The Impact of Superfoods on Metabolic Health

The Impact of Superfoods on Metabolic Health

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be the food”, a famous quote in regards that food can improve the overall status of the body. Over the last decade, studies on food and human health have assessed the effect of food and its implications on human health. Also, food not only satisfies basic needs but also provides nutrition and has the potential for enhancing health and well-being.

A simple distinction between superfoods and regular foods is their response to blood glucose levels. Given that, one may assume that the correct quantity of superfoods will not create untoward spikes in blood glucose levels. However, there’s a catch. Suppose, after having a complete meal for lunch, you decide to have a bowl of pomegranates. Now, even though pomegranate is a superfood, the wrong timing of its consumption can lead to its conversion and storage into fats. 

The HealthifyPro 2.0 can help you make the right choices even when it comes to superfoods. BIOS, a wearable device that helps track real-time glucose levels concerning food intake, is a revolutionary tech-enabled health intervention. It records your body’s response to food. Therefore, it helps you look at superfoods in a different light. 

There is no doubt that superfoods are incredibly beneficial for health. But what is equally important is the impact of a particular food on your health. The quantity of consumption, the timing and the food’s unique effect on an individual’s glucose levels play vital roles. By live-tracking the impact of the food on your glucose levels, a CGM can help you decide how much superfood is good for you. 

Understanding Superfoods

Superfoods are foods with positive effects on health as they exhibit health-promoting properties. The general idea of calling a food superfood might be because its intake provides exceptional nutritional health benefits.

You can categorise superfoods as food and medicinal plants based on their abundance of synergistic elements. These are traditional foodstuffs with excellent functional properties; you can use them for culinary and therapeutic purposes. These foods offer a high amount of healthy nutrients. Also, they can potentially improve specific markers such as blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference, fasting blood glucose levels, and lipid levels.

These foods have a high content of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, bioactive compounds (flavonoids, polyphenols, and phytochemicals), and other nutrients. Although there is no specific definition of superfoods, nutritionally dense foods get added to the superfood category. Superfoods contain bioactive compounds like PUFA, MUFA, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, antioxidants, essential amino acids, polysaccharides, and various enzymes.

When it comes to food intake, food quality influences food choices. Therefore, nutrition is an essential characteristic indicating food quality. Superfoods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, dairy products, fermented foods, fish, and seafood. Also, these foods possess health-promoting properties like antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, anti-obesity, antihypertensive, and anticancer properties. 

They are rich in nutrients with minimal calories and boost the body’s metabolism. They can reduce the risk of several metabolic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular ailments, non-alcoholic fatty liver illness, kidney conditions, and obesity. Superfoods have an adaptogenic effect that helps stabilise physiological processes and promotes healthy metabolism. 

In a controlled human intervention trial, the effects of superfood consumption on metabolic parameters (blood pressure, concentration of HDL cholesterol, lipid profile, fasting glucose levels, and waist circumference) got assessed. Results show that these foods help prevent metabolic syndrome and offset the development of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes mellitus. In addition, superfood helps to reduce body weight and abdominal adiposity, regulate cholesterol levels and improve insulin sensitivity. 

The HealthifyMe Note

It is essential to note that no food can provide all the vital nutrients such as vitamins or minerals. One can get all the nutrients by eating a variety of nutritionally dense foods. Also, a balanced diet is nutritious, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, pulses, legumes, and lean protein. One must limit the intake of highly processed foods, refined cereals, sugar, and salt. A healthy diet in association with regular exercise provides multiple health benefits. 

List of Superfoods

Fruits

Berries (blueberries, cranberries, strawberry, goji berry, blackberries, and acai berries), apples, kiwi, avocado, melons (watermelon, muskmelon), pomegranates, peaches, papaya, orange, grapes, pineapples, Indian gooseberry, and bananas.

Vegetables

Green leafy vegetables (Spinach, broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, collard greens, lettuce, bok choy, swiss chard, wheat grass, and seaweed), bottle gourd, bitter gourd, pumpkin, beetroot, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, carrot, bell peppers, squash, and jackfruit.

Beans and Lentils

Kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, soybeans, black-eyed peas, and green gram. 

Nuts and Seeds

Almond, chia seeds, walnuts, brazil nuts, coconut, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pistachios, cocoa, dates, garden cress seeds, and raisins.

Dairy Products

Cow milk, donkey milk, camel milk, goat milk, plant-based milk and milk products.

Spices and Herbs

Turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, and ginseng. 

Cereals and Other Foods

  • Quinoa, oats, yoghurt, and fermented food such as kefir, and tofu.
  • Green tea, spirulina, honey, maca, matcha.

Meat

Seafood, seaweed, shellfish like oysters, and fish such as salmon, and sardines that have the least amount of mercury. 

Camellia Sinensis Tea

Tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. 

You can categorise tea into three types based on processing; green tea, black tea, and oolong tea. Irrespective of its types, tea contains polyphenols, catechins, thioflavins, and theanine. In addition, it exhibits antioxidant, anticancer, neuroprotective, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antihistaminic, and cardioprotective properties. Also, it prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, improves lipid profiles, eases inflammation, promotes homeostasis, and inhibits the progression of atherosclerosis. 

Studies suggest that intake of green tea significantly decreases BMI and waist circumference and induces weight loss in the elderly with metabolic syndrome. It reduces lipid and carbohydrate absorption, enhances lipid metabolism, inhibits lipogenesis, and increases the utilisation of carbohydrates. 

Berries

Blueberries

Blueberries, scientifically known as Vaccinium Myrtillus, are a fruit. It has dark blue-purple colour because of the high concentration of anthocyanins. It is rich in phytochemicals and exhibits strong antioxidant action. In addition, it contains a high amount of polyphenols, phenolic compounds, tannins, flavones, and dietary fibres. As a result, this fruit reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Studies suggest that intake of 150-200 g of blueberries daily reduces blood pressure. It can improve blood vessel function by reducing arterial stiffness and systolic blood pressure. Blueberries have a low glycemic index. So, eating blueberries regulates blood sugar levels and reduces insulin resistance in people with diabetes. It has a positive impact on people suffering from obesity and metabolic syndrome. However, the adequate consumption for every individual may differ. Hence, it is best to consult an expert nutritionist to understand your consumption limits.

Cranberries

This red colour berry is scientifically known as Vaccinium oxycoccus. Cranberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, K, E, manganese, and fibre and have a very low calorific value. In addition, it contains phenolic compounds (high concentration of proanthocyanidins) and flavonoids (flavonols, quercetin, myricetin, chlorogenic acid, and ellagic acid). Furthermore, they have excellent antioxidant properties and protect against free radicals. 

Studies show that intake of cranberries prevents the progression of atherosclerosis and lowers LDL cholesterol levels. Cranberries reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by decreasing LDL and increasing HDL cholesterol levels. In addition, it improves lipid profiles and reduces blood pressure.    

Acai, strawberries, and goji berries contain polyphenolic compounds and polysaccharides and exhibit antioxidant properties. It helps prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes by reducing inflammation and plaque progression in blood vessels.

Spirulina

Edible seaweed is scientifically known as Arthrospira Plantensis. It is both salt and freshwater blue-green algae. Its blue-green colour is due to the presence of natural pigments. Spirulina contains 55-70% protein, 15-20% carbohydrates, 6-8% fats, and 3-4% fibers. It is a good source of vitamin B12 and contains phytochemicals with excellent antioxidant properties. It possesses antiviral, anticancer, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, and immunity-boosting properties.

A study suggests that spirulina possesses lipid-lowering effects, i.e., hypocholesterolemic and hypolipidemic effects. Administration of 5% spirulina reduces triglyceride levels, serum LDL and VLDL levels, and improves serum HDL levels. It regulates energy metabolism, improves lipid profiles, and prevents the risk of lipid metabolism disorders. In addition, it promotes satiety thereby preventing the consumption of extra calories. 

Gamma-linolenic acid deficiency can cause arterial thickness, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. Intake of spirulina helps improve dyslipidemia, hypertension, and atherosclerosis incidences.

A study shows that oral dosage of 1-19 g/day for six months of spirulina positively impacts markers of metabolic syndrome. 

Pomegranate

It is a popular edible fruit scientifically known as Punica Granatum L. It contains a high concentration of bioactive compounds—for example, phenolic compounds, polyphenols, ellagitannins, and vitamins. Also, pomegranate contains high content of polyphenols that improves endothelial function and prevents hypertension. 

Studies have shown that intake of pomegranate can improve arterial blood pressure, reduce triglyceride levels, and increase HDL cholesterol levels. In addition, drinking cold-pressed pomegranate juice can improve cardiovascular markers. 

Pomegranates have hypoglycemic effects. They regulate blood glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, reduce cholesterol levels, and improve blood lipid profiles. Furthermore, pomegranates also regulate lipid metabolism in metabolic disorders and prevent the progression of atherosclerosis, liver diseases, and type-2 diabetes. It is a conventional remedy for metabolic syndrome and diabetes. 

Green-Leafy and Allium Vegetables

Green leafy vegetables have a high concentration of phytochemicals such as carotenoids, lutein, polyphenols, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and lignans. In addition, Allium vegetables are good sources of an organosulfur compound, allyl cysteine, alliin, allicin, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds. 

Studies show that a high intake of vegetables, especially green leafy and allium vegetables reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome among children and adolescents. In addition, these vegetables show positive effects on components of cardiovascular conditions, hypertension, and kidney diseases. 

Examples of green leafy vegetables are spinach, broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, collard greens, and lettuce. Allium vegetables include onion, garlic, leeks, chives, and scallions.

Kefir

It is fermented beverage milk. It’s refreshing, delicious, easy to digest, and is a result of lactic and alcoholic fermentation. It has a high concentration of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals (calcium, potassium, vitamin B-complex). As a result, the protein content of kefir has high bioavailability. Also, it has low lipid content and caloric value, preventing excess consumption. 

It regulates weight by increasing satiety value and prevents metabolic conditions such as obesity and hypertension. In addition, it reduces high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure and the progression of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis. 

In a randomised controlled study, regular kefir intake for 12 weeks significantly improved anthropometric measurements. (BMI, waist-to-hip ratio, weight), lipid profile (triglycerides, cholesterol, HDL, and LDL levels), glycemic status, blood pressure, insulin resistance, and inflammatory markers in subjects with metabolic syndrome. 

Chickpeas

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are an excellent source of plant protein. As a result, they offer various health benefits, such as weight management and reduced disease risk. 

A study assesses the effects of afternoon snacks on diet quality, appetite, and glycemic control in adults. It shows that acute intake of low-sugar, highly nutritious hummus improves diet quality and delivers a 70% reduction in hunger and a 30% increase in satiety value. 

Chickpeas have a low glycemic index, high protein, and soluble fibre and help regulate blood sugar levels. Furthermore, it improves the homeostasis of gut microbiota and lipid metabolism and reduces the risk of hyperlipidemia. Chickpeas offset the development of chronic metabolic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. It promotes weight management by delaying gastric emptying time and slowing carbohydrate absorption, enhancing satiety value. 

Bitter Melon

It is a shrub scientifically known as Momordica charantia and belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. It exhibits antimalarial, antihelminthic, and laxative properties. In addition, it is famous for the treatment of various pathological conditions. Also, it contains phytonutrients such as glycosides, saponins, alkaloids, and triterpenes. 

Studies show that bitter melon increases the oxidation of fatty acids facilitating weight reduction by preventing weight gain and visceral fat mass. Also, it reduces plasma glucose levels, triglyceride levels, and total cholesterol levels. It effectively manages diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, obesity, and cardiovascular complications.  

Water 

The Body’s Detoxifier: Water is ultimately one of the best superfoods available. It is crucial for flushing out any toxins that are present in the blood in the form of urine, perspiration, and other bodily fluids. Water can also provide you with a lot of energy all day long by keeping the blood clean.

The HealthifyMe Note

The consumption of superfoods is beneficial to most people. However, the appropriate time of consumption and its effect on an individual’s health may differ for people.  It’s crucial to use caution and refrain from consuming these foods in excess because their innate toxins may have negative effects, especially in children and patients who are already vulnerable. Natural foods are still good to consume in moderation but adding something new to your diet is only recommended under special guidance with expert opinion according to your body’s needs. Hence, you must consult an expert nutritionist to understand the time and quantity of consumption.

Conclusion

Superfoods are nutritionally dense foods with a wide array of vitamins, minerals, fibre, phytochemicals, and other nutrients. These foods can be plant and animal-based, like berries, nuts, almonds, fermented foods, milk, salmon, seafood etc. The high nutrient content in these foods provides various health benefits like improving overall health and offsetting the development of metabolic disorders like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and digestive conditions.                                                                                                                                                                         

It positively affects the markers of metabolic health, including BMI, waist circumference, fasting glucose levels, lipid profiles, and blood pressure. In addition, these foods detoxify the body, lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and regulate metabolism. 

However, it’s noteworthy that consuming one kind of food in huge quantities can harm the body. It may prevent the optimal absorption of other nutrients and increase the risk of related diseases. Therefore, superfoods should be used as supplements in a well-balanced diet instead of replacing foods altogether. 

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