Legend has it that Li Ching-Yuen was 256 years old when he died in 1933, presumably of old age, causing people many years his junior to wonder what his secret was.
His Wikipedia entry says he worked as an herbalist, eating a diet that included goji berries, a fruit grown in China said to be high in antioxidants.
Neither Li’s age nor the health benefits of goji berries have been scientifically proven. But 84 years after his death, we continue to search for food that might not let us live forever, but at least can help us not feel so tired all the time.
These days, they are called “superfoods,” and interest in them appears is growing. From 2011 to 2015, the number of products with the term “superfood,” “superfruit,” or “supergrain” increased 202 percent worldwide, according to Mintel, a market research company.
New Jersey nutritionists and dietitians aren’t so quick to dismiss them as an urban legend. ShopRite, for example, has hired 130 dietitians who travel among 140 supermarkets, meeting customers interested in eating healthier.
Their message: Everyone’s diet is unique, based on their own health status. And one food alone is unlikely to cure all that ails them. But they can incorporate healthier foods that will improve their immune system, reduce their inflammation and just plain feel better.
“It’s more of that overall picture compared to one food being a magic bullet,” said Shelbi Thurau, retail dietitian supervisor for ShopRite, said. “We try to guide people away from eating one particular thing and thinking it’s going to be the cure. It’s more about what the whole picture looks like and what your individual nutrition picture looks like.”
Here are 12 superfoods you might want to add to your diet in some capacity, according to dietitians and nutritionists:
High in antioxidants, they are thought to protect against cell damage, aging, cancer and memory loss.
Cashews and almonds, for example, are a healthy source of protein. They keep the metabolism going, to keep the brain turned on, to keep the energy increased throughout the day.
A type of green tea, high in antioxidants. A great way for your body to detox and get rid of inflammation.
Part of a diet that dates back thousands of years, it’s a whole grain crop whose seeds are edible. It has B-vitamins, fiber and protein.
They contain lycopene, which protects your skin. A recent study in Scientific Reports found it could guard against skin cancer.
Both freshwater and salt water algae are a source of protein, magnesium and calcium without the acidity of yogurt, milk and cheese.
7. Chia seeds
Another food that doesn’t come from animals, it contains amino acids and Omega-3, a fatty acid that is thought to help with everything from blood pressure to depression.
A leafy green vegetable that is high in vitamin K, which helps blood clot and strengthens bones. Spiniach and arugula are also good choices.
Another good source for Omega-3, which an help reduce inflamation. But don’t eat it more than three times a week, since fish can contain mercury.
Tastes like it sounds, but an ounce in a shot is rich in nutrients and includes anti-oxidants. I
11. Greek yogurt
A low-fat source of dairy, which is important for children building calcium. It has protein and helps blood sugar control. PUt your own fresh fruit in it to help control the sugar content.
12. Goji berries
The berries include cancer-fighting properties that also help your vision and skin, according to Livestrong.com.
If it helped Li Ching-Yuen live for 200 years, then surely it must be considered the most super of all the superfoods. But for always-on-the-run Americans with fast-food restaurants and candy aisles beckoning, it’s not always the first snack that comes to mind.
Thurau said it doesn’t require a complete dietary overhaul.
“No change is too small,” she said. “And we always like to tell people that small changes add up to big results.”
Michael L. Diamond, USATODAY Network