5 ‘Cape-Worthy’ Superfoods to Add to Your Plate

August 27, 2019Lauren Falcone, RDN

Many of us know the truth about trendy, so-called “superfoods.” The term, with no medical backing, derives from marketing ploys, dating back to the early 20th century.

Don’t let this discourage you! This doesn’t mean these foods are unhealthy. It’s important to remember that no single food holds the key to perfect health and immortality. Superfoods, which are nutrient- and antioxidant-rich foods, are incredibly beneficial and should be incorporated into our daily diet.

Antioxidants have many protective properties, especially for those battling cancer, or with a strong family history of cancer, explains Lauren Falcone, RDN.

“Our bodies have something called free radicals, which can lead to oxidative stress on our cells, increasing the risk of different chronic diseases and cancers,” said Falcone. “By eating superfoods, you’re able to combat these free radicals.”

Because there is a vast range of superfoods, it can be safe and fairly easy to follow a superfood-focused diet, however, limiting yourself to one kind of food is never recommended, says Falcone.

“It’s essential to diversify and maximize your nutrient intake and eat foods from all food groups,” said Falcone. “Also, eating the same foods over and over again can actually increase your risk for foodborne illnesses, due to outbreaks of contaminants.”

You shouldn’t take antioxidant supplements, or other supplements, unless your doctor advises you to do so. If you’re not diagnosed as deficient, high levels of nutrients can become toxic and have a negative effect on the body. Dangerously high levels of antioxidants may increase the risk of certain cancers, including bladder and lung cancer, explains Falcone.

Get nutrients from your food first! Luckily, it’s nearly impossible to consume too many antioxidants just from what is on your plate. According to Falcone, some of the most beneficial superfoods include:

  • Berries: a great source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, berries are nutritional powerhouses. They may help reduce the risk for heart disease, cancer, and inflammatory diseases. They may also help treat various digestive and immune-related disorders, in addition to traditional therapies. Having yogurt for breakfast? Try adding blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, elder berries, and/or goji berries!
  • Dark, Leafy Greens: a great source of folate, zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C, and fiber. They may help reduce the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Kale, spinach, arugula, romaine, and Swiss chard can be bitter in taste, but go great in casseroles, soups, stir-fries, and even meatloaf!
  • Tomatoes: a great source of lycopene – but only when cooked! Lycopene has been shown to improve heart health and reduce the risk of certain cancers, including prostate, breast, lung, bladder, ovarian, colon, and pancreatic. It may also delay the development of cataracts, prevent seizures, and prevent memory loss associated with aging. Tomato sauce and soup are easy staples, and you can also try making fresh salsa, chili, roasted tomatoes, or even stuffed tomatoes (like stuffed peppers).
  • Dark Chocolate: a great source of magnesium, zinc, and iron, and contains antioxidant compounds that help reduce inflammation and the risk for heart disease. It may also improve brain function and protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Are you a self-diagnosed chocoholic and trying to cut back? Dark chocolate, with 70-85 percent pure cocoa, can be perfectly healthy when eaten in moderation.
  • Ginger: often used as a culinary flavor enhancer, it’s also known to have medicinal benefits. The antioxidant, gingerol, prevents nausea and reduces pain from acute or chronic inflammatory conditions. You can buy ginger fresh, as an oil, a juice, or in a powdered form, and incorporate it into soups, stir-fries, sauces, or tea. Just be careful when buying ginger ale, as some brands don’t contain any real ginger!