Answers FAQ

Superfoods FAQs

Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

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Q:Which is one of the few drinks to be considered a superfood?

A:Water. Water is a keeping-weight-off superfood because it's a great alternative to other, calorie-containing beverages. When you drink beverages that have high calories (say, fancy coffee drinks or sodas), you are not likely to compensate by eating less food. Research suggests that people who drink liquid carbohydrates (such as soda) are more likely to consume more calories than their bodies need, compared with people who ate the same amount of solid carbohydrate.

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Q:What is a superfood that helps to cut calories for dieters? Peanuts or Beans?

A:Beans. Beans are the protein-rich superfood!

High in fiber and antioxidants, beans aren't just good for the waistline, they may aid in disease prevention, too.

"Beans are comparable to meat when it comes to calories," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "But they really shine in terms of fiber and water content, two ingredients that make you feel fuller, faster. Adding beans to your diet helps cut calories without feeling deprived."

The USDA recommends 2-3 daily servings of foods from the meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts group.

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Q:Water, whole grain cereal, and what are weight-loss, weight-maintenance superfoods?

A:Yogurt. One recent study looked at a group of obese adults who ate three, 6-ounce servings of fat-free yogurt a day as part of a diet reduced by 500 calories from their normal intake. The study found that this group lost 22% more weight and 61% more body fat than another group of participants who ate the reduced-calorie diet without emphasizing calcium-rich foods. Even more impressive: the yogurt eaters also lost 81% more stomach fat.

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Q:What fruit is a heart-healthy superfood?

A:Blueberries. Delicious and rich in antioxidants, blueberries rank number one in antioxidant activity when compared with 40 other fresh fruits and vegetables.

Anthocyanin, the antioxidant that is thought to be responsible for this major health benefit, can also be found in blackberries, black raspberries, black currants, and red grapes.

As blueberries and oranges are part of the fruit group, the USDA recommends 2-4 servings of fruit per day.

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Q:True or False: A recently recognized superfood, the acai berry is related to the cranberry. True or False?

A:True. The acai berry is a relative of the blueberry, cranberry, and other dark purple fruits. A reddish-purplish fruit, acai (pronounced ah-sah-EE) berries are highly touted by marketers who say it's one of the elite superfoods with anti-aging and weight-loss properties. The berries come from the acai palm tree (Euterpe oleracea), which is native to Central America and South America. Research on the acai berry has focused on its possible antioxidant activity. Theoretically, that activity may help prevent diseases caused by oxidative stress such as heart disease and cancer.

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Q:Which food is the superfood famous for its cancer-fighting benefits: Broccoli or Asparagus?

A:Broccoli. At the top of the list of cancer-fighting foods that are also rich in nutrients, broccoli tops the charts!

Broccoli contains two strong antioxidants, selenium and sulforaphane, and there is also evidence that these antioxidants may help fight various types of cancer.

Still, on the food pyramid, broccoli and asparagus represent the vegetable group, of which the USDA recommends 3-5 daily servings.

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Q:Lycopene is a powerhouse nutrient found in what foods?

A:Lycopene is found in tomatoes, watermelon and red grapefruit. Lycopene is a beneficial nutrient and the red pigment gives tomatoes, watermelon, red grapefruit, and navel oranges their color. Headlines in recent news have touted lycopene's protective effects against prostate cancer, though more quiet research has shown it has tremendous health benefits for women as well, including proof that lycopene may protect against breast cancer.

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Q:Cranberries outrank nearly every fruit and vegetable in vitamin C and fiber. True or False?

A:Cranberries. Only blueberries can top what cranberries can do. Best known for their holiday appeal, cranberries are a superfood that should be enjoyed all year round.

High in vitamin C and fiber, cranberries have disease-fighting antioxidants, outranking nearly every fruit and vegetable--including strawberries, spinach, broccoli, red grapes, apples, raspberries, and cherries.

Cranberries and grapes are part of the fruit group, and the USDA recommends 2-4 servings of fruit per day.

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Q:Salmon is famous for helping to lower the risk of heart disease. True or False?

A:Salmon. A top food for heart health, salmon is rich in the omega-3s EPA and DHA. Omega-3s lower risk of heart rhythm disorders, which can lead to sudden cardiac death. Salmon also lowers blood triglycerides and reduces inflammation.

The American Heart Association recommends two servings of salmon or other oily fish a week.

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Q:What leafy green is a cancer-fighting superfood?

A:Spinach. Spinach is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that remove unstable molecules called free radicals from your body before they damage it.

Carotenoids are found in spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, and some studies show they could protect against cancer of the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. An study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of more than 490,000 people found that those who ate more spinach were less likely to develop esophageal cancer. Some studies suggest the carotenoids in spinach and other foods reduce the risk of ovarian, endometrial, lung, and colorectal cancer, too.

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Q:What is a superfood for pregnant women?

A:Sweet Potatoes. During pregnancy, healthy foods provide the optimum mix of baby-building nutrients. Starting in the second trimester, pregnant women need 300 additional calories every day.

Before you add butter or sugar, taste the sweetness that develops when a sweet potato is cooked -- and think of all the calories you can save over that loaded baked potato.

Sweet potatoes are a pregnancy superfood because they pack vitamin C, folate, fiber, and carotenoids -- compounds the body converts to vitamin A. They also supply potassium in large amounts.

Other little-known pregnancy superfoods include beef, pasteurized cheese, eggs and milk.

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Q:Sure, you’ve heard of antioxidants, but what are they really?

A:Antioxidants are substances that reduce damage caused by oxygen. They are obtained from diets rich in fruits and vegetables and they are a great way to boost the immune system. Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are often byproducts of oxygen use by the body. Many experts believe the damage from free radicals plays a part in a number of chronic diseases, including hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), cancer, and arthritis. Free radicals can also interfere with your immune system, so fighting off damage with antioxidants helps keep your immune system strong, making you better able to ward off colds, flu, and other infections.

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Q:What beverage can be considered a superfood (superdrink)?

A:Green tea and black tea are superdrinks. Black and green teas both have different types of antioxidants than fruits and vegetables. More than a decade's worth of research about green tea's health benefits -- particularly its potential to fight cancer and heart disease -- has been more than intriguing, as have limited studies about green tea's role in lowering cholesterol, burning fat, preventing diabetes and stroke, and staving off dementia. The detoxifying effect of the antioxidants found in green and black teas protects cells from free radicals, which can cause damage leading to blood clot formation, atherosclerosis, and cancer.

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Q:Superfoods for the bones include vitamins such as what?

A:Foods rich in vitamin D and calcium are superfoods for bones. Vitamin D is important for bones because it assists the body in calcium absorption. Most people know that calcium is needed for strong bones, but it's also needed to help blood vessels and muscles contract and expand; to send messages through the nervous system, and to secrete hormones and enzymes. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body and makes up 1%-2% of adult human body weight. Over 99% of it is stored in bones and teeth, with the rest stored in blood, muscle, and other tissues.

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Q:Is there a superfood that can lower blood pressure?

A:Dark Chocolate. New research has shown that dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants and can lower blood pressure. Experts recommend that you look for chocolate with 60% or higher cocoa content; the darker, the better. In addition, the darker it is, the lower the fat and sugar content. Dark chocolate (as opposed to milk or white chocolate) contains healthful flavonoids similar to those found in tea, red wine, fruits, and vegetables. Studies have shown that small portions of dark chocolate can improve blood vessel flow and may improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity to help reduce the risk of diabetes. But beware, chocolate candy has plenty of saturated fat and sugar, which can lead to weight gain, so enjoy small portions of it as part of a healthy diet.

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