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Superfoods and their effects on health and immunity

Superfoods mean processed and unprocessed foods that, based on scientific studies, may be beneficial to human health. It is true that no food, plant or tablet can ensure the overall health of a person. However, it can help strengthen their immunity and relieve the body of various specific diseases and difficulties. [1]

Doctors and nutritionists agree that regular consumption of fruit and vegetables is key to maintaining a healthy body. However, some foods provide greater health benefits than others. We refer to them as superfoods. They contain an exceptional amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and substances that actively strengthen the immunity and ensure the proper body defenses. [1] [2]

Superfoods and their effects on health and immunity

Superfoods help boost immunity and prevent disease

The immune system is a kind of military base for our body. It protects us from various pitfalls such as diseases, infections, bacteria or viruses, and also helps in recovery from injuries. Thus, the promotion of immunity is a key factor in ensuring the health of our body. This is helped to achieve by a wide group of vitamins and minerals, which are found in an exceptional amounts in superfoods. [1] [2]

They are also rich in antioxidants and fiber, therefore their inclusion in the diet can also support the health of the heart, intestines, increase energy levels or promote weight loss. Studies have shown that superfoods high in antioxidants help prevent coronary heart disease as well as improve immunity and reduce internal inflammation. [2] [3]

Superfoods help boost immunity and prevent disease

The best kinds of superfoods

Many fruits, vegetables and cereals are classified as superfoods. In the following lines, however, you can read about the most common foods that have a positive effect, especially for your overall health, and are easily available on our market.

Berries

Berries are literally loaded with antioxidants that support immunity and prevent cell damage. It has also been shown that higher levels of natural substances in fruits, flavonoids, reduce the risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases. [2] In addition, there are innumerable ways to use berries in your kitchen. Try adding them to your favorite smoothie drinks or as part of healthy recipes.

Super types of berries:

  • Acaiberries come from the Acai palm, which grows predominantly in South America. They are blue-purple and are similar in size and shape to blueberries. They contain up to 19 amino acids, which are important for the proper functioning of metabolism and much more antioxidants than other berries.
  • Cranberriescontain vitamins C, E, K1 or minerals manganese and copper, whose insufficient intake damages the antioxidant system in the body. Several studies suggest that eating cranberry supplements may reduce the risk of developing urinary tract problems.
  • Blueberrieshave a high content of fiber, manganese and Vitamin K. The main antioxidant compounds in blueberries belong to the group of polyphenol antioxidants called flavonoids. Blueberries have been shown to directly increase the level of antioxidants in the body.
  • Gojiused mainly in Eastern medicine to treat many heart or diabetes problems, and also to ensure eye, liver and kidney health. Goji are small red berries that are rich in vitamin C, E and contain many different types of antioxidants.
  • Strawberriesare an excellent source of vitamin C, an antioxidant essential for immune health and collagen production. They also contain one of the vitamins B – folic acid, which is important for normal tissue growth and cell function. It is also essential for pregnant women as it strengthens their immunity and promotes fetal health.
  • Raspberriesare exceptionally rich in fiber and contain up to 85% water, so they are recommended to be consumed on weight loss diets. They are also a storehouse of vitamins C, B, manganese, magnesium, iron and copper. Raspberries should also be consumed if you have high cholesterol in your blood. [2] [4] [5] [6] [7]

The best kinds of superfoods - berries

Green tea

Teas generally have several health effects. With the right combination of herbs you can beat colds, flatulence or intestinal problems. However, one of the teas has many more advantages. [8]

Originally from China, Green tea is a mild caffeine extract with many medicinal properties. It is rich in antioxidants and polyphenolic compounds that have strong anti-inflammatory effects. Green tea also contains a high amount of catechin, called EGCG. Catechins are natural antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and provide additional benefits.[8] [9] [10]

Thanks to the ability of green tea to increase fat burning and accelerate metabolism, it can also be found among the ingredients of various dietary supplements to promote weight loss. This benefit is due to catechins and caffeine found in green tea. Their combination leads to an increase in energy, thanks to which the body is able to perform better performance and thus burn much more fat. One renowned study showed that the use of green tea in healthy physically active men increased their energy expenditure by up to 4%. Caffeine has also been shown to improve physical performance by mobilizing fatty acids from adipose tissues by utilizing them as a source of energy. [8] [9] [10] You can also read about the effects of green tea in our article 8 positive effects of green tea on the health of athletes.

Ginger

Ginger comes from the root of the plant, which is found mainly in China, where it is due to its medicinal effects and strong aroma used in the medical but also the food industry. Ginger is used to produce medicines, teas, juices and sweet snacks. Ginger contains antioxidants such as gingerol, which has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. This makes it effective in reducing the pain of acute and chronic inflammatory conditions, thus strengthening the immune system. Several studies have also reported the effects of ginger as a prevention against heart disease, dementia and certain types of cancer. [11] [12]

Ginger is also known for its beneficial effects on nausea and digestive tract diseases. In the past, for example, it was used as a cure for seasickness. It can also relieve nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy or morning pregnancy sickness. Gynecologists often advise pregnant women suffering from vomiting to drink ginger tea or try effective ginger lollipops. Several renowned studies have confirmed that daily ginger use significantly reduced the symptoms of morning sickness in pregnancy. [11] [12] [13]

The best kinds of superfoodsThe best kinds of superfoods - Ginger

Turmeric

Turmeric, also called Indian saffron, comes from the root of Curcuma longa. It is most often used as a cooking ingredient, but due to its beneficial effects on health it has also found its use in medicine. It is specific for its yellow color, which makes it also used as a natural dye for food and cosmetics. It contains the active substance curcumin, which has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Many studies have shown that curcumin can be effective in preventing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes. [14]

The disadvantage of medical use of curcumin, however, is that the body cannot absorb it completely. That’s why turmeric is often associated with ginger, resulting in antioxidant-loaded juices or powders. [14]

Spirulina

Spirulina is a green-blue algae that is grown in both fresh and salt water with a high pH value. It belongs to the category of cyanobacteria, which can produce energy from sunlight due to photosynthesis. Its health effects have been noticed by the ancient Aztecs who have used spirulina in folk medicine. However, it is represented even today. NASA even decided that one of the first plants to be grown in the universe should be spirulina. [15] [16]

It contains high amounts of proteins and vitamins A, B, C or important electrolytes such as copper, iron, magnesium, potassium and manganese. In addition, it has a high content of really good protein. Like eggs, it provides all the essential amino acids that the body needs. It is thus an ideal choice for protein supplementation for all vegans. [15] [16] [17]

Spirulina is a source of antioxidants that can protect cells from oxidative damage. It is this damage that can be caused by hard training, and is a major contributor to fatigue and muscle injury. The green-blue algae also improves metabolism while helping to reduce liver fat. Studies have also shown its positive effects in the treatment of neurological disorders. [16] [17]

Studies have also shown another excellent feature of spirulina. It helps to increase muscle volume and endurance during exercise. [16] Want to learn more about spirulina? Read our article Spirulina – its effects on health and its use.

The best kinds of superfoods - Spirulina

Chlorella

Chlorella is a single-cell freshwater algae of green color. It has a very hard cell wall, and if you want to benefit from all its health benefits, you can only take a processed form of chlorella. It is most often available in the form of capsules, tablets, powder or extract. [22]

It is interesting that chlorella is made up of complete proteins, which means that it contains all 9 essential amino acids that our body cannot produce by itself and must be taken into the body from external sources. This makes chlorella an ideal vegan supplement to complement the amino acid profile. Green algae also provides a wide range of different antioxidants, making it a great prevention for the proper and healthy functioning of the body. [22] [23] Thanks to the presence of vitamin C, it enhances immunity, iron absorption and natural collagen production. The latter is being lost from our body with increasing age thus its supplementation is really important. [22] [23]

However, the main and important effect of chlorella is its ability to produce antibodies in our body that are effective in combating free radicals. One study found that men taking chlorella produced far more antibodies than men taking placebo. In addition, another study has linked the use of chlorella to strengthening the immune system, and even found that chlorella has helped to enhance the body’s defenses in people aged 50-55. [24] [25]

To learn more about chlorella, read Chlorella – freshwater algae and its health effects.

The best kinds of superfoods - Chlorella

Psyllium

Psyllium is a form of fiber that is commonly called ispaghula. It is a prebiotic, a substance needed to maintain a healthy intestinal microflora. [27] However, many studies have shown its use in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular or pancreas diseases. [26]

However, psyllium is most commonly used as a natural laxative. It has a truly effective effect on the problems of bloating or constipation of the intestinal tract. This means that psyllium absorbs water in your intestine and greatly facilitates their movement, ensuring regular and healthy emptying. A healthy intestinal microflora is essential for the immune system to function properly. Consequently, your body can better fight infections, relieve internal inflammation, and maintain healthy cells. It can also promote fatty acid production and reduce digestive problems in patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. [26] [27]

Research has also shown the effects of psyllium on lowering cholesterol levels, which particularly affects older people over 50 years of age. It is also suitable for people who are overweight or obese, because lowering cholesterol eliminates other health problems, such as high blood pressure. Psyllium also helps to control blood sugar levels. [28] [29] Regular use of psyllium will thus ensure the health of your immunity, intestines and heart. The great advantage of psyllium, as well as other superfoods, is that you can also use it for cooking or baking using healthy recipes.

The best kinds of superfoods - Psyllium

Maca

Maca, also known as Peruvian ginseng, grows mainly in harsh conditions and high altitudes of Andes. It has a really long history of culinary and therapeutic use in Peru. The root of this plant is used for consumption and it is usually processed into powder and that is used for further use. Maca powder itself has a bitter, earthy flavor, which is why other fruits or vegetables are added to it when used. Therefore, it is recommended to add Maca to your favorite smoothie drinks or oatmeal, or if you want to avoid its flavor, you can also reach for a tablet product. [18]

The most basic effect of Maca for athletes is its ability to raise energy levels and thus improve physical performance. By using it regularly you can strengthen your endurance and achieve much better results in the gym. In a 12-week study, researchers found that taking 3 g of Maca root led to increased energy and mood improvement in up to 175 participants. In addition, this green plant contains many vitamins, minerals and proteins, which are also effective in building muscle mass or regenerating after exercise. [18] [32]

One of the best known benefits of Maca root is its effect on increasing libido. Several studies have confirmed that Peruvian ginseng is truly a great help in erectile dysfunctions and increasing sexual desire. One study suggests that maca could reduce sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women taking antidepressants. Another study looked at the effect of Maca root consumption on increasing sexual appetite in men with mild erectile dysfunction. Those who took Peruvian ginseng had a greater increase in sexual well-being than patients who received placebo. [19] [20] [21]

You can learn more about this superfood in article Maca: Superfood and the Miracle from Peru.

The best kinds of superfoods - Maca

Green barley

Barley is considered to be the first cereal grain grown by humans and its use dates back to the era BC. Green barley originates from young green barley leaves, which are processed already 10 days after germination. Together with grains they are used for medical and food purposes. Barley leaves are rich in many vitamins and minerals, and are considered to be an antioxidant-loaded food. Green barley extract has the ability to capture free radicals, thus protecting the body’s immunity. Most often, it is formulated as a powder or pressed to form a juice. [30] [31]

Green barley provides complete nutritional support for the body. It provides important antioxidant enzymes and eight essential amino acids that support the proper functioning of metabolism and the regeneration of stressed muscles. This is the reason why green barley is recommended for athletes who want to take protein into their body and, moreover, strengthen their vitamin profile. Barley can also boast with a wide range of vitamins A, B, C and minerals, such as calcium, iron, phosphorus or potassium, which create in our organism environment resistant to various types of infections and viruses. Powder form of green barley also contains high amounts of fiber, flavonoids and folates, which have a positive effect on cholesterol levels in the body. [30] [31] Green barley, however, has many more benefits, which you can read about in our article Green Barley – a superfood and a natural source of health for athletes.

As you may have read, superfoods are really loaded with many nutrients that have a beneficial effect on our health and, most importantly, strengthen our immunity. Immunity is important for combating the pitfalls of the outside world. We believe that you have learned everything you need about superfoods and their effects on our health in our article, and if you liked it, support it by sharing it.

The best kinds of superfoods - Green barley

Sources:

[1] Ansley Hill, RD, LD – 16 Superfoods That Are Worthy of the Title – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/true-superfoods#section3

[2] Natalie Olsen, R.D., L.D., ACSM EP-C – What are superfoods and why should you eat them? – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/303079

[3] Superfoods or Superhype? – https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/superfoods/

[4] Natalie Olsen, RD, LD – 8 Healthy Facts About the Goji Berry – https://www.healthline.com/health/goji-berry-facts

[5] Kerri-Ann Jennings, MS, RD – 5 Impressive Health Benefits of Acai Berries – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-acai-berries

[6] Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, RDN (Ice) – Strawberries 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/strawberries

[7] Joe Leech, MS – 10 Proven Health Benefits of Blueberries – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-benefits-of-blueberries

[8] Kris Gunnars, BSc – 10 Proven Benefits of Green Tea – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea#section1

[9] Nobre AC, Rao A, Owen GN – L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296328

[10] Kelly SP, Gomez-Ramirez M, Montesi JL, Foxe JJ – L-theanine and caffeine in combination affect human cognition as evidenced by oscillatory alpha-band activity and attention task performance. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18641209

[11] Natalie Butler, RD, LD – Why is ginger good for you? – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265990

[12] Wang S, Zhang C, Yang G, Yang Y – Biological properties of 6-gingerol: a brief review. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25230520

[13] Ding M, Leach M, Bradley H – The effectiveness and safety of ginger for pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting: a systematic review. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22951628

[14] Kris Gunnars, BSc – 10 Proven Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-turmeric

[15] Joe Leech, MS – 10 Health Benefits of Spirulina – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-benefits-of-spirulina

[16] Lu, H. – Preventive effects of Spirulina platensis on skeletal muscle damage under exercise-induced oxidative stress. 2006. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16944194

[17] Khan, Z., Bhadouria, P., Bisen, P.- Nutritional and therapeutic potential of Spirulina. 2005. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16248810

[18] Hrefna Palsdottir, MS – 9 Benefits of Maca Root (and Potential Side Effects) – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-maca-root

[19] Shin BC, Lee MS,– Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20691074t

[20] Byung-Cheul Shin, Myeong Soo Lee, Eun Jin Yang, Hyun-Suk Lim, and Edzard Ernst – Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2928177/

[21] Lee MS, Shin BC, Yang EJ, Lim HJ, Ernst E – Maca (Lepidium meyenii) for treatment of menopausal symptoms: A systematic review. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21840656

[22] Kerri-Ann Jennings, MS, RD – 9 Impressive Health Benefits of Chlorella – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-chlorella

[23] Panahi Y, Darvishi B, Jowzi N, Beiraghdar F, Sahebkar A – Chlorella vulgaris: A Multifunctional Dietary Supplement with Diverse Medicinal Properties. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26561078

[24] Otsuki T, Shimizu K, Iemitsu M, Kono – Salivary secretory immunoglobulin A secretion increases after 4-weeks ingestion of chlorella-derived multicomponent supplement in humans: a randomized cross over study. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21906314

[25] Halperin SA, Smith B, Nolan C, Shay J, Kralovec J – Safety and immunoenhancing effect of a Chlorella-derived dietary supplement in healthy adults undergoing influenza vaccination: randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12874157

[26] Arlene Semeco, MS, RD – Seven benefits of psyllium – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318707

[27] Fujimori S, Gudis K, Mitsui K, Seo T, Yonezawa M, Tanaka S, Tatsuguchi A, Sakamoto C. – A randomized controlled trial on the efficacy of synbiotic versus probiotic or prebiotic treatment to improve the quality of life in patients with ulcerative colitis. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19201576

[28] Everson GT, Daggy BP, McKinley C, Story JA. – Effects of psyllium hydrophilic mucilloid on LDL-cholesterol and bile acid synthesis in hypercholesterolemic men. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1431597

[29] Ayman S. Abutair,corresponding author Ihab A. Naser, and Amin T. Hamed – Soluble fibers from psyllium improve glycemic response and body weight among diabetes type 2 patients (randomized control trial) – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5062871/

[30] Barley Grass – https://www.drugs.com/npc/barley-grass.html

[31] Yawen Zeng, Xiaoying Pu, Jiazhen Yang, Juan Du, Xiaomeng Yang, Xia Li, Ling Li, Yan Zhou, Tao Yang – Preventive and Therapeutic Role of Functional Ingredients of Barley Grass for Chronic Diseases in Human Beings – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5904770/#B11

[32] Gonzales-Arimborgo, Yupanqui, Montero, Alarcón-Yaquetto, Zevallos-Concha, Caballero, Gasco, Zhao, Khan, Gonzales GF – Acceptability, Safety, and Efficacy of Oral Administration of Extracts of Black or Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii) in Adult Human Subjects: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27548190