Over the years, the social and economic development in different nations has led to increased consumption of refined grains, meat, fruits, dairy, and vegetables as people have become wealthier. The shift in food consumption has led to an increase in non-communicable ailments such as cancer, coronary heart disease, type II diabetes, or obesity. In response to the increased diet-related diseases, the need for healthier diets has led to an increase in demand for superfoods (functional foods)-foods with multiple benefits.
Superfoods are the food items; cereal, dairy, vegetables, fruits that claim to have exceptional health benefits because of the high levels of nutritional contents. Their superior nutritional qualities are thought to have been produced naturally without or with the least technological intervention unlike in most functional foods. This surge in demand for superfoods for healthy diets is more popular to the high- and middle-income earners. You will find that these foods are primarily consumed far from their origin centers.
Here are some foods that are worthy of the esteemed superfoods title.
Dark Leafy Greens
DGLVs (Dark green leafy vegetables) are renowned for their richness in calcium, magnesium, folate, vitamin C, zinc, fiber, and iron. They have a high potential to reduce the chances of getting chronic illnesses such as type II diabetes and heart disease. Further, they have high levels of inflammatory compounds (carotenoids), which protect certain cancer types. Others have a bitter taste when plain, but you can take them in salads, soups, smoothies, and curries. Examples of Dark green leafy vegetables:
· Collard greens
· Turnip greens
· Swiss chard
This is the nutritional powerhouse of minerals, fibers, antioxidants, and vitamins. Antioxidant reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, and other inflammatory conditions. Berries are also good at treating immune-related as well as digestive disorders when combined with traditional medical therapies. You can take them as a dessert, for breakfast, in a smoothie or salad. The most common berries include:
Green tea is a beverage that is caffeinated lightly and has a wide array of medicinal properties. It is rich in polyphenolic compounds and antioxidants has strong anti-inflammatory effects. The most prevalent antioxidant in green tea is the catechin epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG. EGCG gives the ability to protect against chronic diseases, which include diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
This is a class of plant foods made up of peas, beans, peanuts, soy, and alfalfa. They are loaded with nutrients, and they help in managing and preventing various diseases. They are a rich source of various minerals, B vitamins, fiber, and proteins. Legumes are known to reduce cholesterol as well as blood pressure. They further improve type 2 diabetes.
Nut and seeds
These foods are rich in vegetarian protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. Further, they pack plant compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and these protect against oxidative stress. Eating nuts and seeds protect against heart diseases. It will surprise you to learn that though they are calorically dense, they help in weight loss. Examples include:
· Hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds
· Almonds, cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, walnuts.
It’s a plant food closely related to shallots, leeks, and onions. It is a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, fiber and selenium. Due to its distinctive flavor, it is one of the most popular culinary ingredients. It has some medicinal values too. It reduces blood pressure and cholesterol, ending up supporting immune function. Garlic has some sulfur-containing compounds that play a vital role in preventing cancer.
Other superfoods include:
o Sweet Potato
o Turmeric (Curcumin)
o Olive Oil
o Kefir (And Yoghurt)
Importance of Superfoods
As we learned earlier, superfoods have high nutritional density. They, therefore, provide few calories and a substantial amount of nutrients. They have high volumes of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. The antioxidants reverse or decrease the effects of free radicals that have links to the following health issues:
· Heart disease
· Immune deficiency
· Respiratory diseases
· Parkinson’s disease
The high nutrient contents in these foods help the body ward off diseases and keep your body healthier. They help in weight loss, reduce the effects of aging and improve energy levels. The fiber prevents digestive problems and diabetes. They further help in reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. They protect the organ from toxins, reduce inflammation, regulate metabolism and lower cholesterol.
Impact of superfoods on Agribusiness
With the significant surge in demand for superfoods globally, these are some of the impacts of superfoods on agribusiness.
1. Increased in the farming of tree crops
The farming of tree crops such as macadamia and avocados has grown rapidly. You will find that you will have good revenues if you produce the right quality; you’ll supply to the international supply chains. It has been noted that African countries have invested in this business as the market prices are good at the moment. East and Southern African countries are globally competitive because they have the right agro-ecological conditions to build profitable new industries.
2. Increased livestock farming
Another area that superfoods’ surge in demand has impacted is the livestock farming business. Africa’s demographics have an emerging middle class with increasing affluence and increased demand for more protein-based diets. Poultry farming is also on the rise, even with small-scale farmers. Pig breeding has further been on the rise.
3. Better processing industries
African countries’ governments are concentrating on competitively-priced and high-quality basic foodstuffs. Getting the right price points and quality products will make consumers buy locally produced products. Groundnuts and maize processing units are on the rise. The main objective is ensuring that the food is safe, well-branded, and well-packaged.
One disadvantage of the high-demand superfoods is mono-cropping. Farmers are growing the same crop in the same field year after year. This depletes soil nutrients. The monocrops further require large amounts of herbicides and pesticides. These chemicals are synthetic. The residues leach into the soil and pollute groundwater supplies. Some chemicals remain on the crops.
5. Nutrients-rich soil
Studies have shown that most superfoods, fruits, and vegetables consume large amounts of calcium, proteins, vitamin C, riboflavin, and phosphorus from the soil. Since superfoods are organically grown, without harmful chemicals, it contributes to healthier and more nutrient-rich soils. This supports water conversation and combats soil erosion.