"Superfood" is a hot buzz word for nutrition and with it often being passed around we wanted to get to heart of what it meant and what foods we should be feeding our kids. To learn more about superfoods and healthy eating, we chatted with Dr. Melina Jampolis, Internist, and author of The Calendar Diet and one of just a few hundred board-certified clinical nutrition specialists in the U.S., about superfoods, how we can make sure we are getting the necessary nutrients these superfoods provide and even what can of tuna is better for us.
Momtrends: What are the best superfoods that we should be including in our diets?
Dr. Melina Jampolis: There is no agreed upon definition of ‘superfoods’ but in my medical nutrition opinion, they are foods that not only offer excellent basic nutrition, they go beyond to offer ‘supernutrients’ that are true game changers when it comes to optimal health and disease prevention. Two of the most important super nutrients are polyphenols and omega 3 fatty acids. Polyphenols are found in plant based foods including brightly colored fruits and vegetables, green tea, dark chocolate and red wine. They work on a cellular and even genetic level to decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids because your body can’t produce them so you have to get them from your diet. There are 3 types: EPA and DHA (from fish or supplements) and ALA from plants including flax, walnuts, and chia seed.
Momtrends: What separates a fad from a superfood?
Dr. Melina Jampolis:Fad diets are generally based removing a specific nutrient from the diet (gluten, fat, sugar, etc.) while superfoods are about putting the right, nutrient dense foods into your diet on a long term basis to truly impact your health in a positive way.
Momtrends: What are some of the benefits of Omega 3s?
Dr. Melina Jampolis:A recent study showed that those with the highest blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids lived 2.2 years longer and had a much lower risk of dying from heart disease. They also work to fight inflammation in the body which has been linked to numerous diseases including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and alzheimer’s. Research has shown that they may also play a role in regulating mood, inflammatory arthritis, healthy skin, and even prevention of age related loss of muscle mass.
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Momtrends: What sort of qualities should people look into when getting supplements?
Dr. Melina Jampolis: Quality control is key. Look for USP or NSF verified supplements when you can as these are independent quality testing organizations. Purity is important when it comes to omega 3s: That is why I’m a fan of omax3 and agreed to work with them – they have over 91% pure omega 3s (you can tell by looking at the total fish oil versus the total omega 3s. A purity calculator will be available on omax3.com soon). Finally, with supplements in general be wary of claims that sound too good to be true – more often than not they are!
Momtrends: What are some of the superfoods kids should be eating?
Dr Melina Jampolis:A variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables are key – try to include them whenever you can (I’m all for sneaking them into recipes if you have too – like spinach, blueberry brownies!). And frozen is fine – in some cases it may be even higher in nutrients because it is frozen at the peak of ripeness – just make sure to steam of microwave in little water to preserve nutrients as much as possible. If you can get your kids to eat salmon that is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids. My 3 year old loves lox and bagels (whole grain of course) which makes me very happy :) Canned tuna is also a good source of omega 3s but limit to once or twice a month and stick to canned light instead of albacore to limit mercury exposure as much as possible. (See below for more info)
The recommendations below are based on EPA's guidance and current estimates of average mercury content in the two most popular types of canned tuna:
- Canned white, or albacore(0.32 parts per million of mercury). Children up to age six can eat up to one 3-ounce portion a month; children ages 6–12, two 4.5-ounce portions a month. Adults, including pregnant women, can safely eat it up to three times a month (women, 6-ounce portions; men, 8-ounce portions). Luckily, some brands of canned or pouch albacore contain significantly less mercury than well-known national brands, since they use smaller, lower-mercury fish (see box).
- Canned light — the safer choice(0.12 parts per million of mercury). Children up to age six can eat it up to three 3-ounce portions per month. Older children and adults can safely eat it once a week. But products labeled “gourmet” or “tonno” may contain mercury levels comparable to canned white, since they are made with bigger yellowfin tuna. Therefore, watch out for this label and eat it less often.
Dr. Melina is a regular contributor to Better Homes & Gardens magazine and other national publications and formally served as the diet/fitness expert on CNNhealth.com for five years. A graduate of Tufts University and Tufts School of Medicine, Dr. Melina completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, a Stanford University teaching hospital
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