Full disclosure: I realize “superfood” carries a bit of hype, but some foods do earn that status.
After all, I wholeheartedly embrace the concept of food as medicine. Food is one of the most powerful tools we have to create optimal health, and can be used as the first step to heal patients.
I’ve discussed numerous superfoods and we how to get them into our diet in The 10-Day Detox, Eat Fat, Get Thin, and my other programs. Here, I want to share five superfoods we should regularly incorporate into our eating plan.
1. Seeds. My three favorite seeds are chia, hemp, and flaxseeds. We can add all three super seeds to smoothies, puddings, or sprinkled on top of coconut yogurt with berries. Among their benefits:
>> Chia seeds provide an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids that have numerous benefits, including glowing skin and mental clarity. Just one ounce of chia seeds packs a whopping 10 grams of fiber. Its insoluble fiber acts as a prebiotic that feeds friendly gut bacteria and ferments into short-chain fatty acids to support gut health. Chia seeds also contain more protein than most plant foods.
>> Hemp provides healthy fat, protein, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and iron.
>> Flaxseeds are another great source of omega-3 fats, dietary fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. Flaxseeds have powerful, anti-cancer, hormone-balancing phytonutrients called lignans. Freshly ground flaxseed sprinkled into a smoothie becomes an excellent way to ease constipation.
2. MCT oil. Medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, are a special type of fatty acid derived from coconut oil. We can get them in coconut oil or as a stand-alone oil. MCT oil can help with weight loss, cognitive ability, and much more. This super fuel becomes an instant-energy source because MCTs get rapidly burned and metabolized very efficiently, absorbing directly into the gut and then liver, so MCTs don’t get stored as fat. Add MCT oil to smoothies, coffee, or veggies. They provide powerful antioxidant support to strengthen the immune system. Animal studies show MCTs also benefit liver and gut function.
3. Glucomannan. Fiber is vital for so many reasons, including feeding our friendly gut bacteria. Studies show fiber can prevent obesity, reduce our risk for chronic diseases, and decrease aging. That’s because fiber slows the rate food enters our bloodstream and increases the speed with which food exits through the digestive tract. Dietary fiber also helps balance blood sugar and cholesterol levels, aids in quick release of toxins from our gut, and curbs our appetite.
Glucomannan is a soluble, fermentable, and highly viscous dietary fiber from the root of the elephant yam, also known as konjac. The konjac tuber has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy and to make traditional foods like konjac jelly, tofu, and noodles. Glucomannan comes as a supplement called PGX that mixes easily into water for an easy, effective fiber source.
4. Mushrooms. While visiting China, I discovered folks there knew more about food’s medicinal properties than I did even after many years of research. Medicinal foods are a part of their everyday diet, and mushrooms play a huge staple within Chinese medicine. Reishi, shitake, and cordyceps contain powerful healing properties that boost our immune system and support healthy hormone production. Mushrooms are anti-viral and anti-inflammatory to support healthy liver function, optimized cholesterol levels, and provide anti-cancer benefits.
5. Plant foods. Vegetables’ vast colorful array represents over 25,000 beneficial chemicals. Research shows the synergistic balance of these chemicals provide numerous health benefits. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate well over 800 varieties of plant foods. Today we don’t consume anywhere near this amount. Eat from the rainbow: every fruit and vegetable color represents a different family of healing compounds. Red foods like tomatoes contain the carotenoid lycopene, which helps eliminate free radicals that damage our genes. Green foods contain the chemicals sulforaphane and isocyanate as well as indoles that inhibit carcinogens to protect against cancer. Simply put: More color equals more health benefits.
Functional medicine ultimately rests on one central principle: Taking out the bad and putting in the good. The tremendous power at the end of our forks becomes far more powerful than anything we find in a pill bottle.
I know you’ve got one to add: What superfood would you include? Share yours below or on my Facebook page.
Author: Dr. Mark Hyman
Editor: Emily Bartran