You’ve probably heard the buzz. Superfoods are thought to keep you young, fit and healthy. It’s been said they can beat stress, insomnia, headaches, hypertension, heart disease, even cancer. But is it all just marketing spin? Whether it is or not, that buzz is building demand for a number of foods that can drive dollars to growers.
The market in superfoods is predicted to nearly double from its 2001 levels by the year 2011, according to a report written by market analysis firm Datamonitor. And as Julian Mellentin writes in Superfruit: Eight Key Studies in Marketing Healthy Fruit, "If you are in the business of whole fruit, fruit beverages or fruit ingredients, you can look forward with more optimism than most sections of the food industry to a bright future, propelled by the wellness trend…made brighter all the time as a steady stream of news about fruit's benefits, such as fiber and antioxidants, makes its way into media eager for simple, positive stories about healthy eating."
What are so-called superfoods?
While there’s no real agreed upon definition, the term has come to mean extra healthy, especially nutritious or otherwise beneficial to health and well-being. More specifically, the term describes food with a high phytonutrient (also known as phytochemical) content, which is thought to provide health advantages.
As explained at the US Department of Agriculture website, phytonutrients are organic components of plants thought to promote human health. Fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and teas are rich sources of phytonutrients. Some of the common classes of phytonutrients include carotenoids and flavonoids (polyphenols). The term flavonoids represents all of the following subclasses: anthocyanins, flavanols, flavanones, flavonols, flavones, and isoflavones. Thousands of flavonoids have been reported to have antiviral, antioxidant and other positive health effects.
There is evidence from laboratory studies that phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer, possibly due to dietary fibers, polyphenol antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects. An antioxidant is a molecule capable of inhibiting the destructive effects of the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals, which start chain reactions that damage cells and can contribute to aging and disease.
The list of superfoods is long and varied, staring with “A” for apples. It includes the exotic—acai and goji berries—and the more known, such as blueberries, cranberries, and spinach.
Superfoods available from the Burchell Nursery include almonds, apples, apricots, cherries, olives, oranges, walnuts and the category’s new star, pomegranates
Almonds and Walnuts
Almonds are packed with vitamin E. As detailed in Cooking Light magazine, almonds contain nearly half of the recommended daily intake of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps boost your immune system. A study reported in Family Circle magazine explained vitamin E was found to help keep people agile. Researchers from leading medical schools looked at the impact of different vitamins and minerals on speed, coordination and balance in people over age 65 and found the only one that made a difference was vitamin E. It is believed this vitamin contributes to coordination by neutralizing free radicals in both muscles and nervous system.
As explained in the ever-popular Parade magazine in its 2008 article, 6 Superfoods to Know, almonds are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and antioxidants, and walnuts are one of the best vegetarian sources of the omega-3 fatty acids that fight obesity, diabetes and heart disease.