health

The very best superfoods of 2018, according to a nutritionist. 

What better time of year to reflect on 2018’s top superfoods than right before Christmas – when the typical festive plate consists of multiple slices of ham, a towering pile of potato bake and third helpings of Christmas pudding slathered in custard.

(Not to mention the several glasses of champagne on top of all that).

Yes – it’s no secret festive season isn’t a healthy-eater’s best friend, but forget presents, eating is by far the best part of Christmas.

Plus, as we all know, it’s all about balance, and look, nothing’s getting in the way of my second enormous plate of food on December 25.

Lucky for us, according to Gavin Aquilina, Head of PT operations and nutritionist at Vision Personal Training, there are certain foods we can incorporate into our diets around our summer feasting that will result in a range of health benefits (and perhaps even keep us from getting sick).

Some of which can even be easily incorporated into our Christmas lunch menus themselves.

But they’re not just regular foods, they’re superfoods.

So, what exactly is a superfood?

It’s certainly a term we hear thrown around a lot in the health world, but Gavin says there’s a good reason superfoods have exploded in popularity.

“Some of the major health issues we face today, including heart disease, cancer and arthritis are in part caused by oxidation and inflammation. The great news is, there are foods we can easily access that are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties,” he says.

“Superfoods are foods that have the nutritional properties needed to decrease the dangerous oxidation process which causes unstable cells linked to insulin resistance, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and arthritis. Superfoods are foods that decrease low-grade inflammation which is one, if not the major driver, of all modern disease.”

A nutritionist explains what happens when you skip breakfast. Post continues after video.

But how do we know which foods are super?

There have been several studies spanning several years within the nutrition industry to identify the impact of certain foods, but Gavin says there’s one simple way to define a food as “super”.

“An indicator on what makes food super is whether or not it has a positive impact on gut health,” he explains.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Improving your gut health decreases the low-grade systemic inflammation in the body, meaning your risk of developing a modern metabolic lifestyle disease is radically reduced.”

“A superfood can be classified as such if it addresses three key areas of oxidation, inflammation or gut health.”

So without further ado, here are the best foods to consider if you want to up your nutrients and momentarily step away from typical Christmas fare this summer break.

Top seven superfoods of 2018.

Kefir

Kefir is a cultured, fermented beverage that tastes a bit like yogurt. It’s made using “starter” grains; a combination of yeasts, milk proteins, and bacteria.

Gavin says: “Kefir is a probiotic and great for gut microbiota. With kefir grains containing approximately 30 strains of beneficial bacteria, it will support good gut health and can ease bloating and IBS symptoms. Add it to your morning breakfast cereal, or pour a serve into your smoothie.”

Spirulina 

Spirulina grows in both fresh and salt water. It is a type of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, which many people say tastes like seaweed, but a little more “sulphury”.

“It contains amino acids and is rich in antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties and other nutrients that aren’t found in the average daily vitamin,” Gavin explains.

“With high levels of calcium, niacin, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins and iron, spirulina may decrease inflammation in the bloodstream, and can lower low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and triglyceride levels. Add a teaspoon of spirulina to your smoothie or yoghurt.”

Garlic

We all know what garlic is, and for many, there’ll certainly be some sneaking its way into your Christmas mealtimes – though it’ll mostly be cooked.

According to Gavin, to bring out garlic’s superfood qualities, it’s best to consume it raw.

“Garlic contains anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Several studies indicate consuming raw garlic can prevent stomach and colorectal cancers,” he says.

“It’s an anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, a blood purifier and can protect you from cold and flu. While the most common way to consume garlic is by sautéing it with onion and oil, consuming it raw or semi-cooked is recommended as the heating process weakens some of its medicinal properties. Crushing a garlic clove into a small cup of water and drinking is a quick way to consume.”

Well, that’s one way to kick-start your Christmas morning instead of a mimosa.

supermarket grocery shopping - top superfoods of 2018
Most of the year's top superfoods can be found at any supermarket. Image: supplied.
ADVERTISEMENT

Mushrooms 

Gavin says: "Chaga mushrooms in particular are rich in amino acids, antioxidants, iron and additional nutrients which can reduce inflammation. The combination of nutrients is said to fight the ageing process and support the immune system. When sautéed in oil, mushrooms make the perfect side dish or toppings to a variety of meals."

Now that we can get around.

Turmeric 

Arguably the buzziest superfood of the year (you'd be hard-pressed to find a hip cafe not serving something on their breakfast menu with turmeric in it), Gavin says the spice is an incredibly strong antioxidant and can be consumed in a variety of ways.

"It contains bioactive compounds called curcuminoids. Curcumin is the main active ingredient and most important of the curcuminoids," he explains.

"Turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and is a very strong antioxidant. Add it to your curry, scrambled eggs or make a turmeric latte."

Sweet potato 

A crowdpleaser and go-to side dish, Gavin says sweet potato and its many health benefits have made it a staple on the superfood list this year - and most likely will be for many years. 

Why? "It contains beta-carotene which makes it an excellent source of vitamin A," Gavin explains.

"It’s also packed with vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B6, potassium and has a low glycaemic index, making it a great source of carbohydrate. Bake it in the oven with the skin on for optimal taste and health benefits. And don’t forget to eat the skin for an extra hit of fibre and potassium!"

Noted.

Salmon 

Last but certainly not least, Gavin says our favourite pink fish has been a health food hit in 2018, and like sweet potato, will continue to make the list of top superfoods for years to come.

"Salmon is rich in omega-3, high in vitamin B, potassium and is a great source of protein," he says.

"All these nutrients make salmon a superfood that fights heart disease and inflammation. Have it raw, cook in the oven, or lightly fry with a bit of oil on the stove top."

So there you have it - the top seven superfoods of the year to keep you fighting fit through festive season.

Merry eatmas!

00:00 / ???