About Shawn Wells
- Certified Sports Nutritionist and Fellow through the prestigious International Society of Sports Nutrition
- He is been dubbed the “World’s Greatest Formulator”
- He has credentials in the fields of business, clinical work, sports, exercise, and nutrition, making for a unique and highly respected blend of expertise as CEO of Zone Halo Research and Chief Scientific Officer of BioTrust.
- Also he is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) and has his Masters of Public Health in Nutritional Biochemistry!
- Check out his website ZoneHalo.com and Twitter @ZoneHalo
1.What is a “Superfood”? I hear that term a lot. Is there a definition or is it ambiguous?
Great Question, a superfood, which is one word, in this case, not 2…are foods that are rich in compounds considered beneficial to one’s health and vitality. Foods that might be high in antioxidants, key fatty acids, fiber, etc. Foods that nutrient dense and health promoting. This includes spices/herbs used in food preparation and cooking.
2. So what are some Superfoods?
Sumac – A spice used often in Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s off the charts for antioxidant levels. 176 times more potent than the much loved kale!! ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) – a way to measure antioxidant levels, is crazy high. It has a lemony-salty taste and can be a salt replacement in some recipes like salads, pasta, rice, etc.
Cocoa – Everyone knows this one. Gram for gram the antioxidant level is 10x the well known and loved blueberry. That is for PURE cocoa though, not heavily processed, chocolate with milk, sugar, etc. added to it. The polyphenols that are so good for blood pressure, vasodilation, recovery, etc. are rendered inactive when they bind to milk protein!
Ceylon Cinnamon – Most “cinnamon” is not actual Ceylon species and can be high in coumarin, which can thin blood and be toxic to the liver. Ceylon has miniscule levels of this compound but still has sky high levels of polyphenols that has been shown to improve blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. Its antioxidant status is very high. Pay extra for the Ceylon though.
Indian Gooseberry – This superfruit has 2x the antioxidant levels of Acai, which was so hyped in supplements and Dr. Oz. They are not commercially cultivated in North America. You can buy the powder though. Maybe it will come here in time, with demand. They have great data with blood sugar health as well.
Pecans – The highest antioxidant nut. 30% higher than walnuts, 10x macadamias, 9x cashews and 5.5x peanuts. Nuts are high in healthy fat and calorie dense as well.
Turmeric – you hear about this one often. And it deserves it. 100s of studies on inflammation, cancer, joint health, blood sugar, infections, osteoarthritis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, M.S., etc. Curcumin is the active compound in Turmeric. It ORAC level is very high. Taking this with oil/fatty foods helps increase the absorption as does black pepper.
Baobab Fruit – This is a fruit you can buy and could legitimately dethrone the great Acai fruit with 40% more antioxidant power. It’s an African tree that was recognized by the FDA and EU in 2008. 6x the vitamin C of oranges. 2x the calcium of milk. High in potassium and phosphorous. Very high in soluble fiber as well.
Sorghum – An ancient grain that Dr. Fenster would be a fan of. It can be served like rice, it can be popped like popcorn, ground in to flour for baking, etc. Protein level like Quinoa, antioxidant level higher than kale. Vitamin and mineral dense. There’s a red and black variety. The black is 50% higher in antioxidants.
Chia Seeds – a daily staple for me. More omega 3’s than salmon (granted ALA is less bioactive than EPA/DHA by 10x). The sseds absorb 27x their weight in water. It contains all 9 essential amino acids and its one of the best raw superfoods for a vegan. Black chia is 40% higher in antioxidants than white chia.
Purple (non-GMO) corn – about 13x the antioxidants over regular corn. This was a staple of the Incan empire in Peru. You can get tortilla chips and other products with it now.
3. What about the BAD foods?? The list of the worst offenders?
Sodas – Diet or otherwise – Carbonic acid (carbonation) causing reflux, belching, etc. Artificial sweeteners (e.g. acesulfame potassium (acesulfame K), aspartame, neotame, saccharin and sucralose) that kill your gut microbiome, cause neuroexcitation, etc. or high fructose corn syrup linked to weight gain and diabetes. Artificial colors (caramel color is one of the worst offenders in research) …there’s no “good soda” really. I didn’t even mention the controversial BVO (brominated vegetable oil). No nutrients. Empty carbs. Or harmful ones…
Shelf-stable condiments – and that means preservatives and additives such as food coloring, sweeteners, bad fats (such as trans fats, which are linked to premature heart disease) and chemical agents such as dimethylpolysiloxane for texture.
Canola oil – rancid oil that is deodorized and bleached to prevent the bad smell and color. Often processed with high heat and from GMO sources. This oil is rampant in foods throughout the industry.
Microwave popcorn – Diacetyl is a butter-flavoring agent used in microwave popcorn — by the end of the 2000s, some manufacturers banned its use in popcorn bags because of its respiratory risks (and, separately, a link to Alzheimer’s disease), but you’ll also find it giving a buttery flavor and smell to baked goods, candy and margarine.
Additional concern with microwave popcorn is what’s in the bag — aside from the popcorn. There are many chemicals coating the inside of the bag to keep the oils needed for popping from soaking through the paper, as well as chemicals to keep the bag from catching fire during the popping process. These chemicals also produce perfluorooctinoic acid (PFOA), which the EPA considers a likely carcinogen.