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'Superfoods' everyone needs

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

' Superfoods' is the nick name given to foods that may have some special health benefits. You won't find superfoods on a packaging label as the term is not allowed under advertising rules.

Is there evidence that eating certain things can reduce the risk of developing heart disease, stroke and cancer?

We look at the facts.

Top superfoods offering super health protection

Among the foods said to have superfood status are:

  • Beans
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Oats
  • Oranges
  • Pumpkin
  • Salmon
  • Soya
  • Spinach
  • Tea (green or black)
  • Tomatoes
  • Turkey
  • Walnuts
  • Yoghurt

Blueberries: Antioxidant superfood

Packed with antioxidants and phytoflavonoids, these berries are also high in potassium and vitamin C, making them the top choice of doctors and nutritionists. Not only may they help lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, they are also anti-inflammatory.

Inflammation is a key driver of all chronic diseases, so blueberries have a host of benefits. When selecting berries, note that the darker they are, the more antioxidants they have. Frozen fruits are just as good as fresh, experts say, but make sure you include lots of other fruit and vegetables in your diet as well.

Omega-3 rich fish: Superfoods for the heart, joints and memory

Omega-3s you get in fish lower heart disease risk, ease arthritis symptoms, and may possibly help with memory loss and Alzheimer's. There is some evidence to show that it may help reduce depression as well.

Omega-3s are most prevalent in fatty, cold-water fish. Look for wild caught (not farmed) salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel. Aim for two-to-three portions a week. Other forms of omega-3s are available in fortified eggs, linseeds and walnuts. These superfoods have the added benefit of being high in monounsaturated fats, which can help lower cholesterol.

Soya: Superfood to lower cholesterol

A diet of soya fibre, protein from oats and barley, almonds and margarine from plant sterols and stanols can help reduce cholesterol levels. Consider tofu, soya milk or edamame (soya beans) - not soya powder. Soy sauce won't do the trick, either. One caveat: if you have a family history of breast cancer it is not recommended that you eat extra soya.

Fibre: Superfood aids weight loss and checks cholesterol

A diet high in fibre will help you maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels. As a bonus, because fibre helps you feel full longer, it's a great tool in weight management. Whole grains, beans, fruit and vegetables are all good sources. Try tossing some beans in your salad, fresh, frozen or dried are the best. The tinned varieties tend to be higher in salt, so look for beans in plain water.

Tea: Superfood for lowering cholesterol and inhibiting cancer

The overall antioxidant power of black tea is the same as green tea, but green tea does have ECGC, a powerful antioxidant that we really do think is quite special. A Japanese study on green tea found that men who drank green tea regularly had lower cholesterol than those who didn't. Researchers in Spain and the UK have also shown that ECGC can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. For a double health whammy, replace fizzy drinks with tea.

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