Have you ever wondered what it is exactly about superfoods that makes them so incredibly, well, super? Me too. Luckily, my own brother, Gregory Manitsas, is a raw foods chef extraordinaire! He let me in on some of the kooky industry terms. You are just four key concepts away from discovering why some foods are worthy of the title. You may be as surprised as I was to find that there really is something to these superfoods above and beyond the others (healthy foods that is)...
Nutrient density: Nutrient density is rather straightforward. It refers to the ratio of nutrients per calorie. With that in mind, superfoods give the most nutrients possible for the least amount of calories (and who wouldn't want that?!). Nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients are all taken into account in calculating nutrient density. A nutrient dense superfood is the opposite of an empty overly-processed calorie, and the fresher and more whole a food is, the more nutrient dense.
Aggregate Nutrient Density Index system (ANDI): The term 'nutrient density' first came about through the USDA, but was very limited. It initially only covered vitamins and minerals within a food, and nothing else. So, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, an MD focused on disease prevention through nutrition, created a more complex nutrient density system to take into account the full spectrum of nutrients within a food, including micronutrients, antioxidants and phytonutrients. And the ANDI system was born. It rates foods from highest (most nutritious) to lowest (least nutritious) in terms of nutrient density. For example, kale has an ANDI score of 1,000 and soda has a score of one.
pH balance: pH balance is the measure of acid/alkaline balance in your body using the pH scale of 1-14. An acid body becomes a magnet for sickness, disease and aging, and eating more alkaline foods helps shift your body's pH and oxygenate your system back into balance. Foods high on the acidic spectrum include refined foods and animal products. To help maintain an ideal pH balance of 7.35-7.45, superfoods to the rescue.
ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) Value: ORAC measures the ability of just about any substance to subdue free radicals in the test tube, in essence a measurement of the antioxidant activity of any food. The higher the ORAC number, the stronger its antioxidant power. In order to get the most antioxidants into your diet, superfoods are critical, in addition to a natural, whole foods-based diet. Ditch the processed food in favor of acai, goji, mulberries and raw chocolate (cacao), as they prevent the production of free radicals in our body that lead to disease and aging.
image: Andrew Stawarz