Welcome to part one of a two-part series about superfoods.
As more and more of us lean towards healthier lifestyles, consumers are rethinking their relationship with food as a preventative medicine. This is a trend that market researchers predict will continue to grow and evolve.
For their What’s Hot: 2022 Culinary Forecast insight, the National Restaurant Association partnered with professional chefs from the American Culinary Federation. Their members were invited to review and rank culinary concepts identified by the Association and Technomic’s Menu Research & Insights Division.
The pandemic was, of course, a topic of discussion. One mega trend that surfaced was the consumer desire to now balance out their pandemic-related comfort foods habits with better-for-you options. Consumers are seeking out immunity-boosting foods to help them keep shipshape this year and beyond.
Attention to Health Takes Center Stage
Whether you are a restaurant manager looking for new healthy menu ideas or an individual taking control of their own health, there are a few caveats we should first address.
Caveat #1 – Variety Is the Spice of Life
There is no one food or supplement a person can ingest to make them healthy. Healthy dietary patterns and clean eating will yield incredible results, there are no cheat codes, shortcuts, or magic pills to get there. For bigger and better health and nutritional benefits, combining many superfoods into one meal is the way to go.
Caveat #2: Check With a Doctor First
It is advisable, before adding new elements into your diet, to check with a trusted source for any possible medical interactions. For instance, on our list is the Chinese superfood goji berries. But did you know that these berries may interact with the blood-thinning drug, warfarin? It’s always best to check with your doctor or an alternate trusted source.
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Challenges to Conquer
To improve current health issues and prevent future problems down the line it is imperative to have these two aspects of your health under control: inflammation and oxidative stress.
As opposed to acute inflammation, your body’s response to protect itself from harm after an injury has occurred, chronic inflammation is a world of trouble. When a person has chronic inflammation, even low grade, it basically means that their immune system is damaging healthy cells. The body gets confused and continues to send inflammatory responses to attack otherwise healthy cells, such as the case of rheumatoid arthritis.
Conditions associated with chronic inflammation include Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Chronic inflammation can also lead to pain all over the body, rashes, sores, and fatigue as well as mental health conditions like depression.
Oxidative stress is a phenomenon caused by an imbalance between production and accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in cells and tissues and the ability of a biological system to detoxify these reactive products. In simple terms, the body needs more antioxidant defenses to detoxify and destroy free radicals.
Free radicals are a type of unstable molecule that damages and even kills otherwise healthy cells. When too many free radicals (ROS) are produced, the effects on the human body can be detrimental. Oxidative stress is tied to the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease, and diabetic complications.
Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation feed off of each other, creating harsh conditions inside the body while increasing the negative impact of many diseases. Luckily, our list of superfoods throughout the weeks are the best ingredients to prevent and battle chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. With this in mind, here are three superfoods every menu should include.
Turmeric is a bright yellow-orange spice made from the root of the Curcuma longa plant. Turmeric prevents and treats many health conditions largely because it contains high levels of the polyphenol curcumin. Polyphenols are micronutrients that naturally occur in plants. Curcumin is a star of the polyphenol world because it has many positive effects on the human body.
Why Is Turmeric a Superfood?
The curcumin found in turmeric aids in the prevention and management of many health problems:
- Suppressing inflammatory conditions
- Improving systematic markers of oxidative stress
- Increasing serum activities of certain antioxidants
- Managing metabolic syndrome including insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hypertension, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), elevated triglyceride levels
- Reducing visceral belly fat
- Managing arthritis
- Supporting liver detoxification
- Improving gallbladder function
- Controlling anxiety
- Controlling inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne
Turmeric & Black Pepper
It’s essential to combine superfoods with other nutrients that will increase their bioavailability. Consuming curcumin on its own wouldn’t result in any health benefits because the amount absorbed by the body would be too miniscule; curcumin is metabolized and eliminated from the body too rapidly to take effect.
To increase the bioavailability of turmeric always consume it with black pepper. When the curcumin in turmeric, combines with the piperine found in black pepper, bioavailability to the human body increases by 2000%. This increase allows curcumin’s benefits to take effect in the human body. Knowing how to properly prepare your superfoods for maximum bioavailability enhances the flavor of your dish while providing your customers with all the nutrients they have to offer.
Tomatoes have been garnering more attention in the superfood’s arena as of late because they contain four major carotenoids: alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene. Each carotenoid brings their own positive qualities. Additionally, all four interact synergistically with each other for more health benefits. For tomatoes, the star of the carotenoid show is lycopene.
Carotenoids are naturally occurring red, orange, and yellow pigments synthesized by plants. We love them because they act as antioxidants in the human body. To that end, scientists consider lycopene to have the highest amount of carotenoid antioxidant activity. It protects lipids, proteins, and DNA from damage by oxidation and hinders cancer cell proliferation.
Why Are Tomatoes a Superfood?
Tomatoes are full of vitamins and minerals — especially vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, and potassium. The powerful antioxidants and nutrients found in tomatoes can impact human health by preventing or improving medical conditions such as:
- Lowering the risk of prostate cancer when combined with broccoli
- Lowering the risk of pancreatic cancer
- Cardiovascular benefits
- Improving tone and texture of skin
- Protecting against age-related macular degeneration
Tomatoes Peels & Olive Oil
Here are a few valuable tips that will help you make the most out of the tomatoes you serve in your establishment:
- First, tomato peels contain a high concentration of antioxidants. If using products like tomato paste, make sure they were prepared enriched with the peels.
- Second, to make the most out of tomatoes’ carotenoids, combine with other superfoods high in healthy fats like olive oil or avocado. This will increase antioxidant bioavailability up to 15 times.
- Heat makes a difference: For example, cooked tomatoes have more lycopene and less vitamin C, whereas raw tomatoes contain more vitamin C but less lycopene.
- Lastly, always buy organic. In general, your customers know that the health impact of ingesting pesticides from conventional produce will effectively cancel out the potential benefits of that fruit or vegetable.
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Goji Berry / Wolfberry
As some people view tomato as a fruit and vegetable, goji berries are often described as a fruit or herb. Goji berries (otherwise known as wolfberry) are red, oval-shaped berries that has been consumed in China as a nutritious food and used in traditional Chinese medicine since the 3rd century.
Why Are Goji Berries a Superfood?
Goji berries are rich in zeaxanthin and other bioactive compounds including carotenoids and polyphenols. Goji berries also contain significant amounts of ascorbic acid, thiamine and riboflavin and minerals like potassium, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc and selenium. Furthermore, they contain high levels of protein and fiber. Health benefits include:
- Managing oxidative stress by scavenging reactive oxygen species (ROS): Middle-aged and older adults experience a decline in endogenous antioxidant activity in the body and are therefore more vulnerable to oxidative damage
- Adding goji berry to your diet, in turn, helps to prevent cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and dementia
- Enhancing the immune system
- Improving eyesight
- Protecting the liver
- Improving circulation
- Improving skin and hair health for a natural glow
Ningxia: Goji Berry Haven
The best goji berries come from the Ningxia region of China, where the mineral-rich soil has the most nutrients and perfect growth conditions. Differences in cultivation methods, soil, and climate also changes the chemical structures of plants.
Serve goji berries raw, in a juice or health elixir, add them to smoothies, brew them into tea, add them to salads, baked goods, breakfasts, or desserts. They are a perfect ingredient to easily integrate into any menu.
We’re Just Getting Started
Whoever said eating healthy wasn’t fun? Trying new flavors adds variety to life, a concept foodies know quite well. Integrating superfoods won’t just provide the compounds to fight inflammation and disease, they will also diversify your palette and add flavor to your favorite dishes.