In Search of the Top 10 Super Foods
We keep hearing about the Top 10super foods and have an idea of which foods are thought to be nutrient-rich power foods with healing properties, but what are the top ten that we should include in our diets? I went in search of a standard “Top 10” and found myself wading through opinion after opinion with no definite consensus. In a comparison between ten expert lists of the ten best super foods, only six foods made the majority of all ten lists with no item featuring on all.
Top 10super foods
In the lead, appearing on 9 out of 10 lists were beans and lentils; and berries.
Beans and lentils contain phytochemicals which, according to Dr Perricone,1 make them a necessary anti-aging food . Beans are low in fat, calories and sodium but high in complex carbohydrates and fibre with some essential fatty acids. They are also a good source of protein.
Berries contain a rich source of nutrients effective in preventing disease. The lists varied in the types of berries recommended with aa, goji, cranberries and blueberries mentioned. The Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission2 details the esteemed elements of berries, with the benefits being that these may lower the risk of certain cancers; are good for urinary tract health, memory function and anti-aging;neutralizefree-radicals; lower cholesterol; maintain a healthy GI tract; and reduce heart disease. Some components have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties; contain potent antioxidants that fight disease; and anti-inflammatoryand anti-allergenic properties.
Following closely and appearing on 8 out of 10 (Top 10super foods)lists were nuts and seeds; andyogurt.
Nuts and Seeds are a good source of fibre, protein, and minerals such as magnesium, zinc, calcium and phosphorus needed for bone development, energy production and increasing immunity3. Fibre helps to decrease cholesterol and also slows digestion, keeping you feeling fuller for longer. Nuts and seeds also contain important essential fatty acids.
Yoghurt contains probiotics which are beneficial for restoring intestinal flora and maintaining a healthy gut. It also contains calcium and potassium.
Leafy greens were on seven of the lists with spinach and kale being the super two. Im sure those of us with kids have backtracked the Spiderman DVD to the part where he tells a little boy Eat your green vegetables at least once to prove our point to a child refusing to eat their greens. Leafy greens4 contain vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals; are rich in fibre as well as calcium and potassium helping to keep bones and teeth strong; and folate which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and memory loss. The antioxidants like vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin may help reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Vitamin C helps the body make collagen aiding joint flexibility and possibly reducing the risk of arthritis. Beta-carotene assists in the repair of the body’s tissues and protects against sun damage. Vitamin E works with vitamin C to keep skin healthy.
Appearing six times was oily fish – with salmon being the most popular, followed by tuna and sardines. Other types of oily fish include trout, mackerel, pilchards, herring, kipper, eel and whitebait.
Oily fish is a good source of omega-3 polyunsaturated essential fatty acids. EFAs reduce the risk of heart disease and are important in the developing central nervous system of babies during pregnancy and after birth5.
Broccoli, eggs and sweet potatoes got four mentions, while citrus, barley, peppers and tea each made three lists. Only two mentions for apples, sprouts, bananas and mushrooms. Other items that appeared once in the evaluation included garlic, cocoa, buckwheat, olive oil, seaweed, algae, olive oil, kiwis, quinoa, oats, pumpkin, avo, vinegar, cinnamon and dark chocolate. A quick look at a few other top ten lists included a range of other foods not listed above.
From this investigation it appears that all food has some form of nutrient value, although some more than others. Taking a look at the six most featured above we only have three of the five basic food groups: Protein (oily fish, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds), fruit and vegetables (berries and green leafy vegetables), and dairy (yoghurt). We are missing fats and oils, which occupy the smallest wedge on the food pyramid, but as we can see above are provided for in the oily fish and nuts and are meant to be used sparingly anyway. What is surprising though is that we are missing the largest wedge the grains. And while grains may not have made it to the list, they are still essential for our well-being.
Perhaps this is an indication that the real benefits come from moderation and varying our diets to include as many nutrient-dense foods without limiting ourselves to only those that are deemed to be the elite among foods. In this way we are not risking nutrient deficiency by excluding foods that didnt make it to the top ten, but potentially have their own advantages not found in the super foods and are essential to our wellbeing, or are needed in conjunction with the super foods for optimal health.