Superfoods Build Super Children

Superfoods are foods that have a high nutrient, vitamin, and mineral content.

By Dr. Ruchi Kaushik
General Pediatrics
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Autumn is my absolute favorite season. The cool, crisp air, warmer-colored foliage, and quickly-approaching holidays energize me to decorate my home and fill the house with scents of baked goods. What mom doesn’t love to fill their little ones’ tummies with apple crisp and pecan pie?

So, how do we ensure that our children still get all the nutrients they need through the winter holidays? Recently, several well-reputed physicians in media and health-related websites have compiled a list of “superfoods” that have been known for ages to have health benefits: beans, blueberries, broccoli, oranges, oats, pumpkin, salmon, soy, spinach, tea (green and black), tomatoes, turkey, walnuts, yogurt.

Superfoods are foods that have a high nutrient, vitamin, and mineral content. Often their vitamins and minerals are used to build supplements; however, many experts believe that the best approach to nourishing your body is by consuming the actual food in which the nutrient is found, not by taking a pill.

Lists of superfoods by no standard complete a well-balanced diet. They do, however, encompass a variety of health benefits.

Blueberries are full of antioxidants, potassium, and vitamin C and may reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.

Fish, particularly cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are known to lower risk of heart disease and may help with memory loss. Fortified eggs, flaxseed, and walnuts are other sources of omega-3 fatty acids and also contain monounsaturated fatty acids which may have the added advantage of lowering LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

A diet of soy fiber (from tofu, soy milk, or edamame…not soy sauce), protein from oats and barley, almonds, and margarine from plant sterols have been shown to lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol as much as statins, the most widely prescribed cholesterol medicine (The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003).

Diets high in fiber help maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Both green and black teas have antioxidants and green tea contains the very powerful antioxidant ECGC. Antioxidants are known to reduce heart disease and risks of some types of cancer risks.

You know that calcium builds strong bones in your children and can be found in dairy products, but did you know that diets with adequate calcium intake may help with weight loss?

Finally a treat of which your pediatrician will approve! One daily ounce of dark chocolate (60% or higher cocoa content) can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Note that all of the above foods are real or “unprocessed.” That’s right; you can’t find a superfood in a bag of fortified Doritos.

But, remember, superfoods are not a recipe for a complete pattern of eating for your children; rather they should be incorporated into a well-balanced diet including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and protein-rich sources such as lean meats, eggs, beans, and nuts. And some examples may not be appropriate for young children or at any age in excess (tea).

Talk to your pediatrician about developing the best nutritional plan for your child.

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