Food alone may not cure disease but more and more research shows that certain ones may help prevent them. A recent study done by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that those who ate the most fruit and vegetables had a significantly lower risk for heart disease than those who ate the least. Here in Costa Rica we are blessed with accessibility to an abundance of fresh local "plant" foods. Mangos ripe and swollen with the colors of sunset or avocados that are creamy and dense And what about all the foods we think are decadent like coconut in all it's forms such as coconut milk or coconut oil. And then there is everyone's favorite: chocolate. Yes, these all are "Superfoods" too in their pure and simple state.
So, a Superfood is a natural food, often from a plant or tree and regarded as especially beneficial because of their health-protecting qualities. These foods are nutritionally dense, often high in fiber, help improve mood and energy and are high in phytochemicals, which are the good chemicals that help fight disease and increase longevity. These uncomplicated foods don't require any processing or refining and are abundant with antioxidants which work as catalysts to boost our immune system and high vitamin and mineral content, necessary for cellular function and energy.
The following list contains many superfoods that are abundantly available here in Guanacaste and great ones to put on your plate:
1. Beans: filled with high quality protein, iron, high in fiber, and packed with the antioxidant folate, a B vitamin required for the production of new immune cells, beans are a true superfood abundantly eaten and grown in Costa Rica in "gallo pinto" the "casado" or black bean soup.
2. Plantains: naturally sweet, nutrient dense and filling, plantains contain ample fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C and like beans, provide long lasting energy. Cooked in a variety of ways and at varying stages of ripeness, they're a great addition to the "casado" or "olla de carne" or any meal for a little something sweet.
3. Avocados: not only do avocados contain the best kind of fat (monounsaturated oleic acid) but also help your body block the absorption of bad fats (cholesterol). They're high in lutein, which aids eyesight, and in potassium and folate, which may reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. And they're low in pesticides.
4. Coconuts: edible from outer flesh to inner "water" and prepared into coconut milk or oil. Often cheaper than bottled water but yet filled with a multitude of enzymes and electrolytes for hydration- a great choice on a hot day. The fat in coconut milk and flesh, although saturated, is highly nutritious.
5. Mangos: known as the "King of Fruits," mangos are packed with Vitamin A and beta carotene and as well as being rich in potassium, mangos are great for promoting glowing skin. With it's unique flavor, fragrance, taste, and heath promoting qualities, mangos are great eaten fresh or try blended with plain yogurt and a bit of cinnamon or fresh mint.
6. Chocolate: A study reported by the BBC indicated that melting chocolate in one's mouth produced an increase in brain activity and heart rate and was more intense than that associated with passionate kissing and also lasted four times as long after the activity had ended. And Dr. Aviva Romm, President of the American Herbalists Guild, says that the high antioxidant levels make chocolate a perfect indulgence. Enough said! It goes without saying that the best chocolate is dark with minimal sweeteners and additives.