6 Healthy Foods That Live Up to the Hype
By Tiffany Gagnon
While you may have grown tired of seeing more pictures on Instagram of kale than your friends, the fact is we live in a world where people talk about food—if science praises that food, they talk about it a lot.
Is all the commotion over superfoods like chia seeds and acai berries actually rooted in truth, though? While we can’t investigate every case of superfood mania, we do know that these health foods have the nutrients to back up any super claims. All six are incredibly high in antioxidants, which help fight free radical damage to the body.
Talk about them all you want because these healthy foods actually live up to the hype.
The research on coffee can be confusing—new studies surface almost daily claiming both positive and negative affects on health. Truth is, your morning cup of joe is full of antioxidants, which means it can boost your body’s defense against things like sun damage and even some cancers. “Coffee is actually the biggest contributor of antioxidants in the average American diet,” says Angela Lemond, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Keep in mind that a moderate [and healthy] amount of intake is around 240 mg per day. You can achieve that in 2 cups of home-brewed coffee. If you drink any more than that, you risk feeling jittery, irritable and in some people, it can contribute to heart issues,” she adds.
Who knew that good ole garlic was loaded with antioxidants? “The secret to unlocking the antioxidant properties in garlic is to mince, chop or slice up the cloves and let them sit for 10 minutes before putting them into a heat source. If you don't wait, you will actually lose their anti-cancer power,” says Lemond. What kind of benefits does this healthy food have to offer? Eating garlic can help boost your immune system, help ward off heart disease, fight inflammation and lower blood pressure—to name a few.
Allspice may not have been the talk of the town—ever—but it deserves a moment in the spotlight. Many spices actually contain high levels of antioxidants, but allspice is a great option because it combines the flavors of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper in one, making it easy to use in a wide variety of dishes. “Allspice has been found to have anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory abilities. Store the spice in their berry form, and grind them as you need them so they retain their flavors, aromas and health properties,” recommends Lemond.
Pomegranate seeds, also known as arils, are rather mighty when it comes to its nutrient content. Pomegranates contain three types of antioxidant polyphenols, including tannins, anthocyanins and ellagic acid, which all help fight and prevent damage to your body caused by free radicals. One pomegranate also provides about 30 mg of vitamin C, which is important for skin and immune health. Buy the whole fruit instead of packaged arils or juice to save money and get the best nutritional bang for your buck. You can pop the arils as a snack, or you can sprinkle them onto salads, yogurt, or even on top of chicken dishes.
All berries are an incredibly rich source of antioxidants, but blackberries are particularly potent in this regard—and there’s no need to limit yourself to buying them in the summer months. Frozen berries are far cheaper and pack the same amount of antioxidants. The dark color of this particular berry tips you off to their high antioxidant content. These lush-looking berries help protect against heart disease and fight against age-related cognitive decline. They’re also low in calories (about 60 calories per cup) and high in fiber (nearly 8 grams per cup), making them a perfect food to add to your weight loss or maintenance plan.
No need to worry if you’re not too keen on coffee. Green tea, and teas in general, contain significant levels of antioxidants. “Black and green teas are typically the highest in antioxidant content compared to other teas. Some say that tea has 10 times the antioxidant content of fruits and vegetables,” says Lemond. Green tea contains a specific type of antioxidant called catechins, which fight and help prevent cell damage. Green tea has been found to lower cholesterol, improve blood flow and is overall a heart-healthy addition to your diet. What’s more, some research suggests that drinking a few cups of green tea per day can also aid in weight loss by revving up your metabolism. Get brewing!