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What Superfoods are Best to Eat?

  • Category: Nutrition
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Reema Kanda, RDN
What Superfoods are Best to Eat?

Superfoods, also known as functional foods, are essentially nutrient dense foods that provide health benefits to our diets. These foods are considered to provide an extra boost of nutrients. It’s important to note that superfoods are not just ingredients or foods you never heard of, but also are everyday foods.

Q: What superfood should adults over age 50 be sure to eat regularly?

A: With aging comes a decline for energy (calories) due to slower metabolism, digestive issues like constipation, age related muscle mass loss known as sarcopenia, and osteopenia and osteoporosis. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, functional foods are defined as “whole foods and fortified, enriched, or enhanced foods that can have a potentially beneficial effect on health” when consumed as part of a varied diet on a regular basis. Here are my top two favorite nutrition packed foods that I educate my older adult patients who undergo orthopedic surgery and can include as part of their everyday diet:

1) Greek yogurt

2) Blueberries

Q: Why are these good foods to include?

A: Greek yogurt is a functional food because it is so versatile. It has more protein compared to regular yogurt and a 6 oz serving is almost equivalent to a 3 oz serving of meat, therefore its high protein content can support prevention of age-related muscle loss known as sarcopenia. It has probiotics, or healthy bacteria, that helps flourish the microbiome in your gut, which improves the gastrointestinal system. Also, yogurt is excellent in calcium that can help strengthen bones, if included as part of a comprehensive health plan to prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis. For those who are lactose intolerant, yogurt tends to have lesser amounts of the milk sugar lactose, therefore many will find yogurt to be tolerated quite well when compared to cows’ milk.

Blueberries are a functional food because of its high level of phytochemicals and antioxidant profile that promote bone health in addition to brain health. Several animal and human studies have demonstrated a diet rich in blueberries has positive neurocognitive effects. It has the potential to help adults at risk for age related memory decline.

Blueberries also benefit bone health because some causes of bone loss can be attributed to increased oxidative stress through the aging process. Potentially, antioxidant-rich foods may represent one strategy for slowing down age-related bone loss and improving bone remodeling some studies suggest. According to a review of several studies, dietary polyphenols have been associated with bone health, which may be in part due to their antioxidant capacity. Several studies have identified greater fruit intake with decreased fracture risk, greater bone mineral density, and decreased bone turnover.

Q: How much of these food items should seniors consume each day?

A: The potential benefit for health is when these foods are consumed as part of a varied diet on a regular basis. Aim to consume a variety of 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and include a Greek yogurt in meals and snacks daily. Refer to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and consult your Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) to obtain individual recommendations on what to eat, how much to eat, and which foods to choose that can fit into a balanced nutrition plan packed with extra boost of nutrients.

Q: Can you offer any simple recipes or serving suggestions for these superfoods?

A: Remember food works together. We don’t eat single nutrients. We eat a combination of nutrients. Blueberries and Greek yogurt are an easy and healthful ingredient that can enhance a simple meal or snack. They do not require slicing or peeling. I would recommend the recipe below to prepare a superfood packed brunch for four guests.

Recipe: Blueberry Greek Yogurt Parfait

2 cups blueberries

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 cups low-fat yogurt or low-fat Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon unshelled pistachios, finely chopped

  1. Combine the blueberries, sugar, lime juice and balsamic vinegar in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook for five to 10 minutes, until the liquid is reduced, and the blueberries have cooked down to a jam-like consistency. Allow to cool. You should have about 1 cup of thick sauce.
  2. Spoon 1/4 cup thick yogurt into the bottom of each of 4 tumblers or parfait glasses. Top with 2 tablespoons of the blueberry sauce. Make another 1/4 cup layer of yogurt on top of the blueberry sauce, and finish with another 2 tablespoon-layer of blueberry sauce. Cover tightly and chill for at least 1 hour. Just before serving, sprinkle finely chopped pistachios over the top.

Q: What else do you want readers to know about healthy aging and diet?

A: Be aware of media that often exaggerates the benefits of food. Nutrition does play a big part in healthy aging and as part of preventative medicine because animal and human studies has supported that healthy food can help reduce your risk of diabetes, promote heart health, and reduce risk of cancer to name a few benefits. There is no legal definition of functional foods, so consumers must evaluate the foods and its superfood like benefits carefully to ensure strong research support any claims. Focus on reading the Nutrition Facts Label and ingredients list if available to determine if a food is a healthful choice.

It’s also important to note that nutrition may not be a one size fits all, so consult a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) who has gone through robust education and training to obtain knowledge of food science. Dietitians can help clients make wise decisions about food by judging the value of individual foods within the total dietary framework. No single food, no matter how super it claims to be, can take the place of the importance of combination of nutrients from all major food groups.