Peter Smanjak

 Here is the plain-and-simple truth about your diet: You are what you eat. As often as you hear these words, have you ever stopped to think about the significance of them? Food has the impressive ability to affect—for better or worse—every cell and system in your body, and every time you eat you are making a choice for your mind, body, and spirit. Your food choices can make you feel tired and bloated or light and energized. They can help you stay calm and clear or feel foggy and frazzled. They can help keep your body slim and skin glowing or cause weight gain and breakouts.

What you put in your body has a significant bearing on your overall health and vitality, and the fact that food can influence your health so radically is great news indeed. It means that you can harness the power of food and use it to heal and protect your body both inside and out. And you can start right now—with superfoods. 

The Magic of Superfoods

One of the simplest ways to upgrade your diet is by adding superfoods. Superfoods are the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. They are real, whole, unprocessed, plant-based foods that are packed with a wide array of health-promoting compounds, including remarkable levels of vitamins and minerals, inflammation-fighting fats, easy-to-digest proteins, and heart-healthy fiber. The plant-based superfoods in this book are also rich in a variety of phytochemicals (active compounds found only in plant foods) and cell-protecting antioxidants, which help combat the cell-damaging effects of free radicals. From familiar foods like blueberries and kale to lesser-known ones like açai and maca, these superstars (and the combination of beneficial compounds in them) may help reduce inflammation, slow aging, prevent or treat chronic disease, increase energy, boost mood, reduce stress, cleanse the body by supporting its natural detoxification pathways, and so much more. Superfoods are not magic bullets, but they are pretty magical. 

Antioxidants are compounds (including vitamins like vitamins C and E; minerals like selenium; and phytochemicals like betacarotene) that help quench the activities of free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage your body’s cells. Free radicals are produced as normal by-products of metabolism and by external factors, such as your lifestyle choices. A poor diet (too much processed food, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol) excessive exercise, poor sleep, emotional stress, and exposure to environmental toxins can all drive the production of free radicals in the body.  When your body produces more free radicals than it can handle, oxidative stress occurs, setting the stage for diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and even brain and autoimmune disorders. Just as a car left outside to weather the elements will rust, so will your body when left unprotected. Eating antioxidant-rich superfoods can help combat the cell-damaging effects of free radicals and fight inflammation. And as researchers are still learning, antioxidants also appear to have beneficial nonantioxidant activities (outside of their ability to scavenge free radicals) that may contribute to their potential health benefits.

Building a Superfood Diet

Superfoods offer up a pretty impressive list of benefits to mind and body—and the fifty plant-based superfoods in this book include some of the top present and emerging

foods for peak health. In fact, you could say these foods are the “cream of the crop.” But as I mentioned, superfoods are not magical cure-alls for whatever might

be ailing you—at least not when consumed in the context of an overall lousy diet full  of processed and junk foods. If you want to really make significant changes to your health and well-being, you need to make good choices, consistently and consciously—one meal and snack at a time. superfood rules  Before you dive into the magic of superfoods, take a moment to read a few of my superfood rules to help you get the most from your diet and this book.

• Eat real food.  More than forty-eight thousand foods and food products line the shelves of the average supermarket. Foods that come in boxes and bags or with lengthy lists of hard-to-decipher ingredients are not real foods but known as pseudo-foods and do not offer much nutrition. So start filling your plate with real food, and limit or avoid eating from a can, box, or bag.

• Eat more plants.  Everyone benefits from eating more plant foods. Foods that grow on a tree or out of the ground—such as vegetables, fruits, sprouts, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), nuts, and seeds—should form the foundation of your diet. Experiment freely with the fifty plant-based superfoods.