Superfoods are nutrient-packed elixirs that help you fight disease, push up energy levels, improve mood and improve immunity and health. The foods that make the cut are usually rich in antioxidants (such as beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, E, flavanoids and selenium) that lower cell damage and when had in the prescribed amounts, boost your health without added effort.
Black bengal gram (Kala chana, 50 gm/day)
Black bengal gram has a very low glycaemic index (it’s digested and absorbed slowly), which makes it a miracle food for people with diabetes, heart disease and those looking to lose weight. Foods with a low glycemic index (55 and below) break down slowly and steadily, providing a sustained supply of energy, unlike foods with a high glycemic index (70 and above) like sugars, which cause a spike in blood glucose levels.
Black Bengal gram has a glycaemic index of 14, which makes it a miracle food for all of us. You can have it dry roasted, soaked, boiled, sprouted and cooked -- one small bowl (three-fourths of a cup) of cooked gram provides protein and 25 gm of high-quality carbohydrate and fibre. Its high fibre content also lowers unhealthy blood fats like bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides.
Garlic (Lassan, 3-4 cloves a day)
Apart from essential nutrients such as vitamins C and B6, manganese and selenium, garlic contains allicin, which lowers high blood pressure, high cholesterol and lowers risk of heart disease, infections and some cancers, including cancers of the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, and breast.
It prevents arteries from getting clogged up with plaque and lowers levels of heart-threatening homocysteine in the blood, with studies showing it reduces risk of heart disease, stroke and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. A large review of scientific studies concluded 200mg of garlic powder three times daily reduced blood pressure. Another large scientific review concluded that garlic powder reduced total cholesterol levels.
Fenugreek (Methi, 25 gm/day)
Fenugreek fights inflammation to prevent the narrowing of arteries and lowers total cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels to cut back risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Fenugreek, both seeds and leaves, have low glycaemic index that leads to it being digested and absorbed slowly in the stomach and intestines. Studies show that having fenugreek 15 minutes before a meal helps in long-term control of blood glucose levels and prevents hyperglycaemia-related complications in people with diabetes.
Both seeds and leaves work as a mild antacid and help to treat digestive problems such as heartburn, loss of appetite, constipation, and gastritis. It also relieves symptoms of painful menstruation, and polycystic ovary syndrome, which affects one in five women in the reproductive age. Fenugreek seeds are popular as a poultice and help relieve pain when wrapped in cloth, warmed, and applied directly to the skin to treat local pain and swelling, muscular pain, gout and eczema.
Indian gooseberry (Amla, one a day)
The Indian gooseberry is one of the world’s most potent source of vitamin C – one fruit has 3,000 mg of Vitamin C – which is 20 times the vitamin C found in an orange. It boosts immunity, fights infection and lowers heart disease and stroke risk by producing “significant reduction” in total cholesterol, triglycerides and VLDL, while pushing up heart protective good cholesterol HDL levels. .One study found that it was as effective in improving lipid profile as the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin. It also lowered blood pressure, all of which led to atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) and heart disease. The study recommends it be used to reduce the dose and lower side effects of the lipid-lowering drugs.
Turmeric (Haldi, two teaspoons/day)
Curcumin in turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties make it effective against cancers, infections and inflammatory disorders such as asthma, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Studies show it relieves most digestive diseases , including painful bowel conditions such as ulcerative proctitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel disease, tropical pancreatitis and gastric ulcers, among others.
It prevents and reverses liver damage associated with alcohol abuse, thioacetamide (organosulphur) poisoning, iron overdose and cholestasis (condition where bile cannot flow from the liver to the duodenum). It also helps in the regeneration of healthy liver cells.
Superfoods cannot undo the damage caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, but they can help live you healthier. For a start, include two superfoods in your daily diet and the results will show in a few weeks. For even better results, avoid processed food and adopt a diet that includes more fruit and vegetables, olive oil and legumes, and less meat and dairy foods.