the super villains we face on a daily basis. But are these entities beatable?
Nature has endowed us with a team of exceedingly nutritious and power-packed “Superfoods” which posses the potential of shielding you against deadly diseases.
These nutrient-dense Superfoods target the single-most dreadful enemy of our health – the Free Radicals.
Free radicals, coupled with oxidants, are the ones which accelerate the process of aging and decline of health by making us vulnerable to diseases.
But before we start learning about what these Superfoods are, let us first understand how these free radicals impact our health.
Free Radical Cycle – A host of deadly diseases
In simple words, a radical is an atom that has an unpaired electron. This lone electron is in the forever need to pair up with another electron to stabilize.
As a result, radicals are extremely reactive in nature, trying to combine with every substance possible to gain the required electron.
When this radical atom steals an electron from another atom, the other atom loses an electron and thus turns into a free radical.
This results in a cascade reaction of atoms, each triggering the formation of new radicals.
Enough with high school Chemistry, what does this free radical entity mean for our body?
Now every reaction inside your body gives rise to free radicals – the breakdown of food, breathing, metabolism so on and so forth.
As mentioned before, the accumulation of free radicals happens at a steady rate in our body.
The surging radicals react indiscriminately with critical cellular components such as your DNA and your cell membrane. This implies that these atoms can potentially damage your DNA and also cause rampant cell destruction.
Did you know that one of biggest killers of our generation, cancer, is termed as a free radical disease?
Experts believe that the onset of cancer symptoms happens with relative ease and speed in bodies with more number of free radicals.
Even conditions such as atherosclerosis, various neurodegenerative diseases, metabolic disorders including diabetes, and fast aging can be attributed to free radical damage. Free radicals and oxidative stress also interfere with the body’s absorption of nutrients and lower your overall immunity.
Antioxidants, as the name suggests, goes against the direction of oxidative stress and free radicals.
It stabilizes the unstable free radicals by donating them one free electron.
Once the free radical is neutralized, it will stop being chemically reactive and invasive to our cells.
Having said that, the perfect balance of free radicals and antioxidants is required in our body (we need both of them to function effectively).
Your immune system operates with the help of free radicals to counter bacterial infections.
What mainly disturb this state of homeostasis of free radical and anti-oxidants are our poor lifestyle choices and environmental pollution.
Toxins in the food we eat, chemicals in the air we inhale, high blood sugar levels, cholesterol, harmful radiations, smoking, too little or too much oxygen – all of these are collectively responsible for altering the free-radical and anti-oxidant balance.
This is where we need Superfoods.
They tend to improve the balance between these two entities ensuring that we remain disease-free and fit.
List of Superfoods you must include in your diet
Densely packed with anti-oxidants and nutrients, Quinoa is one of the healthiest grains available to mankind.
Having its origins in South America, it remains as one of the earliest cultivated crops.
The antioxidant value of Quinoa is 3200 u mol TE/100 gm.
The number of proteins each serving of quinoa provides you is off the charts.
It contains two important flavonoids – Quercetin and Kaempferol, which have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-depressant, and immunity boosting properties.
The best thing about quinoa is that it doesn’t contain gluten and can be hence consumed safely by people with gluten allergy or intolerance.
Rich in fiber and minerals and low in glycemic index, quinoa is the best source of healthy grains in your diet.
2. Brown Rice
Rice is one of the most consumed crops in the world, especially in Asia. This crop comes naturally packed with health benefits. But when the naturally occurring form of rice (Brown Rice) is stripped of its nutrients and polished, the resulting rice (White Rice) is largely deficient in essential nutrients and is just full of starch.
That’s why consuming rice with its hull and bran part intact is a healthier alternative.
Brown rice is loaded with nutrients such as magnesium which is directly related to controlling our body’s blood pressure and preventing hypertension and other arterial issues. This fiber-rich food is great for keeping your heart strong and healthy.
Another important reason to consume brown rice?
It is naturally gluten-free!
Another naturally gluten-free grain would be oatmeal, a dietary fiber consumed widely as a part of breakfast.
Scientifically known as Avena Sativa, oatmeal is power-packed with essential nutrients including beta-glucan, which is highly healing and immune-stimulating in nature.
Since it is high in proteins and healthy fats, a serving of oatmeal will keep you full and satiated for a longer duration of time. This will not only reduce your cravings for unhealthy sugar-rich snacks time to time but will also prevent the blood sugar levels from spiking.
In addition to these, oatmeal is a rich source of manganese, phosphorus, iron, folate, zinc, copper, and magnesium making it one of the most nutrient-dense foods in your diet.
Spice for life
Going back to the roots of Indian cooking, one would find turmeric as the quintessential ingredient present in every kitchen and also as a part of tons of home remedies.
This bright-yellow spice is a not-so-distant relative of ginger and has curcumin as its main component.
The list of health benefits of this all-powerful spice is seemingly limitless.
Turmeric, popularly known as the king of all spices, is naturally endowed with anti-oxidants, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties.
This means that this spice will bestow you with a strong natural defense against infections, malaises, aging and frailty, chronic inflammations and even the deadly cancer.
So don’t forget to add a dash of turmeric to your meal for a beautiful hue and a diverse range of health benefits.
Cinnamon, ranking highest amongst all foods in terms of protective anti-oxidant potential, is actually the bark of the tree Cinnamomum verum.
Its unique and sweet aroma makes it a favorite in a wide range of cuisines all over the world. But in addition to adding a delicious tinge to dishes, cinnamon serves the purpose of being a sturdy guard against the pathogens and cardiac inflammation.
Just like turmeric, cinnamon is also a champion anti-oxidant and anti-carcinogen. But the most important benefit one can get from regular consumption of this spice is its excellent anti-diabetic properties which improve the blood-sugar levels naturally and regulates insulin.
By taking charge of glycemic control in diabetic patients, cinnamon also helps people control their cholesterol and weight.
3. Red Cayenne Pepper
Red Cayenne is one of the spiciest members of the Capsicum family and has been a part of the human diet for over 9000 years.
Originating from the forests of South and Central America, the red cayenne includes healthy doses of the chemical capsaicin which comes with a huge list of health benefits.
Not only does it add flavor and rich color your food, it also helps in improving your blood circulation and balancing the acidity of your stomach’s content. A natural detoxing compound, red cayenne is widely used as an easy cure for gastrointestinal diseases such as diarrhea and cramps.
Red cayenne has also found its use in helping people with migraines, blood clotting, alcoholism, malaria, fever, and nausea. Many scientists have also declared this spice as an important cure for debilitating conditions such as osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia.
4. Chia Seeds
Though technically not a spice, chia seeds have become an integral part of spice cabinets worldwide. There are several legends that depict chia seeds as a powerful meal substitute.
Many Aztec warriors would survive on just a handful of chia seeds when food was scarce.
Coming back to the modern day meal charts, chia seeds have been shown to have a number of added health advantages such as being rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fibers, calcium, antioxidants, iron, and proteins.
Being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, they improve the HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) in our bloodstream. Its super-high fiber content makes it a great source of energy.
Just like cinnamon, it also has high anti-diabetic features. Additionally, it also helps regulate your hunger-satiation cycle making sure that you don’t run out of energy and succumb to unhealthy food cravings.
Going by the list of its benefits it’s not surprising that these were used as a currency in ancient Mexico.
The age of fermentation
Pickles are nothing but fruits and vegetables stored in salt, brine, or vinegar.This preserves its natural nutritional composition while destroying the microbial growth.
Originating in India, pickling is one of the oldest known preservation techniques . Here, fermentation occurs as result of growth of healthy bacteria (probiotics).
These bacteria are able to break down complex glucose in the food so that it becomes easy to digest.
The fruits and vegetables retain the maximum of their original nutrients in the raw state. Hence, pickles are a tasty way of including healthy doses of anti-oxidants in your meals.
The probiotics or good bacteria improve our immunity by keeping the gut-flora healthy. They have also proven to be beneficial in combating nausea, morning-sickness, muscular cramps, and glucose-spikes after large meals.
When picking bread at the local supermarket, try adding sourdough bread to your cart.
Just like pickles ferment fruits and veggies, sourdough-making is the oldest way of grain fermentation.
Sourdough is different from other forms of self-rising bread dough. It makes use of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria (lactobacillus) that infuses a host of health benefits in the loaf.
It is also beneficial for treating gastric issues owing to its low phytic acid content. This type of food moves slowly along your digestive tract, keeping you full for a longer time.
Diabetes patients should consume this kind of bread more since the rye added to sourdough keeps your insulin in check. Sourdough can be consumed by individuals with gluten-intolerance.
A fermented blend of cabbage, garlic, scallions, vinegar, and peppers, Kimchi is the national dish of Korea. It is also counted as one of the healthiest foods in the world.
Kimchi has proven health benefits when it comes to warding off infections and aiding digestion. It helps in reducing the bad cholesterol reserves from your blood, enhancing the texture of your skin, improving your vision, accelerating metabolism, and boosting your immunity.
Many experts believe that fermented cabbage may have high anti-carcinogenic properties.
So next time you try oriental cuisine, include a side of kimchi with your meals. Enjoy the benefits of delectable taste and health benefits packed in one superfood!
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