What makes superfoods super?

Superfoods -- The Hot Mess Press

I can almost guarantee that you will read or hear at least once every day of something that you should eat or something you must avoid eating altogether. You have probably read and heard about the wonders of superfoods. However, but do you know what makes them super? Those who know say they promote health and wellness, but some people tell us eggs with brown shells are healthier than eggs with white shells. Whom should we believe?

Let’s look at the American Society for Nutrition information about some of the science behind superfoods.

What makes spices superfoods?

Superfoods spices

Research proved that spices do much more than improving food flavors. You could maintain a healthy blood pressure level by including spices and herbs in your diet. Researchers from Texas Tech University and Penn State University studied how incorporating mixed spices and herbs affects the risks of Cardiometabolic diseases (CMDs). These diseases are prevalent in people with unhealthy lifestyles that include unhealthy diets, smoking and physical inactivity.

For the study, 71 people participated in a four-week program with controlled measures of herbs and spices included in their diets. The first week’s diet had 6.6 grams per day, 3.3 grams in the second week and 0.5 grams per day in the third week. Analyzing the cholesterol and blood sugar tests on those diets showed no differences when compared to pre-study tests. However, the diet of the fourth week included approximately 1.5 teaspoons of herbs and spices per day. It was considerably more than the first three weeks. The result clearly indicated that the spiciest diet produced significantly improved blood pressure levels when compared to previous tests.

Cholesterol benefits of superfoods like spices

Superfoods Turmeric

Turmeric, cinnamon and ginger have long been praised as superfoods with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. However, their specific health effects on diseases like cardiovascular and diabetes are still the subject of research. Researchers at Clemson University found that these spices, along with curcuminoid and curcumin, affect the cholesterol levels of patients who have type 2 diabetes. The terms curcuminoid and curcumin might not be names you are familiar with. They are some of the color pigments in turmeric.

The researchers used 28 studies involving 1049 control patients and 1035 unhealthy patients with high cholesterol levels and type 2 diabetes. Their diets included capsuled supplements of spices for between one and three months. An average outcome of all the studies indicated improved lipid profiles. The profiles include cholesterol and triglycerides, in participants with type 2 diabetes. Therefore, the conclusion was that cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, curcuminoid, and curcumin pigments could potentially benefit type 2 diabetes patients and those with cholesterol at unhealthy high levels. However, to gain more specific knowledge, more research is necessary.

Honey was already a superfood in ancient times

Superfoods Honey

Although people have benefited from honey’s medicinal qualities for centuries, its biochemistry is still a research subject. (Now, this is where it gets a bit too sciency for me to understand fully, but I get the picture, and I hope you do too.) A research team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found minuscule nano-scale particles in honey. Each particle is a structure enclosed in a membrane. Please note that although I’m sharing this information, it does not mean I approve of experiments done on animals.

Nanoparticles in Honey
Researchers have discovered that honey contains tiny nano-scale particles with a membrane-enclosed structure similar to exosomes found in the body. The image shows honey nanoparticles imaged with electron microscopy. Credit: Jiujiu Yu

Researchers started by inducing liver injuries in mice. Experimental treatment of the mice with the nanoparticles obtained from honey significantly reduced the inflammation. That led them to believe honey could potentially restrict inflammation activation.

Snack on Mangoes instead of cookies

Mango

Mangoes are rich in unique micronutrients, various vitamins, fiber and minerals. In a quest to get a better understanding of this tropical fruit’s health benefits, researchers from San Diego State University initiated a study. The 12-week study involved 27 adults who were obese or overweight. Some of them consumed low-fat cookies with a total of 100 calories per day, and the other group had fresh mangoes with 100 calories each day. When analyzing the results, researchers found that those who had mangoes benefited most. Their risks of certain chronic diseases typically associated with overweight and obesity were significantly lower than those who consumed the cookies. However, they determined that the mangoes proved not to affect body weight and cholesterol levels.

To wrap it up

While I don’t even pretend to understand all the intricate scientific detail, I am comfortable with the fact that at least these four superfoods deserve to be regarded as super. I’m also curious about what further research will discover about these and other so-called superfoods.

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